How to Deal With School Stress and Anxiety
Understanding Academic Stress and School Anxiety in California
Kids’ and teens’ mental health is often overlooked, but they can suffer from academic stress and school anxiety due to packed schedules, responsibilities, media overload, less sleep, and peer pressures. Academic pressures are being experienced at an earlier age than ever before. Research has shown that academic pressures can lead to school stress and depression. Mental health issues such as these can affect school performance, physical health, and even interpersonal relationships.
School anxiety is a condition that manifests as an excessive fear of school and the activities associated with it, such as taking tests, speaking in public, or making friends. While it is not uncommon for children to feel some anxiety about school, those with school anxiety feel extreme fear and worry regarding everyday attendance. School anxiety can interfere with the ability to do well in school, overall well-being, and even attendance.
The causes of school anxiety are not entirely understood. For some, the fear and worry associated with school are specific causes, such as being bullied or having a bad experience. For others, it can be more general, such as social or performance anxiety. School anxiety can also develop after being home for an extended period, such as during summer vacation, or be triggered after a stressful event, such as the death of a family member or moving to a new home.
School anxiety symptoms can include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Crying spells
- Missing school frequently
- Temper tantrums
- Refusing to go to school
Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.
The Role of Professional Counseling Services in California
Nearly 30% of students battle anxiety, and only 1% of those affected get the help they need for symptoms, meaning they are handling these overwhelming feelings on their own. Professional counseling can be vital for combating academic stress and school anxiety symptoms. Mental health counselors can provide a confidential, safe space to help students discuss the stresses and strains of school, home, and everyday life. Reaching out to school counselors, online peer support lines, or an online therapist can help teens and students get the help they need to overcome academic stress and school anxiety.
Benefits of counseling include:
- Teens and young adults can express and learn about their feelings and problems in a safe space.
- Building self-confidence by helping students to realize their own potential, take pride in skills, and acknowledge imperfections.
- Identify tension-causing factors and learn how to problem-solve.
- Teaches effective tools and skills for school stress management, emotional regulation, and effective communication.
- Improves social skills by helping students navigate the world normally and healthily.
How to Calm Anxiety in Class in California
Everyone gets stressed and agitated at times; however, experiencing anxiety while in class or other public settings can quickly become overwhelming. Stress and anxiety cause your body to release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which makes those feelings even worse. You can experience school anxiety symptoms such as dizziness, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and sweating. Luckily, there are several tools and techniques to calm anxiety in class, such as:
- Deep breathing: Breathing mindfully can help calm down our bodies and minds almost instantly. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is especially effective, which involves breathing in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling forcefully through your mouth with a “whooshing” sound for 8 seconds.
- Counting to 10: Focusing on counting and giving yourself some time to calm down can help stop your anxiety from getting worse.
- Listen to calming music: Put on your favorite music, preferably something that does not have a frantic beat or depressing lyrics. Close your eyes and concentrate on the words and rhythm to take focus away from what is causing you stress or anxiety.
- Go for a walk: If you are able to get up and get moving, it can help get rid of some of that anxious energy and clear your mind.
- Use grounding techniques: Journaling and the 333 rule can often help calm down anxiety immediately. The 333 rule involves naming three things you can see, three sounds you hear, and interacting with three things you can touch. Writing down what is causing you stress or anxiety can help get it out of your head and make everything feel less daunting.
Techniques for Coping with Anxiety
Self-calming techniques are effective when experiencing stress and school anxiety symptoms; however, it is also important to work on your anxiety outside of the classroom so you can reduce the likelihood of experiencing symptoms in the first place. Some techniques you can incorporate into your everyday life to help you better cope with anxiety include:
- Use visualization, music, and meditation to relax and ease your mind.
- Challenge your thinking so that you can consider other alternatives or solutions to the problem that is causing anxiety. The goal is to debunk anxious thoughts and counter them with positive ones.
- Consider facing your fears. Often, imagined outcomes are not what you anticipated, and it can help you feel less anxious about issues in the future.
- Eat a healthy, moderate diet.
- Relax your body and muscles through breathing exercises, mindful meditation, and body scanning.
- Simplify and organize your life. Clutter, both environmentally and mentally, can add to anxiety.
- Do not go down the rabbit hole of worry. Be aware of what is causing you anxiety and find a way to stop it, such as through journaling.
The Power of Peer Support for Anxiety
Social support and the role of families, friends, and communities are fundamental in managing mental well-being. Peer support is when people use their own experiences to help each other. While there are different types of peer support, they all aim to bring people together with shared experiences to support each other and provide a space to feel understood and accepted. Types of peer support include self-help groups, mentoring, and peer counselors.
Peer support can help students alleviate school anxiety symptoms in a variety of ways. Often, it is easier for teens and young adults to open up to one another rather than adults. It also helps students work on their social skills and expand their social network. Peer support can also encourage positive peer pressure, which is when someone’s peers encourage them to do something positive or growth-building. This is in great contrast to negative peer pressure, which is when someone who is a friend or part of a group you belong to makes you feel like you have to do something in order to be accepted. Negative peer pressure can also add to academic stress and anxiety symptoms.
Building Resilience in Students with Anxiety Disorder
Student resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity, face a setback or challenge, and keep going. Teens and young adults in school experience a multitude of challenges, changes, and opportunities for growth. Being resilient gives them the ability to tackle all these new experiences and setbacks head-on and have the best chance of succeeding. It allows them to learn and grow from all types of situations, which can help shift their mindset from being stressed or anxious towards seeing the positive lessons learned. Student resilience also helps to approach new situations, people, and experiences with confidence and positivity.
Developing resilience at an early age can help ensure that students enter adult life with more readiness and ability to handle life’s challenges. Here are some ways to build resilience:
- Find a sense of purpose by leading a healthy lifestyle, serving your community, or making art or music.
- Believe in your abilities to respond to and deal with a crisis. Replace negative comments in your head with positive ones, such as “I can do this” or “I have gotten through other difficult situations and can get through this one too.”
- Develop a social network with caring, supportive people who can mutually help and encourage one another through difficult situations.
- Embrace change as flexibility is essential to student resilience. Being resilient is utilizing events and adapting to branch out in new directions.
- Staying optimistic by focusing on positive outcomes and understanding setbacks are temporary.
- Nurture yourself by taking care of your own needs, including getting adequate sleep, exercising, making time for activities you enjoy, and eating well.
- Develop problem-solving skills, such as making a list of potential ways of solving a problem when faced with a new challenge or thinking back at how you have solved other problems in the past.
- Focus on your progress rather than on success. Not every situation is going to be successful, so placing more focus on how far you have come can improve your self-esteem.
Ways to Reduce Stress for Students With Anxiety
Regular stress can affect your physical and mental health. It can also lead to unhealthy habits such as overeating or not eating, not sleeping, using drugs or alcohol, and excessive worry. Taking the time and energy to take care of yourself and reduce stress can help you feel less overwhelmed, more confident, and able to take on anything. Here are some effective school stress management techniques:
- Getting plenty of sleep: Make sure you keep a regular sleep schedule that allows you to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep can increase feelings of anxiety.
- Keeping a healthy diet: Don’t skip meals and eat a balanced diet of whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed food, caffeine, and alcohol, which can increase school anxiety symptoms.
- Maintaining a routine: Carrying out routine activities reduces stress by making the situation appear more controllable and predictable. Maintaining structure and routine can help you feel more organized, focused, and productive.
- Daily exercise: Regular exercise eases anxiety, school stress, and depression by releasing feel-good endorphins, easing muscle tension, and burning off excess energy. Find something that you enjoy doing, which can include a walk around your neighborhood, yoga, after-school sports teams, dancing, or basically anything that gets you moving. It is also helpful to get up and walk around for 2 to 3 minutes if you are sitting for long periods of time, like when studying for a test.
- Try meditation and other holistic techniques: Meditation, mindful breathing, and guided imagery can all help reduce anxiety symptoms by helping you focus on the present and not on what is worrying you. There are plenty of other holistic methods that reduce anxiety and stress as well, such as community acupuncture, massage, and sound healing groups.
- Do something creative: Artistic and creative ventures are great outlets for anxiety, stress, and depression. It can help you process your thoughts, provide an outlet for self-expression, and improve self-esteem. Some creative outlets you can try include painting, drawing, creative writing, making music, singing, and dancing.
- Talk to someone: Talking to friends and family when you’re feeling overwhelmed can help reduce stress and anxiety as well. They can offer you support and help so you don’t feel alone or overwhelmed. You can also talk to a peer support counselor, school counselor, or therapist to help you manage your symptoms.
Self-Care on Dealing with School Stress and Anxiety
While there are plenty of self-care techniques to ease school stress and anxiety, as mentioned above, sometimes that is not enough. We all need help at times when dealing with issues in our lives, and finding support from others can help take some of the burden off our shoulders. Talking to friends and family about your challenges, worries, and emotions can be helpful; however, they may not always have the answers to how to get through them. It is important to recognize when you need professional help, such as when stress is paralyzing, you cannot control your emotions, or depression interferes with your ability to function.
There are plenty of stress relief resources you can use to get professional therapy help, such as a school counselor, a mental health specialist, or free support lines. BeWellLine is a free peer support counseling service for all California residents, including middle school, high school, and college students. We can connect you with someone to talk to either through chat or via a phone line within minutes who can help you find and develop tools to manage school stress and anxiety. Peer support counselors are from the community, and it is anonymous, free, and available 24/7.
Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.
FAQs About How to Deal with School Stress and Anxiety
What is academic stress and how does it manifest in students in California?
Academic stress is mental distress as a result of the pressure to perform well academically and perceived expectations set by peers, family, and society. It can impact a student’s overall well-being, especially their mental health, resulting in school anxiety symptoms, school stress, and depression.
How can professional counseling services help manage school stress and anxiety in California?
Students dealing with school stress and anxiety can get help through professional counseling services. Benefits of counseling for school stress management include having a safe, confidential space to express themselves, identifying what is causing stress or anxiety, and learning effective tools and skills to manage school anxiety symptoms.
What are some effective anxiety coping mechanisms for students?
It is important to find ways to cope with anxiety, which can include breathing techniques, challenging negative thoughts, body and muscle relaxation techniques, listening to calming music, meditation, and exercise. Counseling services in California can provide effective anxiety coping mechanisms and encourage students to implement them daily.
How can peer support help in managing school stress and anxiety?
Peer support is when students use their own experiences to help one another through difficult situations. It can be easier to talk to someone who is going through a similar experience and has first-hand advice on how to get through it. Peer support can expand social skills and social networks.
How can students build resilience to cope with academic stress?
Building student resilience allows teens and young adults to bounce back from difficult situations and have a more positive outlook on the future. There are several ways to build student resilience, such as believing in the ability to overcome a crisis, finding a sense of purpose, embracing changes and using them as a learning opportunity, and staying optimistic about the future by understanding setbacks are temporary.
What are some techniques for calming anxiety in class?
Stress reduction techniques can help you calm down quickly when experiencing anxiety symptoms, including rapid heart rate, sweating, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Deep breathing techniques such as 4-7-8 breathing, counting to 10, listening to calming music, and using grounding techniques are all effective in calming the body and mind down.
What is the difference between positive and negative peer pressure?
Positive peer pressure is when someone encourages you to do something positive or growth-building, as opposed to negative peer pressure, which is when a friend or someone in a group you belong to makes you feel like you have to do something in order to belong. Negative peer pressure can put added stress and anxiety on students.
Most people struggle with school stress or anxiety at some point in their lives. If you feel you need someone to talk to or need help developing anxiety or stress reduction techniques, BeWellLine is available 24/7 with peer support counselors. Services are completely free and confidential for California residents and available for all types of issues, no matter how big or small they may seem to you. Please call us today at 866-349-0854 or have an online chat to talk with a peer support counselor within minutes.