What is & How to overcome Academic Anxiety ?

Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. Some level of anxiety can be normal in stressful situations such as public speaking or taking an exam. However, if it becomes excessive, all-consuming or overwhelming and interfere with daily functioning for a prolonged period (6+months), then it may be best to seek support from a GP or a mental health professional.

Students experiencing academic anxiety feel apprehensive over academic tasks. Their fear may be justified if they didn’t put much effort into studying before an exam or based on unrealistic expectations leading to an overwhelming sense of dread, rumination and pessimistic thinking.

When we are stressed, certain areas of our brain (the amygdala and hypothalamus) release stress hormones (e.g. cortisol and adrenaline) which play a role and affect learning and memory. Therefore, in a test situation, we can sometimes experience a ‘brain fog’ (cognitive fog) or go ‘blank’ unable to remember any information studied the day before. This is because the activation of the stress responses (fright/flight or survival mode) in the brain also helps to turn off the part which helps you think.

In order to avoid this situation, it is best to try and reduce anxiety as much as possible. The 7/11 Breathing Technique (Breathe in for 7; Breathe out for 11) is an excellent way of reducing stress; to reduce the heart rate and calm the brain down – this will require practice. For other helpful ways to reduce stress from the body, click on this link

Ways to reduce Academic Anxiety ?

•   Preparation and organisation: help to stay focused e.g. having good note-taking skills or different ways to prepare and organise notes depending on what works best for the student (recording, typing it on a laptop)

•   Effective Time Management: One of the most important skills to have e.g. prioritising important tasks first, sticking to a schedule

•   Setting small goals and focusing on performance levels: Setting and achieving goals and being satisfied with performance as an outcome with a view to improving on this

•   Staying balanced during exam period: Taking regular breaks, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, making time for fun activities or leisure and not burning oneself out

•   For support please check with your subject teachers, Heads of House and/or Academic Advisor/Counsellors