I find articulating the notion of anxiety very difficult. The Oxford dictionary outlines it as follows …
‘Feeling or showing worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.’
It is interesting when looking at the first part of the definition ‘feeling OR showing…’
This rather succinctly suggests that anxiety can be expressed (through any manner of behaviours) or internalised (stored up inside).
I think about a person’s anxiety levels being like an unopened bottle of fizzy drink. Every time something happens to ‘worry’ somebody, the bottle of drink get vigorously shaken.
If this occurs once or twice during a day the bottle will be okay to open in the evening.
However if the bottle is so vigorously shaken then we end up with an explosion.
This evening Joe exploded.
Rather than a number of events occurring during the day, it was how Joe ended the day that caused his anxiety levels to skyrocket.
Joe was due to be picked up from school by his brother. However due to unforeseen circumstances this could not happen. Instead Joe was picked up by his father.
It is perfectly normal for Joe to be picked up by his father.
But Joe was prepared for somebody else.
Joe’s underlying communication difficulties and elevated anxiety levels meant that he had a meltdown.
I discovered this as I called him on my way home (which I do two or three times a week). Joe had been at cooking club so I expected to hear him talk about a cake he had made. Instead Joe was devastated and would only talk about his journey home from school.
Eventually Joe calmed down and realised everything was ok.
I cannot imagine suffering with that level of anxiety. A level of anxiety that profoundly affects my life.
I can imagine part of it.
I have always been incredibly worried when introducing myself to groups of people, almost always adults.
That sounds fairly strange for a teacher.
When I am due to introduce myself to a group of adults my heart races, my mouth goes dry and my breathing rate skyrockets.
It is unpleasant but I have long since accepted how I feel in these situations.
I have felt like this for as long as I can remember but I have learnt to hide it when I find myself in those situations.
I worry about how successful I was at hiding it for a long time afterwards.
We all suffer with anxiety but it is how we deal with it that is important.
When Joe felt like this a while ago I told him to copy my breathing rate and I told him to lower his shoulders.
This evening Joe was able to lower his breathing rate and calmed down somewhat.
It would have been nice to talk about the cake Joe made at cooking club, but on this occasion Joe’s anxiety levels were more important than cake…
Rather than a joke to end this post I will instead ask this
‘Does our society do enough to help people’s anxiety levels? Do we care for our young people’s wellbeing as much as their academic success?’