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Anxiety about academic writing: I'm afraid

Learn more about techniques and tools to help you if you feel anxious about academic writing

You might be feeling:

  • I'm afraid of being judged or criticized.
  • I'm afraid that I'm not as smart or capable as other students.
  • I'm feeling overwhelmed and I don't even know where to start.
  • I'm already struggling in my class, and I'm afraid I'm going to fail this essay. If I don't pass the essay, I'll fail the course. If that happens, I may have to quit my program, and then I'll have failed myself and the people who support me.

What can you do right now?

Emotional strategies

Feeling afraid is not pleasant, so we generally try to avoid doing the thing that is making us afraid. The problem with this strategy is that avoiding the thing that scares us actually tends to make our fears stronger. Rather than trying to avoid fears about your writing, try the following approaches:

  • Consider your fear from a rational perspective and ask yourself these questions:  What are you actually afraid of? How realistic is the outcome you're afraid of? What can you do to protect yourself from that outcome?
  • Pay attention to where you're feeling the fear in your body. Now try a few long, slow, deep breaths. How does that part of your body feel now?
  • Try facing your fear straight on by setting yourself a small writing goal and then do it.
  • Ask for help from the Counselling Centre, the Writing Centre, and your instructor to give yourself the best opportunity to feel supported. 

Writing strategies

  • Listen to a pep talk about the anxieties typically experienced by new graduate students: Gradschoolitis.
  • If you're feeling overwhelmed, start at step one ("Understand the Assignment") in "How to write an undergraduate-level essay" or "How to write a graduate-level essay". Use the 12-step process provided in each guide to help you move step-by-step through the process.
    of completing your document.
  • Make an appointment to speak with your instructor to learn more about what you need to do to ensure you pass the essay. Once you have that information, book an appointment to speak with us in the Writing Centre so we can provide suggestions and information to help you succeed.

Ask for help

Counselling Services
(250) 391-2600 ext. 4515  
Book an appointment

Writing Centre
(250) 391-2600, ext. 4353 or 1-800-788-8028
Book an appointment