Your heart is racing, you’ve broken out in a sweat, your muscles are tense, your mind is racing and you’re having difficulty concentrating. Yikes! When anxiety hits, what do you do? How do you know that’s what this is? When is it time to reach out for help? What can you do to help your students who are anxious and stressed?

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety is caused by the brain’s survival system, the fight, flight or freeze syndrome.  The fight or flight is a good coping strategy when there is a clear and present danger, such as someone who is yelling or making threats.

But, what happens when people suffer from anxiety is they perceive danger that is not there.  However, symptoms mimic the fight or flight response.  Those symptoms might include some of the following:

  • Pupils dilate
  • Heart races
  • Sweating
  • Muscles tense
  • Shallow breathing
  • Numbness/tingling
  • Mind racing
  • Difficulty concentrating

Often, negative thoughts and worries about things that are out of an individual’s control trigger anxiety.  Thoughts might include:  “I am not as good as…”, “I should have done…”, “I’m going to screw up”, “I am a failure”, “What if I make a mistake”.  When an individual is feeling anxious or excessively worried, the fight or flight switch becomes stuck in the “on” position.  Prolonged anxiety becomes physically and emotionally draining.

Strategies to reduce anxiety

There are differing types of anxiety including generalized anxiety, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and specific phobia.  The good news is anxiety is highly treatable.  The following are strategies to reduce anxiety:

  1. Learn deep breathing techniques. You cannot be physically tense and relaxed at the same time.
  2. Regular exercise-releases stress and raises endorphin levels (the feel good chemicals).
  3. Journal thoughts and feelings to release worries and challenge untruthful self talk.
  4. Schedule a “worry time” for ten minutes per day. As you begin to worry about something, stop thoughts by telling yourself to save it until your worry time.
  5. Call people you trust to vent your feelings and gain support.
  6. Just say “NO”! Take things off your plate or delegate to someone else.
  7. Begin to stop negative thoughts by saying things such as, “There is no danger”, “I will get through this”, “I am just as good and deserving as anyone else”.
  8. Take care of yourself. Give yourself permission to do something just for you at least once per week, if not more.
  9. Seek professional therapeutic help if the anxiety persists.

Remember this fact: 90% of what we worry about never happens!

 For your students (and yourself!) create a calming atmosphere in your classroom.

  • Turn off the florescent lights, add table and floor lamps, let the outside light come in!
  • Create a calming corner with a comfortable chair, headphones to block out sound or play calming music and possibly a screen for privacy.
  • Take regular breaks for stretching and deep breathing.
  • Use the Virtual Calming Room each day. This website was created by the Osseo Area Leaning Center. The Virtual Calming Room is a great resource with music and visual relaxation, guided meditations, as well as breathing exercises. Check it out!
  • Take advantage of PANDA’s Mental Wellness Tip Sheet to educate students about how to stay mentally healthy.

For other Mental Health resources, including cell phone apps, low cost or sliding fee mental health clinics, and free 24/7 crisis lines go PANDA’s Mental Health Resource page.

Contact PANDA:

Phone: 763-504-4095

Wendy Sweeney, MA Licensed Psychologist, PANDA Manger PANDA - MN ABE Physical And Nonapparent Disability Assistance
Moira Knutson, PANDA Administrator PANDA - MN ABE Physical And Nonapparent Disability Assistance