Data shows that approximately 32% of teens suffer from anxiety, and that this number is expected to grow. Academic anxiety is a subset of generalized anxiety resulting from schoolwork or stress related to schoolwork. A 2015 Cornell University study identified four components of academic anxiety:
- Worry: Thoughts that prevent you from successfully studying or completing academic work.
- Emotionality: Biological symptoms of academic anxiety such as a fast heartbeat or sweaty palms.
- Task-generated interference: Unproductive behaviors related to the task at hand that prevent successful performance such as spending too much time on a question you can’t answer.
- Study skill deficits: Problematic study skills that create anxiety, such as poor note-taking during class or last-minute cramming. Oftentimes, the first three components of academic anxiety occur because of study skill deficits.
According to the study, a moderate amount of anxiety may help academic performance by creating motivation, but a high level of academic anxiety usually correlates to a low level of performance.
The good news is that there are ways to reduce and ultimately balance academic anxiety. Firstly, students can use a variety of self-care techniques. To start, it is incredibly important to get a good night’s rest and eat three nutritious meals a day. Additionally, eating healthier can help students sustain energy and working out more can help boost endorphins, both of which help keep mood levels high and decrease anxiety. Taking time within the day to carry out breathing exercises can also help someone recharge. Seeking support is another possibility if academic anxiety or stress has overtaken one’s day-to-day life. Talking to a trusted adult like a parent or counselor can help prevent the academic stress from evolving into other serious mental health challenges like general anxiety or depression.
If someone needs more serious help, however, there are resources available. Calling the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can help not only those dealing with suicidal ideation but also those struggling with mental health crises in general. Additionally, the resource center Anxiety in the Classroom specifically focuses on students dealing with anxiety and OCD. The National Institute of Mental Health, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and countless other organizations also provide incredible information, resources, and help for those who need it.
Whether it be a self-help technique or a professional resource, finding whatever helps is crucial to improving academic anxiety. Otherwise, it can eventually grow and become harder to overcome in day-to-day life. After all, reaching out for support can not only improve one’s mental health, but also one’s grades as well.
National Comorbidity Survey Replication (2001-2003)
Dr. Dana Dorfman, The 4 Building Blocks of Academic Anxiety, Psychology Today (September 19, 2021)
Understanding Academic Anxiety, Cornell University Learning Strategies Center (2015).