Anxiety at School: Why, When and What to Do

Anxiety is a common problem for young people. And with school taking up such a large part of your life during your teenage years, it’s no surprise that it can be a cause of anxiety. In particular, people who fear embarrassment or judgement from social situations might find school difficult. There can be a lot of pressure in a school environment. From peer pressures to the stress of homework and exams, it can be a difficult time.

Why Do I Get Anxiety?

Anxiety is actually a natural reaction in the body. It can be common for teenagers and young people especially. This is because there are lots of new experiences and challenges. As you get older and gain more independence, there’s pressure for you to make decisions for yourself. Hormonal changes can also change how you react to things. It can make you worry or get stressed about things more.

It’s normal to feel anxious about things like starting a new school, looking a certain way or fitting in with people at school. But for some people, these worries don’t go away. They can even be so intense that they make it difficult to do everyday things.

Spotting the Signs

Anxiety levels can range from person to person. But there are common symptoms that a lot of people experience when they get anxiety. These usually include intense fear or worry about things, feeling restless and a need to be especially cautious. Even when there is no real threat, some people feel nervous and stressed.

Social settings can also increase anxiety. Those with anxiety can feel uneasy around people and withdrawn. They might also be very emotional. This can come from the stress and worry of losing control in front of people or feeling like they aren’t good enough.

Anxiety for young people sometimes comes from questioning if they are good enough. Or comparing themselves to others. At school, this can be a particularly big problem. There can be a lot of pressure at school. Like comparing yourself to your classmates and feeling like you have to fit in. There can also pressure to perform well in class. 

There are physical symptoms that can come with anxiety too. These include:

  • Tense muscles
  • Stomach aches
  • Headaches
  • Feeling sick
  • Fast breathing
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Going red or feeling flushed

Why Does My Anxiety Get Worse When I’m at School?

Your anxiety might worsen when you have had a lot of time off from school, like during summer holidays. Going back to school after you’ve had a long time off can increase your fear and worries. This is because you get out of the habit of realising that the things you fear are actually not going to hurt you. Your worrying thoughts go unchallenged. This can make returning to school more difficult.

Anxiety can also get worse when you withdraw from situations. The more you avoid situations, the less tolerance you have for dealing with them. This might be because you’ve avoided social situations out of a fear of embarrassment. Or it might be avoiding doing group activities at school.

The stress of exams and homework can also increase your anxiety. This is because of the pressure to do well. That pressure might be something you put on yourself. Or you might feel pressure from family members to perform well. For people who are struggling in class, the anxiety of not doing well can be intense. It can make you want to stay home and avoid classes completely.

If you’re dealing with bullying or harassment, this can make going to school or doing well in class very difficult. It can be hard to show up at school every day when you’re worried about what people might say or do to you.

What to Do

There are ways of dealing with your anxiety at school. Here are some tips for calming your body and mind down when you get anxious.

Talk to Someone

Having someone listen to your worries can help reduce your fear about school. While it’s less effective than facing your fears head on, it can help to have someone to talk to about what is bothering you. This can be a friend or a teacher. Or you may want to talk to your doctor who can offer advice on how to manage your anxiety.

If you’re struggling with bullying, it’s important to tell someone at school so they can help you. They might be able to adapt your routine or class schedule to help reduce the risk of you seeing the people who are bullying you.

Deal with the Symptoms

The physical symptoms can make it difficult to think. Using calming breathing techniques can help slow your breathing down to a normal rate. It can also help to calm your heartrate down too. You can use apps to help you breathe calming, like Smiling Mind. Or you can try breathing in for five seconds slowly and then breathing out for five seconds. Repeat the process until your symptoms have passed.

Don’t Use Avoidance Techniques

Anxiety can actually get worse when you avoid things that make you anxious. So, whether it’s putting your hand up to answer a question or going to school at all, make sure you try to do the things that are making you worry. It can be an effective way of facing your fears head on and proving to yourself that there is nothing to worry about.

That said, while avoiding things isn’t the answer, neither is diving in head-first. Don’t overwhelm yourself with social situations that will increase your anxiety. If you’re nervous, start small and build up from there. Try giving your opinion to one person instead of a group. Or start a conversation with someone you already know. Taking little steps can help improve your confidence.

Remember that everyone makes mistakes sometimes or does silly things. It doesn’t make you less valuable as a person. You can’t guarantee that negative things won’t happen. But you can learn from them and pass them off as just a part of life. Making mistakes is what makes us all human. So, if something embarrassing happens, try to see it as funny, It happens to everyone and there’s no reason to feel ashamed.

Managing Your Anxiety

If your anxiety is making school difficult, it might be worth seeking treatment for it. Your doctor can come up with a personalised treatment plan for you. But anxiety is often treated with either counselling, medication or a combination of the two.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a common talking therapy that has proven to work well with anxiety. Your therapist will work with you to understand why you get anxious at school and then help you find ways to deal with those thoughts and feelings.

If your symptoms are very bad, a combination of medication and therapy might be used. There are several types of anxiety medications that your doctor can talk to you about. These can help reduce your fear of school and help you cope better.

School can be a challenging time. From the changes in responsibility to the pressure to fit in and everything between, it can be hard for some people to cope. It’s completely normal to be worried and anxious about these things. But it’s important to get help and support if you’re struggling to deal with school. There are lots of great opportunities to make the most of. And it’s a good idea to focus on the positive things that school provides, even if you’re having a hard time.


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