Anxiety, as I'm sure you're aware, is a very common disorder, in fact it’s the most common disorder throughout our country and the world. Being an online student has its unique set of… tasks. Going back to school or even entering school at this level for the first time, you’re undoubtedly struggling with a lot of negative narratives that sound like “I can't do it,” “I'm too old,” “I've been out of school for so long I don't know if I can do that,” or “I don't have the mind that I once had 20 years ago.” I assure you that all of the things that you're experiencing are 100% normal, and don't allow them to discourage you. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. You are capable of learning, but you will have to learn to manage anxiety. Proverbs 12:25 says that “anxiety in the heart of man weighs it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad.” Anxiety is a normal part of life and the anxiety you're experiencing as a result of your pursuit of education is no different.
However, I want to provide you some words of encouragement that can be very helpful to you. I'm coming to you today straight from my heart because literally I have been where you are. I didn't go back to school until I was in my mid-thirties. I was in the throes of a career. I did 20 years in law enforcement, needed a degree for advancement but also to set me up for what I wanted to do after my law enforcement career. I had a lot of decisions to make but just like you, I had to manage that career. I had a family and 3 kids. I had to go to the all the soccer games and school functions in addition to keeping up with my academic pursuits.
Anxiety weighs the heart down, making it heavy and breeds discouragement. When discouragement sets in, it takes away hope and you begin to question “I'm not going to make it,’ and “Did I make the right decision?” I want to give you encouragement and hope. You did make the right decision. Just because you're going through some difficult times does not in any way mean that you made the wrong decision. Again, when you continually look at that anxiety, fear, discouragement, it is going to erode hope and it's going to cause you to question your course.
Once hopelessness sets in, your commitment, the discipline that you need to get through school, to manage assignments, to manage your work environment, to manage home … those commitments begin to break down. Once those commitments break down simultaneously, relationships and accountability begin to break down. You may have a tendency to isolate yourself. Passions, motivations become obsessive.
The second half of that Proverb says that encouragement makes the heart glad. Encouragement is a source of hope. It is very important that you learn to encourage yourself, to look to what’s ahead when you get into those individual moments. Look beyond the circumstances. This is something I tell my students and my patients. Train yourself to look through the current circumstance and beyond, to what you are trying to achieve. That will engender a hopeful heart and attitude, like the Proverb said “make it glad,” but will also reinforce commitment. Commitment to right behaviors, something that you need to keep all those balls in the air – school, work, family. Have a good accountability system - support that can help keep you on track.
I promise you if you do those things, are vigilant and make a conscious effort to keep that in mind as you go through your anxious time, you will make it. It worked for me and I know it will work for you. If you found this devotional to be helpful, I want to encourage you, that when you come here and you finally walk across that stage and receive your degree, come to the psych department and you look me up. Thank you.