With the exam season fast approaching we have noticed the usual increase in anxiety amongst many students and we recognise that this can be a stressful time for parents/carers too. Advice and tips here may be helpful.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a type of fear, usually associated with the thought of something going wrong in the future, a fear of what others may think or a perceived threat. Unlike fear, which is a response to immediate danger, anxiety is an ongoing, and often debilitating, worry without a clear and specific cause.
Everyday life is full of possible stresses and strains, and it is normal to feel anxious about everyday things. Worrying about exams, coursework deadlines, how we think we look, how we think others see us can be the single triggers that raise anxiety levels.
Anxiety has a strong effect on us as it is a natural survival response, it causes our mind and body to speed up, preparing us to cope with an emergency.
What does anxiety feel like?
Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety are: rapid and/or irregular heartbeat, fast breathing, weakened/tense muscles, sweating, churning stomach, loose bowels, dizziness, dry mouth.
Anxiety also has a psychological impact and signs of these are; feeling worried all the time, trouble sleeping, lack of concentration, feeling irritable, feeling depressed, loss of self-confidence.
When anxiety becomes common and seemingly unstoppable it can affect behaviour too ie; withdrawing from family gatherings, isolating him/herself from social activities, refusal to attend school.
It can be hard to break the cycle, but it is possible to learn how to feel less worried and cope with the anxiety.
“A person cannot just simply decide not to be anxious anymore” (Anxiety Care UK)
At TBGS we strive to promote and encourage resilience and persistence amongst our pupils, however, statistics tell us that students suffering with SEMH has become a growing trend, with currently 1 in 6 young people suffering with a diagnosable mental health disorder and between 1 in 12-15 deliberately self-harming.
What can you do to help?
Keep communication open – this is the single most important thing you can do, to encourage your child to feel that they are being heard and understood.
Recommend keeping a diary – suggesting your child keeps a note of when he/she feels anxious, what happens and how the anxiety feels. This will help to be better prepared in anxiety provoking situations.
Encourage relaxation – Learning relaxation techniques can help feelings of anxiety. Practices like yoga and meditation will relax breathing and help manage those feelings of intense anxiety.
Exercise – Even small increases in physical activity levels can trigger brain chemicals that improve well-being, mood and stress levels. This also helps lead to improved body image, self-esteem and self-worth.
Healthy Eating – Encourage your child to eat lots of fruit and vegetables and try to avoid too much sugar. Sugary foods cause a sugar ‘rush’ followed by a sharp dip in blood sugar levels which can increase anxiety levels.
Teach time management – some students may be overwhelmed with trying to complete a huge project – offer some help in setting smaller goals in order to achieve the ultimate aim.
Help them to see the bigger picture – when everything seems overwhelming students can become anxious with the small things. Remind them to look at the bigger picture.
Talk about coping with disappointment – if a student has lower results than expected use the opportunity to discuss what went wrong, how to face disappointment and how not to let it affect future work.
Give continual advice – remind students of the positives when they feel they have not achieved. Remind them to look back at past successes.
Mrs S Walker – Pastoral Support Officer and School Counsellor