Changing Anxiety with Mindset and Skill Sets

According to Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation.  Self-efficacy is the crucial ingredient between the times that we feel secure and confident and times we feel anxious for the future. 

We experience confidence and peace when we feel that we can handle the challenges that we may face. We enter new situations with a resourceful mindset, can problem solve, and overcome barriers. Alternatively, when we fear we cannot manage the potential threats of the future we experience stress and anxiety.  In this scenario we can become hopeless, paralyzed, and fail to recognize our own abilities or the support from others.

Sometimes anxiety is related to an unhelpful mindset and sometimes it is related to a skill set deficit.  An anxiety mindset is riddled with thoughts such as “this is going to be really bad”, “if I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t even want to try”, “I will fail”, or “what if things go really badly?” These can be automatic, even below our consciousness, and fueled by self-doubt and negative beliefs about our abilities.  Anxiety that is related to a skill set deficit says “I don’t know how to manage this on my own”.  To effectively manage anxiety, mindsets needs to be challenged and skill sets need to be built.

Mindsets are shifted through the work of insight, introspection and support with therapy, groups, and daily experiences which adjust thinking patterns that are automatically catastrophizing.  Students may challenge one another to look at evidence of success, to try thinking in new ways, and be an example to one another of growth and change.  Mindsets shift when we challenge common anxiety thinking errors and practice new thoughts to replace them.

Skill sets are grown by identifying the deficit, teaching, doing, and practicing.  Skill sets grow when we are exposed to others who know how to do things that we do not, and more importantly when we try new things.  If we experience debilitating anxiety in relation to going to a job interview, a skill set approach would be to review resumes, write one together, role play interviews, and then practice going to interviews in real life.  If we have a deficit in learning how to cook for ourselves, a skill set would be to learn about the cost of groceries, learn about nutritional needs, join a cooking class, and try cooking meals.  There is no way to build a skill set without actually trying the skill! 

Our shift manager Kat has begun to work with our students in building skills sets around basic car maintenance.  Understanding things like checking oil, tire pressure, and how to change a tire are all ways to increase confidence.  On one sunny afternoon, our students enjoyed the demonstration on how to change a tire. They quickly found out that it isn’t as easy as it looks due the difficulties of lug nuts!