How to handle Anxiety in the Classroom
If there’s one thing we have learned, it’s that anxiety doesn’t care if she’s been invited to the party or not. She shows up and boy – does she make an entrance.
We’ve all been there. That moment you heart starts beating faster, your throat swells up and you feel like the walls are closing in around you. Sometimes it’s provoked, and other times it happens with no warning or logical reasoning behind it. Regardless of why it’s brought on, anxiety can be all encompassing, and recognizing it is the first step to managing it.
Did you know that approximately 3 million people are currently suffering from anxiety in the UK? To break it down: 1 in 6 children will experience anxiety at some point of their development.
As adults, recognising anxiety in ourselves can be confusing and difficult, so imagine how a child must feel! Often, not understanding what is happening actually magnifies the feelings that accompany anxiety. That’s why it is so important for us to be on the lookout for symptoms of anxiety in our pupils, and to handle them with compassion and understanding when we discover them. Here are some tell-tale signs that someone is struggling:
1. Feeling faint
2. Stomach Cramps
3. Feeling weak or tired
4. Trouble concentrating
5. Low Appetite
6. Feeling Frightened
7. Feeling Worried
Recognising one, or all of the above, in your pupils does not mean that they are suffering from anxiety – but it does mean that you should take their symptoms into careful consideration when reacting, and be proactive in providing them with a safe and understanding space to overcome them.
So, now that we know what we should be looking for, what happens next?
Here are Teach Major’s top 3 tips:
Empathy – It’s important that you don’t belittle the anxiety a child is going through by telling them what they feel is silly. Listen to what they are saying, empathize with them about how they feel and then let them know that it is ok to feel that way. Try to offer them comfort and understanding without empowering their feelings of discomfort.
Discussion – Take the time to speak with your pupils about what it is they are anxious about. Often times a child will be anxious about the many variables surrounding a situation, ie. What happens if I answer a question incorrectly? What happens if my parents are late picking me up from school? Creating a plan and talking through what would happen if these situations did occur will help ease their minds and reduce stress in a simple and healthy way.
Lead by Example – Children are smart! They learn by example and pick up on the smallest nuances. Making sure they see you handling your anxiety in a calm way and celebrating when you get through it can help normalize the feeling for your pupils. How you handle your anxiety can be the most powerful tool you give them for combating their own.
Remember, we will never be able to eliminate anxiety for ourselves, or our pupils, completely; our goal is to help manage it!
Do you have any coping mechanisms you have found helpful in your classroom? If so, we would love to hear from you!