Eight short years ago I suffered from debilitating panic attacks. A few got so bad that I took myself to the hospital – convinced I was having a heart attack.
On the second ER visit, the doctor on-call advised me that physically I was fine. The problem was mental and I needed to start talking to someone (and she was clear that she was NOT the people I should be talking to).
In my first appointment with a therapist, she asked what had been going on for me recently.
Well, I just had a baby about three months prior.
Oh, and I just left the work force for the first time since I was 13.
And we just moved into a new house.
Did I mention that the new house was in Africa? Yeah, we just moved to Africa from suburban Chicago.
She looked at me dumbfounded with an expression that simply said, “Well, DUH. No wonder you’re struggling!”
The return to school might seem easy compared to everything I just outlined above, but it carries the same takeaway.
Our brains hate change.
Transitions are a breeding ground for anxiety. When you do something new – like starting a new grade, a new school, or a new job – your brain has no reference point for what’s about to happen. To protect you, it will offer every worst-case scenario about what COULD happen.
What MIGHT go wrong.
Where you COULD fail.
Anxiety is awful but it’s just your brain doing what your brain is wired to do. Keep you safe.
This is a hard pill to swallow for a teen convinced that everyone will laugh at her if she asks a question in class or a college-bound kiddo convinced she isn’t going to make any friends.
But that doesn't mean we should stop helping her see another perspective. Or remind ourselves of the same when we are overwhelmed by anxiety.
Kate O’Rourke, a Certified Life Coach and school psychologist, helps us unpack anxiety in this week’s episode of Why Didn’t They Tell Us.
Kate explains when we should worry about our kids’ anxiety versus applauding their brains for doing exactly what they’re supposed to do, how we can help our teens when they are struggling, and what we can do as moms to manage our own anxiety. Be sure to click here to tune in today.
Quintessential Africa photo for fun