Greetings everyone! My name is Jared Klein-Tyer, I am 20 years old, and I am in my third year of my Bachelor of Psychology program at the University of Guelph Humber. I am a placement student at Cam’s Kids, and I am very excited to experience and learn about all of the amazing things that the Ambassadors and team at Cam’s Kids do. I am also very excited to contribute my knowledge and experience with anxiety, not only to give back to the community, but also to perhaps help and interact with others who share a similar experience to mine.
As far back as I can remember in my school career (which is about grade one), I have experienced some form of anxiety regarding both the academic stresses that school can create, and social stressors. Grade one was also a very memorable year in my life, especially as it was around the time I was first diagnosed with both anxiety and ADD. This provided clarity to the difficulties I would have for the majority of my elementary school years. I felt as if I was falling behind my peers and was not able to understand topics as easily as those around me. Basically put, I felt different, which contributed to my social anxiety and only led to me further being alienated by my peers, except for some really close friends.
One of the most difficult things for me was to self advocate and accept my anxiety and ADD as a part of me. As a result, my parents, specifically my mother, was a massive support in my early school years, and helped me get the accommodations I needed in order to be successful academically. Despite these accommodations, I still had a very difficult time with my social anxiety and experienced days where I would only want to stay home and avoid the stressors of the school environment. These avoidance behaviours were a serious challenge for me, as it was far easier to stay home in a safe environment and avoid the challenges that I was facing. Everyone has different strategies that work for them. For me personally, I found that if I push myself beyond what I thought was possible for me to do, I could physically confront my challenges. Through those successful experiences, I grew to be more comfortable with myself and my anxiety.
One specific example of this was a series of overnight trips, including to several camps and two trips to Algonquin Provincial Park, all of which helped me be independent and advocate for myself when my folks were not around. These experiences also helped me be more social and extroverted, and far more comfortable in situations in which I was making new friends and meeting new people. Similarly, with academics, as well as extra curricular activities, pushing myself and practicing public speaking grew my confidence a great deal over the years.
In order to manage my general anxiety on a daily basis, I find that listening to music, spending time with my family/dog, and making time at the end of the day to interact with my friends and enjoy my hobbies makes a huge difference. I started playing electric guitar several years ago (due to my passion for rock music) and since then, have been a part of three different bands. Pushing myself to perform in front of crowds helped to grow my confidence and showed that the intense fear I would feel when I got up in front of people was all in my head. It was through confronting my negative self-talk by creating my own successful experiences that I was able to accept my feelings of social anxiety and identify them if they surfaced.
If I am feeling particularly down or anxious, listening to a favourite artist, and box breathing while going for a hike really helps me put my thoughts together and open my mind to solve whatever issues I am experiencing. Talking with friends and family about whatever is bothering me is a huge support as well. Despite my hesitation to talk about my experience due to the stigma that does exist, being open about my anxiety has been extremely helpful and a huge part of me being able to accept and talk about it with others, like I am with you now!
One particular experience I would like to share with you happened in my first year of university. It stands out to me as one of the most anxiety provoking times of my life, and forced me to push myself beyond my limits to stay on track and keep up with the year.
The transition to any new school or university is difficult in and of itself, with many things to learn such as how to find your way around a big campus and make friends with the cohort that will be a part of your life for the next several years. I found that if I really put myself out there from the first frosh event, and forced myself to join extracurriculars as well as study abroad trips, the transition was far easier. That being said, it was not easy to do so, especially given my experience with sometimes paralysing social anxiety.
The big step I took within the second semester of my first year was applying for the study abroad to Ecuador and the Galapagos islands. I had never gone on a weeklong trip out of country without my parents, let alone to South America; I was equal parts excited and terrified. In order to manage the anxiety I was having prior to the trip, I made use of two major strategies which I still use to this day when feeling nervous about big events. Firstly, I spoke to my professor and was very open about my situation and let him know about how I felt about the trip. This not only allowed me to open a dialogue with him to get more info about the trip, but also allowed us to figure out ways to make the trip and the inevitable culture shock easier. Secondly, I created my own pros and cons list about the trip and directly compared the benefits of going on the trip to my own self-doubt and negative self-talk. This ensures that I am not giving my negative self-talk and doubt more attention over the confidence that I have in myself.
So, to conclude my anxiety story, the successful experiences that I have pushed myself to discover have really helped me overcome my fears and difficulties when it comes to both my education and social experiences. I hope that by sharing my experiences with you all, that it provides some connection or insight into your experiences and that it helps in some way in the future.