How Knowing A Foreign Language Helps You In Stressful Situations
Learning a new language can significantly help you manage day-to-day stress. We take a look at the five most common causes of stress and explain how language learning counteracts them. So you'll become more relaxed AND speak a new language!
Why is it important to consider learning a new language from a health perspective? Well, the World Health Organization has declared stress to be a health threat for the 21st century. In their report on stress in the workplace, the WHO identifies stress-related causes as a major reason for sick leave.
By learning a new language, you’re actively working against the five most prominent stress factors — with the nice side effect of speaking a new language!
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To keep your stress management from becoming too stressful, we’ll show you how language learning can address the five most common causes of stress — and help you relax.
1. The strive for perfection
There’s no end to perfectionism. Expecting too much of ourselves puts additional pressure on us and can make us afraid to even try something — and it’s a difficult habit to break. What to do?
As you learn a new language, you’ll already learn the most important lesson within your first few sentences: mistakes are useful! It’s by making mistakes that you quickly learn how a language works. You get a deeper understanding of the grammar with its rules and exceptions — and you’ll know not to be tricked by faux amis after the first embarrassing faux pas.
So, little by little, the subconscious fear of failure will subside without affecting your self-esteem, because, ultimately, you’re smarter after a mistake than you were before the mistake! This kind of learning experience helps us see that achievement is not based on perfection — and this can be a more effective way to relax than a hot stone massage.
2. Being swamped by work
You’ve blocked the next hour in your calendar to practice the presentation that you have to give your business partners tomorrow — and then suddenly an urgent task comes out of nowhere. Can you relate? Work is one of the most common causes of stress.
You’re probably asking yourself how learning a language can help with a stressful work situation — especially since learning takes extra effort. As it so happens, you can learn a few useful skills through language learning with an app:
- Time management
- Setting priorities
- Becoming more organized
- Gaining self-confidence
- Problem solving
By learning a new language in this way, your method of working in other areas will also improve. Your new-found effectiveness will make you more relaxed as you tackle a seemingly overwhelming workload.
3. Feeling powerless
You’ve arrived in Valencia and don’t understand why the hotel staff won’t let you check in to your room. Finding yourself in a confusing situation can lead to sweating nervously, and for a very human reason — it can make you feel powerless and isolated.
Apart from the fact that it is never a bad idea to refresh your Spanish before jaunting off to Valencia, language learning has a ton of advantages when you’re talking to people from other cultures. It makes sense to improve your ability to communicate — not just by understanding and speaking another language, but also by becoming more precise in what you say. Fine nuances in your native language or a foreign language only become clear when you can compare different languages.
4. Distractions and lack of concentration
You’re trying to write an important email, but someone is using a drill next door, car horns are blaring outside, and you’re just staring at a blank computer screen. External stimuli, such as noise or cold, have a negative effect on our well-being and often go hand-in-hand with concentration difficulties. Since we often can’t tune out the external stimuli, we tend to fixate on whatever it is that’s stressing us.
If you can’t choose somewhere more quiet and comfortable, a few small concentration exercises can help filter out stimuli and reduce stress. Some of these exercises are especially effective because they stimulate the two hemispheres of the brain to interact with each other, which helps you stay focused and relaxed.
And this is where language learning comes into play! When practicing and speaking a new language, your two brain halves are actively challenged. So consider language learning as good preparation for the next situation where you’re exposed to external stimuli — over time, your ability to concentrate improves along with your ability to reduce stress.
5. Personal factors
Admittedly, many of life’s ups and downs fall into this category and remain a source of stress throughout your life. Whether you’re fighting with your best friend, have just left your partner or are faced with a life-changing decision, stress is inevitable. But how can language learning help you more than, say, eating chocolate?
Personal conflict stresses us because it cuts at the foundations of our identity and shakes up our existing world order. It’s all the more important to build up self-esteem in times like this. Learning a new language — and then speaking it — gives you the experience of success that will help you relax and shift focus away from whatever is making you anxious.
With interpersonal conflict, a new language also has the side effect of boosting your empathy, allowing you to address miscommunication or grievances adequately and effectively. And last but not least, a new language opens up the opportunity to meet exciting new people!