Newington Forest Student Offers Help to Peers Experiencing Anxiety

June 02, 2021

Our FCPS students never cease to amaze us. After experiencing significant anxiety and getting needed support, one Newington Forest Elementary School student (who has wished to remain anonymous) decided that she did not want anyone else to go through the same struggles. So...she decided to find a way to help her peers. This student raised money and created 20 wellness baskets to foster positive mental and physical health. The baskets contain items that helped this student deal with anxiety and included a personal letter sharing her story with tips she has learned to cope with worry thoughts. The baskets have been provided to a number of students at Newington Forest having difficulties with anxiety. This has provided comfort to these students while creating excitement for learning ways to get through tough times. 

Here is this student's inspiring letter included in the wellness basket:

Hi, I’m an elementary school student just like you. I’ve struggled with anxiety for a little while now ever since the pandemic hit. I’ve learned to cope and get worry thoughts out of my head. Let’s see if I can help you know how!

Here are a few things that have helped me:

  1. A worry rock that I rub my worries into. It’s really special to me and makes me feel better when I’m anxious.
  2. Fidget toys. They help distract my mind when worry thoughts come.
  3. The Calm app on my iPad (or other free apps that have meditation, breathing exercises, pretty nature scenes and calming music).
  4. Distracting yourself with hobbies or fun activities when worry thoughts come in your head. These things could be a detailed coloring book, weaving, making bracelets, painting, or anything you love doing!
  5. Therapy or counseling. Talk to someone! You can talk to a family member or friend or the school counselor or school psychologist. It helps to get it off your chest!
  6. Praying (if you want to). I like the poem called “Footprints” too. Really feel the words and you’ll feel better!
  7. Books on anxiety. Read about how to deal with anxiety, stress, and worry.

I’ve included some of these things in the wellness basket and I hope they help you. Sometimes we blow stuff up bigger in our head, kind of like making something so big that it feels like it will explode in your head. But don’t get scared, thoughts can’t hurt you and some of them aren’t real, we are just blowing them up! Always remember no matter how scared or worried you may get, you are NOT alone!

I also have some tips to tell you about. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you can use the Expecto Patronum charm to fight off your worry thoughts. I love Harry Potter and he uses the Expecto Patronum spell to defend himself against his worst fear - the dementors. His Patronus charm is a silver stag but yours can take the form of anything! In my head, I make my Patronus charm my dog only he grows like 30 feet bigger so he can chomp and destroy the worry thought when I unleash him. If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, don’t worry there are other tips I have to help you.

Here are the steps I use to kick worry thoughts out of my head:

  1. When a worry thought comes, I tell myself that it’s a trash thought and belongs in the garbage. It’s not a thought I want to keep so I throw it away.
  2. I talk back to my worry thought in my head and tell it that I’m the boss and tell it to take a hike. I tell it that I’m not going to let it steal my joy and I’m in charge!
  3. I remind myself that even if I’m feeling a little scared, I’m okay because it was just a thought. I am safe. I tell myself that I’m okay and I’m stronger and bigger than my anxiety. My anxiety is not who I am.
  4. I change my scenery. I get up and do something different or do a distraction. I think about a positive or happy thought instead. Sometimes I change the ending of my worry thought and make it silly or funny so it doesn’t scare me or keep me worrying. 

Other tips:

  • Leaves on the pond – thoughts are like leaves on the pond on a windy day. If you have a scary thought or worry thought, you don’t have to pull it into the safety of your boat. You can just float on by it and watch it drift away like a leaf on a pond. You are safe in your boat.
  • Train cars – Thoughts are like train cars. You will have a million thoughts a day and some will be happy or sad or angry or scary. Let the train cars keep moving and don’t stop it on a sad or scary thought. Just watch those train cars pass right on by.
  • Thoughts are just thoughts… they can’t hurt you! Sometimes you can get a song stuck in your head, right? Well that’s not dangerous, is it? Just like it’s not dangerous to get a thought stuck in your head. You may not like worry thoughts there but they can’t hurt you and you can learn to kick them out right away!

If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis, text HOME to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor, call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call 911.

The Healthy Minds Blog shares information related to youth mental health and wellness for an audience of parent, educators and community-based providers. Articles include tips and strategies for increasing wellness and resiliency, as well as fostering success at home, at school and in the community.

The Healthy Minds Blog is a collaborative project between Fairfax County Public Schools and the Prevention Unit of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. It is part of the Healthy Minds Fairfax (see below) initiative, designed to support emotional wellness in youth and families.

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