By Renee Jain, contributor to PsychCentral and creator of the GoZen! anxiety relief program
Sixth grade history was a tough subject for me. Anytime Mr. Brown asked a question, I desperately averted my eyes or doodled in my notebook to look busy. Once in a while he called on me anyway. That triggered my anxiety: "What if I get the answer wrong?" "What if everyone laughs at me?" "What if...?"
I usually hemmed and hawed because even if I did know the answer, I preferred to double-check my response mentally before speaking. Mr. Brown always waited patiently, but there was a boy who sat next to me--let's call him Lou--who kept his arm raised the entire time I was thinking.
In fact, every time Mr. Brown asked the class anything, Lou flung his arm into the air, leaned over his desk, and hooted like an injured owl until he was called on. Mr. Brown seemed irritated at times, but that never stopped Lou. I often wondered, "How does Lou always get it right?"
It took me a long time to realize that Lou wasn't actally getting it right. In fact, most of the time, Lou got it wrong because he was simply blurting out the first thing that popped into his head.
One day after class I overheard Mr. Brown speaking to Lou about his behavior: "Lou, I know you're eager to participate in class, and that's a good thing. But I want you to try something for me. Think about what you're going to say for at least five seconds before raising your hand. Before you raise your hand, ask yourself: Is this really true?"
That day Mr. Brown inadvertently provided me an incredible tool. His advice helped me begin a process of questioning my own thoughts. I now offer his advice to other children experiencing anxiety: Every single time you have an anxious thought, ask yourself: "Is this really true?"
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To finish reading the full article, visit the "Stress Better" blog on the PsychCentral website: http://bit.ly/1EpwPcq.