I would like to bring up what i think is an important notion. The idea that we sometimes get feelings of worry, stress and anxiety, even when faced with something we want and have worked for. This is a topic which can certainly affect students of any age.
It is that time of year again, exam results have been received and it is time to look forward to the next chapter, the new academic year. Whether you are moving onto a new academic year in school, college or university, unless you are very academically gifted, it is quite likely you worked hard to achieve what you have so far.
When you work hard towards something then you should be happy when you achieve it right? The answer to this is most likely to be yes. However, this does not mean that it is not okay to feel some sort of worry, anxiety or stress when you have achieved your goal, whatever this goal may be. There may be some anxious thoughts and feelings over the unknown and what is to come. Perhaps you have achieved that place on the course you always wanted in college or university and have some anxieties over starting in a new place with new people and question what it will be like there and if you will enjoy your course.
There is so often an attitude that working hard for something means you should be entirely positive about the experience ahead but as complicated creatures, we sometimes experience anxieties or worries alongside this positivity. The problems arise when this anxiety, worry or stress takes over and stops us experiencing the positives of what we have worked so hard for or have wanted for so long.
During extensive research, Borkovec and his colleagues attempt to define the phenomenon of worry and discuss it as “…a chain of thoughts and images, negatively affect-laden and relatively uncontrollable; it represents an attempt to engage in mental problem-solving on an issue whose outcome is uncertain but contains the possibility of one or more negative outcomes” (Borkovec, Robinson, Pruzinsky, & DePree, 1983). Borkovec and his colleagues also added that we tend to worry when there is a possibility of negative outcomes. This can certainly be a factor when you are starting a new academic year. However, worry can also have motivating effects and it is important to also recognise the many potential positives that you can be motivated to achieve in your upcoming academic year which can help you to achieve short term and long term goals.
Feelings such as worry and anxiety are so often interlinked and have quite negative connotations. It might be unexpected then to hear that there is academic research suggesting worry has components which can be useful to us, such as reasoning processes and judgment mechanisms. (Macleod, Williams & Bekeria 1991).A study by Tonn and Conrad (2007) also recognises the complexity of worry and relates this to thinking about and imagining the future. They suggest that being able to imagine the future helps us to worry less about it and also suggest that future research can explore how to help people to focus on issues such as personal plans in order to worry less about the future.
Although this does not in any way say ‘go ahead and worry, it’s good for you’, it suggests that feelings or thoughts of worry or trepidation can be useful and natural in helping us to make sense of our experiences. These studies suggest that worry is a natural phenomenon and so having these emotions towards something, such as achieving and embarking upon, a life goal can be natural and that perhaps thinking and, to an extent, worry can be helpful to a point and we can use them to stop us getting to a point where we are worrying at a level which is unhelpful to us.
We are all different and view things with unique perspectives and it is my perspective that it is natural to feel some trepidation over starting a new course or moving up a year in school or starting that university course and feeling anxious over what may come of this. Recognising this can help to deal with these feelings and to prevent them taking over to enable you to enjoy your achievements and face your new challenges with positivity. As an example, we generally view stress as a negative experience. However, there are some positive aspects to stress that can spur us on to accomplish our goals leading to outcomes in which positivity far outweighs the negatives. Academic deadlines are a great example of this. Perhaps you have struggled with a particular piece of work or have even left it to the last minute. The feelings of stress to complete the work can spur you on to sit down and get it done, leading to feelings of accomplishment, relief and happiness that are more powerful than the initial stress you experienced.
I remember my first day at university and the feelings of stress, anxiety and worry could easily have taken over, it was quite frankly a nerve wracking experience walking in that first day with thoughts such as “am I doing the right thing” and “will I be good enough” etc. However I knew that I could have the most amazing experience and end up getting the job of my dreams as a result and this motivation was far stronger. These thoughts I had were a natural process and it was my way of dealing with a stressful experience.
There is no doubt that the start of a new academic year can invoke feelings of worry, stress, anxiety and trepidation. However, the start of a new academic year can present you with so many positives that they can far outweigh these negative emotions. You can gain so much, have so many wonderful experiences, such as making new friends, expanding your mind and having the satisfaction of achieving. A new academic year can bring you steps closer to a larger goal of completing your course with whichever aims you had in mind. All of these things can indeed bring some nerves or anxieties but essentially there are more potential positives and this is worth bearing in mind when feelings of worry, stress or anxiety feel like they are taking up room in your mind. It is also worth bearing in mind that educational establishments will have plenty of resources to help you during stressful times, such as a counselling service, if you ever feel the need for support
Borkovec T.D., Robinson E., Pruzinsky T., DePree J.A. (1983). Preliminary exploration of worry: Some characteristics and processes
Behaviour Research and Therapy 21 9-16
Tonn, B.E, Conrad, F. (2007). Thinking About The Future: A Psychological Analysis
Social Behavior and Personality 35 (7) 889-902
MacLeod, A.K., Williams, J. Mark, G., Bekerian, D.A (1991). Worry is reasonable: the role of explanations in pessimism about future personal events.
Journal of Abnormal Psychology 100 (4) 478-487