Whether it occurs as occasional nervous thoughts or diagnosed anxiety, almost everyone has experienced school-related stress. As the years' progress, schoolwork becomes more overwhelming and time-consuming, often manifesting in feelings of worry for many students.

This article will provide a series of simple, effective coping devices for managing one's anxiety in relation to school. I hope that the application of these tips proves helpful to you at some point.

N.B. I am not a medical professional. Do not rely on this article alone for advice. If you are concerned about your mental health, please see a doctor for qualified medical advice.

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1 | Acknowledging Anxious Thoughts

It is important to recognize your thinking patterns before they begin to spiral out of control, sometimes ensuing in a panic attack. Here are several simple ways to dampen anxious thoughts before they escalate:

  • Be present. Anxiety often either exists in the past or the future – wallowing in previous mistakes or worrying about upcoming assignments. I learned from a psychiatrist a useful method that helps me to center myself. Simply sit still and identify five things that you can see, feel, and hear. Do this as many times as necessary until you are grounded and present.
  • Jot down your anxieties. Calmly pick up a pen and a clean sheet of paper, and write down any thoughts until your mind is clear. I have a whole notebook dedicated to these, and it certainly helps to lift the burden of stress. Remember, these notes are private, so do not feel embarrassed about what you are experiencing. Your emotions are valid.
  • Breathe deeply. It may seem obvious or self-explanatory, but according to Psychology Today, "proper breathing techniques work on anxiety on a physiological level by automatically slowing your heart rate." Take a deep inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for one second, and then exhale for five seconds. Repeat this three times, and notice your heartbeat gradually slow to a measured pace.

Additionally, it may help to understand the correlation between anxiety and performance, as can be seen on the Yerkes-Dodson graph. The two psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dodson developed this concept in 1908. It shows that there is an optimum level of anxiety which assists work performance, and if this is exceeded, one's performance is hindered. In summary: worrying does not help anything, which is why it is imperative to employ strategies to lessen anxiety.

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2 | Staying on Top of Schoolwork

Despite the fact that schoolwork is often the catalyst of anxiety, it is nevertheless vital to maintaining a healthy work ethic. Procrastinating important tasks and avoiding studying, whilst tempting in the moment, will always result in increased stress at a later point.

For those who struggle with anxiety, however, it is not as simple as just launching into the assignment or study session. The idea of working is incredibly nerve-wracking for me and many others, as perfectionism begins to heighten. I find myself constantly questioning whether the work will be of sufficient quality, which often prevents the whole process from commencing.

In order to stay on top of schoolwork and thus maintain a calm mindset, it is crucial to remember: take it one step at a time. In the words of the Roman poet Horace:

Half is done when the beginning is done.

Start with one simple task. This could be typing the title into a new document or opening your textbook to the correct chapter. There – you have defeated the brunt of the assignment, the beginning. Proceed to take the next small step, and the next, and eventually you will see the task through to its completion.

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3 | Taking Care of Yourself

Of course, one of the most important things to remember is to be kind to yourself. The topic of self-care has become relatively oversaturated in recent social media trends. It has often been misrepresented as only lovely, light-hearted activities that are aesthetically-pleasing and “cute”. Whilst enjoying a bathtub of roses may be beneficial from time to time, it is also necessary to partake in the not-so-pretty facet of genuine self-care. Here is a little checklist of things to ask yourself when you are feeling swamped with anxiety:

  • Are you drained and exhausted? Please allot yourself sufficient time for sleeping and rest. Even when it seems like it would be worth it to study for a couple more hours, it will only leave you fatigued and unfocused. A healthy night of sleep is vital, even when schoolwork seems insurmountable.
  • Have you given yourself proper sustenance recently? When panic attacks and anxiety consume our lives, simple daily necessities like eating and hydration are neglected. Consider sticking little notes in the areas that you study, reminding you to get a snack and a glass of water at regular intervals.
  • Are you approaching burnout? If you have been studying for multiple hours without pausing, let yourself take a brief break before the stress of overworking contributes to more anxiety. If you have been in a state of severe worry and tension, force yourself to step outside, breathe, and regain composure. Read a chapter of a book or write an article for leisure. You deserve to take care of yourself.
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If you are currently grappling with anxiety, know that you are not alone. With effort and self-respect, it is possible to manage this mental illness. If you ever need help, please do not hesitate to reach out and talk to someone!

Lots of love,
─ Elsa / @studylatin

This article was written by @studylatin on the We Heart It Writers Team.