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Academic Mentoring Resources: Anxiety

Academic-Related Anxiety

What is Academic-Related Anxiety?

Anxiety is a mental, and often physical, response people have to fear and stress. Like stress, occasional anxiety can be a way that you are urged to protect yourself in dangerous or difficult situations. Other times anxiety can be debilitating – preventing you from trying or getting things done. Learning to cope with various types of anxiety is important in preventing symptoms from worsening; coping allows you to grow in confidence and learn from your mistakes. As a college student, there are a lot of things going on in your life that can contribute to feelings of anxiety. The good news is that there are helpful strategies you can use to beat academic related anxiety.

Math Anxiety

You are not alone in thinking, “I’ve never been good at math” or “I’m just not a math person.” But with a positive growth mindset and some hard work, you too can beat the fear of math failure.

  • Recognize that understanding the math process and why it works is more important than just memorizing. Understanding the process will help your memory of the steps.
  • If something doesn’t click for you, ask a teacher, tutor or friend for another example or process. There are many methods and applications to mathematical problems; find what makes sense to you.
  • Do the math exercises – don't just read over notes and expect that you can apply it to every problem.

Performance Anxiety

Sometimes you don’t have tests and math homework; maybe it’s a big music performance or presentation that is worrying you. Practice certainly plays a huge role in the outcome of your performance, but trying these strategies may help:

  • Dress-Rehearse: recreate performance day conditions as much as possible. Have a friend sit and watch as you practice a speech, music number or sport. 
  • Practice positive self-talk: encourage yourself, be confident and visualize your success.
  • Find Excitement: focus on something that excites you about what you’re doing (whether it’s the chance to play a beautiful piece of music or present a topic you care about). Make the experience more exciting by dressing up or planning to treat yourself afterward.

34% of all students surveyed said anxiety negatively impacted their performance in class during the last 12 months. See the survey here.

Test Anxiety

Test Anxiety can be intense fear of test taking and failure that can prevent you from preparing well or even completing a test. This leads to a cycle of poor performance (reinforcing negative thoughts about oneself and test-taking) which leads to stress, then avoidance of the topic, which leads to more fear and stress, and then poor performance again! Break this cycle with these tips: 

  • Give yourself more than enough time to study! Plan review and self-testing times into your schedule well before the exam. Check out our test taking strategies for efficient ways to study like our 5-day Study Plan.  
  • Flip your thinking: For example: Instead of “There is no way I can pass this test; I am never going to graduate,” tell yourself “I am nervous and I may not pass, but I have done all I could to study and will do my best. This is still a learning experience.” Turn problems into opportunities for growth.
  • Relax: Slow breathing, roll shoulders, drink water, sit in a place with less distractions, decrease caffeine intake, or memorize a verse to cling to
  • Trust your Gut: Often with test anxiety, many students overthink their answers on tests to the point where it is unhealthy. Make sure you reread to confirm what the question is asking but trust your initial response; you can come back to it later if there is time. 

Tackle Your Test Anxiety | Counseling & Psych Services (CAPS) (