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Helping Children Manage Anxiety and Stress

School in the era of COVID-19 means more than just face masks and hand sanitizer. Students have faced, and continue to face, challenges like never before. Not only are they trying to maintain some level of normalcy within their schoolwork, extracurriculars, and personal lives, but the need to practice infection prevention behaviors (i.e. wearing face masks, washing hands, and practicing social distancing) is weighing heavily on their minds.

With all of these new restrictions and protocols, school faculty and administrators are seeing heightened anxiety and behavioral issues in students. As a result, schools should be prepared to recognize and address a wide range of mental health needs, including anxiety and stress.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, anxiety and stress can lead to:

  • Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or having nightmares
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances

As a school nurse, here are a few ways you can help students manage anxiety and stress:

  1. Validate the student’s feelings – ensure the student that you’re offering a safe place to share his or her feelings and experiences. Click here for specific tips on helping children cope with grief and loss.
  2. Reframe the student’s thinking – demonstrate how the student can focus on what he or she has control over, such as washing hands, taking vitamins, wearing a face mask, and remaining six feet away from others.
  3. Prevent misunderstandings because of face coverings – click here for specific tips on communicating effectively with a face mask.
  4. Refer the student to a counselor – if the student needs additional support, suggest a visit to the school counselor, if one is available.


And don’t forget - your mental health is just as important as the students’. When you are rested and relaxed, you can better help others. Here are some healthy ways to manage anxiety and stress according to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories
  • Exercise and eat healthy
  • Make time to unwind with activities that are relaxing to you
  • Connect with others such as friends, family, and your community at large


Shop MacGill’s selection of positive affirmation posters here and mental health education here.

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