Anxiety is a very common feeling in school, more common than most of us want to admit. This is especially so for teenagers. Teenagers are at this awkward and sensitive season of self-discovery. It seems that everything matters too much – more than one can emotionally bear. It is not surprising that every teenager experiences some form of anxiety in any social setting – especially in school. Not to mention teenagers, even for Polytechnics students past the teenage age, there can exist nagging feelings of anxiety deep down about something. For some, it can be more chronic.
Students with more chronic anxiety about school will show reluctance to go to school and often find excuses to skip school or classes. Even if they end up attending classes, they are not fully present. Internally, they are too caught up battling with their own anxiety to productively learn anything in school. Anxiety, if not dealt with appropriately, can be very damaging to a student. If you are a student facing anxiety issues (regardless of how minor it is), here are some practical steps you can use to help you overcome anxiety.
Identify the Cause
There can be a few common causes of anxiety – social awkwardness (difficulty in making meaningful friendships), an introverted personality, the need to perform well, inability to catch up with overwhelming school work, the fear of some teachers or the fear of some compulsory school activities, like P.E.
It helps if you can accurately identify the cause of your anxiety. Spend some time reflecting. If you are someone who feels more at ease with a common group of friends but are still a lone-ranger in school, it could be the lack of this core group that is causing your anxiety. If you are an introvert and being with rowdy classmates makes you uneasy, this could be your cause of anxiety. Perhaps you feel the pressure to excel in school, but you are not yet achieving good results and you are feeling anxious about your performance. Maybe your anxiety stems from some teachers whom you fear, or whose style cannot accommodate your learning needs. Maybe you are bad at art and often get criticized for your work in class. Do any of the above resonate with how you feel? Try to get to the root cause of your anxiety. This is the first step.
Change Your Perspective
After accurately identifying what is causing your anxiety, look at the issue from another perspective. One perspective would be the helicopter view (from high above). Think about your life 10 years down the road. Will this issue be significant then? Likely no. The person you are 10 years later will likely look back and laugh at how you got anxious over such a small matter! It is also helpful to question yourself – “Why does this issue matter so much to me now?”
Another perspective would be to focus on your “Internal locus of control”. A person with internal locus of control believes that he can change the situation. He is in control of his destiny. Many times, issues we feel helpless about cause anxiety. Therefore, feel helpless no more! Begin to take control of your situation. Make changes, think of solutions! That brings us to the next step.
Focus on Solutions
Maybe you feel ostracized in your class; you have no friends. You can tell yourself – “These people are not worth my time and effort. Join a meaningful CCA and find friends there.”
Perhaps you are anxious over the need to perform and you are always not meeting the mark. You can tell yourself – “Being anxious about this is not helping at all. It will only impede my learning. I should maintain a calm and happy disposition and then find a new way to learn.”
You are an introvert and often feel anxious in your rowdy class. Bring a book to class to read when everyone’s getting rowdy. Get into your own world and stay there until formal learning starts. You can tell yourself – “I don’t have to join them if I don’t feel like it.”
You are accumulating an overwhelming backlog of homework, you find them impossible to finish. You are so behind everyone in school. Tell yourself – “I need to find more time to focus on completing all my work and catch up. It may mean burning my weekends for the next 2 months, but if I am determined to do it, I can achieve it.”
You hate your Science teacher. She glares at you every time you ask questions, but there’s how you learn. Tell yourself – “Maybe she doesn’t like me to interrupt. I can try asking her after the class or after school hours when she has more time for my questions. She really doesn’t hate me. I just need to find a way to connect.”
Some feelings of anxiety are caused by others, some by our own personalities while others by our own lack of discipline. We can always find a solution. If you have not found your solution, try talking to another adult or a friend. Sometimes, we are too caught up in our anxiety we can’t see out of the box. Some issues are more complicated and not as simple as the above mentioned. However, there is always a solution if you think hard enough. Focus on the solution, not on the problem.
Write a journal! Writing can be therapeutic. If you are not a writing person, you can use more drawing or painting in our journal. After writing down your feelings and experience in your journal, always end it off with a positive self-affirmation. For example, end your piece with “Tomorrow will be a better day! Be happy and smiley!”, or “Don’t give Up!”.
When you go to school, constantly re-affirm yourself positively. Do plenty of self-talk with yourself and remind yourself of the solutions you have thought up. Our thoughts affect our behavior and countenance. When you keep doing positive self-talks within yourself, your personality becomes more positive and situations around you follow positively as well.
Anxiety Caused by Bullying Behavior
Lastly, there is one type of anxiety that may not be easily resolved on your own. That would be anxiety caused by bullying behavior.
Did your schoolmates abuse you physically? Did they often mock you and use demeaning ways to speak to you? If so, you are bullied, and you don’t deserve to be.
You may attempt to try to appease the bullies on your own through your own means. However, if your methods are not working and you continue to get bullied, do not keep silent. Tell your parents about it.
Some forms of anxiety are not as easily confronted as the above mentioned. If you experience a chronic anxiety issue that you cannot overcome on your own, you should talk to your school counselor to help you. This is because some of our anxieties could be a result of traumas in the past. We may not be able to recall those traumas but such memories reside in our sub-conscious and can surface as anxieties.