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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

The Anxious Student

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We have all experienced anxiety in response to a perceived stressful situation. Anxiety becomes heightened as the situation becomes more vague and less familiar.

A panic attack is an overwhelming sense of dread and fear and is the extreme result of feeling anxious. Some of the physiological components of general anxiety and panic attacks are rapid heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, choking, dizziness, sweating, trembling, shaking, or clammy hands. The student may experience feelings of worry or fear and may anticipate some misfortune. S/he may complain of poor concentration, being on edge, being easily distracted, memory problems, and/or fitful sleep. The student may also state unreasonably high self-expectations and be very critical of his/her present performance. This student may constantly think about and discuss his/her problems and possible solutions, but be too fearful to take action.

Helpful Responses

  • Let the student discuss his/her feelings and thoughts.
  • Help the student to define his/her stressors and ineffective and effective coping strategies.
  • Encourage the student to break down tasks into workable steps so as to feel less overwhelmed.
  • Be clear and explicit about what you are expecting from the student and what you are willing to do. It may be helpful to have the student repeat what you have said to ensure that the student understands.
  • Encourage the student to engage in relaxation techniques, deep breathing, meditation, and exercise and, if needed, to seek professional help.

Responses to Avoid

  • Taking responsibility for the student's emotional state
  • Trying to solve his/her problems as if they were your own
  • Becoming anxious or overwhelmed along with the student