anxiety

Helping Your Child Who Struggles With Anxiety

Anxiety is an epidemic among teenagers and college students.

In many cases, students are dropping out of college because of anxiety and health centers are seeing more students than ever. The APA sites, “Anxiety is the top presenting concern among college students (41.6 percent), followed by depression (36.4 percent) and relationship problems (35.8 percent).”

So what’s the best way to help if your child is suffering from anxiety?

Talk to them about it. Let them know you understand they are suffering and assure them they are not alone. Encourage them to talk to their friends or roommates. Chances are their friends are suffering too. Visiting the mental health center on campus is also a good idea. Or even the urgent care at school, if they are really concerned.

Often anxiety presents itself with physical symptoms such as sweaty palms, a racing heart, and lightheadedness. It can also bring on numbness in fingers and hands. These symptoms can frighten a student who is otherwise healthy.

My daughter picked up a brochure at the health center about anxiety and the headline read: You Are Not Having a Heart Attack. It then explained the top physical signs of anxiety. She thought it would be a great idea if the college handed out these flyers to all the freshman, since just about everyone she knew suffered from the symptoms.

A friend who is a therapist suggested that sometimes freshman have too much time on their hands since often colleges suggest an easier workload first semester. She said they have too much time to worry and suggests they take on an additional pass/fail classes or find an on-campus job.

Social media is to blame for a lot of this newly brought on anxiety, but so is being away from home for the first time and tougher academics. Anxiety can also be hereditary. This article from the Huffington Post offers a helpful list of seventeen ideas to help with anxiety. My daughter and I are both trying ideas on this list. Just because I’m not in college, doesn’t mean I don’t get anxious. Getting off social media is one of the top items. Not a bad idea for all of us these days.

But please take your child’s anxiety seriously and if you feel it’s becoming a bigger problem than the above list can help with, seek professional help. If you can aid them in managing their anxiety at this young age, they will take those skills with them into the future.

What Causes School Anxiety? (And What You Can Do)

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.

Deadlines

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.

Student-Teacher Relationships

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.

 Your Peers

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.

Final Thoughts

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!

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