How To Hack The Anxiety Roadblock

#1

The end of the school year portends change for many educators, and change produces anxiety in people. With that, this post from the Trello blog felt very timely. I’m not sure if this is worthy of a ton of discussion, but I found some very helpful reminders and a bit of new learning. too. Over the past 24 hours, I’ve been reflecting on the school year and my own performance relative to this concept:

According to the Yerkes-Dodson Law, performance increases with mental or physiological arousal (which is a very fancy word for stress) but only to a point. Once stress passes that specific point, performance begins to drop pretty dramatically.

Another piece from the blog I liked is this idea: when you feel stressed or anxious, ask yourself: “what am I really afraid of here?” and then addressing that. That seems like a healthy strategy to me. Any thoughts?

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#2

Yanking my outpost idea over here to the full forum, what if we made this a “rate this and why do you say that (awdyst)” thread? @BenDrewelow how would you rate your stress / anxiety at work?
/too little to be helpful/…/about enough to be helpful/…/too much, counterproductive/

I would put mine as swinging around the middle. Most of my actual teaching duties are pretty well established and don’t create much anxiety. It’s the stuff I venture into that I’ve never done before that can ratchet things up, sometimes helpful, sometimes counterproductive.

Back to the unhijacked version of your thread…
Just in my own mental health management journey, I’ve started asking myself, “What if… this is fine?”

That is to say, I trust that I’ll know in short order when something is definitely not fine (unlike the dog drinking his coffee). And then I catch myself worrying about whether something is okay or not. So if I frame the hypothetical, “What if this is fine?” I sometimes snap out of the fretting.

I knocked the wind out of my own ego a while back when I realized nothing in my decades of existence has ever truly been life threatening. I don’t think the eons of survival benefiting evolution quite know what to do with so secure an existence; I still get terrified but my rational brain pretty well always knows there is not much of a basis for it. And yet, realizing that is not sufficient for getting it to abate.

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#3

That’s a really good article.

I hadn’t consciously thought about the benefits to stress, but at times I know I’ve done things to intentionally ratchet up my stress so I get more productive. When I have a bunch of grading to do, for example, I’ll set artificial challenges for myself. “Can I get 10 assignments graded in the next 20 minutes?” I find it helps motivate me and adds a touch of gamification. But based on that article, I can see that it also adds some positive stress to the situation. I’d like to think on how to use this more going forward. I’m going to try it today.

It’s also interesting to see “reframing” come up again. More and more I’m starting to look at this as perhaps a big key to the whole thing. It feels like it’s something that is super malleable in my brain and learnable—my ability to reframe negative or negatively stressful situations into positive challenges. I’ve been working at this over the past month and feel like it’s immediately helpful.

Having said that, sometimes I feel like dangers of reframing can be putting a spin on something that divorces it from the reality, kind of like the Black Knight in Monty Python…

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#4

At least to some extent, that article seemed to be conflating stress and anxiety. I talked with a family member who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and they do not think of stress and anxiety the same way.

Stress can cause you to worry, but my interviewee’s experience of anxiety is undue or unwarranted worry, especially that presents itself in physical symptoms.

I think the article’s point would be made stronger if it didn’t lump anxiety, stress, and uncomfortable feelings all into a single basket.

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