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Academic Anxiety and Resources

March 16, 2022 - 4 minute read

Student journaling

As a student, the stress, fear, and uncertainty of school lingers wherever you look. Performance anxiety is a gripping reaction to the fear of failing, petrifying us into submission and making us give in to the convenience of just giving up. Social anxiety tests our limits as we integrate from a pandemic lifestyle of isolation and into the clustered walkways of a campus class transition. Academic anxiety is an interesting mixture of these and includes the stressors that compete with your academic work. For example, the deadlines of projects and homework compete with the deadlines of tax season, vehicle registrations, medical appointments, or perhaps the responsibilities of parent life. Soon enough, the shallow waves of these stress-induced feelings become large swells, and the peaceful snowy mountain of your day can escalate into what feels to be an avalanche.

For students in athletics, the performance anxiety before a game or tough practice might completely fluster your daily study routine. However, you learn that working out, training your body, adapting muscle memory, and building trust with your team builds confidence that causes the anxiety to wither slowly – perhaps not all the way but to a manageable point. The same tactic to combat athletic performance anxiety can combat academic anxiety. Building a supportive community, living a healthy lifestyle, practicing positive mental health behaviors while developing the cognitive tools are what you need to win a game against stress and anxiety.

Many assume fighting this academic anxiety is solved by just taking the opportunity to study more. But, as one of the disabled military veteran students on campus, I confess this might have the opposite effect for those struggling with their mental health. For many, it is not finding the opportunity to study that causes conflict, but the ability to study when your mind is not at peace with itself. As a student, parent, and someone dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, my opportunity to study is fairly easy to find in my day. Still, eventually, my trauma and negative thoughts do not allow me the ability to study.

When struggling, I refer back to the basics of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) I learned in 2017. One skill I practice is called cognitive restructuring and reframing. It is a way to reframe your thought process and develop positive ways to deal with your emotions and the way you self-talk (past, present, or future). I will commonly mix this method with journaling and write for ten minutes before studying. When journaling, I will write positive affirmations using words like, I have, I will, I can. Also, journaling acts as a record for your thoughts, and reading them back gives yourself evidence of how far you’ve come from the last problem. I am then ready to focus on whatever my task ahead is with a clear mind.

If you find you are having physical reactions to your anxiety or mental health-related issues, I strongly urge anyone to take full advantage of the resources available to them. At Concordia University Irvine, the Wellness Center’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers in-person counseling and telehealth appointments to students. Additionally, at Concordia, the Staff Sergeant Matthew Thompson Veterans Resource Center provides a supportive community and safe place to talk with a student-led mental health support group called Let’s Talk, online and in person. The group is led by Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance facilitators and currently schedules sessions on an as-needed basis. Finally, if you find yourself contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Line at (800)273-8255 or use the crisis text line by texting “help” to 741-741. Remember, a healthy mind makes you a better student and a better you.


Matthew Ryan

Matthew Ryan ‘23
Sergeant, USMC

Matthew is a husband, a father, and a disabled veteran who served seven years of active duty with the United States Marine Corps. After his injuries became unmanageable and Matthew could no longer maintain combat readiness, he was offered the opportunity to help his Regiment prepare and transition Marines out of the military for his remaining two years. Many Marines leaving the service are worse off than when they joined. It was then, after years of physical therapy and then being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Matthew found the importance of advocating for mental health. From a culture that demanded every ounce of a member’s physical capability, it was easy to see that the failure of most came losing to what they were fighting within themselves. Matthew's experiences and the life lessons he has learned motivated him to finish his bachelor's degree in Behavioral Sciences with a concentration in Sociology at Concordia University Irvine. Matthew has a burning desire to write about and research ways to reduce veteran and military member suicide. While a student, he seeks to bridge the gap between the veterans and the other students here on campus and advocate for those who seek support.

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