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6 Tips for Conquering Anxiety at School

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Being in high school and having anxiety is one of the hardest things about having anxiety. When you’re in a class and everything seems perfectly fine, then boom. It hits you. Your heart starts racing, you feel like the room is closing in on you, you start getting shaky and you feel like you can’t catch your breath. Yes, you are having an anxiety attack. The last thing you want are your peers knowing you are freaking out. You go to walk around, take a breather, but then you get even more anxious thinking about if you are gone too long. What will the teacher say? Will they even notice? What if you go back and you are still having the attack? What if you can’t stop it? What if you classmates see? What if (fill in the blank)?

Believe me, I understand.

These are some things I have found that help:

1. If possible, try to catch an attack before it happens.

Now I 100 percent know this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, at least for me, I get very anxious an hour before it turns into a full on attack. This happens maybe 30 to 45 percent of the time. When this happens, and I realize it, I work to try and calm down. Just going to the bathroom, eating or drinking water will help a lot more than you think.

2; Remember to breathe.

Anxiety attacks can happen for so long that you start to feel dizzy because you can’t catch your breath. It’s helpful to think “in” and count to 7, then “out” and count to 7. If you focus your mind on breathing, it can help you come out of the anxiety rush and back into a calmer mindset. There are apps out there that can also help. If you just search “breathing” or “anxiety” in the app store, there are some very helpful ones. Just sit down somewhere and completely focus on breathing.

3. Get out of the classroom.

This is a huge one, at least for me. Especially if the room feels like it’s closing in on you. If you can get to your own space, your classmates will not see and it’s a lot easier to calm down if you aren’t confined to just one seat or spot. If your school doesn’t have hall monitors, or staff that goes in the hallways often, walk around! One time, I walked around my school for 30 minutes. When my friends text me asking, “Why are you gone for so long?” I either do not respond, respond with, “I’m fine, just walking off stress,” or depending on the person, tell them I’m having an anxiety attack. “Walking it off” helps so much. Another option is going to the bathroom and just sitting down. I have found sitting on the cold floor of the bathroom can help a lot. And if someone is in there, you can just lock yourself in one of the stalls and calm down.

4. Find a teacher you can trust.

This has been one of the best things that has happened to me. I have two teachers who know I get anxiety attacks and it has been so beneficial. I went half of this school year without them knowing, but I got an anxiety attack that was so bad I felt like I couldn’t stop it. So I went to a teacher who I trusted (it was actually a student teacher for the class I was in) and she helped so much. I told a different teacher when I was having an attack again who really helped me. Actually, just today, I was having an anxiety attack and I went to one of these teachers. Even though they had a class, they told me just to go into their office and sit down and they would come in when they can. It helps so much just knowing someone at school who is a teacher is looking out for you. I was in that room for 30 minutes and they even talked to the teacher that I had during that time so I wouldn’t have to worry about that. Telling those two teachers has been the most beneficial thing I have done for my anxiety. I have felt like I was annoying them. I have said this so many times to a teacher and she always says, “You will never annoy me over something you can’t control.”

5. Try to identify triggers.

Anyone who says triggers don’t exist must be kidding because they most definitely are real. It helps to identify a certain class, test or anything that may set an attack off so you can prepare yourself if you know that situation may come up. I, personally, know some things that trigger me, but also anxiety can be totally (or feel totally) random and out of control. It’s OK! Being able to alleviate some things can help so much though. I promise.

6. Remember it’s OK and you are not dying.

Sometimes during an anxiety attack you feel as if you are going to die right then and there. In these moments, remember you are not going to die. That it will pass. It may 100 percent not feel like it is ever going to end, but just remember it will eventually pass. It may be over in two minutes, 10 minutes or even 45 minutes, but it will end. It’s OK that you are having an anxiety attack. There are probably other people in your school (or even teachers) who are going through the same thing. Everything will be OK. It may also be helpful to think of small goals. Don’t set a goal like, “Have no anxiety attacks and be done with anxiety in a month,” because that is probably an unrealistic goal. Think of goals like, “Try and cut my anxiety attacks from 15 minute down to five or 10.” 

And lastly, remember that just because you have anxiety, doesn’t mean you’re a “bad” student. It doesn’t make you any less human and it doesn’t make you a failure. Anxiety doesn’t define you, it just is a part of your life. And remember, you did not ask to have anxiety. It is something that you can’t always control, and that’s OK. 

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Thinkstock photo via janniswerner

Originally published: June 19, 2017
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