Yesterday was a prime day for anxiety across Oklahoma. We had a severe weather day that had close to every school closed. Tonight’s post prelates to today’s topic about anxiety as a student and a teacher. On that note, I’d like to provide a trigger warning about the ‘anxiety’ topic at hand.
I wasn’t diagnosed with anxiety until January 2013, after a psychotic breakdown at a social event (I’m still shocked I got permission to return to my freshman year in college). Thanks to the help of my counselor at the time, I was able to analyze all the times anxiety plagued my life. The earliest realizations steem from childhood but the most typical instances were with performance anxiety in band most of the time, I managed to work through those situations in my own mental way. it wasn’t always a part of every performance or rehearsal, but it started to become more frequent the more I performed in concerts.
The most memorable anxiety attack occurred May 2011, when I was completing at Texas State Solo & Ensemble contest for the first time with my pianist. I was performing in front of Baylor’s trombone professor and after one play through, I was asked to take deep breaths and to play a specific part again; memory wasn’t the problem, just a lack of focus and anxiety. He was kind and gentle with working with me, since this was all played from memory. That was the first time I noticed the symptoms of wanting to freeze up and fly out of the room. It is possible to both fly and freeze (flight-freeze-fight mode’s in anxiety).
The first notable performance anxiety before that was either the contest leading to Solo & Ensemble that same year or the year before. I didn’t’ have to play from memory but I also had a meltdown lose to the middle of the performance and had to close my eyes and play from memory. Since then, I’ve preferred playing music with out sheet music and utilizing my sense to navigate music.
I also still have mini-panic attacks with calling into podcasts and radio shows, but not so much with public speaking. The difference is being able to see and read the crowd vs. not being able to see the crowd.
I played a couple of sports pre-high school and I’d always get anxious pre-and post- games. This also played into marching band performances and rehearsals, I realized that if I mentally played specific-favorite songs before hand it would help relieve stress and anxiety all throughout college. This has also helped in college as well.
Since 2015, I haven’t performed in a full band concert or marching band. My trombone was stolen in 2017 and it would take a lot to get me back to performing again. In 2014 and 2016 I worked with the International Trombone Festival and we had a student worker ensemble. Both in 2014 and 2016, my anxiety got out-of-control and i had to message the person in charge that I wouldn’t be able to perform. Both of those shows were in different parts of New York and that’s when the pieces began to layout (especially in 2016), that music education and performance were no longer reasonable fields to be in with anxiety disorder.
All I wanted to do was to play music at my own personal leisure and to play in bands I was comfortable being in. Ironically, the only stage I had a performance in performing was in jazz bands due to the size, music style and jazz being the least anxious platform for me. And for the protection of my mental health, I have not returned to band life since 2015.
For tests, I noticed the same physical and mental traits when I began taking tests with DRC (disability resource center) at my original university in 2013. Instantly, my testing scores went up over time with the inclusions of time and a half, separate testing areas, earplugs and step-out-time. It also has helped that I’ve been able to audio record lectures (approved by professors). Once or twice this year (2018-2019), I’ve mentally spaced out in class due to depression, anxiety, or whatever I was distracted with. I haven’t always listened to those lectures (and have since deleted them) but haven’t these resources helps me not add more pressure to being a part-time college student.
I’ve only been an after school teacher for a year, but routine helps reduce anxiety. For the most part, this is the newest adventure with coping with anxiety: the inner workings as a teacher.
Besides taking the medications as prescribed by your doctor, as I’ve been on the correct ones since 2018, some basic tools help reduce anxiety as a student and an after school teacher:
-This one helps beyond others. Daily journals helps me decompress the previous days activities, list out goals for the current day, sort through emotions and write one thing I am grateful for. For more on journaling, I have a lot of blogs I’ve written on this alone.
2. Deep breathing
– I had a slight pre-anxiety attack yesterday during the severe weather day in Oklahoma. I was trying to do school work and sometime after noon I began tearing up. This is one of my pre-anxiety symptoms that helps trigger me to stop what I’m doing, move around and breathe from the diaphragm; when children get hurt out on the playground, I have students sit down and breathe as I ask important questions first and then expound from there.
3. Useful distractions
– I have found this method works for me before concerts by playing some of my favorite artists to help diffuse the chaotic mental energy that makes me anxious (pop, rock and wrestling theme songs come to mind). I have started using this technique with children as well, by asking them absurd questions or telling them stories about my cat, Jupiter. Works every time.
4. Without Medicine
-Not everyone has access to the correct medications due to various reasons and conditions that are a part of their own lives. Several resources exist from listen to biannual brain wave music on YouTube to focusing on exercises that center both your physical and mental body. May is mental health awareness month as a lot of tools already exist and more will be ready in the future to help all of us take the basic steps towards relieving stress, anxiety PTSD, depression, bipolar, and various other disorders.
Thanks for reading today’s blog post! I’m considering sharing a playlist of all the songs that’s helped me during those tight moments with anxiety and depression at some point. If you’d find that useful, I’d love to hear your thoughts! I’ve staggered out buttons throughout this post about blogs that relate to this post since you’d might be able to check them out at some point. Have a wonderful week!
I’ll be back tomorrow with the next part in this teaching and education mini-series.