Anxiety: you’re probably doing it wrong

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Emma Bernick

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I’ve seen and heard the word almost everywhere I go. Anxiety. With mental health awareness becoming increasingly emphasized in our modern society, the topic has found its way into countless conversations, classrooms, media outlets and other social platforms. However, despite the progressive social acceptance of mental illness, I’ve noticed that some of the actions taken in light of the global discussion have been more harmful than helpful.

The societal philosophy that removing oneself from an anxiety-inducing situation is a reliable coping mechanism has a growing prevalence in the human psyche. This common misconception of anxiety being a valid excuse to avoid certain things is a discrete danger that can end up enabling anxiety rather than controlling it.

Junior Danielle Stevens was diagnosed with anxiety when she was in eighth grade, but has learned to manage it over the years. Stevens uses various methods to calm herself down and believes she harnesses most of the tools needed to relieve an anxiety attack.

“There was this thing I learned in therapy called a five second breath. You inhale for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, and exhale for five seconds. It really helps me take in my surroundings and calm me down,” Stevens said.

While snuggling up in the warm cocoon of your bed may sound enticing, it isn’t doing anything to help you control your anxiety. Incrementally exposing yourself to whatever causes your anxiety familiarizes it and provides you with a sense of control. Pushing oneself is highly important, but taking things one step at a time and incorporating small breaks can make the process less daunting. Knowing the difference between taking a break and giving up is vital to taming the disorder.

Farrah Roberts is the mental health grant manager for the district and teaches mental health first aid to students and teachers throughout DSCD.

“You know what you’re feeling. You know what your thinking better than anybody, and being able to advocate for yourself is a major skill,” Roberts said.

I must warn you, this will not be fun. I know how challenging anxiety can be, I’ve been in the position countless times myself. In spite of this, self-reliance is the best gift you can give yourself. It’s like exercise. When you’re trying to get in good physical shape, running can be terrible. However, the more you do it, the easier it will become, and the farther you will run.

Learning support specialist Pamela Kirsch manages dropouts in the district and works alongside Roberts to promote mental wellness to students and teachers alike.

“There are things you have to do and face in life in order to live the life you want,” Kirsch said.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to discover your limits. You will never be able to know how far you can go if you never take the first step. Seek out what terrifies you and stare it down. A life lived in fear is not a life well-lived.

This piece is a follow up to the article featured in Volume 59 Issue 1 of the Beak ‘n’ Eye newspaper, titled ‘Anxiety isn’t always an excuse’.