Also, “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” These quotes are from a book I just finished called Nerve: Poise under pressure, serenity under stress, and the brave new science of fear and cool. I’m interested in the topic of teenage anxiety, as I teach 7th grade English Language Arts in a middle school in Costa Rica, and my students are continually stressed out.
The book has a number of suggestions for dealing with fear, anxiety, and stress, which I am taking the liberty of giving a Biblical point of view:
Breathe: Physiologically when we take deep breaths we are telling our body that everything is all right. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord! Praise ye the Lord! Psalm 150:6
Put your feelings into words: Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! Thou hast set me at large when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. Psalm 4:1
Train, practice, and prepare: to know the love of Christ, which surpasseth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19 As Christians, we prepare for extraordinary crises in our lives through reading and meditating on the Word of God and fellowshipping with Him during ordinary times in our lives.
Redirect your focus: “The culprit in cases of meltdown under pressure isn’t fear but misdirected focus: we turn our attention inward and grow preoccupied with worries about results, which undercuts our true abilities.” Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation through your prayer and the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,according to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. Philippians 1: 18-20
Mindfully disentangle from worries and anxious thoughts: Taylor Clark, the author of Nerve, suggests two routes through which we can disentangle ourselves: 1) mindfully watch your worries, or 2) postpone worries. The Bible suggests that we Humble [ourselves] therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
Expose yourself to your fears: But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear there is light. Ephesians 5:13
Learn to accept uncertainty and lack of control: According to Oswald Chambers, “Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated.” That is the fear we need to deal with, and the only way to deal with that is to acknowledge our weakness and learn of His omnipotence through worship and communion with Him. O Lord God of hosts, who is a mighty one like unto You, O Lord? And Your faithfulness is round about You [an essential part of You at all times]. Psalm 89:8 Oswald Chambers goes on to edify: “If our hopes seem to be experiencing disappointment right now, it simply means that they are being purified.”
Continue to persevere.