OSCA Conference 2019 - Igniting Hope – October 11, 2019
Date:        October 11, 2019
Location:  Holiday Inn Portland Airport - 8439 NE Columbia Boulevard
Keynote speaker:  Cheri Lovre "The Evolution of Crisis Response in Schools"

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JANUARY 2020

President’s Letter: Resources for Student Anxiety

By Laureen Held
Several years ago, I had a middle school student so imprisoned by anxiety, he literally vomited each day as he attempted to enter class. We see it in our offices on a regular basis, we read about it in journals, we attend conferences and seminars – the “A” word that no one wishes to suffer from. Yet in our society, studies are clear that more youth struggle with anxiety today than in prior generations. “In 2016, nearly two thirds of college students reported ‘overwhelming anxiety,’ up from 50 percent just five years earlier,” according to the National College Health Assessment. Even our youngest students are not immune from anxiety. We could spend our time talking about the why – conflict at home, uncertainty of food, governmental and political upheaval, pressure to perform, trauma, social media and many others. We could spend our time talking about definitions according to diagnostic criteria. We could spend our time talking about anxious parents raising anxious kids. Instead, I am sharing a few resources, in hopes that something may be useful for you as you graciously offer hope to your anxious students.

Dawn Huebner, Ph.D, wrote “Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety.” In her introduction for parents, she shared that hope can be found through containment, externalization and competing demands. First, teach students how to contain their anxiety, preventing it from spreading. Second, externalize anxiety as if it were a separate entity with its own name. Third, participate in relaxing activities. This workbook has nine lessons, and is recommended for children ages 5–12.

Lisa M. Schab, LCSW, wrote “The Anxiety Workbook for Teens,” which can be used for individual or small groups. The 42 lessons offer training and strategies that can be taught as a complete set or topically. A few examples of topics offered are: consider the patterns of anxiety, address positive attitudes, rejecting “should” messages, inserting positive affirmations, deep breathing, visualization and meditation.

Teaching students to change their negative self-talk and replace it with growth mindset messages is a powerful way to distract from the paralysis of anxiety. Rather than saying “This is too hard,” teach the student to say, “This will take time and effort.” Rather than saying, “I messed up. I can’t do anything right!” teach the student to say, “Mistakes help me improve.”

Take 5 Breaths. Stretch your hand out. Use your pointer finger of your other hand and slowly trace your fingers up and down. Breathe in through your nose as your finger goes up, and slowly exhale out your mouth as your finger slides down. Repeat this until you have traced all five fingers. Slowing down our breathing allows our hearts to slow down, and our brains receive more blood. We enter into our rational mind, and can process our stressors with stronger logic.

The good news is, with effective techniques, anxiety does not have to imprison our students. Thank you for all that you do to help these students find freedom.

Contact Laureen Held, OSCA president, at OSCAPresident@oscainc.org.

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