School Year Anxiety: The Stress That Gets in the Way of Learning

Each student deals with stress during the school year–it’s natural. Even when a student’s prepared for an upcoming exam, it still produces a certain amount of worry–but school year anxiety is different.

Students that struggle with school year anxiety are plagued almost constantly by fears of failing in some way. Whether that’s failing to be social enough or failing to meet all their responsibilities, those fears turn from something regular into something malicious that blocks a child’s ability to learn–and function.

Why does school year anxiety occur?

For many students, school year anxiety develops out of a need to be perfect. So many responsibilities are placed on the shoulders of high schoolers nowadays, it’s honestly surprising all of them don’t develop serious issues.

There’s the stress of passing every exam, remembering every bit of homework, keeping up with friends (or even just making them), attending sports practices, maintaining clubs–and on top of it all, preparing for college (for many students, at least).

While students may not have an “actual” full-time job–though many students actually work part-time–school requires many hours and a whole lot of attention. And for the teens struggling with school year anxiety, they’re sacrificing their mental health for their academics, which should never be the case.

They stretch themselves thin, taking on more and more responsibilities even if it means they have to give up sleep and downtime.

Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in adolescentsaround 1 in 4 teens will struggle with an anxiety disorder at some point in their adolescence. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence and if you’re thinking, “This could never happen to my child,” you’re wrong.

How to handle anxiety in the school year

If you’re not sure what advice to give your teenager that’s battling school year anxiety, here’s some tips:


  • Mental health before academics. If taking on a responsibility forces your teen to sacrifice a full night of sleep and/or leaves no time to relax, it’s not worth it. Sleep is essential and most teenagers don’t get nearly enough sleep as it is. Downtime is also critical. If we’re constantly going with no gaps to just breathe, we’re never given the chance to check in with our emotions and process.
  • Take a breath, check in with yourself. Mindfulness practice has become increasingly popular, but it’s more than just a trend. Research has shown that mindfulness has the ability to decrease anxiety and depression, making it a useful tool in treatment for anxiety in daily life.
  • Remember that you’re not alone. This can seem extremely hard for many, especially with the infamous stigma attached to mental health issues–but it’s essential to handling stress. Without the support of others in these times of struggle, it’s difficult to move forward or find any sense of resolution. If you’re overwhelmed, there’s no shame in reaching out to others for a helping hand.  
  • Spend some time in nature. I’m not saying go on a 3-week backpacking trip through the Appalachian mountains (unless you’re into that)–but studies show that spending around 10-minutes a day around nature (hiking, taking a stroll through a park, etc.) can lower anxiety and depression a significant amount.


If you believe your teen is struggling with a serious mental health issue, it’s critical to reach out to a professional for further guidance.

Elevations is here for your family

Elevations RTC is a residential treatment center for teens, ages 13 to 18. Our students often grapple with school year anxiety, trauma, depression, ADHD, and other emotional or behavioral issues.

At Elevations, we use a combination of a focused therapeutic lens, real-world environment, secure setting, and caring staff to foster growth and success in our students. Finding the right program can be difficult for a family, which is why Elevations is here to help guide you through it.

For more information about how we deal with school year anxiety at Elevations RTC, please call .