Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The growth of anxiety in young people (2017 Term 1 Week 10)

It is a rare person who never gets anxious. In fact, anxiety is a normal response to stress and it can be helpful. Anxiety can motivate us to get things done, such as meeting deadlines, and it can alert us to a dangerous situation where we may be at risk. There is nothing inherently bad about the experience of anxiety, but I increasingly encounter members of the school community who are becoming anxious about being anxious. It is helpful to be informed about the nature of anxiety and the roles that parents and educators can play in helping the young people in our lives to cope with their experience of anxiety.


The first thing to understand is that there is a difference between being anxious and having an anxiety disorder. This blog focusses more on the normal experience of anxiety than it does on anxiety disorders. 

The nature of life is that we will inevitably encounter stressors that will cause us to become anxious temporarily, usually until the stressful moment or issue passes. At this basic level, anxiety is simply fear. In the lead up to formal assessment tasks, particularly in the senior years of high school, some experience of anxiety is normal. Learning how to manage and to cope with this level of anxiety is a valuable life-skill. At Inaburra, the school counsellors have access to helpful resources and run programs to help students build their personal capacity to cope.

Many of the coping strategies with this level of anxiety are common-sense. Articulating the fear and talking it through with a trusted person can be a helpful way of bringing perspective. Channeling and directing the anxiety into performance and task completion is an excellent habit to build. Structured problem-solving can be a good way to learn to resolve the stressor. Exercise is always of benefit, as are habits of relaxation. There are no shortage of places online where strategies to cope with anxiety can be found, including here and here.

As parents of children and young people experiencing anxiety, there are things that we can do that unwittingly compound the challenges for their child. One of our counsellors recently brought this article to my attention, and I commend it to you. The reality continues to be that the influence of parents, for good and for ill, has a profound formative experience on children.

As previously stated, anxiety is a normal human experience. The Scriptures speak to this reality in the following well-known Bible passage from the fourth chapter of Paul's letter to the Philippians.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The knowledge that, as John Calvin put it, 'God's fatherly face is turned towards us in love' is a wonderful antidote to anxiety. If you want to know more about the peace which transcends all understanding, I encourage you to join with billions around the world in gathering to celebrate Easter this year. God bless

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