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When You Need Academic Assistance for Classroom Anxiety

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Sometimes when I’m sitting in class, I become overwhelmed. My head starts to spin and all of these thoughts come flying at me without much warning. Trying to focus becomes like trying to pin the tail on the donkey, after your friends have spun you ’round and ’round. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on where the butt is, the furniture from across the room enters your view. As far as I know, for me at least, there’s no way to stop this besides just letting it happen. Sitting/laying down helps, but that still doesn’t stop the ceiling from twirling.

I’m getting dizzy and nauseous just thinking about it — that’s basically what having anxiety in class is like for me. Just when you start to focus on what’s being said, an intrusive thought comes bursting through the door like an uninvited party guest. Needless to say, some days I find it really hard to focus on lectures. Which is a huge problem! I’m what educators would call an auditory learner, which means that although I can also learn by reading and sometimes prefer it, in subjects like math, history and computer science, I learn by listening.

In high school, whenever I took tests in history or math, it wasn’t the board or the textbook I was remembering; it was my teachers’ voices — the way they changed as they gave their lectures and examples. This also included remembering when teachers would make jokes, make grand arm gestures and repeat concepts. That technique got me through countless exams in high school and in college.

With an increase in my mood, I’ve also been experiencing a surprising amount of anxiety. Usually my mood and anxiety have an inverse relationship: when my mood is low, my anxiety is high; when my mood is high, my anxiety is low.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve recognized the need to get academic assistance. If I can’t focus in class, I won’t learn. There were many ways to approach this. I could increase my medication, I could increase counseling or I could go to the accessibility services at my school for help. I decided to go to accessibility service to find out my options, and with the support of my counselor we created an academic assistance plan. I was really surprised to find they had agreed that recording lectures would be beneficial. They handed me a smart pen, or Echo, and some paperwork (because there is always paperwork), and I was good to go. The smart pen will record lectures for me and upload them to an application on my computer, where the notes I take while recording will also show up.

I’m excited to see how this will affect my level of anxiety and am forever grateful the people at my school recognize how debilitating anxiety can be. But having this opportunity made me curious as to how anxiety is handled at other colleges. Sadly, it didn’t surprise me when I learned that many don’t recognize the ill effects anxiety and depression have on learning.

If you think you need academic assistance, seek it — go see a counselor or trusted advisor who knows your situation. Having a professional ready to go to bat for you will make the process a little easier. If your school refuses to give you help, your new counselor can give you tips and tricks to get you through classes and this experience. The way people perceive mental illness is changing — speak up, and help bring change to your part of the world.

Follow this journey on Adventures of Shy Girl.

Originally published: April 4, 2016
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