From elementary to post-secondary education, a student’s schooling presents them with incredible opportunity. With that opportunity, however, comes stress, a natural result of deadlines, challenges, and the pressures of achieving and maintaining good grades. Unfortunately, this can also lead to stress and anxiety in students that can be hard to detect by teachers and parents. Noticing a problem and offering support is one of the best ways to go about helping students with anxiety in school, especially as that anxiety begins affecting studies, relationships, and opportunities for the future.
Noticing: When a Student’s Anxiety is Affecting Their Studies
Despite the ways we often think about anxiety, it is not a very visible feeling, and this is especially true in the classroom. When you think about helping students with anxiety in school, you might think of students crying in the bathrooms or shaking at their desks, but more often, students make an effort to avoid sharing their troubles with classmates and teachers. Typically, anxiety in students looks more like difficulty finishing assignments, resisting social activities, disregarding personal time to “perfect” homework assignments, or losing sleep each night.1 For the most part, these concerns go either unnoticed at school, or are instead mistaken for laziness, rebelliousness, and self-centredness.
Because of this, one of the best ways of helping students with anxiety in school environments is to take note of what is causing those feelings to appear. A 2014 study into the prevalence of stress, anxiety, and depression in college students found that the areas of student life “that caused the most concern” were:2
- Academic performance
- Pressure to succeed
- Post-graduation plans
- Financial concerns
- Quality of sleep
- Relationship with friends
- Relationship with family
- Overall health
- Body image
Similarly, because anxiety often affects sleep and mental calm, it is common for students experiencing anxiety to feel on edge, uneasy, and unfocused.3 These factors can quickly lead to a snowball effect that can consume entire days, weeks, and months – often entirely unnoticed by the people around them.
What to Do with Anxiety Affecting Studies
The most important thing in this situation is for students to know that they are supported and in a safe environment. Helping students with anxiety, in school and afterwards, can also mean giving them the tools they need to support themselves, and make clear that there are ways of managing their stress. In 2016, for example, a team of researchers proposed that daily mindfulness practices, in particular mindful breathing exercises, would help students who become anxious before tests. They found that students who practiced daily mindfulness experienced reduced test anxiety and experienced more positive thoughts across their day than those who did not.4 Promoting breaks, encouraging fun, and giving students space to breathe does a lot to improve their wellbeing at school.
eSmartr’s own solution for combating anxiety is Cognitive Boost Technology™, a wearable tech pattern embedded inside our smart compression sleeves. The pattern stimulates specific nerves on the forearm, sending non-invasive signals interpreted by the brain as a call to focus more and worry less. This can be a great aid to help students who are having trouble with mindfulness practices, as it helps them to “get in the zone” more easily than they might otherwise.
Students will often try to hide their anxiety as a perceived weakness, for fear of being judged by the people around them, and, because of this, it can be hard to see the signs of a struggling student until after something significant has already happened. Still, anxiety disorders are rarely completely invisible, and promoting healthy habits, mindfulness, and fun in the classroom can be great tools to offer students who need them.
2. Beiter, Rebecca & Nash, R. & McCrady, M. & Rhoades, D. & Linscomb, M. & Clarahan, M. & Sammut, Stephen. (2014). The prevalence and correlates of depression, anxiety, and stress in a sample of college students. Journal of Affective Disorders. 173. 10.1016/j.jad.2014.10.054.
4. Cho, H., Ryu, S., Noh, J., & Lee, J. (2016). The Effectiveness of Daily Mindful Breathing Practices on Test Anxiety of Students. PLoS ONE, 11(10), e0164822. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A471893213/EAIM?u=ko_acd_shc&sid=EAIM&xid=b8708f35