What is Learning Anxiety and How Can Students Manage It?

Learning Anxiety

Anxiety has been linked with poorer learning outcomes for students. A recent study conducted in Canberra primary schools found that eight and nine-year-olds who displayed anxious traits learnt at a slower pace than their peers. 

Anxiety was found to impair attention and memory. Interestingly, boys’ learning was more affected by anxiety than girls. 

The number of children experiencing anxiety in Australia and worldwide continues to grow. The good news is that there are many simple steps families can take to manage anxiety and help students achieve success.

Identifying Learning Anxiety 

Learning anxiety refers specifically to excessive worry over schoolwork. It can manifest as concern over doing tests or completing assignments. The underlying cause of this problem is fear of failure and judgement. 

Students worry intensely about not passing a test or doing well in a task, and they feel overwhelmed by academic pressure. This can cause them to underperform or even fail.

Students with this problem often have trouble concentrating and may refuse to go to school or do homework. Parents often misinterpret this behaviour as disobedience. 

Strategies to Help Students Succeed

The following strategies can help students and their families manage learning anxiety more effectively. 

  • Learn to express worries 

Simply talking or writing about a problem can do a great deal to alleviate it. This is backed up by a 2019 study of American middle schoolers which found that students who were asked to write about their fears at the start of a new school year and read anecdotes from other students performed better across all areas. 

  • Reframe negative thoughts 

Negative thoughts are a major source of anxiety for many students. Those who engage in negative self-talk often catastrophize by imagining the worst possible scenario, such as failing an important exam or being humiliated in front of peers. To challenge this pattern, students need to become aware of their thoughts and replace critical self-talk with positive affirmations.  

  • Stop fearing failure 

Fear of failure can be debilitating. This is because students have been taught that failing is a terrible thing to be avoided at all costs. The truth is that failure is integral to learning and students who know how to learn from their mistakes have a great advantage. Parents and teachers can help kids become resilient by focusing more on effort and less on the outcome. 

  • Work on time management 

Sometimes students experience learning anxiety simply because they don’t know how to manage their time. They feel overwhelmed by homework and assignments and don’t know where to begin. These students would benefit greatly from a study schedule. They can use this to keep track of assignments and break down tasks into manageable chunks. 

  • Experiment with study techniques

Another great way to combat learning anxiety is to try different study techniques. Students who find it difficult to focus on reading when stressed may be able to retain knowledge when they record their notes and listen back to them. Those who enjoy art can try creating graphic representations of concepts and ideas to help them relax.   

  • Practice regular self-care

Self-care is essential in managing anxiety. This includes eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. Meditation and deep breathing can significantly reduce stress and boost well-being. Students who take care of their physical and mental health find it much easier to maintain a positive perspective when they begin to feel anxious. 

How Can a Tutor Help? 

Getting the right kind of support is very important for students who have learning anxiety. A tutor can assist with subject knowledge, exam preparation and executive functioning skills such as time management, organisation and focused attention. 

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