When Dr. Alex Russell, author of “Drop the Worry Ball,” spoke to our boarding students last week about anxiety, he focused on one central paradox that afflicts almost all of us: We are, if you’ll pardon the UCC campaign pun, a “Think Ahead” society, but we want to be able to live in the moment.
Thinking ahead is synonymous with anxiety, which Russell defined as “fear plus planning.” “We are the only animal that gets anxious, and this was important for our survival. ‘Hey, winter is coming. We’d better get ready’…”
Today our boys are required to do a lot of thinking ahead. “What will your extended essay topic be? Have you selected your higher-level courses? Thought about your university list? And will you need to take the SAT Level 2 Math Test to get in to your most selective schools?”
Russell pointed out that, “It’s easy for anxiety to get the best of us, for us to not use it in in an adaptive way.” We should see anxiety as simply an essential part of our humanity and understand that, “We take on anxiety, so that we don’t have to deal with (real ) fear.” Anxiety actually helps us take care of business now, so that worse things won’t happen to us later on.
Russell reminded his audience, “Remember that life is not a race. If you think it is, you’ll find there is no finish line. The default is that you (mistakenly) begin to think of school as a place to get marks, to get degrees, to get jobs. But you are really here to get educated, to learn, to find flow.”