A focused student studying on a laptop

How to manage stress and anxiety at school

Stress and anxiety can creep in quickly, especially in your first year in secondary or post-secondary school. Balancing class, homework, a social life, possibly a part-time job, and so many other things can be overwhelming. We have some suggestions that may help!

Approach, don’t avoid 

Classes can be challenging, and many students cope by avoiding challenges by skipping class and staying in bed all day. However, we know that avoiding problems can tend to make your anxiety worse over time. If you are struggling in class, try talking to your instructor for help! SGEI also offers tutoring, mental and cultural counseling

Practice self-care

Many students struggle to maintain healthy eating habits, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. If you’re finding you’re feeling run down and neglecting your body, it’s doubtful you’ll feel your best mentally. Self-care daily habits are essential for regulating your mood and coping with stress. Find a self-care routine that works best for you and your lifestyle. 

If you need more ideas, we’ve provided some helpful tips in our recent blog post on how to improve your mental wellbeing. Within the blog, you will find suggestions on connecting with others, doing more things you enjoy, ways to relax, and so much more.  

Relax your body

Many of the physical symptoms of anxiety can result in rapid and shallow breathing. Shallow breathing increases your blood pressure and heart rate, disrupting the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. To slow your breath, practice abdominal breathing. If you’re feeling anxious and starting to feel your body tense, try progressive muscle relaxation. This relaxation exercise involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group to reduce anxiety and muscle tension. This exercise is a great tool to use if you have trouble falling asleep! Other practices include diaphragmatic breathing, autogenics, passive muscle relaxation, imagery, and mindfulness.

Change your mindset

Here are some things to remember when you are feeling overly anxious and stressed about school:

  • Education is about learning rather than marks. 
  • One test will rarely change your life. 
  • There will always be opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. 
  • Grades do not have to reflect your self-worth. 
  • Success should be evaluated on whether you followed your study plan rather than your grade. Your grades do not necessarily predict your future success. 

Avoid negative self-talk 

Identify and challenge your negative self-talk. Negative self-talk is any inner dialogue you have with yourself that limits your ability to believe in yourself or your skills and keeps you from reaching your full potential. Instead of thinking, “I’m going to fail this exam,” or “Everyone else knows this material better than I do,” try framing things more positively. Instead, think, “I will try my best on this exam,” and “I will focus on the material I know and not my classmates.” Try to recognize when these intrusive thoughts enter your mind and become intentional about stopping them. Take a step back and pause when self-doubt starts to build up.

Break large tasks down into manageable pieces

When faced with a big task, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the little details. Try breaking down the task into smaller, more manageable parts. This can help make the task much less intimidating and can limit procrastination. 

Here is one way to break tasks down; look at the big picture, examine the parts of the task, think about the best way to complete the parts of the task, create a timeline for yourself, have a plan to keep you on track, and complete your task early enough to have some time left to review. 

When looking at the big picture of your task, make sure you understand what the end product should look like; this way, you can figure out a step-by-step method to complete the task. Next, you can figure out the best order to complete each piece of the whole task. Having a timeline of each piece and a plan to help keep you on track and schedule! Most large tasks can appear overwhelming when viewed as a whole. But by breaking them down into small achievable pieces, you’ll be able to stay focused, motivated, and be able to accomplish your goal one step at a time.

Achieve big wins using small goal

Focus on your successes. Take time to realize that you are more than the few mistakes you make. Instead, focus on what you’re accomplishing! Try and take a few minutes each day to think about what tasks you’d like to complete or goals you’d like to accomplish. Maybe a goal for you is raising your hand in class or talking to a classmate today. Remember that these small achievements are a part of a bigger whole.

Resources available on campus

Don’t be afraid to seek help if you’re struggling. It is always okay to talk to someone about how you are feeling. Seven Generations Education Institute offers several resources for students, including mental health counseling and cultural mentorship.