Mental wellbeing for young people

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Battling anxiety: How do I get back to school without losing it?

Kate Middleton photo Kate Middleton · 15 Jul, 2020

I’m 13 years old and when I was 11 I really found moving to secondary school tough. For a while I had really bad anxiety and I couldn’t go in but I got help from the pastoral team and was doing ok. Then in lockdown I really loved it because I didn’t have to go in! I didn’t really miss people because I kept in touch with my friends anyway and it was so much nicer working from home and not having to face school. But now things are going back to normal and in September I will have to go back. I am already dreading it and feel really anxious. I just know I am going to panic and not make it in. What do I do?

Fleur, 13, Kent

Hi Fleur, thanks so much for getting in touch. I really feel for you with this - and first of all a MASSIVE WELL DONE for all you did getting back into school when you were in year 7 and finding a way through that stuff. Anxiety is horrid to deal with and because of that we tend to run away from stuff that makes us anxious - facing it is the way through but it takes real guts so good on you.

I guess that’s the key to how you’re gonna have to manage this - recognising that anxiety kinda tries to spread when it can and win ground from you - and you need to take some back now. This may feel super frustrating to you as its already ground you and you won - but you've beat it once and I know you can do it again.

Remember that anxiety is like a smoke alarm - it warns you something risky MIGHT be going on. Most of the time, like a smoke alarm, its not true - it’s a false alarm. We just need to press that reset button, turn off the buzzy feeling and calm ourselves down. You know in your rational mind that actually you CAN go to school and it WILL be ok. When anxiety goes off, the key is going to be remembering that, and holding on to it and not losing yourself to panic. Part of that is what your own mind says to you about what is going to happen. Right now it is saying ‘I just know I am going to panic’ - but there’s a better version of what could happen you could practice speaking to yourself - how about ‘I know this is going to feel tough but I did it once and I am going to win again, step by step, even if there are some setbacks along the way.’ The words we speak over ourselves really matter - there’s an ancient bit of wisdom in the book of proverbs in the bible that says our words can speak LIFE or DEATH - so speak some promise and possibility over yourself instead of predicting the worst.

Try to break up the things you are anxious about as you head back - is it possible to take it step by step. For example - the journey into school is one you haven’t done for a long time - even seeing school, standing outside the gates may trigger anxiety at first. But you can practise that before your first day back - just walk there, stand outside, then go home - and do this a few times. That way you can already win some things back before term starts and get ahead! Try to list all the steps involved in going back to school: gathering your work, walking in, getting in touch with your pastoral support person, sorting out your locker … whatever those things are. Then think about which of those you might be able to do before school starts back and how and when you could give some a go.

Remember when you try something for the first time it will trigger anxiety but it’s just the smoke alarm going off. Practice some breathing exercises to help you to manage those moments and drop your anxiety level down again (you’ll see a link to our video ‘Better breathing’ below this).

And finally - we all do stuff like this better when we know we’re not doing it alone. So who can you chat to about this? Let someone in on your head stuff - maybe your Mum or Dad or another adult who can support you and cheer you on. And get in touch with your pastoral support worker too - they’ll love to help you plan how you’re gonna do this. It's always good to have someone to Hi5 when you’ve done something awesome after all 🙌🏻


How can better breathing help you drop your anxiety level? Check this out ⏬


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