If you struggle with anxiety or stress, 19.9% of young people between 11 and 17 experience extreme stress or anxiety. If that sounds like you, you're not alone. In this article, Bethany student Gabriela discuss how you can succeed in spite of anxiety.
In this article, Year 11 Bethany College and Matrix student, Gabriela, shares her intimate experience of dealing with anxiety whilst being a school student. She gives her insights into how to succeed in spite of anxiety.
Hello! My name is Gabriela Kursar and I am currently a student at Bethany College Hurstville.
This year I will be entering preliminary HSC and finally starting my journey to the future. Underlying my excitement is the inevitable fear and anxiety that resurfaces from my doubts.
Anxiety has been a large component of not only my life, but that of others.
It is a common occurrence among students, especially overachievers like myself.
Through my blog post, I hope to motivate and act as a spokesperson for students who have previously or are currently experiencing the symptoms and pain associated with anxiety.
My absolute goal in University is to pursue history and philosophy further to wherever that may lead me.
I have always been interested in History and questioning how the past still lingers within present times. This also ties in nicely to my profound love for exploring ideologies and philosophical inquiries.
Even as an over-thinker, Philosophy and History has always been my comfort and a method to challenge my critical thinking in ways that don’t include judging myself.
A dream career is something that many people will start to envision for themselves when reaching their final years of high school.
For me, I have never seen the HSC as a direct passageway to the final destination of a career, but rather an overwhelming entrance and opportunity to further pursue my studies.
It is important for us as future graduates of High school, University or TAFE to emphasise that success is not a direct route and can have many bumps and curves along the way.
A course one may wish to take may not be their final decision and this should be normalised.
As a person who doesn’t suffer from anxiety anymore, but rather, thrives alongside mental illness, I stand against instilling fear about perfection and acquiring success in all areas due to the consequences endured along the way.
I believe to an utmost degree that education is life-changing and should be prioritised among generations. However, I know that those who change the world are open-minded and are willing to learn and adapt to these changes.
I know a dream of mine is to be a student of Dr Slavoj Zizek in the European Graduate School.
He is a someone I absolutely admire and recognise. His work inspires me to go forward with my beliefs and explore rather than fearing mistakes.
As a young aspiring Philosopher who contemplates on Marxist ideas and questions the intentions of many ideologies present today, it would be a dream of a lifetime.
Despite it simply being a dream, it inspires me to go forth and work towards bettering myself.
As a Year 10 student, my overall best performing subjects at the time were History and Geography, due to their analytical nature.
Both of these subjects require diligence and hard work and unfortunately, like every other subject, there is never a quick method to success.
The key to pursuing these subjects successfully is having a strong will and passion for the humanities, along with the ability to adapt and learn.
My anxiety would never give me the chance to think of myself in this way, but rather diminish any sense of confidence.
In my mind, I do not have a stable identity. It is a constant battle to find myself as a student, rather than a grade or mark in a test.
Mathematics has always been a subject that I would either thrive or metaphorically “die” in.
I would constantly question my abilities and create an intense amount of fear to the point where I wouldn’t be able to answer a simple question. I simply couldn’t trust myself with answering because of the emotional turmoil I had created.
Over time I have grown to adapt to these thoughts, but it wasn’t always easy.
The psychoanalyst Lacan, who is unfortunately not as renowned as he should be, confronts the topic of anxiety in his 10th seminar taking place in 1962-1963.
Lacan talks about a sensation that feels like dread, instead it is expectant. According to Lacan, this is what anxiety is:
“Anxiety is the sensation of the desire of the other” Seminar IX, 4th April 1962.
It is the sensation where a person is expecting something from you which concurs with how they see you as a person.
For me, this idea is exactly how I would describe my fear of Maths. I am scared of underperforming and inevitably disappointing myself and others.
I chose to study at Matrix because I wanted to occupy myself and work towards an end goal in my studies!
In terms of English, I became more confident in my skills and can now persist further in my work without feeling unprepared.
In my short lifetime, I have learnt and adapted to many philosophies and psychoanalytical ideas to work on my anxiety.
Anxiety is a completely normal symptom that occurs for a range of reasons and is important.
Without anxiety, people wouldn’t be prompted to do daily tasks and fulfil requirements.
I have learnt to work with my anxiety rather than attempting to get rid of it.
Anxiety becomes an issue when it starts to interfere with your life and school.
I would recommend seeking professional help as soon as this can be identified. You can change your life for the better.
Here are my tips for working with your anxiety rather than against it.
No one takes criticism easily, especially when it is about your work. Through the eyes of an anxious person, criticism can be seen as an attack on your capability, rather than a way to improve your work.
Since I could remember, I was always an anxious person and never took criticism for what it was. Constructive criticism about my work was also criticism about my worth as a student.
I can rationally tell myself that this is not true (as it simply isn’t).
The work you produce will never be a true indicator of your ability as a student.
However, the anxious mind will always tell you the opposite. I fixate on the belief that if I don’t receive a top grade, the work is a reflection of my incapability.
Despite difficulty and hardship, I can now look at criticism and apply it to my work.
Applying criticism does not erase anxiety, but rather it is a step to managing it and improving your work in school.
1. When receiving marks, you don’t always have to look at it straight away, but rather save it for a time when you are not in an anxiety-provoking environment such as a classroom.
2. Pause and reflect on the mark and take it in. A lot of emotions may be tied to it. So, it is important to not judge straight away and leave it for when you are in a better headspace.
3. Review the work and begin to plan out what you can do for next time, this has always been a fulfilling step for me as the idea of improvement never fails to motivate me.
I’m not only talking about procrastination, but all areas of life!
The anxious brain always instructs you to do something. Yet people with anxiety tend to not follow through and continue to worry about what needs to be completed.
I am not asking you to change your life, but rather encourage the formation of new habits where you don’t dwell on what you are not doing and continue to live your life without the obstacle of fear.
An example of this is putting off Science homework to the point where you cannot stand the sight of it, as it makes you feel incapable of completing it.
So to deal with this, you should:
1. In order to start changing the way you approach certain situations, you need to start focusing on yourself and what is bothering you. This may be by asking “Why do I feel like this about ____?”.
2. Introduce yourself to what you are avoiding and try completing it. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t. That is the process of reintroducing yourself to what you have been putting off.
3. Make a plan that is not based around shame, but about improving yourself. This may entail slowly completing work, rereading questions and interpreting it in a way that makes sense to you or completing small amounts.
This is all a journey and shouldn’t be feared. Anxiety may impact the way you approach things but it will always be your duty to take control.
Having the entirety of your life and identity based around studies is something you may be aiming for, especially as an anxious individual.
However, there is no shame in enjoying yourself and finding happiness in hobbies.
This is something that I learned very late in my High School years.
If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to enjoy the world around me rather than fear it because I thought my grades and who I was as a person wasn’t good enough.
I have spent many of my years dwindling amongst my thoughts and fears, especially with the battle I had with trichotillomania. It is hard to remember a time where I wasn’t hurt by my anxiety.
My absolute favourite novel “The Choice” by Edith Eger, had allowed me to accept the pain of childhood and approach it in a way I never would have imagined.
It allowed me to see my journey in a way that wasn’t embarrassing, but rather as the beginning of healing.
“Time doesn’t heal. It’s what you do with the time. Healing is possible when we choose to take responsibility, when we choose to take risks, and finally, when we choose to release the wound, to let go of the past or the grief.”
― Edith Eger, The Choice: Embrace the Possible
Her resilience and approach to life as a Holocaust survivor is something that I truly admire and follow on my journey to healing.
Stress, anxiety and depression can be difficult to deal with, especially during your HSC year. So, we go through different ways to cope with stress, anxiety and depression during the HSC years. Read our article now.
If you feel you need help, but don’t feel comfortable speaking with friends, family, or teachers, there are plenty of options out there for.
The following websites have excellent online resources and trained staff you can talk to:
🤝 lifeline.org.au – Lifeline has online crisis support chat, detailed online resources, and a phone line you can call if you need to talk with somebody urgently – ☎ 13 11 14 .
🤝 kidshelpline.com.au – Kidsline is an organisation dedicated to child and youth well-being and has an extensive collection of online articles and resources to help you get through difficult periods. They also have a helpline you can call anytime for any reason – ☎ 1800 551 800.
🤝 beyondblue.org.au – Beyondblue is an organisation that specialises in helping people who suffer from anxiety and depression. They’ve extensive online resources, online chat, and a 24hr phone line – ☎ 1300 22 4636.
🤝 au.reachout.com – Reach Out.com is a mental health resource for young people and their parents. It has a detailed repository of advice and articles and interactive tools to help young people maintain their mental health. They don’t have a phone line, but they do have respected online forums and a partnership with NextStep.
🤝 headspace.com.au – Is the national youth mental health foundation. They have an enormous set of resources to help young people and their families when they are going through difficult periods. Headspace also offers an online service called eheadspace where you or your family can seek confidential advice or counselling.
🤝 blackdoginsititute.org.au – The Black Dog Institute is a research institute that aims to aid those with mental health issues like depression and remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. They have a wide variety of articles. The Black Dog Institute also run Bite Back: a site that supports young people facing stress and depression. Bite Back is an excellent program that will help you maintain your mental health.