We are all living increasingly stressful lives and students are no exception. According to Psychology Today, linked below, we are experiencing more anxiety and stress-related diseases and disorders than ever, and this “stress epidemic appears to be increasing with each new generation.” This month, we explore resources for teachers and students to guide and assist them in dealing with stress-related issues and incidents at school.
- What [anxiety] looks like, and why it’s often mistaken for something else – Writing for the Child Mind Institute, Rachel Ehmke identifies six kinds of anxieties children may suffer: separation anxiety (fear of being separated from caregivers); social anxiety (excessive self-consciousness); selective mutism (difficulty speaking); generalized anxiety (worrying about many things); obsessive-compulsive disorder (unwanted and stressful thoughts, leading to rituals, like hand-washing); and specific phobias (fear of storms, for example). She offers a list of tips for recognizing signs of anxiety in your students, such as inattention and restlessness, attendance issues, and frequent trips to the nurse.
- Anxiety at School – What Kids and Teens With Anxiety Need Teachers to Know – Psychologist and educator Karen Young writes in plain language about anxiety from the young person’s perspective. For example, she suggests what goes through a student’s mind when pausing to raise a hand (“I wish you were able to see how many times I have the answer or something interesting to say, just perched on the edge of my lips, but then the thought of saying the wrong thing or looking silly becomes bigger than the need to contribute”); and how having a specific question time helps students. (“It doesn’t matter how many times you tell me that I can ask questions whenever I want to, choosing the right time to do that feels too big and messy sometimes. Am I interrupting you? Are you too busy? Am I wasting everyone’s time? Should I wait? Should I already know the answer? See – so confusing!”)
- 10 Ways to Help Students Who Struggle With Anxiety – In the current issue of We Are Teachers, Karen Nelson writes, “Kids who are worried and anxious aren’t doing it on purpose. The nervous system acts automatically, especially when it comes to worry (which often stems from fight or flight reflexes). That’s why phrases like ‘just relax’ or ‘calm down’ aren’t helpful. But with practice, kids can learn to slow down their anxious brains, and teachers can learn to help them.” Her tips include: practising deep breathing, taking a break outside, talking about anxiety, and checking to see if students are eating properly.
- A Teacher’s Struggle With Student Anxiety – Writing for Education Week, Chris Doyle describes his struggle with student anxiety.He describes ways he is improving his responses to anxious students, but he also recognizes his limits in this regard, writing, “Socioeconomics, genetics, ethnicity, personality, gender, social media, and family may each play more important roles than school in determining adolescent anxiety, studies show. Teachers cannot shoulder all the burden, or blame, for anxious students. This epidemic demands societal responses.”
- Student Anxiety—What can Teachers Do? – The CEA’s EdCan Network describes universal support strategies for responding to student anxiety. These include “normalizing anxious feelings, reducing potential sources of severe stress at school, promoting positive mental health; and de-stigmatizing mental illness.” They stress support for “all, some, few,” with the last benefitting from targeted strategies that involve mental health professionals.
- Dealing with Stress at School in an Age of Anxiety – This article in Psychology Today focuses on students with “Stress Dysregulation,” related to stress in early life, the symptoms of which are present in everyone diagnosed professionally. But, even without a diagnosis, many students can “exhibit behaviours – such as hair trigger anger, inability to self-regulate or calm themselves, sudden withdrawal from learning and social interaction.” The article describes strategies such as building a culture of resilience at school and “Mindfulness in action,” as showing promise in addressing the issue.
- Resources for Educators from Anxiety Canada – Anxiety Canada offers a comprehensive guidebook on anxiety for students and teachers, with sections such as “Anxiety 101,” “Thinking Right,” “How to Chill,” and “Common problems.” The last lists and explains a range of problems from fear of public speaking to perfectionism.
- How to Teach Students With Social Anxiety Disorder – Writing for Verywellmind, Arlin Cuncic focuses specifically on students with social anxiety disorder, citing strategies such as promoting self-esteem, speaking calmly, and gentle encouragement, as well as promoting relationships in class by pairing students and allowing students to sit with a familiar partner.
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