Editor's note: The Deseret News asked members of the community to share their experiences with anxiety. Read their stories here.
Kindergarten. Sixth grade. Ninth grade. Those were the years that I had anxiety the worst. They were the years of new expectations. Grading was harder, classes were harder, more was expected of me. And I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to succeed. Not just succeed, but be among the best, if not THE best. Growing up, I had panic attacks and anxiety because I was a perfectionist and I was afraid that I would fail.
I was afraid I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. Maybe I would misunderstand an assignment and do it completely wrong and not receive credit. Maybe I would forget to do a project. Maybe I wouldn’t remember what I studied and completely bomb a test.
And there was also some social anxiety. It was hard for me to make friends and connect with other kids my age.
For example, when I was in kindergarten, I was outside eating lunch with my class. There was a boy sitting next to me and it was loud with all the many 5-year-olds talking outside. I yelled something at him and he didn’t respond. I was pretty sure I just made him go deaf. Probably not even possible, but I had major anxiety and could not think about anything else for the rest of the day for fear that I had hurt that boy.
When I was around the same age, I called 911 just to see what would happen and then quickly hung up. I am now aware that’s not a good idea. Well they called my house back and my dad answered the phone. My parents then explained to me that it was important to not call 911 unless there was a real emergency.
Then I was pretty sure that I had blocked an important call to the police department and thus killed someone who needed help because they couldn’t get through.
I had major anxiety that I had killed someone. Irrational, but they were real fears. And honestly, sometimes I still have thoughts like that as I’m raising my own children. But I have learned to walk myself through the scenario to see if it’s even possible and usually do an online search to see if I should really be worried. Thank heaven for Google!
Fortunately, as a kid, my parents were understanding and were willing to reach out to my teachers. And as I got older, it became a little easier until eventually as an adult, I no longer have those panic attacks.
Here are some things that helped me get through those hard years:
Meet with your teachers
Don’t be afraid to talk to your teachers about what you’re going through. When I was a kid, my mom was worried about me and my anxiety. She met with my kindergarten teacher to see how I was doing. I also remember having a meeting after school with all of my teachers in sixth grade to talk about my anxiety, how I felt, and how they could help. They were so kind and willing to help me when I needed it.
Most teachers care about their students and want to see them succeed. Just having them aware of my situation made it easier for me to talk to them or for them to check on me to make sure I was doing all right. See if you can set up a meeting with a trusted teacher or counselor and I think you’ll be surprised how helpful and understanding they are.
Positive self talk
Fight negative thoughts with positive thoughts. As I got older, I would tell myself positive things like, “I can do this” or “I’ve done well before, I can do this again” or “Everything is going to be OK.” I would take a few deep breaths and try to clear my mind. I found I would do better on tests or assignments if I could be calm and not let my mind get worked up so I couldn’t think.
And it was important for me to remember that even if I didn’t do well, that it wasn’t going to be the end of the world. My family still loved me and I was still an intelligent girl. Pick a positive phrase you can say to yourself the next time you’re in a stressful situation.
Get professional help
Don’t be afraid of getting professional help. My family has a history with depression and anxiety. For our family, it’s often a chemical imbalance, so medication is usually needed to help us control our thoughts and feelings. We went to the doctor and I did take medication to help with my anxiety. I also met with the school counselor when my anxiety was worse. I found that I didn’t need the medication all the time.
My anxiety was always worse at the beginning of the school year and when I changed schools, so I could take the medication when needed and then go off of it. I no longer need medication for anxiety, but I was afraid that if I took it, I would always need it. That isn’t always true. If you need medication or a counselor, it’s not a life sentence. Do what’s right for you now and something else may be right for you later.
Be confident in who you are
Remember that you have unique talents and abilities. When I was in high school, my anxiety decreased a lot and now I no longer call myself a perfectionist. I realized that I didn’t need to be perfect and that I wasn’t perfect. I realized that I wasn’t going to be the best, but I could still do well. In second and third grade, we had class awards that the students voted on. One of those was “the smartest” and I was voted as “the smartest” in my class both those years. I was excited about it, but it also put a lot of pressure on me to always be the smartest. I had to be the best because everyone thought I was.
In seventh grade, we had a similar thing, but this time it was for our entire class of over 700 students. This time, I wasn’t voted as the smartest. I think that was an important experience for me. I didn’t need to be the smartest because not everyone thought I was. At first it was disappointing, but looking back, it was liberating to allow me to just be me. Not matter what that looked like.
I also took the time to come closer to Christ. I went to early morning seminary each day, I read my scriptures, I went to church every Sunday and other church activities, I had good friends who uplifted me.Comment on this story
I understood that I was a daughter of God and that he loved me. He didn’t need me to be perfect, just to try my best and that he would make up the difference. That is a hard place to get to, especially when struggling with anxiety, but if you can get there, it will make all the difference. You don’t need to be perfect. Sister Patricia Holland said, “We must have the courage to be imperfect while striving for perfection.”
Be confident in yourself and your abilities. You can do this!
Alexis Tanner is a wife and stay-at-home mom to five kids. She is a blogger, writer and podcaster and can be found at www.alexistannerlane.com. She enjoys encouraging others as well as baking, reading, teaching and traveling with her family.