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More Than Butterflies: anxiety about returning to school

We have all experienced the feeling of butterflies in our stomach before a presentation, heading into a social gathering, or that dreaded first day of school. Maybe you got it as a student, maybe you get it now as you prepare for yet another new school year, or maybe you get it for your child as they head into school for another year of learning and growth. But when is it something to be alerted to, when is it more than just butterflies.

Anxiety can feel like the newest buzzword, similar to what ADHD was a few years ago. Just as inattention and hyperactivity are very real, anxiety is a very real concern as well. Anxiety is defined in the dictionary as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. The concern comes when this is a feeling you experience regarding something that does not affect your true safety and/or an event that is common and routine for the person experiencing the anxiety.

Safety is an ultimate rating tool for a great amount of mental health issues. Anxiety comes to fight a safety battle based on our biological make up, however when you feel anxiety over something that is not a safety concern this deems an analysis. Anxiety about going home where there is violence or danger is expected and appropriate, anxiety about the bus ride home without any precipitating event should be reviewed with a mental health specialist. Anxiety about going to school after a violent event, due to bullying exposure, or for fear of being away from an ill parent is expected and appropriate, however anxiety about attending school just for fear of being around peers should be reviewed with a mental health specialist.

A basic and simple gauge is if anxiety is consistently present without an obvious risk of health or safety consulting with a school counselor, physician, and/or mental health specialist may be beneficial to coping with the anxiety.

Anxiety caused by common or routine experiences is another factor to explore. If anxiety is set on by a sporting event, school, regular scheduled event (family gathering, holiday, etc), and/or custody visits these are areas to explore further. Often when events cause anxiety the person experiencing the anxiety may not be able to express why the anxiety is occurring or what will help relieve it. These are times to consult. Please note, continuing to force the event upon the anxious person will not help or decrease the anxiety. Anxiety is our brain’s way of alarming our body to be ready to protect oneself. Forcing someone into an anxious situation will not eliminate the situation, working through the triggers of anxiety will be helpful.

A basic and simple gauge is if anxiety is consistently present regarding a specific event, situation, or location consulting with a school counselor, physician, and/or mental health specialist may be beneficial to coping with the anxiety.

Indications it may be Anxiety (may include, but not limited to):

· Stomachaches

· Headaches

· Nightmares

· Sleep inconsistency

· Crying spells

· Vomiting

· Inconsistent eating

· Stalling


Questions to ask if you think it’s Anxiety:

· Do you feel like your worry is bigger than you can handle?

· Do you feel overwhelmed a lot?

· Do you ever feel like you can’t handle a situation because it’s too scary?

· Do you feel like you have too many things in your head that you cannot explain to others?

· I noticed you _____, is there something that you notice causes this?

· Do you think that having someone else to talk to about these feelings would be helpful?

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