Let’s talk about Anxiety
Summer break is sometimes an emotional break from frustrations associated with school. You know which frustrations I am referring to: the homework overload, the cliques, the bullies, the crowds, and the fear of rejection, fear of failure, the isolation, and meeting the expectations of others and ourselves. There are those who are able to manage the stress related to school without experiencing depression or anxiety symptoms and there are those who struggle managing.
What is Anxiety?
The average person experiences some anxiety at some point in their life. Events like going on your first date, going to a job interview, getting ready for a party, or preparing for a performance. You may experience rapid breathing, increased heart rate, perspiration, rapid thoughts, and/or wringing of the hands. With manageable anxiety, you can take your anxiety or nervous energy and turn it into something productive. If you are anxious about a job interview, maybe you will double check the resume, do some extra research on the company, leave a little earlier for the interview, or talk about your anxiety with a friend.
Anxiety becomes unhealthy when your symptoms have elevated to the point of giving you pause about even going to the interview, and at worst, you may not even apply for new jobs in fear of what could possibly happen without any evidence to support your fears. So, how does anxiety affect someone in school? Imagine wanting to make a new friend, but your anxious thoughts are playing the “what if” game. What if they don’t like me? What if I say something stupid? What if they don’t like my clothes? What if I don’t fit in with their friends? What if they don’t understand my sense of humor? What if they want to hang out and I don’t think I can do that? What if I am meant to be alone? Is it supposed to be this hard, I don’t think it is supposed to be this hard, so why do I even try? Anxiety presents itself as an untamed circus-running wild in the brain while your body struggles to keep up. Having thoughts like this playing over and over in your head can be overwhelming to say the least, and at times debilitating. The question of the day is, how do we manage the anxiety?
Speak rationally to the irrational thoughts.
When the circus that is your thoughts start to run amuck, become a ringmaster that tames the anxious thoughts by challenging them. Challenging distorted thoughts is also called fact checking. Fact checking is the process of verifying if the lies your brain creates are actually true. Think of it like this, my brain says “you are a failure, so why even try” and as a result my urge is to not try new things, which means I am unlikely to tryout for the sports team, change jobs, make new friends, or study for an exam because I have convinced myself that I am doomed to fail. How do you challenge that thought? Think of all the times you have been successful at something, big or small. This is the time when you get to dig into your memory banks and pull out the good things you’ve done, like the time you made a delicious meal for your family and guess what, it was a success. What about the time you pulled out an A on that spelling or math test, guess what, that was a success. Oh, and that time you potty trained your child, or obtained your driver’s license, or finished that book, or started a project and actually finished it. What about the time you were offered a new job, or that one time you kept that fish you won at the county fair alive way past that week long life expectancy, that my friend, is an example of success and proves that you have not always been a failure.
When and how do I start
Right now! You know what recurring thoughts are swimming in your brain that are feeding your anxiety. Find the least persistent one and start there. Whenever you are starting something new or attempting to make changes in your life remember SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Oriented. When you start small and are successful in doing so, you are building strength and resiliency. It is never too late or too early to start changing your thoughts. You owe it to yourself to at least try.