Anxiety is part of everyday life, and many young people have experienced a sense of panic at some time in their lives. Existential therapy doesn't consider anxiety as symptomatic of some morbidity or pathology, but as a state that says something about our basic values and about how we live our lives.
Acting contrary to our values can induce stress, existential anxiety and guilt, and if this anxiety is left unresolved it can become destructive. Relaxed breathing can dampen the turmoil and allow us the space we need to reflect over what our anxiety is trying to tell us, to examine our values and find our own direction in life.
As a student, you exist in an achievement-based culture and might subconsciously be trying to live up to unattainable values, and this can cause anxiety. Examples of such values are:
- Perfectionism, which creates a self-imaged based on achievement that impels you to perform to the max.
- Excellence, which tells you that you must be able to do everything at once and induces a fear of failure. This can obstruct the knowledge process, whereby an acceptance of ignorance allows us to take in new knowledge. We all have something new to learn.
We can also base our self-worth on our popularity, a relationship-based form of self-esteem. This can also lead to anxiety when we lose our own direction in life by bending too much to the needs of others.
"A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new."
There's a difference between self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-confidence denotes a belief in our ability to accom-lish things; self-esteem denotes the value that we believe ourselves to have in our own eyes.
To maintain good self-esteem you have to have a realistic view of yourself in terms of your resources/strengths and limitations/weaknesses, and to be content with your journey towards your goals. Good self-esteem can be regarded as the psychological defence against stress and other symptoms. Indeed, there's a link between stress, high performance demands, and low self-esteem. Good self-esteem means not being so dependent on perfection, and being able to say no and allow yourself time to relax.
It's easy to take negative criticism to heart and to overlook positive, encouraging comments. Try to be attentive to your own internal dialogue, so that you don't make too many demands on yourself or become overly self-strict; accept positive comments, give yourself appreciation and become a "good friend" to yourself. This will strengthen your self-esteem.
Think three good thoughts about yourself every day!
Health test: Psychosocial health
Here you can test your mental health. The questionnaire is anonymous and consists of 17 questions focusing on anxiety and depression.