It’s hard to believe, (Especially here in Arizona where we’re still averaging about 105 degrees), but a new school year is on the horizon. Some of our kiddos have already started! The first day of school is such an important milestone and Laura’s grandkids hit that one this morning as they began a new school year.
Her grandson is also hitting another major milestone. He’s starting junior high today.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but the minute I hear the phrase “junior high,” a MILLION images pop into my head from that time. No small feat considering how many *cough* decades I am removed from that time of my life, but again, again, THIS ISN’T ABOUT ME!
Before the three of us began our day, Laura checked in with her daughter about how things were going, and the conversation quickly turned to the first day of school jitters. The advice that Laura was giving in regards to the anxiety that comes with a new school year was so fantastic (Yes, I was eavesdropping!) that I scribbled down notes and said: “THIS IS A BLOG POST!!”
Here’s the thing, every year there are articles galore about kids and the first day of school jitters. Experts, life coaches, and parents alike all weigh in on how to deal with the anxiety that may come with the beginning of a new school year. It’s a big deal, whether kids are looking forward to going back, dreading it, or somewhere in between.
And, lest we forget, last year’s first day of school took place in bedrooms and behind laptops across the country. This year, nearly everyone is back to in-person learning. Cue the anxiety!
Laura and Katy are instinctively able to tap into the best ways to normalize anxiety on an individual basis. This is due in large part to their OVER 20 years of expertise in the field, and from helping hundreds of people learn to rethink their anxiety (Get it?).
They will be the first to tell you that your anxiety symptoms are not just something that you can turn off or shove down, no matter what you’re told.
And even though I am not a mom myself, I have seen firsthand what happens when you try to get a child to calm down or stop being anxious. Not a great success rate with that approach.
Laura told her daughter to remind her grandson that the nervousness that he was feeling was like when you are about to get on a rollercoaster. There’s anticipation and excitement and a little fear. It’s totally normal and totally expected.
Just like those feelings, every kid’s reaction to that combo of excitement and nerves will be different. Some will grow more quiet than normal as you move up the line. They’ll stare wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the ride they are about to embark on, and maybe move a little more slowly through the line. Others will get really excited and animated in their talking and movements. They’ll explain in great detail how they are going to throw their hands in the air and SCREAM as the car goes down that first hill. Some will develop sudden belly pain or headaches and ask if they can leave the line altogether because they’ve changed their minds.
No matter what your kiddos do, it’s 100% normal.
In an embarrassment of riches, as I was scribbling down Laura’s words of wisdom, Katy joined the conversation to offer her support and advice.
(When I tell you that we are a total TEAM here, I am not kidding! Stay tuned for a future blog about how often Katy and Laura show up to the office and realize that they have inadvertantly matched their clothes.)
Katy added, “Tell him that nervousness and excitement is the perfect combination.”
Nervousness and excitement is the perfect combination.
I had to write that out twice for my own reasons.
These conversations with both docs always take me right back to my first experience with them at a women’s retreat where they were the facilitators. I tell this story often because, even if I had never gone on to be a part of Anxiety Resource Center, this moment would resonate with me forever.
They opened their workshop by telling us all that anxiety was not the enemy. They went on to explain anxiety’s purpose in our lives. When I tell you that the energy in the room changed immediately after they said that, I am not being hyperbolic. You actually felt every single woman in that room being validated in one fell swoop.
Just like Laura’s daughter and grandson during this morning’s phone call.
These conversations, and what Katy and Laura teach their clients are vital in changing the way that the world sees anxiety because this sort of validation is truly empowering, no matter what your age or what amusement park ride you are about to go on in your own life.
It’s important to give yourself the space to normalize your feelings, especially when it comes to anxiety.
We’ve been so indoctrinated to believe that anxiety is something bad that we can just turn off that when you are told the truth, it’s life-altering.
Ordering someone to just stop being anxious is like asking them to stop breathing. It’s a part of all of us, and it helps keep us alive. So, when you find that you are unable to turn off those feelings, you begin to feel defective.
Not only that, your attempts to thwart your anxiety symptoms will only make them worse. That’s just science!
This is why the work done at Anxiety Resource Center is so important. You learn how to gauge your anxiety level. Literally. Katy and Laura created the Know Your Arc® system, an actual gauge, to help people learn a simple and effective way to use their anxiety symptoms to their advantage or to help them become more manageable.
Notice that I didn’t say, ‘To make them go away.’
Imagine as you’re getting ready for a job interview, or that first day of anything, if instead of trying to talk yourself down from the jitters you are feeling, you took stock of your anxiety symptoms. As you scan your body and list the things you feel, you begin to tell yourself “This is like how I feel before I get on a roller coaster. This is the perfect combo of nerves and excitement. This is okay.” While focusing on your breathing, or relying on another strategy that works for you instead of trying to push down your feelings. How would that change the way you went about your morning?
That’s what Laura and Katy teach every single day.
Now, imagine giving that freedom, validation, and empowerment to the kids in your life. Explaining to them that the jitters, tummy ache, and anything else that goes along with the first day of school are to be expected. Comparing it to when they are about to get to Disneyland or Legoland, or the “land” of their choice.
Then you can help them to name what they are feeling so that they don’t grow up to believe that these feelings, even if they don’t feel great, are something that needs to be squashed, stopped, or shamed away.
Sooner or later, they’ll recognize the how and the why of their symptoms without help and will be that much more adept at learning to work with them instead of pushing against them.
There are dozens of little moments like this at ARC, but when they happen so organically, it’s a phenomenal thing to be a party to. It just shows me, and in turn, you, that Laura and Katy are 100% invested in what they do and in the information that they impart. More than that, they live it every single day.
I don’t doubt that Laura was about to embark on her own little roller coaster this morning as she wished her daughter and grandkids a great first day of school, and I’m sure that Katy was recalling her own roller coasters of the first days with her sons, as well as the ones to come with her own grandchildren.
We never leave the amusement park of life. Some days we ride the bumper cars or the carousel while taking breaks to eat a funnel cake and a corn dog. Other days, we’re in line for that roller coaster, staring at it with a mixture of awe, excitement, and straight-up fear. Hopefully, our days are a combination of both. The best thing about this amusement park is that YOU get to decide how you’re going to get through the rides every single day.
If you need more time in the line or you want to race up to those cars and strap in, that’s okay. If you need a friend, family member, or mental health professional to help you through the line and ride the ride with you at first, that’s okay too. It’s all up to you, and it’s all normal.
Just as long as you remember, nervous, excited, or both, to enjoy the ride.