What Causes School Anxiety? (And What You Can Do)
By Thomas Broderick
Anxiety plagues just about every high school student. I could easily create an 800-item list of anxiety triggers you and your peers experience every day, but that would be TOO easy. You know, as I think about the innumerable anxiety culprits wandering your high school and the space between your ears (your brain), a few trends emerge. In this article, we’ll look at the big anxiety categories that plague high school students and what you can do to keep your anxiety at a low simmer.
The first thing that came to mind when I started brainstorming this article was deadlines. Just two feet away from my computer is a dry erase whiteboard calendar jam-packed full of them. Just looking at them gives me the jitters.
But unlike you, I have more than a decade of experience juggling multiple deadlines. Experience alone tells me that everything’s going to work out just fine. But alas, you lack such valuable experience. However, just like everything we’ll discuss in this article, there is something you can do TODAY to make deadline anxiety a thing of the past.
What You Can Do
Imagine a guy who pays $50 for a premium all-you-can-eat buffet. Everything looks great, but he only has so much stomach real estate. He decides to eat large portions of just 1-2 items that attract him. Yes, he has a great meal, but he goes home feeling anxious. Did he get his money’s worth? Maybe, just maybe, he should have sampled a little bit of everything.
Believe it or not, beating deadline anxiety has a lot to do with our gourmand.
As an ambitious high school student, you have a ‘buffet’ of deadlines in your future. When you have the option to either work on one assignment for two to three hours or three assignments for one hour each, always choose the latter. That way, you’ll make progress on every single thing. Yes, in both scenarios you’d do the same amount of work, but by ‘sampling’ everything you’ll actually feel that you accomplished more than if you left something untouched.
Assessments of All Shapes and Sizes
High school is full of assessments: ACT/SAT, AP, IB, pop quizzes, exit slips, unit tests, midterms, end-of-year tests, state tests, etc. That’s a lot of assessments to worry about.
Like with deadlines, you consciously know that you’ll do your best, but anxiety still has its talons in you. What to do?
What You Can Do
Defeating texting anxiety has more to do with mindset rather than any particular action on your part. In a nutshell, you simply need to remember that for the majority of important high school tests, there are second chances, either retakes or the ability to learn from your mistakes and apply your new knowledge toward the next test. Keep this in mind before taking the ACT/SAT and just about every test you take in class.
I didn’t get along with all my teachers in high school, and when I became a teacher, I didn’t get along with all of my students. Let’s say you have a teacher that, for whatever reason, rubs you the wrong way. Going into his or her class feels like a nightmare. Maybe you’ve lost some sleep over it.
What You Can Do
As there are so many things that can sour a student-teacher relationship, I’m going to shy away from giving specific advice. However, in just about every case, finding a solution begins with asking yourself “Is it me or my teacher who’s at fault?” Be honest and own up to any mistakes that you might have made. In my experience on both sides of the teacher’s desk, you likely did SOMETHING at SOME POINT to widen the rift even if it wasn’t the original cause.
Once you look at things objectively, it’s time to talk to your teacher, preferably before or after school. That may sound scary, but look at it this way: in just about every kind of relationship, better communication leads to a better relationship. It’s as simple as that.
Bullies, friends who drift away, mean girls, peer pressure…being around other teenagers 7-8 hours a day can sure raise your anxiety. Of course, if you’re anxious because you or someone you know is experiencing physical or psychological harm due to other students, it’s time to let a teacher know. But if your anxiety is more of the general variety, you can still nip peer anxiety in the bud
What You Can Do
Like with test anxiety, the answer (mostly) involves perspective. First of all, if you’re worried what people other than your closest friends think of you, don’t. That statement should also apply to your friends, but since you’re at a self-conscious age, you might as well be self-conscious only in regards to people you can trust.
In other words, the opinions held by 99.99% of the people you see every day aren’t worth the powder to blow them to heck.
Anxiety is a monster, yes. It can’t ever be truly defeated, but if you take some proactive measures, it’ll spend most of its existence trapped in a cage of your own design. If you have a fall break coming up, use that time to evaluate your anxiety triggers and devise a customized plan.
Finally, nothing beats anxiety more than enjoying the fall weather. Happy Halloween!