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Red Deer College

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Counselling Services

Counselling services and supports are inclusive, confidential, and available to all RDC students free of charge.

Anxiety

We have all had times when we feel nervous or scared of different situations.Your heart may be racing, you may have a hard time breathing and feel tightness in your chest, or even feel dizzy. These could all be signs of anxiety. Having a difficult time coping with these feelings is normal, but if they continue and cause issues in your daily life, you may need to seek help (CHMA Calgary, 2020).

 

image describing what anxiety may look likeSymptoms of Anxiety

  • Racing pulse, heart palpitations, possibly even chest pain;
  • Shortness of breath, panting, dry mouth;
  • Blushing;
  • Nausea and/or vomiting;
  • Trembling, shaking, muscle tension;
  • Dizziness;
  • Hot flashes and sweating, or chills;
  • Difficulties with sleep;
  • Inability to concentrate.


What can I do about my Anxiety?

  • ​​Counselling
  • Medication
  • Join a support group if your community has one
  • Eat a healthy diet;
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages and hard substances
  • Try to cut back on smoking or vaping tobacco
  • Exercise
  • Stress management techniques
  • Try meditation and other activities that calm the mind
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Share your feelings

 

Helpful Resources 

 Coping Skills for Anxiety

Learn strategies to cope with your anxiety, such as breathing exercises, mindfulness, and visualization. 

 Managing Your OCD

Learn strategies to manage your obsessive thoughts and behaviours. 

 Realistic Thinking

Challenge your unrealistic and unhelpful thoughts using various strategies.

 Tolerate Uncertainty

Learn strategies to manage your emotions during uncertain times. 

A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying. Panic Attacks often are not triggered by anything specific, can be totally unpredictable and can happen at any time (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2019). image describing how to survive a panic attack

Signs of a Panic Attack

  • Heart racing
  • Chest pain
  • Shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Feeling like you're having a heart attack or suffocating
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Sleep issues

Fear of having panic attacks can make them more intense, causing individuals to have anxiety over experiencing them again. This may be a sign of having something called Panic Disorder (CMHA Calgary, 2015).

Social anxiety is used to describe feelings of anxiety and fear that occur in response to social situations. Even the most confident of people can get a little anxious before a presentation, or when they’re meeting new people, but in social anxiety this distress can be so overwhelming that it feel’s as though it‘s difficult to cope. Often, that overwhelming anxiety is experienced when just thinking about the situation or remembering a previous event. You may also have heard the term “social phobia” used to describe these feelings (Centre for Clinical Interventions, 2018). 


Symptoms of Social Anxiety

Negative Thoughts 

  • People with social anxiety tend to have negative thoughts about themselves and how others will react to them.
  • People with social anxiety also tend to focus their attention on themselves during social situations. They focus on their performance and how anxious they feel and look.

Physical Symptoms

  • People with social anxiety are often very concerned about visible signs of anxiety, such as blushing or trembling.
  • Other examples include: Racing heart, upset stomach, shaking, choking sensations, sweating, blushing, trembling, dry mouth, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, blurred vision, urge to urinate, etc.

Avoidance & Safety Behaviours 

  • People with social anxiety will often try to avoid or escape social situations. If they do go into social situations, they tend to do things to feel less anxious or to protect themselves from embarrassment or negative evaluation.
  • Examples: Avoiding, escaping a scary social situation, or engaging in protective behaviours to try and stay safe (Anxiety Canada, 2020)

Image with fifteen positive affirmations for social anxiety. I belong here as much as anyone else. Everyone in the room is human, unique and imperfect like me.It's okay to talk to as many or as few people as I want. I can contribute to the conversation. I am able to make positive connections with other people around me. It's okay to excuse myself if I need to gather my thoughts or take deep breaths. I can feel confident and at ease being myself around others. People are not watching me or waiting for me to make a mistake. I can make a mistake or say something silly, and laugh about it, and let it go. I can go at my own speed and volume. People are interested in what I have to say. I am unique in my experience and perspective, and have something to bring to the table. I am free to focus on other people instead of myself. This person wants to be heard and understood. Just like I do. I am capable and loved and enough, and no one can take those things from me.

Helpful Resources 

My Anxiety Plan 

Understand your anxiety by completing an anxiety plan for yourself. 

 What Can Be Done for Social Anxiety?

There are many different options available to you if you feel that you struggle with social anxiety. 

Does this sound familiar?

  • “If I can't answer the first question, I will fail the test.” 
  • “Success is defined by GPA.”
  • “If I don't do well on this test/paper, I won't do well on future tests/papers.”
  • “Other people are doing much better than I am. No one else is having trouble. I am alone.” 
  • “If I don't do well on this test/paper, it means I am "stupid." 
  • “If I don't do well on this test/paper, people (family, friends, and the professor) will think less of me.” 
  • “If I don't do well on this test/paper, I will certainly flunk the class.”

Signs & Symptoms of Test Anxiety


Physical: Headaches, nausea, extreme body temperature changes, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, light-headedness or fainting, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth. 

Emotional: Excessive feelings of fear, disappointment, anger, depression, feelings of helplessness, fear of failure.

Behavioral: Fidgeting, pacing, avoidance, substance use, or abuse.

Cognitive: Racing thoughts, going “blank”, difficulties concentrating, negative self-talk, feelings of dread, comparing self to others, difficulties organizing thoughts.

ways to overcome testing anxietyCoping With Test Anxiety

 

Prior to the Test
  • Plan for sufficient study time, over several days.
  • Study well, without distractions, to feel confident and prepared.
  • Engage the help of a tutor, a study buddy or group, or a Learning Strategist to help prepare for tests.
  • Attend classes regularly.
  • Use breathing/positive visualizations techniques to decrease your anxiety.
  • Ensure you are practicing good self-care (Ex. Regular and sufficient sleep, healthy diet, lots of water, and regular exercise to decrease stress and build energy).
During the Test
  • Know location of test and bring all essentials
  • Arrive just early enough, take time to relax
  • Read directions carefully before you begin
  • Don’t panic if you don’t know an answer, circle it, and come back to at the end of the exam.
  • Use positive self-talk: “I know this, I can answer these questions.”
  • If your anxiety starts to increase, pause for a moment and do deep breathing.
After the Test
  • Celebrate, you did it! 

Helpful Resources 

 Specific Test Taking Tips

Strategies for preparing for tests, taking tests, and reducing test anxiety. 

 Tips to Help You Overcome Test Anxiety 

Strategies to help prepare for tests to reduce test anxiety. 

Anxiety Canada

Expert tools and resources to help adults and children in Canada manage anxiety. This website has specific apps and podcasts dedicated to managing anxiety and can assist individuals in creating a personal anxiety plan. Information on how to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and information on how to locate local mental health professionals is available.

Distress Line Central Alberta

1-800-784-2433

Support for information, education, and referral services provided.