Anxiety and Me What is Anxiety, why do we experience it, and how do we deal with it?

Let’s face it, we all have days when we feel anxious. Maybe school camp is coming up and you are feeling nervous, or you have an assessment looming that is worrying you, homework that is particularly difficult which needs to be completed but you are not sure how to begin, or perhaps you have a teacher who seems a bit scary but you know you still have to go to class tomorrow. There are lots of different situations that can make us feel anxious. But what exactly does ‘anxious’ mean, and why do we feel this way?

Let’s talk about it
  1. If you had to describe to someone what anxiety is, what would you say? Choose one colour marker pen and write ideas from all the class down on a big sheet of paper. This will be added to again later.
  2. What feelings do you notice in your body when you are experiencing anxiety? Add these ideas onto the sheet.
Watch and listen

This story written for young children, explains some of the bodily feelings that relate to anxiety and present one possible strategy that helped the main character. As the story is read, listen out for the examples of how Wilma’s body expresses her anxiety, and how the illustrator shows these through imagery.

Choose an activity
  • Create a poster which shows the different bodily feelings associated with anxiety that can be displayed in your classroom to help everyone to identify if they are feeling anxious. You might like to look back at the images in Wilma Jean the Worry Machine and think about how you might represent these feelings in a fun and interesting way.
  • Design a “worry hat” or some other worry collector. What worries would you put into your collector to store away until you want them back?
  • Wilma Jean’s teacher made cards of each situation Wilma worried about and then came up with ideas for how she and Wilma could do things a little differently so she didn’t have any reason to worry. Think about what sorts of situations cause anxiety for you. Post these on the Padlet board. Your posts are anonymous - noone will know which ones you posted unless you tell them. Add comments, to your posts or those of others, to share your suggestions for how the poster (the person who placed the original post) might be able to reduce or eliminate their anxiety about the situation they mentioned. The comments are not anonymous. Everyone in your class that opens the Padlet will be able to see who wrote which comments.
  • Negotiate an activity with your teacher.
Read, watch and share

Choose one or more of the following resources to check out. Make notes about what you learn (either in words or as simple drawings, perhaps as a list or linked together as a mind-map) so that you can share these ideas with the rest of the class afterwards.

  1. Read about “upstairs”, “downstairs” and what it means to “flip our lids”.
  2. Listen to Willa the Kid Scientist explain anxiety. Caution: Don’t watch this if you are afraid of clowns as an image pops up accompanied by scary music after Willa mentions being afraid of clowns.
  3. Choose one or more videos about why humans experience anxiety and/or what is going on in our brains and bodies when anxiety is felt.

Come back together as a class to share some of the new ideas you each discovered.

  1. What new ideas can you put on the big sheet your class wrote on earlier? Choose a different colour marker pen and add ideas from all the class. This represents lots of the new learning taking place through the previous activities.
  2. Check in time. What wonderings do you have? Make a list of questions to guide further exploration. This might be a list of everyone’s questions to go up on the whiteboard, or a personal list that you write which is just for you, or perhaps a list for you and a few classmates.
Investigate and create

Choose one of the following activities to explore way to help decrease anxiety and increase feelings of calmness.

  • Choose one strategy that can be helpful in reducing anxiety and teach it to a classmate. Create a video together to teach others the technique you have learnt and practiced.
  • Write a newspaper article to explain what anxiety is and some ways to help manage it.
  • Create and disseminate a Google form to find out how people you know cope with their feelings of anxiety. You might like to take a look through these strategies for some ideas on how to word some of your questions. Be sure to include information at the start of the form to explain how you will use the results once the data has been collected and looked at. For example, will it be just for your own personal interest, or to share with your classmates, or perhaps to share back out to all who took part?
  • Negotiate an activity with your teacher.
Reflection time

Come together as a class to share what activities you have undertaken, what interesting or new ideas you have learnt through this unit of study, or how you have thought about something differently than you had before. Talk about how these new ideas, perspectives and experiences might help you to cope better with anxiety in your own life and/or to help others with their anxiety.

Where to next?

Look back at the wonderings you/your class wrote down earlier. Have you answered some of these yet? What new wonderings do you now have? What will you choose to find out more about next?

Where will your learning journey take you?

Created By
Vanessa White


Created with images by Zorro4 - "sculpture dragon lindwurm" • suju - "sheep communication discuss" • Raj Eiamworakul - "untitled image" • 3dman_eu - "man sculpture art wonders talk figures statue" • Hans - "beetle mites mite infestation" • Matthew Fassnacht - "untitled image" • valiunic - "road forest season" • FunkyFocus - "manipulation smartphone gleise run"

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