A certain level of anxiety and stress can be expected in students. Being nervous the morning of a big test or before a presentation is nothing out of the ordinary. This type of mild anxiety isn’t isolated to a specific age group and can be found in students who are in traditional, home school, or online charter schools.
However, when that stress crosses the line to an anxiety disorder, it can greatly affect how students perform in class. For an instructor or parent, it’s important to be able to identify this type of severe stress and help students get support. Here are five indicators your student might be struggling with a significant level of stress and anxiety.
Inability to Focus
The repetitive and intrusive thoughts often associated with anxiety can steal a child’s attention during a lesson. While some people may mistake this inattentiveness as ADHD, the behavior could be caused by dealing with anxious thoughts and feelings. One way to potentially differentiate between the two reasons is noticing when the student becomes distracted. Is it during a specific subject or after a specific incident (which may indicate anxiety), or is it a more constant behavior (possibly a result of ADHD)?
Sub-par Homework or Test Results
Similarly to a misdiagnosis of ADHD, anxiety can be mistaken for a learning disorder in some students. If a child doubts his or her abilities in a specific subject, that may reflect in the work they produce. Severe anxiety can be debilitating, and facing a subject a student lacks confidence in can cause them to freeze up and prevent them from attempting the work at all. A few ways to tell if a child is second-guessing their abilities is to look for an excess amount of eraser marks or doodles on their assignments.
Refusal or Inability to Answer Questions in Class
Public speaking is a well-known fear, even in people who do not exhibit the symptoms of anxiety. Students who are dealing with severe stress may have an even more difficult time answering questions in class or giving presentations. These students often do well on tests and homework and consistently pay attention during lessons, but their heightened anxiety prevents them from being able to respond out loud. Most often, these students will disappear once you ask a question; they break eye contact once a question is asked, or pretend to be working on an assignment to avoid being called on.
Avoiding Social Situations
Like being nervous about talking in front of a class, some students may be affected by social anxiety, which would prevent them from engaging in any social situation. In these cases, activities that might trigger their anxiety can be social situations like gym glass, group work, and even lunch or recess. They might pull away from their peers when they’re feeling severely stressed out or look for excuses not to participate.
Frequent Sick Days or Nurse Trips
The symptoms of anxiety aren’t always mental; it can manifest itself in physical issues as well. If a student continually complains about headaches, stomachaches, or racing pulse, it could be caused by anxiety.
Helping Students Cope
Younger students may not understand what anxiety is, so it’s best to approach their behaviors or feelings with concern and curiosity. No matter how old your student is, make sure to avoid language that conveys judgment. Make sure to let them know that anxiety is normal, and that there are ways to alleviate the symptoms and stress they’re dealing with.
Regularly practicing breathing exercises or meditation as part of the school day can give them the tools to minimize their anxious feelings. And assuring them that they have someone to talk to can help them feel secure in how they’re feeling and give them a resource to help them cope.
To learn more about helping students perform their best, visit CalPac online.
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