Many people believe that only adults suffer from anxiety disorders, but in reality, this couldn't be further from the truth. School-aged kids suffer as well, making school work and pressures placed on students today all the more difficult. While they are also trying to do their best academically, parents and teachers alike may wonder how to help students handle their anxiety in the classroom.
What are the Stresses?
People may not realize the stresses that students face each and every day. More often than not, students are pressured to look and act perfectly, have the highest grades possible, continue to maintain and build their social circles of friends, stay involved in extracurricular activities, and on top of all of this are still trying to figure out who they are.
In today’s world, social media is adding to these demands. As kids are judged by their pictures and posts on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter there are more cultural demands placed on students than ever before. As time moves on these pressures continue to present themselves at increasingly younger ages.
Knowing What Students Suffer From
As school and life events become increasingly more demanding, the pressure to be the best at everything is on. That in itself is enough for kids not suffering from anxiety to easily become stressed out. Anxiety or panic disorders and social anxiety only add a whole new layer of stress to this fragile stage of life.
It seems like every which way that you look kids are facing new forms of stress or pressure that previous generations did not have to worry about. However, there are several ways to help students combate these pressures by taking a look at the classroom. The following is a list of things that, if incorporated into the classroom, could help students manage stress and calm anxieties.
Standing up. One of the best things that can be done is to give students a way to move in the classroom. Sitting all day can just be an enabler to bottle up stress accumulated throughout the day. Letting kids have room to fidget and stand up is proven to help relieve tension. One way to incorporate standing in the classroom is to add standing desks for students to use. This can allow kids to move while still being engaged in the lesson.
Teachers can also distribute "break passes". If they notice that a student appears overwhelmed, they can hand a student the "pass" that allows them to leave class for a few minutes, during which time they can get some water, walk down the hall, or simply spend a few minutes alone.
Breathing exercises. It can be helpful to have students practice breathing exercises either at the beginning or end of class. This can help them relax and prepare to either absorb information or digest what they've just learned. Students may feel a little weird practicing breathing independently so this may be something that the whole class can practices together.
Walking it off. Another helpful technique can be to take a break and burn extra energy by taking a walk outside from time to time. Even a few minutes away from the class can have a huge positive impact on how the students feel. While this cannot be an everyday activity it could be a great treat every once in a while for the class.
Talking it out. Encouraging kids to talk is an extremely helpful way to reduce anxiety in the classroom. Understandably, teachers have to teach without having constant conversations going on, but when possible it is good to allow conversation. Asking kids to not ask question or to talk encourages them to stew in their stress. This can build the stress up throughout the day making a manageable issue a much bigger problem.
Reading and sharing a story. Teachers can share stories of other kids who have overcome anxiety. Simply by reading a story of a person who has struggled with a similar situation as the students can show that they are not alone in how they feel and encourage them to continue to fight through the anxiety they face.
As well, when appropriate encourage students to speak privately with a counselor or teacher who they feel comfortable talking with when they feel overwhelmed, stressed, or feel an anxiety attack coming. Having a trusted adult to address concerns when they arise throughout the day can be a huge help.
Eating healthy. Lastly, healthy eating can benefit students. The last thing a student needs is to be hungry on top of dealing with anxiety and stress. A balanced meal can help students feel well throughout the peaks and valleys of each day.
Allowing students to bring water into class is a simple way to incorporate this into a classroom. As well, providing a list of healthy foods can be a great introduction to students who do not know what foods are good for them.
Simple changes and additions to a classroom can help relieve some of the stress and anxiety in a day. This is not, by any means, the only ways to reduce anxiety or stress in the classroom, but these suggestions are a great way to start creating an environment that is more manageable for the student and the teacher. And remember, everything you do to make learning enjoyable and easier for students is a change worth pursuing.