By Kavya Shah for KidSpirit's Fear and Anxiety issue.
When you stand before what you are most afraid of, chills run down your spine, your teeth chatter, your knees shake, you get goose-bumps, and your pulse quickens. This is essentially your body’s way of acknowledging the presence of fear.
When this happens, your body has one of two instincts, fight or flight. It is our community and tradition that teach us how to react in the face of peril, by facing our fears or by running away. If you have been taught from an early age how to handle stressful situations, you will be able to perform better under pressure once you are older. Therefore, experiences, friends, family, and faith can help us respond to stressful situations and reduce our chances of feeling apprehensive.
People are unique, so how they react to stressful situations differs. Our cultures prepare us to face our fears and also shape our responses to stimuli. Few cultures are open and allow children to speak their mind and get the help they need, like mine.
Franklin Roosevelt once said: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” This quote helps everyone understand that to overcome a fear you need nothing but the courage to first accept it and work towards eliminating it. Not accepting, or fearing, your fear hinders your path to facing whatever you are scared of. The process of eliminating what you are afraid of gives you the zest to move on in life and the confidence of having achieved a personal milestone. You achieve milestones throughout your life. They can be big or small, but they always shape you as a person.
At the age of four, I was really scared of going into the swimming pool, and I did not want to jump into the cold water. However, all it took was my mother pushing me into the pool without warning. I swallowed some water but managed to go toward the side. And before I realized it, not only had I conquered my fear, I had also learned how to swim.
My family and friends have helped me face many other fears. They give me strength. A couple of months ago, I had severe acid reflux and continuous vomiting. The doctors thought this illness was caused by either gastroenteritis or anxiety. What I realized through my illness was that I was giving importance to things that did not really matter. I would constantly think about things that were just not worth my time. I would think too much regarding hygiene in public restrooms, the marks I would receive in school, and my relationships with my friends. By simply being there, my family helped me understand myself and just learn to let go. I still don’t think that I was unwell due to anxiety. But it is possible that I was and still am anxious about various things. So when at the end of the day, my family is there for me, it feels good. Friends and family who have your back is what is most important in life, so as to conquer your fears and reduce your anxiety.
My family has also played a role in helping me overcome my fear of judgment. Before speaking my heart to friends I was not sure I could trust, I would constantly think, what are these people currently thinking of me? But I soon realized that the more vulnerable I made myself and the more I put myself out there, the more the fear diminished. While change is the only constant, it can’t happen overnight, and therefore, to persist in the quest of conquering your fear, you need a sound support system to motivate you and help you climb the ladder to personal satisfaction. Often I would be unsure of what people thought of me. But because my parents helped me dismiss others’ opinions of me, I became happier. Conquering this fear gave me immense satisfaction and happiness, as I had one less thing to worry about.
Believing in a supernatural power and having faith in god, or just the power of meditation, also helps relieve anxiety. This is because belief in an idea often helps your body. It has the same effect that meditation does. I believe in god. Therefore occasionally visiting the temple or praying helps me be calm and can restore peace. Praying or meditation gives me time to be with myself. In a world with so much hustle and bustle, having a long task list can leave me feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Finding time for myself helps me relieve this feeling. I have been able to become calm and love myself even more through having faith.
There are several ways to relieve anxiety; having faith and a supportive community are just a few that have helped me. If it is not addressed, anxiety can often lead to an unsettled life, especially because being anxious does not fit perfectly with society’s beliefs and life. Due to this, overcoming anxiety can be harder. Due to cultural stereotypes, people may dismiss anxiety or look down on it, but every normal person is anxious at some point in his or her life, perhaps about marriage, a new job, or even going in for an interview. However, when you become anxious about almost everything, you need help. In most societies, being anxious does not classify as normal and therefore is not openly spoken about. At my school and in my family, we are open about ideas like these, so as to make sure that people know that “it’s okay.” It’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay to be unsure. It’s okay to not make eye contact. It’s okay to feel weird when out on a first date.
Anxiety makes people get irritated and annoyed at the smallest of things. Therefore, understanding the root cause of anxiety is imperative to dealing with it. As for how to combat anxiety? The answer is really simple. Find stuff to do that you love, surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you, and block out thoughts that make you feel low. Push yourself to think about what makes you anxious and work towards reducing anxiety by facing it.
I believe that being anxious and fearful of the unknown or even the known is okay, and most of us are fearful or anxious, but just don’t admit it. Let us learn to openly embrace who we are, as being seen not only means that we can grow, but also gives us the power to turn the story around.
When she wrote this piece, Kavya Shah was a happy-go-lucky 14-year-old girl. She loves reading and writing and studies at The Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India. Being a foodie, writer, reader, and a great friend is what truly defines her. She is a feminist who always voices her opinions. Kavya is a curious learner who is always up for challenges.