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Anxiety is a normal response to a perceived danger or threat to one's well-being. While everyone suffers from occasional anxiety, sometimes the level of anxiety can become overwhelming. For some students, the cause of anxiety is clear; for others, it is difficult to pinpoint the reason for their distress. Regardless of the cause, the student may experience the following symptoms: rapid heartbeat, chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, sweating, trembling, or shaking. The student may also complain of having difficulty concentrating, always feeling "on edge," having trouble making decisions, experiencing sleeping problems, feeling unable to complete coursework, or being too afraid to take appropriate action. In some cases, students may experience a panic attack in which the physical symptoms are so spontaneous and intense they fear they are dying. The following guidelines are appropriate in most cases.
- Let the student discuss her or his feelings and thoughts in an appropriate setting; this alone often relieves a great deal of pressure.
- Provide reassurance.
- Be clear and directive.
- Talk slowly and remain calm.
- Discern whether you are able to respond adequately to the student's concerns or if a referral is necessary.
- Provide a safe and quiet environment until the symptoms subside.
- If appropriate, develop a plan with the student for academic issues within the classroom and make appropriate referrals if needed.
- Minimizing the perceived threat to which the student is reacting.
- Taking responsibility for the student's emotional state.
- Becoming anxious or overwhelmed yourself.
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