It’s that time again after the summer break we’re we are buying new equipment and stationery ready for our new year of school, Sixth Form, College or maybe even University. I don’t know about you but living with anxiety can be hard to cope with when new chapters are starting. So I thought I would share with you some of my tips with coping with the new academic year when you’re feeling anxious.
If you are doing higher education at college or university chances are you probably had to go and have an interview with a tutor who teaches on the course you want to do to see if you have got a place on your wanted course. When you get an offer this can be very exciting however the day before you start you might have those ever so helpful doubting thoughts wizzing around your head like crazy. To help me to deal with these unhelpful thoughts I like to write down statements of what I am looking forward to doing or learning on the course for example going on trips or having guest speakers come in. By doing this it helps me to focus on the positives, you might want to write them on your phone or write them down in a notebook that you keep beside your bed or maybe on post it notes and put them around your house.
I would also go into your school, college or university before you start to talk about your concerns for example about your anxiety. I have found that if they know before hand they can support you in making sure you are alright and feel comfortable. I also found this useful as I was told about different departments that I could go to if I felt I wanted to go somewhere more quite or to get additional support for example I could talk to a student development officer.
When you start to pack your school bag make sure you’ve got all that you need. But to help with my anxiety I also like to add to my bag things like a stress ball or maybe even an emergency paper bag that I can use if I feel a panic attack coming on. I do this because it helps me to feel more prepared if something was to happened.
On The Day
When you arrive at your school, college or university for the first day it can sometimes hit you when you reach the entrance. This can make me feel very uncomfortable and worried. I think everyone is looking at me and talking about me. To help me with this I like to pick a letter at random and then try and find as many things as I can beginning with that letter.
My last tip would be don’t put pressure on yourself to talk to everyone or to get to know other students. What I like to do because I find it hard to talk to lots of people is give myself a target of talking to one of the other students and if I talk to more that’s great . I feel that if I put too much pressure on myself then my anxiety gets worse. So go at your own pace theirs no right or wrong answer.
I hope some of these will help you too, I would love to know some of your top tips!
The night before results day I still remember like it was yesterday. My thoughts in my head racing around at a hundred miles an hour.
Did I put my name on the paper? Did I do the right level paper? Did I answer the right questions? Did I read the questions correctly? What if I don’t get the grades?
With all these thoughts and emotions running wild whilst I was lying in my bed. My heart began to race and I knew I was going into a panic attack. So I tried to do my visualisation techniques I had learnt in therapy.
Throughout my time at school I had never been one of the high achieving students in my year. I found writing hard not only because I found spelling tricky but also making sure my writing was going in a straight line. I did a lot of practicing with writing in my OT sessions. It took me longer to write things down than my peers. I found maths extremely difficult I saw it in a way that not many other people did, I found it so confusing.
Looking back now doing all that revision, opening the first pages of that exam paper, then thinking after the exam if I would pass or not and just hoping I would. This time in my life was so stressful I was with CAMHS and being diagnosed with anxiety and depression let alone the fact I was getting bullied at school the minute got in through the school gates.
That night lying awake in my bed just wanting to know my grades the following day. Counting down the time when I would go to school for the last time pick up an envelope and see these grades staring back at me. I believed that my results had the power to not only change my whole life but dictate it too!
However my family and close friends reminded me that I was more than just some letters on a piece of paper. All those things exams don’t test like the fact I want to help others or that my strengths were outside the school grounds like horse riding. My mum said to me we don’t just need doctors or lawyers everyone has a special skill they can offer to the world however big or small they may seem.
I know it’s terrifying and scary and you may feel like these grades will plan out your whole life. Doing all those practice tests then having to mark them to see if you would have passed an old exam paper. Your grades do not own you and do not have the power to stop you being who you are!
You’re going to be OK . Follow your heart and follow your dreams show the world who you really are because we are all worth more than some letters and numbers on a piece of paper and all have special skills to offer the world!
You’re going to be OK!
When I am at college I sometimes find expressing my emotions to others very challenging. As I can feel threatened in this environment due to my past experiences at school with being bullied. The bullying affected me so much doctors diagnosed me with PTSD. To help me process and communicate with others I sometimes use communication aids to help me express myself in ways I feel safe and comfortable to do so.
To help me communicate with others I have done Lego Therapy with my support staff but also in small groups with other students. Lego Therapy is all about trying to identify your emotions by putting a colour to it. For example my happy colour is yellow and my safe colour is green. I use Lego because sometimes I might be feeling more than one emotion so we stack the Lego bricks onto each other.
Lego helps me because in the past whilst doing this with other students I have had to do our whole week in colour. By seeing my week visually using Lego has helped me to understand that my emotions can be mixed and that is ok. Doing this has helped me to identify why I might be feeling upset and other emotions during the week. Talking it through with colours makes me feel more relaxed in sharing how I maybe feeling to others. By dong group sessions it has helped me to understand that I am not “silly” for feeling some emotions as others can feel similar emotions to me in some situations.
By using colour I have been able to cope better with my feelings and thoughts rushing around in my head at 100 miles an hour. Sometimes when this happens I don’t know what’s going on.However if I can find a colour that best describes how I am feeling this can help to slow down my thought process into a more manageable way and it becomes less scary and less overwhelming for me.
I use this to also help me to tell others how the voices I live with are making me feel. I have coloured circles attached to my bag which I take with me all the time. Each circle is a different colour with the emotion it makes me feel on it too. So if I am out and about and feel I can’t tell someone how I am I can show them the coloured circle I am feeling. By having the circles with me makes it more discreet when out and about as I don’t need to get Lego out.
I find using this resource also really useful after I have had a seizure as I can find it very hard to communicate with others because I find it hard to speak or I am hard for others to understand.
I am now able to use this if I need to when I’m out and about with support workers, my family and friends. Using Lego has helped me a lot in understanding emotions and that it is ok to have mixed emotions!