Understanding Student Anxiety: Tools to Cope
Many students struggle with anxiety at some point. Often, it’s as a result of an especially difficult season, when everything on their plate feels overwhelming. Some students experience situation-specific anxiety, like test anxiety. For other students, anxiety can push past the everyday worries and begin to impact daily life outside of school as well. But here’s the good news: helpful resources are available.
Last month I discussed my own personal struggles with anxiety. Anxiety is the leading mental health concern for children and teens today — however, it’s also the most treatable. Help is available, and the right resources can make a world of difference.
A friend who I grew up with (and, thanks to Facebook, we still keep touch) is a Life Coach. Her name is Becky Lindstrom. Becky is a UC Davis-certified life coach and owner of Ever Present Coaching. Her journey to coaching began five years ago when she first developed panic attacks and anxiety. She ultimately learned how to use fear as a catalyst for personal growth and is now proud to serve as a compassionate, collaborative resource for those who choose to take the same journey.
Her mission is to help people connect with their inner wisdom and cultivate a renewed passion for life. To learn more about her coaching philosophy and practice, visit her website. Her new book, Ever Present Gratitude: How to Use Fear & Anxiety as a Catalyst for Growth, will be self-published in 2019.
Because no two students are the same, anxiety will look a little different in every person. Becky offers some characteristics that some individuals with anxiety may share. People who struggle with anxiety typically:
Have high expectations for themselves
Highly critical of themselves
Are controlling of their external environment
Like to make others happy before themselves
We can’t always control what life brings us, but we can learn how to cope. Here are some psychologist-selected resources for fighting the anxiety battle.
Tips to cope
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) offers great tips for teens to cope with anxiety, such as:
Exercise 20-30 minute workouts three to five times a week
Eat a balanced diet, low in sugar.
Sleep! (Quality and quantity are equally important.)
Learn to relax (I love yoga but some find reading a book or walking is helpful.)
Prepare ahead of time (This is huge! Cramming doesn’t help anxiety!)
Set realistic goals. (This includes your test scores and potential list of colleges too!)
The NASP offers more wonderful resources and additional information for parents and students on their website.
Dr. Karen Jordan from Jordan Psychological Assessment Center in Overland Park, Kansas offered the following suggestions and resources.
Apps for Coping with Anxiety
The MindShift App was created to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety. It offers lists of coping strategies and a variety of methods to manage anxiety. Tools include breathing exercises, mindfulness strategies, and mental imagery. Test anxiety, perfectionism, and worry are a few of the anxiety topics addressed.
The Mindfulness Coach app has features that include a mindfulness log and instructions for many types of mindfulness including mindful eating, mindfulness listening, body, and scan. Although originally developed for veterans, it can be used by anyone wanting to improve mindfulness skills.
AnxietyBC.com offers print and video resources, as well as actionable ideas to move forward, identifying positive steps that will help you take charge of anxiety.
ADAA.org, home of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, features anxiety facts, treatment ideas and resources, plus connections to professionals.
WorryWiseKids.org guides parents who are concerned about anxiety in their child. Resources can help parents understand the difference between normal worries and serious anxiety, including the red flags to watch out for in students.
If it’s time to get more help
Knowing when it’s the right time to get more help for an anxious teen can be difficult. Here are a few signs that it might be time to treat anxiety:
Anxiety interferes with schoolwork or relationships
Anger or easily irritable with others
Anxiety so intense that it get in the way of things the student enjoys
Feeling that you’ve “tried everything” to improve anxiety, but without improvement
Using drugs, alcohol or other harmful methods of coping with anxiety
If you notice one or more of these traits, therapy can make a life-changing difference. It’s important to choose a trained and professional therapist. Just a few sessions can make a big impact on anxiety, and a good counselor can be found through these therapist locator sites:
Anxiety can be crippling, but there are many resources to help! It is my goal to relieve anxiety around the college process, and I look forward to partnering with you, your teen and your family.