Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 18% of adults and 25% of kids. These anxiety disorders include everything from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) to panic disorders and specific phobias. A plethora of symptoms, from mild to severe, can accompany anxiety. Even when two people have the same diagnosis, the disorder can manifest itself in completely different ways. Anxiety can make you scream or make you freeze up. It can cause you to be silent or force you to chatter and act out. It is a beast of a disorder with fuzzy guidelines and a broad reach. It’s truly the worst!!
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the Academy and the population of students we serve. 95% of the students we serve have issues with anxiety in one form or another… 95%!! With a statistic like that, one would think that we would have students swinging from the rafters, crying in the corners, or too frightened to even walk in the front door… but we don’t. Why, you ask? One reason: RELATIONSHIPS!!
We build relationships with our students that help them cope, give them skills to be successful, and allow them to be in control of their emotions. Don’t get me wrong, we have our days!! The two days before a holiday or spring break are always a bit rough but our staff are an amazing team and we support each other and every one of our students. We approach each situation and each student openly, honestly, and individually. We focus on the relationship and the person, not the anxiety.
A huge piece of the anxiety we encounter at the Academy is a power and control issue. Students want power but can’t control themselves, they want to gain control but they have no power to get it. It’s a vicious cycle that just keeps going until something breaks it. We break it!! We give students choices, which gives them power. We front load them with schedules and changes which allows them to have control. Teachers work with students in a collaborative effort. We share power and control.
I make this sound easy… it’s not… in fact, it’s downright difficult!! Anxiety, and the idiosyncrasies that accompany it, have this amazing ability to change, sometimes on a daily basis. This means that something that bothers a student on one day could be replaced by something completely different the next day. The only way to combat this dizzying display of manifestations is to know our students. And what we’ve found is that to know them is to love them…. Anxiety and all!!