Our students mental health is more important than ever.
1 in 4 secondary aged children are experiencing mental health problems.
Society is experiencing major and rapid changes, resulting in more pressure for students to perform. This is having an impact on the wellbeing of students globally whilst affecting their learning ability.
Often times these new pressures result in anxious feelings and thoughts. Sometimes resulting in a diagnosis of anxiety - such is the case for Hayley.
Here Hayley bravely shares her story of how meditation has become one of her vital tools in coping with anxiety.
Hello! My name is Hayley Witmore. I am a recent alumni of the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, in Melbourne.
At this school I studied the Double bass, with the hopes of becoming a highly regarded professional musician.
Recognising my anxiety
My journey with anxiety began in September of 2013. I was mid-way through my 15th birthday party, surrounded by all of my friends.
As I began to cut my birthday cake I felt a certain heaviness consume my body. I couldn’t tell if I had suddenly become ill, or if I was feeling extremely nervous. I began to panic as these feelings began to intensify, I felt a cold sweat on my skin, and adrenaline pumping its way through my body.
I worriedly thought, ‘How embarrassing would it be for the birthday girl to leave her own party?’ ‘I can’t leave… what would everyone think of me if I got up and said I was ill??’ The feelings intensified and I found myself running out of the restaurant in panic.
My best friend followed me outside. When I had finally stopped running, she told me “Stop being ridiculous Hayley! Come back to the restaurant, what is wrong with you??” This just made me feel even more anxious.
A month later, these scenarios and anxious feelings had become a daily occurrence. I suddenly could not participate in school assembly’s, as I felt panicked at the thought of running out and people wondering what was wrong with me.
In my weekly performances at school I struggled to focus on my music, as I was mentally battling the anxiety that threatened to overcome me.
It was after experiencing one day with 20 consecutive “panic attacks” caused by anxiety (although I did not know this at the time) that I decided I could not cope any longer.
I had my parents drive me to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. We waited for what seemed like hours to talk to a psychologist who diagnosed me with an Anxiety disorder. He explained that I had encountered many panic attacks where my body had to act in favour of my survival, initiating the “fight or flight” response. After talking to him I felt more aware and ready to initiate the recovery process.
Coping plan with meditation
Following the end of the Semester, I devised a plan with my school councillor. I would write a list of the situations in which I had experienced panic attacks, or was afraid to experience panic attacks, and over the course of the holidays I would tackle every one, proving to myself with “good evidence” that I could overcome each situation without having a bad response to it.
I decided to take the “Just say yes” approach that Zoella Sugg used whilst detailing her journey with anxiety, otherwise I would miss out on crucial opportunities because I was afraid of experiencing anxiety.
In the meantime my councillor also introduced me to the Smiling Mind App. He told me that this free guided meditation program could act as a “safety back up” during the situations I felt anxious but was powerless to escape.
I could just plug my earphones in and look like I was listening to music, whilst I focused on meditation for anxiety to help me regain control over my thoughts. It was great.
Before performances I found meditation for my anxiety allowed me to focus clearly on my music and this greatly improved my progress upon my Double bass, and within situations at school I had previously had to miss.
Using meditation for anxiety
The first situation I needed to tackle during my holidays was to catch a bus from the nearest station to the city without having a panic attack. My parents supported me by providing a “safety net” driving behind the bus to help me feel more comfortable if I got the urge to get off.
With the Smiling Mind meditation app loaded on my phone I boarded and began listening to my guided meditations for anxiety.
After I had reached the destination without panicking by finding relief through mindfulness and meditation using the Smiling Mind app I felt extremely accomplished.
As the holidays went on I continued using meditation for anxiety triggering situations. Sometimes it took more than one meditation attempt to get through each scenario positively, but each time I did my confidence grew and I experienced much less anxiety every day.
By the end of the holidays I felt I had grown as a person and had managed to use all of the tools given to me including meditation to overcome my anxiety.
That said, I know throughout my life I will experience anxiety again, as I have since 2013 until now. Just this time I am better prepared with the tools to cope with it. I am a true believer that “things happen for a reason”. Using meditation for anxiety has been one of the best tools I could have given myself.
If you are struggling with any mental health illness, remember; just like on the darkest and coldest days of winter it is hard to imagine it being sunny and bright, however, you can rest assured knowing summer will come eventually. Any hardships you are facing right now will equip you with the strength and confidence to live life to the fullest extent in pursuit of mindfulness.
Our goal is to reach 5 million young people by 2021 through free guided meditations offered on our mindfulness app.
Get started on your journey in using meditation for anxiety here.