Educational Anxiety

by sstep2 on December 2, 2014 - 2:53pm

Educational Anxiety

Ever prepare thoroughly for an exam, paying attention in class, studying for hours on concepts, equations or theories? Feeling well prepared you make your way to class and along comes the anxiety. Heart starts to race, chest tightens, breathing shortens, hands get clammy and you start to doubt yourself and the ability to do well? You try and calm yourself down remembering how much effort you put into understanding and memorizing the material. When you start, things that you could rehearse in your sleep now become confusing, difficult to solve, or hard to remember. Making matters worse you feel flushed and embarrassed and now the clock is ticking, others start turning in their exams while you sit feeling powerless and frustrated. Yes anxiety has struck again despite all the hard work and effort.  Put simply, “Anxiety interferes with the academic achievement of college students” (Rosenfeld, 1978, 151).  A little test anxiety is normal and sometimes will motivate students to work hard but extreme anxiety, occurring repeatedly, can cause one to do poorly and want to give up. “Anxiety consumes the resources of working memory, thus impeding on an individual’s ability to perform effectively” (Cowden, 2009, 3).  As a person who has been affected academically by anxiety I urge you not to give up.  It’s not your fault. It seems hard to explain to a teacher that you were prepared but have an issue with recalling information due to anxiety, which for many is the truth. Information recall can be blocked out by the hormone cortisol produced during periods of high anxiety. Anxiety can also effect sleep which has proven critical in the learning process.” Anxiety makes it hard for someone to sleep and can lead to sleep deprivation which in turn affects the ability of short-term memory to be moved to long-term memory, making recall impossible” (Calm Clinic, 2014, n.p.).  So what can be done? If your grades suffer as a result of anxiety don’t be ashamed, there are a lot of us. See a doctor or therapist and explain your symptoms. Sometimes a therapist at your school can be helpful. There are medical and cognitive based therapies that can help. Talk to your teachers, get to know them, let them know of the challenge you face with anxiety, Talking about it helps and many teachers are understanding. Again proper sleep is important, you may need more down time than others. Exercise is another powerful tool for anxiety and for learning in general. Aerobic exercise creates neuron connections in the brain which create new pathways in which information can be recalled from memory. (Calm Clinic, 2014, n.p.). Exercise before an exam can help to reduce the anxiety.  Meditation can also be used to help quiet the mind and there are abundant resources available. I would encourage those with anxiety to find a meditation that works for you. If quieting the mind is difficult, or seems impossible, try spiritual or motivational readings when waking. Maybe a morning walk focusing on what’s happening around you, instead of the noise between the ears. Breaks between classes can be a good time to walk and decompress, this allows the mind time to clear before the next round of learning. Avoid scheduling back to back classes, the brain needs time to recover for effective memory function. Short naps in the afternoon can also help. Whatever you choose know you are not alone, anxiety can be managed with awareness, help and most of all resilience.

Calm Clinic. (2014). Anxiety can cause memory problems. Retrieved from

Cowden, R. (2009). Communication and conflict: Anxiety and learning. Research in Higher Education Journal,9(1), 1-9.

 Rosenfeld, R.A. (1978). Anxiety and learning. Teaching Sociology, 5(2), 151-166.





I find that you expose anxiety in a good way so that everyone can recognize themselves and feel that they are not alone. Indeed, anxiety is a common problem that we suffer from because we are asked to do more and more of multi-tasking, we thus feel overcome very quickly and if we enter this circle, it is hard to stop it. The tips you give are very helpful; I do some of them to relax when I face a stressful situation, or even on a daily basis to prevent stress. I think it is all a matter of perception because stress comes from ourselves. Thus, we are creating our own stress. I found an interesting article that gives tips to stop ourselves from worrying about worrying. Indeed, it states that people’s “anxious thoughts are fueled by the beliefs they hold about worrying” ( By acknowledging the bad habits of worrying we have, we can then train our brain to stay calm and thus regain control of our worried mind. I know it is hard, but everything comes from us so it is not impossible!

Your post points out an important element of anxiety: when it strikes, it affects everything. Anxiety often exists simultaneously with other disturbances such as insomnia, trouble concentrating, and so on. As you mentioned, there are different solutions to cope with anxiety and the list goes on. It is important to point out that everybody deals with anxiety and stress in different ways. Lucy Dwyer in “When Anxiety Hits at School” elaborates on testimonies of students who suffered from anxiety attack while attempting to perform at school. She argues that anxiety can be due to technology, as it pressures students to do things quicker as “there is a lot to learn” all the time. It explains how the current generation in school and colleges have to perform since they are asked to live up to so many expectations. It sure does not help any of us relieve stress. Moreover, some unfortunate cases about young students having suicidal thoughts due to stress and anxiety is alarming. The article only emphasizes how anxiety should be addressed to the general public as something common, but treatable. You have a great list of coping techniques, and hopefully students will find their stress relieved because of it!

Here is the link to Lucy Dwyer’s article:

As someone who deals with anxiety and stress over the littlest of assignments and exams, I found this post to be very interesting and helpful! I find one of the strategies dealing with reducing anxiety before an exam particularly useful: exercise. When I first heard of exercising as a method of dealing with test-related anxiety I was skeptical because I did not how exercise could be related to performance at school. Last semester, I became quite active, frequently engaging in activities like running and biking daily, and my stress levels decreased dramatically. As a result, that semester was my best semester concerning school performance and overall well-being. One aspect of this post that I find more difficult to relate to, however, is discussing anxiety issues with teachers or even professional therapists. Some people, like myself, may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed admitting they suffer from anxiety. The following is a link to a website that explains the usefulness of therapy regarding anxiety:

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