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To the Student With Anxiety, From a Teacher Who’s Been There

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As the school year approaches (faster than we want it to), some students are experiencing an ample amount of anxiety. Everything from figuring out who will be their teacher, to seeing who’s in their class and everything in between. Being a special education teacher and having my own conditions allows me to view things from a different perspective. It allows me to tap into my experiences and provide some insight to the child who may have no other outlet.

Last year, I encountered a student who was having an anxiety attack. The student was distraught, debilitated by his thoughts. So we sat at the table and talked it out. He professed his worries about his home life, daily struggles and overall anxiety of the world around him. He was so consumed by his thoughts, he couldn’t function.

As the hyperventilating and tears progressed, I expressed to him he was safe, cared for and the things he was concerned about were out of his control. I clearly remember this interaction because it was one of the first times I told a student I had an anxiety disorder. He seemed shocked and taken aback because, I assume, he didn’t think teachers had anxiety or that a teacher would be able to relate to him.

Time progressed and he relocated for a few minutes to regain composure. That day, I felt like I provided a positive example of coping with anxiety for him. That day, I truly felt like I helped someone in the way many people have helped me.

Now, here’s what I want to tell any student who struggles with anxiety.

Dear (insert your name here),

These golden nuggets below are for the student with anxiety, depression or any other condition from the perspective of an anxiety-riddled teacher.

Golden Nugget #1: You are not alone.

Your mind likes to play mean tricks on you. It makes you think you’re losing control, but you’re actually stable. It makes you feel like you’re not safe, but know you are protected. Anxiety will cause you to overanalyze people’s intentions and make you feel like it’s you against the world.  Please, know you’re not alone.

Golden Nugget #2: It’s OK to ask for help.

Please, ask for help. I’m not a mind reader. My goal is to help you. If there’s something you need, then ask. I know you’ll be stewing over whether people will think less of you. Trust me, I was that kid. Know it’s OK to ask. I would rather you ask and have the tools you need to complete the task rather than sit, anxiously hoping I walk by your desk.

Golden Nugget #3: Be honest.

Simple as that. Admit you’re having an issue and we will try our best to come up with a plan to diffuse the situation. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Golden Nugget #4: Express your emotions, appropriately.

I understand it’s easier said than done. Teachers understand every kid isn’t going to be “on point” every day. It’s OK. Tell your teachers when you feel anxious, if you’re having a bad day or ask for ideas of how to better express yourself. I’ve learned throughout the years writing is my outlet, but everyone is different. Your outlet may be drawing, singing or dancing. Find something to make you happy!

Golden Nugget #5: Everything will be OK.

As I said beforehand, your mind will be mean to you. Know that everyone around you isn’t a monster, making fun of you or out for you. You’re not alone. Try to go out and make friendships. I know that’ll be difficult, but you have to start from somewhere. Everything will be OK! Yes, you may have an anxiety attack and feel no one may understand, but you are stronger than your condition.

You may take these nuggets with a grain of salt, but you should know you are stronger than your condition. It’s an uphill battle that requires daily conquering, but you are absolutely capable. You are brighter than your darkest thoughts. You are more powerful than your negative thoughts and you will be successful this school year!

The Anxiety-Riddled Teacher

Originally published: August 4, 2016
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