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From College Psychologist, Ms Samantha Jessen

Teenage boy sitting on beach

Managing Anxiety

Anxiety, although at times uncomfortable, is a natural part of the human experience. With the help of our sympathetic nervous system, the anxiety response keeps us safe from danger and springs us to action to ensure we survive unsafe situations. A lot of us however may experience the symptoms of anxiety when there seems to be no threats of danger in our physical environment. You may notice a pounding heart, nausea, upset stomach, excess sweat, racing thoughts/over thinking, and generally feeling on edge.

Consequently, and understandably, you may start to notice changes in your behaviour – you may even feel different from how you usually do. You might start to withdraw from friends, find it tricky to concentrate, have trouble falling asleep/staying asleep, feel exhausted, and/or not have much of an appetite. If you start to experience these things on a regular basis, your overall sense of self and wellbeing may start to decline.

Research tells us however that doing small things each day can add up to reduce these uncomfortable experiences*. You may like to try deep breathing – this might sound very basic because our body breathes involuntarily for us 24/7! However, breathing deeply is a specific skill that is often overlooked. Deep breathing calms our sympathetic nervous system and signals to the brain there is no physical threat, which helps us move into our parasympathetic nervous system (feelings of calm and relaxation). One relaxation skill you can practice today is the 4-7-8 technique. Not only is this deep breathing skill effective, it’s also discreet and easy to use at any time or place.

4-7-8 Breathing Technique

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose for four seconds
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven seconds
  • Exhale very slowly through your mouth for eight seconds and pause before the next breath in
  • Repeat this cycle until you notice a difference (a short few minutes should do the trick).

If feeling anxious however is something that seems to be significantly interfering with your study/work, friendships, and physical health, it may be time to check in with a professional. Psychology services are available for students at Waverley College to help with understanding anxiety and how to manage it more effectively. Feel free to reach out to the Wellbeing Team or your Head of House for further information.

*Please note, anxiety techniques can help manage anxious symptoms however in most cases, long-term improvement comes from discussing your concerns with a trained professional.

McFall, A., & Jolivette, K. (2022). Mindful breathing: A low-intensity behavior strategy for students with behavioral challenges. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth. DOI: 10.1080/1045988X.2022.2132196