Anxiety in college

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I've recently started a new job and part of this new job means I need to go to college once a week. I have a masters degree in history, I have no problems with this. I enjoy studying, comfortable with exams etc. Except for my new teacher expects lots of class participation and keeps asking me to answer questions in class. (There is only 6 of us so it's a LOT). I'm not a genius, I can't remember everything so I get things wrong and my anxiety goes through the roof. I am now crying and having panic attacks ahead of tomorrow. I can't face it but how can I let my employers down when they pay for me to improve myself! The teacher is doing a quiz tomorrow and there will be a leaderboard showing how well we do as well as answering questions along the way! I can't deal with this! Please help me! Last class I sat there so worried about him asking me a question I wasn't even listening to him so of course went and looked more stupid. I'm not stupid and left to my own devices will pass this class but not if the teacher continues as he is.

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15 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi Bella, I've worked as a university lecturer and one of the major concerns that students came to talk to me about was being asked to answer questions in lectures and having to do presentations. It was very common and students used to get very anxious about it, so you're not alone.

    I encouraged students to talk to me about it and then there was a careful balance if helping them to overcome their anxiety slowly so they could learn from experience and get more confident and not making them anymore anxious than they already were.

    Have you considered talking to the tutor so he is aware of your situation? If he knows about how you feel and how much its affecting you, he may help you to manage it better and be more sympathetic.

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    • Posted

      Thank you for your advice. I will have to say something, not sleeping will only make this worse tomorrow! It's certainly not going to help my learning! I'm not sure this teacher would be sympathetic or approachable though. He is the same age as me and I find him quite arrogant. He obviously has done well to be where he is so young and it's massively inflated his ego!

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    • Posted

      I don't like his idea of having a leaderboard in class, it may encourage some people but a lot will find that offputting. I would still try to talk to him, maybe he will react differently to what you think once you make him aware. If not, maybe mnetion it to the other students? Sometimes it eases the pressure hwen we're aware that other people already know that we're feeling anxious and we don't feel so weighed down by the expectations of others then.

      There are some psychological strategies you can use but that's too much detail to put on here now. Hope you manage to get some sleep. Let us know how it goes tomorrow.

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    • Posted

      Just to update you - I managed to sleep even if just for 4 hours and I attended class. Turns out someone else had complained about the teaching methods and so picking people out to answer reduced slightly. The quiz still went ahead, my heart was racing and I didn't answer the first 2 questions as was trying to prevent myself from having a panic attack. Once I had it under control got the other 8 right and came 3rd out of 6 in the class. Phew!! Think I am going to over prepare for classes in future to minimise the mistakes and uncertainty that I feel. Thank you for your help!!

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    • Posted

      Sounds like it went reasonable well for you yestersday, that's good. I had the same sort of issues when I was in school. I was one of the top students but I've suffered from perfectionism and social anxiety - fearing being humiliated in the class. There were two lessons in particular, Welsh and English Literature (I'm originally from Wales). In Welsh we had to go around the class and transalte a book from Welsh into English sentence by sentence and so after the person before you finished you had to do the next sentence, I'd be so anxious by the time it got to me I could barely think or sleep. In English Lit it was similar, we had to go around the class reading chunks out of a classic book and I would be so nervous that I would make simple reading mistakes and my voice would sound funny. 

      At university I took psychology and learned 'task focused attention' - the abilty to focus on the task rather than my feelings, and I also learned mindfulness and to help me with perfectionism and self-criticism. When I learned that mindfulness was all about learning how to direct your attention it's lost all it's 'woo woo' which I didn't like and I embraced it and it really helped me. 

      Btw, sounds like your tutor is focusing nmore on you (or maybe you're just more aware of the attion he gives you?), you don't think he's taken a shine to you do you and is therefore giving you more attention?

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  • Posted

    Since there are only six persons in your class that should lessen your anxiety.would it help to sit up front(or in back)
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    • Posted

      I sat at the back last time it didn't help. He has his eyes on me constantly throughout the class, he asks me more questions than the others! I don't understand the attention. Maybe I'll sit under the desk?!

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  • Posted

    Maybe he notices you're more into the class so he calls on you more, maybe your grades have been better, or maybe he thinks you're not paying attention when in reality you're anxious.. Just think about it though, what is the absolute worst that will happen if he calls on you? You get a question wrong and someone else gets called on? Putting it that way, I wouldn't get too upset over it, especially enough to ruin your day.. This is one teacher out of your entire schooling. Don't let him ruin such a good experience. Maybe talk after class about you having severe anxiety and maybe say if you want to answer you will raise your hand? I hope it gets better for you. Maybe try drinking chamomile tea before his class, it calms your nerves a bit.

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    • Posted

      Thanks for your response! I fear public humiliation and so getting an answer wrong is like life or death to me. If I am sure on an answer I happily volunteer it to the class! I think I come across as quite a confident person in general and I am quite friendly and talkative with the teacher during class breaks. I think he asks me because I seem more outgoing than the others. Little does he know. Going to play quiet and shy from now on!!
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  • Posted

    Hi bella,

    You are not "stupid" and certainly not "dumb".

    Please try and relax. Breathe. Focus on your breathing and let everything else around you drown out.

    Okay, such a simple fix here sweetheart. You need to pull your teacher up outside of class, and have a little chat about how you feel about him doing that. Explain that it interrupts your learning and causes a lot of unnecessary stress. There is no way he will continue to do what he does if you only just talk to him. If part of your grading is for participation then with this talk, you'll be able to keep it at a minimum you're comfortable with.

    You're going to get through this, don't worry love.

    Just keep swimming! 🐠😊

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    • Posted

      Luckily someone else in my class complained that he was picking on people and he couldn't cope so it was reduced slightly. Still had the quiz though sad Luckily class participation isn't assessed or I'd be really worried. I have all the course books, I can recap everything at a later date when I am more comfortable!

      Thank you for your response, I felt awful last night!

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  • Posted

    Can you not explain your issues to your tutor/teacher? I had this in school.

    ( I was moved to a school for people with mental health and there were only 20 in the whole unit and 4-5 people in each sector.)

    I explained to my tutors that interaction of that sort put me under great pressure which caused a lot of anxieties thus interfiere with the quality of my work and concentration.

    This might help for you if they are willing to include you but not put you on the spot.

    I'm like this even now in normal life when I'm not even answering any questions.

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    • Posted

      Someone else had complained about the teaching methods so it was improved from last week. Going to see how I get on next week then decide if I need to speak to him about it! Thank you for your response!
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  • Posted

    The majority of people, I think, get uncomfortable when it comes to presentations or class participation. But I think it's way worse for those of us with anxiety, since our nerves are already high most of the time. Since I'm currently in University, I understand your frustrations. You should talk to your instructor about this...it can only help. But just know that no matter what, if you stick through the discomfort, it'll all work out in the end. As another post said, "just keep swimming". You can do this! 

    Nicholas 

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