By Leah Lottes, LSW – Sept. 12, 2018 –
When you think of anxiety, what comes to mind? Many people view anxiety as a feeling of worry and nervousness, but this isn’t always the case, especially when referring to elementary-aged students.
There are many different types of anxiety, which is one reason why it may be hard to identify in the classroom. According to the website childmind.org, this can include separation anxiety, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.
Separation anxiety occurs when a child is worried about being away from a caregiver. Children may also struggle with social anxiety, which may prevent them from interacting with peers and participating in class.
Generalized anxiety can occur when students are worried about common everyday occurrences, whether that is something at home or at school. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias are also forms of anxiety that elementary-aged students may struggle with.
Although these anxieties have their differences, many of the signs and symptoms are similar. The following are some signs that an elementary student may be experiencing anxiety, as listed by childmind.org:
- Inattention and restlessness
- Attendance problems
- Easily attached to others
- Disruptive behavior
- Trouble answering questions in class
- Frequent trips to the nurse
- Difficulty in certain school subjects
- Avoiding socializing or group work
The first step toward helping students experiencing anxiety is to help them define what anxiety looks or feels like for them and what triggers it. The next step is to work toward managing the anxiety.
The website weareteachers.com lists the following techniques to manage anxiety
1. Deep Breathing – When people slow down their breathing, they slow down their brains. When you take just a few minutes to take some deep breaths, your muscles relax, your blood pressure lowers, endorphins are released (which improves how you’re feeling), and oxygen delivery increases, which increases the functionality of every system in the body.
2. Get Outside – Being outside has been proven to help calm the brain. Sometimes just a change of scenery is all you need to reset your brain. Breathing in fresh air and taking a few moments to be mindful of your surroundings can help ease anxiety.
3. Get Moving – Exercise can also help reduce anxiety. The endorphins released during exercise make you feel better and reduce stress.
4. Think Positive Thoughts – If you begin to think positive thoughts, the brain is less likely to produce anxious thoughts. Creating a gratitude journal is a great way to express positive thoughts. The gratitude journal can be as simple as writing down at least one thing you are thankful for every day. This technique allows students to focus on the positives in their life.
These are just a few of the many techniques that can be used to cope with anxiety. Anxiety can affect people of all ages, so it is important to know the signs. If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety, try some of these techniques or share these helpful tips.