School Anxiety

Sean Tomasetto '19, Assistant Editor-in-Chief

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We’re deep into the new school year, but even with time to readjust to the grind, many students will still find themselves anxious at the thought of walking through the crowded halls, or having to speak in class, or even finding a place to sit at lunch. This back-to-school anxiety is incredibly common, and, speaking from experience, has plagued me each of the four times I’ve started the school year.

Shyness, if strong enough, can be crippling for a student. I know that when I was a freshman, I was too nervous to speak with nearly anybody. My grades suffered as I couldn’t work up the nerve to ask a teacher for help. My social life was nonexistent due to my inability to make friends. I never fully integrated myself into the West community, as I was unable to step outside of my comfort zone and into a place where I was vulnerable, a place where I could get hurt.

But, through a healthy support network, and some good advice and grit, I managed to break through that shell, at least, partially. I’m still relatively nervous and shy, but I’m involved, and I’m doing things besides letting myself be engulfed by fear. I’ve spoken to a student assistance counselor, Ms.Rakoczy, and student advocate, Ms.Giles, and gotten their advice for any students currently undergoing back-to-school nervousness, new and old.

“Being nervous is normal,” Ms.Rakoczy says. “Don’t allow feelings of nervousness to be a stumbling block, because those feelings will pass. See yourself as successful, don’t see doomsday.”

It’s crucial not to let things overwhelm you, whether it’s struggling with feeling home in the hallways, or just having to speak up in a group project. Being successful starts with pretending you are already successful. The more you act as though you know what you’re doing, the more you ACTUALLY start to feel as though you know what you’re doing. Don’t think of yourself as failing, because you can’t fail, in fact, you’ve already succeeded. Take that cynical part of your brain and chuck it out of a window.

“You’re not in this boat alone, there are three hundred and thirty other freshman that are new to the school.” Ms. Giles says. “Most freshmen have been lost going to class, and may have a hard time finding a seat or friends at lunch.”

When I was a freshman, I felt isolated, like all of my problems and anxiety were my own. I was unaware that there were hundreds of other students feeling the exact same way. Deep down, almost everybody gets nervous, and almost everybody can sympathize and relate. You won’t be judged for being your own nervous self, because we’ve literally all been there.

“Any adult in the building is a resource,” Ms.Rakoczy says. “Teachers, counselors, even seniors who can guide you step by step through individual issues.”

“Resources include upperclassmen, sports captains, leaders within the school, or just genuinely nice kids who can show you the ropes. There are also caring adults, counselors, teachers, administration, and myself. No question is too small,” Ms.Giles says.

West is full of people that want to see you succeed. Nobody is out to get you except yourself. As Ms.Rakoczy says, “The only limitations are the ones you create.”

Improving one’s lifestyle and employing self-care are also ways to be successful, even outside of school. Ms. Rakoczy suggests sleep, nutrition, and exercise through play as ways to notice colors and sounds, and start living in the moment. It’s very important to have balance in life, and that extends to how you live beyond the walls of West.

The best way to maximize enjoyment in high school is to recognize your own problems, and take steps to work past them. Shyness, nervousness, anxiety, these are all things to come natural to us as humans, but strength, willpower, and a bright attitude are also things that come natural to humans. Overpower the dark thoughts in your head, take this new school year by the reins, and never let go. In time, you’ll be riding into the next chapter of your life with a healthy mind and a promising future.

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