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Is there anything on my shirt? Why is he laughing? Is it at me? Can they tell how much I’m sweating? What if the professor ridicules me in front of everyone? Why can’t I stop shaking? Why can’t I get this under control? Can the class hear my heart pounding out of my chest?
These are the anxious thoughts that run through my head before a class presentation. Few people look forward to presenting to a classroom full of their peers.
Students at STU and UNB now have the chance to attend a new workshop that deals with that fear.
UNB counseling services is offering a free drop-in workshop that will use sport psychology principles in order to help students overcome academic related anxiety.
Erin Crossland, certified counselor with UNB counseling, says psychological methods in sports that calm someone down or amp them up can be applied to academic settings.
“If you’re playing hockey or basketball, you make a mistake and you have to skate to the other end of the ice right away. You don’t have time to think about it or dwell on it,” says Crossland.
She compares this mentality to a situation where a student doesn’t know the answer on an exam. Instead of dwelling and sending themselves into a negative spiral of worry, they can learn to move onto the next question.
“It’s a very serious problem and students really struggle with it.” Crossland will be holding the workshops with Dr. Nancy Buzzell, licensed psychologist with UNB counseling.
“Have you ever had friends or people, fellow students, that don’t do things because they’re afraid or nervous? Do you know anyone that avoids classes because there’s presentations?” Buzzell asks in reply to why they’ve decided to hold the workshop.
“It’s sad to see students not getting a full experience because of a real fear,” Buzzell says.
While Buzzell and Crossland deal with these fears often in one-on-one counseling sessions, this is the first time they have taken the skills training outside of their offices.
Buzzell says holding the workshop has other benefits other than teaching the skills of coping.
“Sometimes the support of knowing that it happens to others takes the pressure off a little bit.”
Buzzell and Crossland say anxiety, whether general, academic related or otherwise, is one of the issues they encounter most often.
“We have four top concerns and anxiety is one of the four,” Buzzell says, listing depression, relationships and career as the other three.
“It’s often partnered with other issues. Depression and anxiety often come together. It’s not just an isolated presenting issue. A lot of students display it in a variety of different levels and different environments,” Crossland says.
Last year, I self-diagnosed myself as someone suffering from a mild social anxiety disorder.
WebMD defines social anxiety disorder as a fear of social situations. The symptoms from this disorder can be mental, emotional and physical, to the point of a panic attack.
WebMD also says those suffering may know something is wrong, but don’t recognize that its an illness.
Throughout high school, I often wondered why I seemed to be the only one that dreaded certain social situations: presentations, phone calls with strangers, encounters with figures of authority, and being put on the spot.
Coming to university only made the phobia more obvious, when the simplest of journalistic tasks seemed impossible.
An assignment to approach a stranger on the street and ask them questions took two days of pacing and analysis on people’s body language to decide whether or not they were friendly.
Since I realized I had a problem and addressed it, I have been able to talk through my fears with my friends and others suffering from the same phobia.
Although not a solution for everyone, facing the problem head-on and forcing myself to do the things I am uncomfortable with has helped to lessen the problem. However, I haven’t been able to overcome it completely. The UNB counseling workshop, “Standing Ovation – Rocking the Stage and Overcoming Academic Anxiety,” won’t be something I miss.
The first of four identical workshops will be held September 26 at 2:30 pm in the C.C Jones building on UNB campus.