From a Senior, Female: Anxiety: To make sure we are all on the same page, let’s first define anxiety and then put it into context. Anxiety in a psychiatric context is defined as “a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.” This means that the person with anxiety is worried about certain things during certain moments, how many worries there are at one given time differs for everyone. Putting this into the context of a student, this could look like a student who is worried about grades and schoolwork meaning that every time they take a test or a quiz their breathing increases and they become shaky. For others who have social anxiety, this could mean that they are uncomfortable and on edge in social situations where they stutter, isolate themselves, or avoid social interactions altogether. There are many different ways that anxiety manifests and for teens, this can make managing it a whole lot more difficult.
In my experience at Morgan, some students struggle with being in the lunchroom and having to be among peers in a social setting. This is challenging for many students because school is inherently stressful and lunch and other times outside of the classroom are supposed to be brain breaks, but when your brain is constantly worrying this brain break turns into an exercise. Aside from social anxiety, students struggle in the classroom to raise their hands to answer a question for fear of being judged, being wrong, or just speaking up. Many teachers try hard to make sure that students know their voices are valued and that no answer is not worth saying. I have heard time and time again “if you have a question there’s a good chance someone else has that same question too.” Nevertheless, the classroom can put some students in a headspace where they persistently worry and it is as if their thoughts are on a hamster wheel and they can’t step off it.
So now the question becomes what can we do about anxiety? How can we fix it or improve the way it affects our students? One simple action is talking about it. If we normalize the conversation around anxiety it will help those who it affects to feel less alone in their struggles and it will allow for progress to be made. REACT has already begun to normalize anxiety in Morgan and throughout Clinton. As we continue to focus on talking about this mental health issue, it is important to make resources known to students including therapy, both in Clinton and Morgan, and outside at private practices. Aside from talk therapy, it is helpful to encourage everyone to practice self-care. Self-care is not necessarily a bubble bath or going to a salon but rather doing a daily meditation or gratitude exercise, eating well and treating your body with respect, and taking a breathing break when you need it. If we practice preventative mental wellness techniques it will reduce the frequency and intensity of breakdowns on a day-to-day basis.