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The Anxious Student

We have all experienced anxiety in response to a perceived stressful situation. Anxiety becomes heightened as the situation becomes more vague and less familiar.

A panic attack is an overwhelming sense of dread and fear, and is the extreme result of feeling anxious. Some of the physiological components of general anxiety and a panic attack are rapid heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, choking, dizziness, sweating, trembling or shaking, and cold, clammy hands. The student may experience feelings of worry or fear and may anticipate some misfortune. S/he may complain of poor concentration, being on edge, being easily distracted, memory problems and/or fitful sleep. The student may also indicate unreasonably high self- expectations, and be very critical of her/his performance. This student may constantly think about and discuss her/his problems and possible solutions, but be too fearful to take action.

Anxiety Problems—

  1. Inability to relax.
  2. Unrealistic or excessive worry.
  3. Difficulty falling asleep.
  4. Rapid heart rate.
  5. Shortness of breath.
  6. Trembling.
  7. Excessive sweating.
  8. Dizziness.
  9. Nausea.
  10. Feelings of dread or fear of losing control.
  11. Feelings of detachment.

Helpful Responses—

  • Let them discuss their feelings and thoughts. Often this alone relieves a great deal of pressure.
  • Help them if possible to define their stressors and their ineffective and effective coping strategies.
  • Encourage them to break down tasks into workable steps in order to feel less overwhelmed.
  • Relaxation techniques, deep breathing, meditation and enjoyable exercise (e.g., walking) can all be helpful in reducing anxiety. Encourage them to engage in these behaviors or to seek professional help to learn these and other coping strategies. They can also consult self-help documents located on this website.
  • Be clear and explicit about what you are expecting from them, and what you are willing to do. It may be helpful to have them repeat what you have said to ensure that they understand.
  • Be calm and reassure him/her as appropriate.

Less Helpful Responses—

  • Taking responsibility for her/his emotional state.
  • Trying to solve her/his problems as if they were your own.
  • Becoming anxious or overwhelmed along with them.
  • Overwhelming the student with more information or ideas (instead, keeps things 'bite size').
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