Managing Anxiety

School can be a stressful place for everyone, there’s no doubt about it. But sometimes, certain aspects can be especially demanding, depending on the person. High heart rate, shallow breathing, and an endless amount of thoughts — you guessed it, anxiety.
It’s not a very fun thing to have, and it definitely isn’t easy to deal with either. Thankfully, there are quite a few people who deal with it on a day-to-day basis, and therefore there are many a number of tips when it comes to managing it.
To start, there are plenty of small things that can go a long way when it comes to a severe situation. Little things such as concentrating on your breaths and making sure they aren’t shallow can get oxygen to your brain and help your body calm down. To do this, you can simply measure the seconds it takes to complete each step in breathing; inhaling, holding the breath, and then exhaling. Try inhaling for around 6 seconds, holding for four, and releasing for eight. This should help to regulate your breathing when you need it most, which often helps your body realise it might not be in such a dangerous situation. Other things like counting how many red items there are around you, naming every writing utensil you can see, or trying to think of every ice cream flavour you’ve ever encountered can help bring your feet back to earth and distract your mind from whatever is causing such a strong reaction.
Although it may be difficult, sleep is another huge factor that can contribute to your levels of anxiety. Going to sleep on time can make sure your brain has enough time to rest and heal itself for the next day. When you miss sleep, or don’t get enough, usually we feel aggravated, on edge, and stressed out. This will definitely not make handling anxiety any easier, but in fact do the opposite. Drinking coffee in the morning is another thing that although it might wake you up, can increase your anxiety levels a tenth fold because of all the caffeine.
Believe it or not, exercise is probably one of the most effective ways of reducing anxiety, because of the fight or flight response that’s etched into our natural skills. When this is called to action, our bodies respond by shutting down various normal functions in our bodies, and making others work twice as fast as usual. The object is to save yourself; so no energy should be wasted. The problem often is that there’s no real danger besides the kids in your class. Nevertheless, exhausting your body and tricking it into thinking you’ve managed to run or fight your way out of that tiger that it was expecting, is the perfect solution if you’re in a situation where it’s possible. Just going for a run, doing a few jumping jacks– anything to get your blood flowing and body feeling tired. It can go a long way, and it’s healthy as well.
Talk to a teacher or guidance counselor. Often they might be able to arrange different presentation times so that you won’t have to present to other people, if social anxiety is what you’re dealing with. A guidance counselor might have other useful tips and tricks on managing, and they might even be able to let your teachers know what you’re going through. Although it might be awkward at first, a lot more people deal with it than you may think, and they probably know a lot of other students in the same situation. If it’s present in other situations at home or outside of school, talking to a parent or guardian, or even close friend about it can help them understand what may be going through your mind in these specific situations. On top of that, they’ll probably want to help you as much as possible to be comfortable in whatever situation.
And there it is! It can be really hard to deal with anxiety, but surprisingly little things can make it that much easier to manage. Always remember to put your problem into perspective, and think about whether or not it will affect you in days to come. In just a few months, there’s a good chance you won’t even think about whatever it was that caused you so much distress. In fact, panic attacks usually don’t last longer than 20 minutes, and so even if all else fails, the feeling will probably minimize or die off after a while. Remember that breathing is key, get enough sleep and exercise if you have the chance, and your levels of anxiety will definitely decrease. Talk to a teacher or parent, as someone who is able to offer support or other options could be a huge help in getting you to feel more comfortable and at ease when doing things that may cause intense anxiety. It’s never only your problem.

By Teaghan McDonald