Saturday, April 2, 2022

Giftedness and Anxiety Part 4

By Erin Peace, LCSW, RPT: ACE Academy School Counselor

Parts 1, 2, and 3

In Part 1 of this blog series on giftedness and anxiety, we explored the definition of anxiety as well as the way it manifests between the interrelation of thoughts, emotions/body sensations, and behavior. Part 2 included information on how to help your student manage the physical sensation of anxiety through progressive muscle relaxation and managing sugar/caffeine intake. In Part 3, we reviewed ways to help your student identify their anxious thoughts. In this post, we’ll identify strategies to help your student challenge those anxious thoughts.

Challenging Anxious Thoughts

By using strategies such as mindfulness, your students can identify both the presence of their anxious thoughts, as well as the situations that triggered them. Anxious thoughts often manifest as negative automatic thought patterns, such as catastrophizing (assuming the worst will happen), black-and-white thinking (thinking in absolutes), and mind-reading (assuming what someone else is thinking without data), among other patterns. These thought patterns are often rigid and based on guesswork instead of data, which leads to a distorted version of reality and impacts our ability to participate in rational decision-making. In order to help your student challenge these thoughts, I recommend coming from a place of non-judgmental curiosity while helping your student search for evidence for or against the anxious thought.

For example: if your student is assigned a science fair project and their mind goes to, “I’m stupid and I’m going to fail; what’s the point of trying?”. Try reflecting back their thoughts with a calm tone of voice and relaxed body language; this helps the student feel heard, while also modeling a regulated body and nervous system that lets your student know that they are safe. Reflecting their thoughts could sound like: “I hear you saying that you think you’re going to fail; that must feel really overwhelming. I’m right here with you; let’s figure this out together.”

After validating your student’s emotion, help your student challenge an unhelpful thought by asking the following questions provided by Dr. Dennis Greenburger:

  1. If your best friend had this thought, what would you tell her? What advice would you give her?

  2. What evidence supports your thought? What evidence contradicts your thought?

  3. Have you been in this situation before? What did you learn from a similar experience that could help you navigate this one?

  4. If your thought is true, what is the worst-case scenario? What is the best-case scenario? What is the most likely scenario?

For students, it can be helpful to have these conversations while incorporating movement or playfulness, such as going on a walk or throwing a ball back and forth. By connecting with your child during these conversations, you demonstrate that your child does not have to navigate these issues on their own, and you also normalize the presence of these thoughts. In the next blog post, we’ll explore how to use these strategies to address avoidance related to anxiety.

Executive Functioning and Giftedness

by: Erin Peace, LCSW, RPT School Counselor As we settle back into our routine for the school year, many of us emphasize setting resolutions ...