Navigating Anxiety within Education


Have you ever felt that knot in your stomach when you're facing a big test, looming deadline, or presentation? Or maybe you find yourself feeling restless and unable to concentrate during class hours? You're not alone. Anxiety is something many of us experience, but it doesn't have to hold us back. In this blog, let's explore some strategies to help us manage anxiety and stress so we can focus on enjoying our learning experience. 


What Actually is Anxiety?


Anxiety is a natural and normal response to stress or perceived threats. It's a feeling of apprehension, unease, or worry about what's to come, often accompanied by physical sensations like increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, or difficulty concentrating. While some level of anxiety can be helpful in certain situations, such as motivating us to prepare for challenges, excessive or prolonged anxiety can become overwhelming and interfere with daily life. 

Anxiety can manifest in various forms, including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, and specific anxiety-related disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Each type of anxiety disorder has its own specific symptoms and triggers, but they all involve excessive and persistent worry or fear that can be difficult to control. 

It's important to understand that experiencing occasional anxiety is normal, but when anxiety becomes chronic, severe, or starts to significantly impact daily functioning, it may indicate an anxiety disorder that could benefit from professional help and support. 


Understanding Anxiety


Anxiety can feel like a heavy weight on our shoulders, making it hard to focus, sleep, or even enjoy the things we used to love. It's important to recognise that anxiety is normal, and it's perfectly normal to ask for help when we need it. Whether it's feeling worried about schoolwork, friendships, or other challenges, knowing that we're not alone in our struggles can make a big difference. 


How Anxiety Impacts Learning

Have you ever found it hard to concentrate during a test because your mind was racing with worries? That's anxiety in action. When we're anxious, it can be tough to focus, recall information, or participate in class discussions. But understanding how anxiety affects us can help us develop strategies to overcome it and succeed in our learning endeavours. 


Tips for Managing Anxiety


1. Connect with Supportive Peers: Having friends who understand what you're going through can make a world of difference. Reach out to classmates, family, or family friends you trust and share your feelings. You might be surprised to find that they're dealing with similar struggles. Talking things over and sharing the issue can often reduce the impact it has on the day-to-day management of learning with anxiety.  


2. Practice Relaxation Techniques: Learning to calm our minds and bodies can help us feel more grounded and in control. Try deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, or listening to calming music to help ease anxiety when it creeps in. Tapping is a really useful tool to help reset the mind and calm the body. Go online and search up these various tactics to help with your anxiety, there are countless varieties of breathing exercises that can really help. And some that you can even practice within the classroom without being noticed.  


3. Create a Safe Space: Having a designated spot where you can take a break and regroup can be incredibly helpful. Whether it's a cosy corner in your room or a quiet spot in the school environment, having a place to escape when you're feeling overwhelmed can provide much-needed relief. Use this space to practice a relaxation technique, call a friend, or simply take a moment to yourself to gather thoughts.  


4. Stay Active: Physical activity isn't just good for our bodies—it's great for our minds too! Taking a walk, going for a run, or practicing yoga can help reduce stress and boost our mood. Find an activity you enjoy and make it a regular part of your routine. During the school day it isn’t always easy to take breaks and move around, but even having a stretch during a toilet break can help to reset the body and mind. Outside of the academic atmosphere, organised exercise is essential to our mental and physical health, and it doesn’t have to be a group effort! There are plenty of solo activities that offer the same health benefits. Join a gym, practice yoga at home, take a walk in nature, go for a bike ride, etc.  


5. Set Realistic Goals: Sometimes, we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. Remember that it's okay to make mistakes and that learning is a journey, not a race. Set realistic goals for yourself and celebrate your progress along the way. If you realise these goals are unrealistic, there is nothing wrong with moving the goal posts to arrive at a more comfortable, reachable target. And recognise that failure is an opportunity to try again, or try something new.  


6. Reach Out for Help: If anxiety is interfering with your ability to enjoy school or daily life, don't hesitate to seek support from a trusted adult, counsellor, or mental health professional. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. We all need some assistance along the way in life, especially at the ages and phases we reach during our education. There is so much natural change and adaptation going on simultaneously to making big life decisions and absorbing mountains of new information—it’s a lot. For anyone. So asking for a helping hand to manage it all is absolutely the right choice if things start to get on top of you.  


Managing anxiety isn't always easy, but with practice and support, we can learn to cope with our feelings and thrive in school. Remember, you're capable of overcoming any challenge that comes your way. Stay strong, stay positive, and don't forget to take care of yourself along the way. You've got this! 


Helpful Tools:

Downloadable worksheet with techniques for coping with anxiety 

Information on EFT tapping and how to practice it to alleviate anxiety

Breathing exercises to help relieve stress and anxiety 

Find an online teen therapist 

Leave a Comment