Deborah Sblendorio reflects on “Taming the Worry Monster: Anxiety in Gifted and 2e Youth”
I’d like to thank the CGA for allowing me the opportunity to attend the SMU Gifted Students Lecture on Taming the Worry Monster: Anxiety in Gifted and 2e Youth presented by Dr. Dan Peters.
Dr. Peters’ engaging presentation explained that anxiety is an irrational fear. The brain tricks us into believing the fear is rational because it is based on a rational premise. He took us through the biological process of anxiety, explaining that the adrelanine produced from fear creates real symptoms including blurred vision, chest pain, headache, and fatigue to name a few.
Anxiety is invisble but takes us down. When a kid understands how their brain works, they can take ownership of it.
Dr. Peters described the different types or “ballparks” of anxiety which include: Panic Attack, Agoraphobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Social Phobia, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Generalized Anxiety, Separation Anxiety, Perfectionism and Eating Disorders. He also described in detail the many types of Thinking Errors including Catastrophizing , Filtering, Overgeneralization, Magnifying, etc.
Some of the strategies that he recommended are
- acknowledge anxious thoughts, but do not believe them (just because we have a thought doesn’t mean it is real)
- Stay in the present (living in the future produces anxiety, living in the past produces depression)
- Breathe (breathing tricks our mind into thinking it is calm)
- Overcome a fear by taking one step at a time
- Do the activity and pretend you like it
- Predict on a scale of 1-10 how much you would enjoy the activity before you do it
- Do the feared thing over and over until it is no longer scary
- Take risks
- Help a perfectionist “fail”
- Avoid caffeine
- Know your triggers
- Motivate yourself to face the fears
- Calm breathing, visualize a calming place
- Challenge the thoughts
- Know that anxious feeling will eventually go away.
Dr. Peters summarized the lecture by stating that “Anxiety is not powerful when understood”. When the child remembers how the brain works, he will realize that “scary” thoughts activate a small area in the brain that sends too much adrenalin throughout the body. Thoughts are responsible for our feelings and behavior. “Always remember, anxiety is a monster who is trying to trick you and keep you from enjoying life and being happy”.