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How to deal with anxiety at school no matter what you’re going through

Have you been thinking about missing school because of depression and anxiety? Then now’s the time to do something about it.

March 1 2022 - 10 min read

There’s no question that a lot of kids get anxious when it’s time for school. But as a foster child, you might be feeling extra anxiety.

And that’s OK. Anxiety has nothing to do with behaviour, defiance, or a bad attitude.

School anxiety can present itself in a lot of different ways, from making you feel unwell, to causing you to act out. However your anxiety is making you feel, there are things you can do to help you to cope.

So, if you’re looking for ways on how to deal with anxiety at school, then this guide was made for you.

What is school anxiety?

First thing’s first. School anxiety, such as going back to school anxiety, is pretty common. Anxiety is a physiological response from your brain when you think there is a danger, worry, or fear. It puts you into a “fight or flight” mode and can cloud your ability to think clearly and calm down.

It can be caused by:

  • Returning to school after a long break.
  • Separation anxiety or a fear of being apart from your home or family.
  • Transitioning to secondary school.
  • Starting a new school.
  • Exams or tests that you don’t feel prepared for.
  • An argument with school friends.
  • Bullies or social anxiety.
  • Academic expectations.
  • Additional needs not being recognised.
  • Getting ready to leave school and start university or college.
  • And a lot of other reasons.

And school anxiety can look different depending on your age. When you’re a pre-teen or teen, you’re dealing with a lot. You could be moving into a new foster home, causing you to change schools and make new friends. Alongside this, you’re also trying to do your best in lessons, get your homework done, maintain a social life, and so much more.

It’s no wonder that you’re feeling anxious about school.

But, if you’re anxiety and worries are making you feel like you want to skip school, or if you’re not going to school because of anxiety, then it’s time to take action.

How to tell if you have school anxiety

School anxiety can manifest itself in a lot of different ways.

Take a look at this list and see if any of the points feel familiar:

  • You don’t want to get up and get ready for school in the morning.
  • You don’t feel well when it’s time for school (headaches, stomach aches, feeling sick, etc.)
  • You skip out on doing homework.
  • You worry the night before school and even lose sleep.
  • Going to school makes you feel angry or upset, causing your behaviour to slip.
  • You find when you get home from school you lash out at your foster family.
  • You find you go into yourself and can’t open up about your feelings.
  • You refuse to go to school.
  • You skip school without your foster parents knowing.

Everyone has “off days” or even “off weeks,” where you might experience one of the above occasionally. But, if you have had any of the above thoughts or have acted on them frequently, then it’s very possible that you’re suffering from school anxiety.

Don’t worry. We’re here to help get you through this.

5 ways to calm anxiety at school

You can feel worried, overwhelmed, or anxious about school for a lot of different reasons. Wondering how to calm anxiety at school? Just follow these tips.

Take the pressure off

Are you taking on too much at school? From sports and social events to after-school clubs and extracurricular activities, you could be piling too much on your plate. Which can definitely cause an upheaval of school anxiety.

Evaluate your commitments. Not everything at school is a must, and if your schedule is jam-packed, then see what can be cut back. Have a chat with a foster parent, teacher, or coach and tell them the pressure you’re feeling. They can help talk you through any potential changes you can make with your workload.

Asses your friendships

If you’re looking for ways for how to deal with social anxiety at school, then it might be time to take a look at your friendship circle.

Who in your group makes you feel happy and good about yourself? Is there anyone who causes you to feel bad, upset, or anxious? Make sure to spend more time with the ones who make you feel happy and worthy, and say goodbye to anyone who doesn’t. You need support in your life, not negative distractions. It’s understandable you might feel apprehensive about letting go of friendships, but you’ll feel so much better for it.

Join a club

If your anxiety is centered around feeling like you don’t belong, then joining a school club or activity could be just the thing you need.

Have a look and see what clubs or societies your school offers. Most schools have clubs a variety of social and sporting groups on offer, so see which ones interest you and sign up! If you’re part of a society, you’ll find a community of other kids who all share the same interest as you. This will open you up to a whole new world of friendships.

Take a step back and breathe

Sometimes anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as sweaty palms, nausea, stomachache, or a racing heart.

Try stepping out of the room (if you’re at school) or going to a quiet area. Outdoors is a great option as you can get some fresh air. If you explain to teachers what you’re feeling, they should be understanding if you need a few minutes to gather your thoughts. You could also practice some simple deep breathing and calming techniques. Exercises such as deep breathing and mindfulness can be done any time you’re feeling your anxiety taking over.

Open up

When you’re dealing with school-related anxiety, you shouldn’t go through it alone. Anxiety can make you want to hold everything in and pull away from everyone. Even those who love and care for you the most.

Talking with someone else is one of the best ways to cope with anxiety or depression. It can be anyone; a friend, teacher, social worker, foster parent, or even a specialist helpline. You might find that just sharing your feelings and getting it all off your chest is just what you need.

If you struggle with opening up, then come up with a code word you can give someone you trust. If you say the word then that person will be made aware you’re having a hard time and can try and talk to you about it.

But if you ever feel like the situation is getting worse, and you can’t handle it, then seeking the help of a professional is crucial.

Coping with anxiety at school is never easy

But always remember you’re never alone. And you are so strong.

Your school, teachers, foster family and friends are there to support you. Never feel like you can’t talk to an adult about how you’re feeling at school.

Also, remember that both your foster family and your agency are always on hand to help you however they can. Having the courage to talk about your feelings is a huge achievement, and you should feel so proud of yourself for taking these first important steps to help your anxiety.

And now you know how to cope with school anxiety, you’re a few steps closer to feeling calmer and happier when that school bell rings.

If you do need to speak to someone about your school anxiety but can’t quite face opening up to your foster parent, social worker or teacher, please reach out to:

Anxiety UK

9.30am-5.30pm, Monday-Friday

03444 775 774 | 07537 416 905 | support@anxietyuk.org.uk