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Online Learning

How Mental Health Can Affect Your Grades & Academic Performance

Have you been suffering from poor mental health since the COVID-19 pandemic? Unfortunately, students like you are experiencing depression symptoms at a higher rate than ever. What ways can you improve your mental health and keep your grades up without sacrificing one or the other?
Lauren Ambrosio

Lauren Ambrosio

Poor mental health is a barrier to academic success. Children and young adults are suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues at a much higher rate than ever*.

In a recent survey of educators, 70% said they were concerned or very concerned about the mental health challenges their students face. 53% of educators feel these challenges are greater than the previous year.

What exactly does the term ‘mental health’ mean?

Mental health is a person's psychological and emotional well-being, including thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It’s how someone copes with stress, relates to others, and makes decisions. Mental health is influenced by many factors, including biological, environmental, and social.


It’s important to remember that it exists on a spectrum, and everyone experiences fluctuations in their mental well-being throughout their lives.


If you have good mental health, for example, you have a generally positive outlook, use healthy coping mechanisms, have balanced emotions and self-awareness, and have positive family and social connections.


If you battle with poor mental health, on the other hand, you likely have anxiety about the future, may experience physical symptoms like headaches or fatigue, could become withdrawn from friends and family, and may turn to unhealthy methods of emotional regulation like drugs or alcohol.


Read more: Finding Inspiration from a High School Graduate


How stressors can cause poor mental health

There are many stressors in our lives that lead to depression and anxiety, and a lot of them are external factors that may be out of your control.


Some stress factors include:

  • High academic expectations from parents, teachers, and yourself can lead you to fear that you are only as good as your grades.
  • Social pressures and fear of not fitting in can add stress on you. Bullying, social media drama, and conflicts among your friends make it easy to feel alone.
  • Adjusting to a new environment, school, and people can be difficult, and transitions can lead to feelings of uncertainty.
  • Financial stress isn’t just for broke college students. Children in financially insecure homes can carry an emotional burden when it comes to money.
  • Physical health issues can negatively impact your mental health, leading to feelings of isolation and low self-esteem.
  • Discrimination, cultural expectations, or identity-related stressors in marginalized communities can impact your mental health and sense of belonging.
  • Trauma, abuse, or adverse life events may cause mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety, which can interfere with your academic performance and overall well-being.
  • Limited access to affordable mental health resources, the stigma surrounding mental illness, or cultural barriers to seeking help may prevent you from receiving the support you need.


Read more: Advice From Penn Foster’s Graduate of the Year


How poor mental health impacts learning

When you suffer from poor mental health, it affects your ability to learn. If you are struggling in school, depression or anxiety may be to blame.


Here are some ways that poor mental health can affect learning:

  • Inability to focus, pay attention, or retain information
  • Impaired cognitive function, which affects your ability to problem solve, think critically, and make decisions
  • Decreased motivation or interest or may become apathetic or withdrawn in class
  • Increased tardiness or absenteeism
  • Increased sleepiness or fatigue in the middle of the day
  • Poor grades from incomplete assignments


Read more: How to Stay Motivated and Graduate High School Online


Tips to improve your mental health

While things may seem impossible at times, it’s good to remember that some things are within your control. If you are struggling with your mental health and it’s affecting your grades, here are some things you can do to help yourself:


Create a daily schedule that includes sleep, meals, study time, and breaks.

  1. Practice mindful meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  2. Find a physical activity you enjoy, like walking, swimming, table tennis, etc.
  3. Sharing your feelings with friends or family can make you feel less isolated.
  4. Set realistic goals and celebrate when you achieve each one.
  5. Limit your screen time.
  6. Reach out for help if you feel overwhelmed.
  7. Be kind to yourself and know that it's okay to not be okay sometimes.
  8. Make time for hobbies and activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
  9. Don’t let yourself get too hungry; drink more water and prioritize getting plenty of rest.
  10. Reach out for help, especially if it’s study help.


Read more: Get to Know the Penn Foster Community


Putting mental health first

Stress is affecting your generation in a way it never has before, but hope isn’t lost. Whether you’re struggling in school due to poor mental health or are looking for an alternative to a traditional high school or college education, an online program may be the answer. Just know that you aren’t alone.


For more information about enrolling in an online high school or career program at Penn Foster, contact our Admissions Specialists at 1.888.427.6500.


If you’re struggling with mental health or worried you need help right away, you can call the national hotline by dialing 988.





* U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2022, March 14). New HHS Study in JAMA Pediatrics Shows Significant Increases in Children Diagnosed with Mental Health Conditions from 2016-2020. Retrieved from


** Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration. (n.d.). National Survey of Children's Health. Retrieved from


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