An Ill-structured problem: helping students with anxiety

Ill-structured problems are problems whose variables change, and whose solutions vary greatly. A high school classroom is full of ill-structured problems. As teachers we are constantly trying to find out what works best in our classrooms, to help students be as successful as possible. Recently, I took a deeper look at helping students with anxiety.

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Although the causes of anxiety disorder are unclear, it is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in society (Stein and Stein, 2008). However, anxiety disorders are highly treatable with patients finding success through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and various pharmacological treatments (Stein and Stein, 2008). So it is very likely that I will have students with anxiety disorders, but it’s possible to help them improve. 

Students with anxiety disorders often struggle in school. Students with anxiety have difficulty concentrating on work, giving oral reports, and taking tests and exams. (Nail et al, 2014) As these are areas of particular concern in a high school classroom, I wanted to know what I could do to assist students in gaining appropriate coping skills.

After some searching I found the Mindshift, CBT app. Mindshift is intended to be downloaded and used on a personal basis.  I took a look at it in the video below.

Mindshift has a bright, colorful, easy to manage interface. Students can use it to learn coping strategies, and as a mood journal. I liked the information given, but the coping strategies were not very interactive, and may not hold the attention of all students. Mindshift should not be used as an alternative to therapy, but it could complement professional therapy with its ‘share’ features that allows users to email their journals. I think it has some really useful features and strategies, and I would like to try introducing them in my classroom. All students can benefit from self-calming routines, as such coping strategies are lifelong skills.


Nail, J. E., Christofferson, J., Ginsburg, G. S., Drake, K., Kendall, P. C., Mccracken, J. T., . . . Sakolsky, D. (2014). Academic impairment and impact of treatments among youth with anxiety disorders. Child & Youth Care Forum,44(3), 327-342. doi:10.1007/s10566-014-9290-x

Stein, M. B., & Stein, D. J. (2008). Social anxiety disorder. The Lancet,(Mar 29 – Apr4), 371, 1115-25. Retrieved July 2, 2019.