Equipping Students to be Mentally Tough

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Removing hardship from students generally adds to their anxiety in the long run. According to Tim Elmore, “students begin to look outside for their remedy to stress, rather than growing some grit and learning to ‘do hard things’.”

Rather than teaching students that life is filled with stresses that they must learn to deal with, we are beginning to create “cognitive distortions” in their minds, making them think things are catastrophic when they really are not. By removing these relatively small risks when the stakes are low, we create risk-deprived kids.

“We’ve now produced the most risk-averse population of kids to date,” Elmore wrote.”If members of Gen Z have been risk-deprived and are therefore more risk-averse, then it is likely that they have a lower bar for what they see as daunting… They will see more ordinary life tasks as beyond their ability to handle on their own without help from an adult.”

The list below comes from Dr. Roberty Leahy, Stephen Holland and Lata McGinn’s bookTreatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders and represents a few of the nine “cognitive distortions” that can be remedied by healthy, logical thinking.

You can help students battle these cognitive distortions daily:

  1. Emotional Reasoning: Letting our feelings guide our interpretation of reality. (I feel down about my class today, therefore I should drop this course.)
  2. Catastrophizing: Focusing on the worst possible outcome as the most likely. (If I don’t pass this class, I will never get into a college.)
  3. Overgeneralizing: Perceiving an overall pattern of negatives based on a single example. (I knew this would happen. I seem to fail at almost everything I do.)
  4. Mind Reading: Assuming that you know what people think without having good enough evidence. (He thinks I’m a loser.)
  5. Blaming: Seeing other people as the source of your negative feelings, so you refuse to take responsibility for yourself. (She makes me angry! My parents did this to me.)
We will only build tough minds by preparing the student for the path, not vice versa. You can read the full list of cognitive distortions HERE.