No matter how much you study, no matter how much you plan ahead, the night before an exam you’re tossing and turning in bed with anxiety. The fear of failure is too much, and it causes your mind to spiral with the “what ifs” of getting a B or an even worse grade. If you don’t do well on this test, your GPA could tank. And if you don’t get a 4.0 this semester, you won’t have the credentials your peers will when applying for grad school programs.
Thoughts like these swirl through your mind as exams and due dates creep nearer and nearer. Everyone says you’re being too hard on yourself, but you just can’t believe that. If you get perfect grades, everything else will just fall into place. If you can excel in this part of your life, everything in the future will be taken care of. Right?
The Pressure to Succeed
Many college students find themselves panicking when it comes to grades. There is an immense level of pressure that comes with getting a degree and a high GPA to accompany it. There are financial pressures, like keeping a scholarship, but there are also social pressures that come from friends and parents.
For many of the college students I work with at my therapy practice in Nashville, TN, getting good grades has been an expectation since kindergarten. In many families, A’s are the only acceptable grades. And while it’s important that families and parents hold children accountable to reach their highest potential, grades aren’t everything.
If your parents have questioned you about your grades throughout elementary, middle, and high school, then it makes sense that you’d have a hard time accepting anything under an A. It’s likely that you’ve felt like you’re under a microscope when it comes to academics. So when you come to college, you’re used to the expectation of perfection. But getting an A on every single exam and assignment just isn’t feasible anymore.
Putting Expectations on Yourself
Remember, you’re in a whole new phase of life! It’s probable that you’ve moved out of your home, are living in a less than comfortable living situation, and are adjusting to the intensified workload of college. And if you’re like many of the clients I work with, you probably have a job, take all the responsibility in group projects, have a double major, and have a million other things going on. You’re trying to do it all. And realistically, the only expectations that matter these days are your own. You get to set the pace of your study life, work-life, and personal life. But at this point, you’ve set expectations for yourself so high that anything less than perfect feels like a total failure.
What does “failure” look like for you? Does that really mean getting a B on your next exam? Or is it bigger than that? Many of my clients’ deeper fears are about not getting a job out of undergrad or not getting accepted at their dream school. The clients I work with are smart! They know that it takes hard work to make their dreams a reality. But they also have a hard time letting go of control and perfectionism.
Battling Perfectionism with Anxiety Treatment
There are many reasons that my clients justify perfectionistic tendencies and an obsession with their grades. One of the main reasons I see at my Nashville, TN practice is anxiety. Many college students have low-level or nonexistent anxiety before starting school. But the pressures of perfectionism can really ramp up the effects of anxiety, causing you to feel panicked about your future and unable to live in the present.
A major impact of anxiety is rigid beliefs. And the expectation to get A’s on everything is certainly that… a rigid belief. When I work with clients in anxiety treatment who are struggling with perfectionism with grades, we work on this rigidity. Now don’t get me wrong, I want you to get good grades! But I also want you to enjoy your life and find fulfillment in other areas. So, in anxiety treatment, we’ll explore where the perfectionistic tendencies come from.
- Are your grades a self-worth score? Is that why it’s so upsetting when you get a B?
- Do you fear your parents’ reactions if you get less than an A?
- Does getting good grades help you feel in control when everything else feels out of control?
How Anxiety Treatment in Nashville, TN Helps
When you meet with me for anxiety treatment, these are some of the exploratory questions we’ll dive into. By addressing the rigidness of your thought patterns, we’ll start disarming anxious thoughts and panic attacks. With time and practice, we can get your anxiety in check and help it become more manageable.
Plus, we’ll help you get some basic coping skills. Getting some good tools in your toolbox for managing anxiety can help you lower your overall stress levels so that a “bad” grade doesn’t become a trigger for a panic attack.
And I can help you look at the big picture and find ways to cut yourself some slack… Remember that the whole world has been messed up due to COVID? We’re all off our game! Or what about your class schedule? Is there a way that we can help you become more productive with a scheduling change? And remember all those extracurriculars you do? There could be a way to cut out a couple of those. With the help of an anxiety therapist, you can really make some changes in the expectations you place on yourself, which will help you better manage your anxiety and panic about grades.
Get Started with Anxiety Treatment in Nashville, TN
As an anxiety therapist, I have seen the power of talking through black and white thinking and rigid beliefs. Processing deeply held beliefs about what grades and what they mean about us as people can make a huge difference in college students’ mental health. This is a time of your life meant for self-exploration. And when anxiety is holding you back, starting anxiety treatment in Nashville, TN can help you start that self-discovery journey. Learn more about my online therapy services and schedule a free consultation call to see if we’re a good fit for your mental health needs.