The Rise of Anxiety in Students – How to Help a Generation on Edge

Research has suggested that millennials and other young people today experience anxiety in greater numbers than any generation that preceded them.

This anxiety can stem from a number of reasons and factors. One place where it is alarmingly consistent, however, is among students.

As employment rates drop and housing prices skyrocket, the pressure to succeed is stronger than ever. High school, college, and post-graduate students feel this pressure as it trickles down in the form of anxiety. Even children as young as elementary-school-age are suffering from anxiousness in the classroom. 

 As anxiety in students continues to rise, mental health suffers. But how exactly do we help this high-achieving “generation on edge”?

Calming the Effects of Anxiety

There is likely no way to completely eliminate academic anxiety. Formal education is expensive, and universities grow more competitive with each passing year. As many new graduates will still face the realities of a post-recession workforce and many job markets that are oversaturated with master’s degrees, anxiety, no doubt, will continue to rise.

The best defense, it seems, is to learn healthy coping strategies and offer strength and support wherever we can. We cannot defeat anxiety on behalf of students. We—parents, peers, teachers, and roommate—can, however, help them survive a challenging and often discouraging time in their lives.

Here are several suggestions to help reduce anxiety in the students in your life.

Encourage healthy eating and sleeping habits

Unfortunately, many students are fighting to succeed in an increasingly competitive job market. As a result, they constantly push themselves to their breaking point during their studies. 

When choosing between preparing a healthy breakfast or cramming for a morning exam, most students will prioritize academic achievement. Not surprisingly, however, there is a strong link between a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and academic success.

If a student or loved one is facing increased anxiety, one of the easiest ways you can help is by encouraging good sleeping and eating habits. The mind cannot function well when the body is not properly fueled.

Develop effective coping skills

Students who do not know how to effectively handle their anxiety will either drop out of school or remain miserable for their entire academic careers. The point of formal schooling is to expand knowledge and teach valuable skills. Students, however, cannot learn or retain information when they are overly anxious.

Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or simply a friend of a struggling student, help them manage their anxiety by developing coping skills together. These skills will look different for everyone. But simple ideas to try out include taking a walk, meditating, controlling breathing, listening to soothing music, or writing in a journal.

If anxious students have ways to combat their anxiety and counteract their negative feelings, they will be more likely to succeed.

Consider alternative options 

The current generation is full of intelligent, ambitious, and high-achieving students. These students may believe there is only one path to success and they must take this path no matter the cost. Those who are in universities or pursuing degrees simply because they feel obligated to will likely experience high levels of anxiety. 

Do you know a student who is struggling with anxiety and unhappy with their current academic pursuits? You can help reduce their anxiety by offering to explore alternative options and career paths together. 

Perhaps a trade school would be a more effective learning environment for them. Maybe a white-collar office job will only bring a lifetime of anxiety and pressure, and non-traditional jobs should be considered. Have they thought about online school or independent study?  

Rigorous coursework and competitive universities are not for everyone. And they are by no means the only formulas for finding success in the job force. Have patience with your students and be open to what may be best for them.

I specialize in teen counseling in the West Village and Upper West Side areas of New York. If your teen student is struggling with anxiety, they could benefit from talking to a skilled therapist. Please, consider contacting me today.