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Ask the expert: What’s anxiety?
August 1, 2023

William Rowen Healthy Roar reporters recently spoke with Mrs. Parker, Rowen school counselor, about anxiety and what people can do if they’re feeling anxious. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What is anxiety? What are the symptoms?

Mrs. Parker: Anxiety is a fear, a fear of the unpredictable of what may happen in the future, a fear of dreadfulness, uneasiness. It’s an uneasy type of feel- ing. If you are playing basketball or doing an activity in gym and it’s your turn, you may be anxious because you don’t want to mess up.

Question: What are the causes of anxiety?

Mrs. Parker: There could be different causes of anxiety. Experiences that a person had in their life could cause them to now have anxiety. Sometimes people don’t actually know. That’s when therapy can be very important because you can have a professional sit down with you and talk about what the individual cause. It could be childhood experiences, that as they continue to grow older makes them feel anxious or uneasy about the future. It could be a stressful or traumatic experience that a person experienced in their lifetime.

Question: Is it normal to have anxiety?

Mrs. Parker: Yes, it is normal to feel some anxiety, like the example in the gym room. Another example is knowing your family might not be happy about something you did in school and you’re wondering if you’re going to get in trouble. You might have a test and you want to pass but you feel like you don’t know the material. You might be afraid you won’t do so well. Having some anxiety is a normal thing. The problem is when you have a difficult time being able to control it. If you aren’t able to control it, that’s when it becomes a problem.

Question: What should you do if you are anxious about something?

Mrs. Parker: When you’re anxious, it’s just like every other problem you might face. You have to think about it as a problem. “I don’t like this feeling of uneasiness. Maybe I can take some breaths. I can sit and calm down.” Think about strategies that you have for dealing with problems. Talk to yourself in your head—ask yourself: “Why am I feeling so nervous?”

If you find yourself feeling anxious about a test, you can talk to yourself: “I’ve been doing my home- work and paying attention to my teacher, I know that this is a feeling I’m having but I’ve got this. Even though it’s a feeling, I don’t HAVE to feel this way. I have some control over this feeling.” Search for some answers that will give you some peace.

Use whatever strategies you use to typically calm yourself down. Maybe chill, read a book, watch TV, play a game. Exercise, take a walk, get on the phone and call your friend, text your friend, call your grand- mom, auntie, cousin, somebody you know who cares about you and loves you. It might just be sitting with them. You might have an older brother or sister that

you talk to, tell them how you’re feeling and they can help you out.

You’re not too young to see a therapist. You can say, “Mom, Dad, maybe we can schedule a time for me to see a therapist.” Sometimes your parents don’t have the answers. You might have to find a professional.

Question: What can kids do to help themselves if they are feeling anxious?

Mrs. Parker: Think about strategies that you use to calm yourself down. Take some of the things I said for that last one. Face your fears—sometimes you have to face it and say, “OK, Big Bad Wolf; OK, Hard Thing, I don’t know about this, I don’t know how this is going end, but you know what? I’m moving forward any- way.” And you might just watch it unravel, you can step right over and keep on moving. You say to your- self, “I see you, and I’m not afraid of a bogeyman.”

Question: Do you ever get rid of my anxiety by writing about your day?

Mrs. Parker: You can write your fears down. You might have anxiety because you run out of time. By writing down what you need to do, you become aware of what you need to do and can avoid the anxiety.

Illustration by Kaylee, seventh grade, La Salle Academy.

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