Overcoming the Overwhelm: Tackling student-anxiety
The feeling of anxiety can be present in many different scenarios and is mostly a healthy and natural response to have in times of concern. In severe cases, anxiety can be a problem if it lasts for 14 days or longer without an objective reason to worry about. If anxiety is regularly hindering parts of your life, it is important to address this feeling and look into ways you can build resilience to prevent anxiety from negatively influencing your life.
School is often a common cause of anxiety in students, have you ever felt the pressure to ‘fit in with the crowd’ due to the fixation on current social media trends? This is not to rule out internal causes of anxiety within the school environment and with the end of the school year approaching, we want to address these causes as well as our top tips on how to combat these feelings.
Top causes of anxiety in schools:
Did you know that only 15% of UK students said they enjoyed going to school every day in 2022*? If you’re feeling anxious at school, it could be due to one of the following causes:
This can often be caused by exam stress and the pressure to earn top grades in order to succeed further in life.
Usually caused by being exposed to large groups of people daily and feeling like you don’t fit in with the people around you. Often, this occurs both in and outside of school via social media
Unfortunately, is very common in schools around the UK and may lead to you feeling anxious about attending the school where the bullies are.
Differences in learning.
Some students learn better by listening, others by writing and some actioning. If you are unable to retain information by a learning style that is alien to you, this may also be a cause of anxiety.
Changes in environment.
A common cause of anxiety, specific to this time of year due to the academic year ending and a new one starting. You may feel anxious about leaving school, keeping in contact with your friends, or having new teachers and different classrooms.
Ways to combat these problems
Keep in mind that while grades and academic success do have an economic impact on people’s futures, there is a higher effect of well-being on grade outcomes than the other way around. And that school is a relatively short period in people's lives. Most adults will never be asked about their grades later in life. If you have high pressure for your self-expectation or your parents, that would be worth looking into. You may be holding on to the belief that your worthiness is connected to your academic success.
Reframe your anxiety: is this a life or death situation or merely a wave on the surface of your life’s ocean?
Build a framework: how well have you done in the past that can lead you to know what to expect?
Set up a support system: keep your parents (if they are helpful and understanding) in the loop of how you’re feeling, bounce ideas off them, and ask them for comfort. The same with friends you can rely on
Live healthily: sleep at least 8 hours, exercise, drink water, no coffee after 1 pm, keep learning sessions under 90 min, take 2-3 hour breaks
None of the above seems strong enough: seek help. Therapists are exactly there for challenging times and are trained to help you manage anxiety
We are social animals, we are literally built to depend upon others, build relationships, and integrate ourselves into social groups. If that is not going smoothly, it is natural and healthy to feel alarmed: time to try something new!
Resource mapping: map your friends, who you can trust and confide in, whose shoulder you can cry on. Quality over quantity. Research shows that having 3 close friends is better for your mental health than having 20 acquaintances. Once you’ve mapped out who’s there, you will know if you need to grow your inner circle, or if you should celebrate a moment of gratitude
Don’t compare your real life to other people’s highlight reels. On social media, not all is as it appears to be. Be mindful of how following certain people makes you feel and unfollow anyone who doesn’t inspire you or who you’re not enjoying.
Invest in relationships. Active listening is one of the most important skills you will ever learn. People want to be heard.
As stated above, we are social animals, and being excluded from a group, or even actively picked on takes us emotionally back to the days when being excluded meant you were likely to be eaten by a sabertooth tiger the next day. Your nervous system will react that way, and it’s doing its job.
Change your environment. Bullies usually struggle with mental illness and are seldom to be reasoned with. Move classes, seats, and rooms if you can.
Ask for help. Counseling services at your institution are supposed to help, and many of them do it well. Schedule a meeting.
Take responsibility for your social impact. There is never an excuse for bullying, but you may have social strategies that are unbeneficial in social settings and alienate you from your peers. Therapy or a candid discussion with a compassionate friend may help surface any if at all. Then decide if that is something you want to change or not.
Differences in learning.
The modern school setting is not human-centric and we simply do not all fit the mold. If you have differences in learning from your peers I dare say the system fails at accommodating you - not that you are failing the system. That said, it won’t change anytime soon, so you need to work with what is there.
Find out the best way you learn and do more of that
Get teachers and tutors on your side. If they know you’re struggling and not being ‘lazy’ they are more likely to support you
Reframe your academic self-expectations: you do not need to be a rocket scientist - find out what your jam is and follow that path instead of trying to squeeze yourself into career requirements
It’s never too late: our founder, who had a notoriously volatile academic history is doing her PhD now at 44 years old.
Changes in environment.
Accepting change is a hard ideology to overcome. As humans, we have succumbed to daily routines that often make our minds predict our daily outcomes. Below are some strategies to help you prepare for upcoming changes.
Set up structures and routines
Reframe anxiety to anticipation
Remind yourself of all the times you mastered change in your life
Find a safe place as soon as possible - a coffee shop, library, dance club