Whether you’re having problems with schoolwork, friends, or fitting in, you are not alone.
Making and having friends, along with feeling we fit in, is a big part of school life. Friends can become very important to us in secondary school and can become like a second family. We all have a place in the world but sometimes it can feel like we just don’t fit in. School can be stressful for some, worrying about not having anyone to hang around with at break times or at the weekends. Even if we develop friendships easily, we can still end up being excluded by friends at times.
Feeling left out
No one likes to be left out of a Snap Chat or Whatsapp group or realising we weren’t invited to the cinema after seeing pictures on Instagram. This can lead us to feel upset, lonely, and self-conscious, and spend a lot of time wondering “why am I the friend that gets left out?”. At other times we can also feel pressure to do what our friends are doing to feel like we belong. Drinking or sharing stuff online, can be things we end up doing even if we’re not that comfortable with it, so people don’t think we’re weird. If you have experienced any of these, unfortunately, they can be a normal part of school life.
What can we do?
Change how you view a situation- Often it can be good to view things from another perspective. Challenge unhelpful thoughts. Look at other ways to think about a situation. If you are upset about not being invited out, remind yourself that it’s OK if two friends go to the cinema together. In the past, you may have gone to the cinema without another friend.
Talk or connect with someone- If you feel excluded by friends, is there someone else to talk or connect with? There may be other people in your year who also feel excluded. Or you might know people outside of school who you can talk to about what is going on.
Work on your social skills- If you find it hard making friends or talking to people start by setting yourself small goals. Start with saying hello and then move on to something bigger like joining a club, group, or new activity. Although it may feel scary, making new friends is about taking a chance and making the move to talk to somebody. What is the worst that can happen if you say hello?
Value what makes you different- We can think that feeling a sense of belonging is more important than anything else. Being true to yourself is just as important. Have there been times when you have felt pressure to do something or behave a certain way when it has made you uncomfortable? While fitting in can feel important, learning to love what makes you ‘you’ and what makes you different is crucial.
Anxiety in school
What sort of things do we have to cope with at school?
There can be a lot to cope with in school: dealing with school work, teachers and friends. Structure, rules or having to concentrate can be difficult for some students. Keep in mind there is an end goal. School is important and provides us with valuable skills. Often when we feel like we don’t belong or we’re not coping well with something it can lead us to feel quite anxious.
What causes anxiety at school?
Anxiety is usually caused by a build-up of different things. -Keeping on top of school work, pressure to succeed, friends, fitting in, bullying or feeling left out. -If we were bullied in the past, or in primary school it can affect how we mix with others now, or in the future. We may have learned to expect danger or feel threatened. -Sometimes we can worry about things or be self-conscious around classmates. Talking to your own family at home may not be a problem but you may find it difficult to speak up in class.
Cycle of anxiety
Often with anxiety we can feel down, hopeless and lonely. This can lead us to feel worthless or have thoughts like ‘I can’t cope’, ‘I’m weird’ or ‘no one likes me’. When this feeling continues or gets worse, it can be tempting to avoid classes or days of school. If we miss a few days of school, it can be more difficult for us to go back. This then leads us to fall even further behind, causing more anxiety.
What can we do about anxiety at school?
Anxiety in school can be very common and there are a number of things that you can do:
Talking to someone can be the first step to managing things better when faced with any challenges to our mental health. This could be a parent, older sibling, teacher, year head, coach, or guidance counsellor (if your school has one), and what we refer to as ‘one good adult‘. Having someone to sound off to and explain how you feel can help gain some perspective. They can also help you work through potential solutions.
Strike a balance- Make enough time for homework and study along with fun and relaxation. All are important, but if we spend too much time on fun activities, we can become anxious about not having done our school work.
Don’t avoid school- The more we avoid school, the harder it can be to get back. Try not to skip classes, leave early or stay at home. It may seem like a solution but really, in the long run, it can create more difficulties.
Talk to a trusted adult At Temple Carrig we have a Jigsaw One Good Adult programme. This is an adult you can turn to if you need to. Think of someone you would trust and nominate them. You can let that adult know that they are your One Good Adult. The One Good Adult is a good listener, is able to show empathy or put themselves in your shoes. They should be non-judgmental and they need to believe in that young person when they might not have much belief in themselves.
You can read more about other students stories and their One Good Adult https://jigsaw.ie/my-one-good-adult/