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September 1, 2016

Alleviating Anxiety in the Classroom

As you begin this school year, you may feel anxious and stressed. While these feelings are normal, finding ways to reduce them will lead to a happier and more productive start to the school year.

We often try to escape anxiety the moment it surfaces, but that can actually make it worse. In fact, one of the most effective ways to alleviate chronic stress is to acknowledge it and take action. To get started, follow these four steps, and you will be on your way to a calmer and more productive school year.

Give Your Anxiety a Name

Feeling stressed? Close your eyes and take a long, slow breath. Then, focus on what is creating the anxiety. What are you feeling?

Identify a “feeling word” to describe your anxiety, or choose from the Feeling Word Sample List below. You may be feeling more than one thing; it’s okay to choose multiple words.

Feeling Word Sample List:
annoyed, afraid, angry, confused, depressed, disappointed, frustrated, guilty, hesitant, hurried, irritated, impatient, insecure, lonely, lost, nervous, overwhelmed, powerless, pessimistic, resistant, restless, rushed, sad, tense, tired, unworthy, uneasy, upset, worried

Say to yourself: “I notice I am feeling __.”

It may feel too intense or challenging to pinpoint a feeling word at first. That’s okay. You can check-in with yourself later, or you can say: “I notice I am feeling challenged.” As you identify your feelings, don’t try to escape them. Instead, welcome them. Feelings are normal! Allow your body to accept and process them.

Identify What You Want

Next, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and envision how you would prefer to feel. Identify a feeling word or choose from the Preferred Feeling Word Sample List below.

Preferred Feeling Word Sample List:
acknowledged, accepted, alert, appreciated, assured, at ease, balanced, calm, centered, clear-minded, comfortable, confident, courageous, disciplined, eager, energetic, enthusiastic, flexible, grateful, happy, hopeful, interested, lively, loved, optimistic, organized, peaceful, positive, praised, recognized, relaxed, rested, satisfied, secure, strong, sure, trusting, understood

Say to yourself: “I like feeling________.”

For example, if you are feeling worried, your preferred feeling might be securerelaxed, or confident.

Take Action

Now that you know how you are feeling and how you would prefer to feel, it’s time to take action. What can you do to feel less stressed? How can you achieve your preferred feeling(s)?

For example, it might be time to schedule an hour of “me time”, update your playlist with uplifting music for your morning commute, plan your next vacation, rent a light-hearted movie, clear some clutter, meditate, pray, schedule a date night, go out to lunch with a friend, go to the park, schedule time for dancing, or yoga, or a massage… you get the idea!

When you are clear about what you need to do to calm yourself, schedule the action on your calendar. Make it a priority just as you would an important faculty meeting.

Repeat as needed!

New stresses arise every day, especially in the classroom. When you are feeling anxious, repeat the above steps. Identify what is causing your anxiety and define how you feel, visualize the way you’d prefer to feel, and create an action plan to help ease your stress. The more you practice these techniques, the easier it will be to alleviate your anxieties.

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