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Befriending Anxiety to Reach Potential: Strategies to Empower Our Gifted Youth

Citation: Gaesser, Amy. (2018). Befriending Anxiety to Reach Potential: Strategies to Empower Our Gifted Youth. Gifted Child Today. 41. 186-195. 10.1177/1076217518786983.

Abstract and Full Text:   https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327846630_Befriending_Anxiety_to_Reach_Potential_Strategies_to_Empower_Our_Gifted_Youth

Abstract: Gifted students can encounter anxiety-provoking stressors throughout their day. Developing effective anxiety management skills allows them to better navigate these challenges. Concepts from neuroscience help us better understand responses to anxiety and can assist gifted youth and those working with them in recognizing how and when to best apply anxiety management strategies. This article reviews these concepts and integrating them into the classroom environment to assist with this learning process. In addition, it examines an evidenced-based anxiety management intervention that has been found to be efficacious for gifted youth, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Results of recent EFT research are reviewed and the steps to learning EFT are outlined.

Craig’s Notes:  This is an article, written by a researcher who has been on research teams for studies about EFT, and geared to teachers and parents of gifted children and adolescents. The author notes that these children are often involved in multiple activities, but their success and progress can be impeded by anxiety. She describes anxiety as being characterized by worried thoughts and feelings that can sometimes be accompanied by physical changes like rapid heart rate and/or breathing and can be chronic or episodic.

She further notes that research has shown there are several stress factors unique to gifted children, including mixed messages from adults regarding their giftedness, and inappropriate placements at school, among many other things. She cites research showing that these children can suffer from a poor self concept and lower academic confidence due to high expectations. Gifted girls especially are sometimes erroneously judged as lacking motivation when they underperform because are simply trying to live up to social expectations.

The research regarding perfectionism in gifted students is explored, and the author notes a study showing the perfectionism is driven by anxiety. She then addresses how those teachers, counselors and parents can support anxious students. In a discussion of neuroscience she covers research documenting the fight or flight stress response, and how this same biological response is stimulated in modern stressful situations that are not actually dangerous. She suggests techniques for building anxiety resiliency in the school setting, such as breathing exercises.

She then presents EFT as an emerging, innovative strategy that can be used to significantly decrease anxiety levels in gifted students, with fewer sessions required than other techniques. She cites research showing the EFT significantly reduced fear of failure and test anxiety, as well as the research demonstrating how EFT reduces cortisol levels in just one session. She gives several examples ‘from the field’ showing how EFT was used to address anxiety related to being in crowds, relieve generalized worry, and assuage physical symptoms related to anxiety. The article describes a few case studies where gifted students were able to manage life much more effectively once they had been taught how to use EFT.

Overall, the article demonstrates effectively that it is certainly worthwhile for gifted students, their parents and their teachers to learn EFT and use it to regulate anxiety and increase performance and potential.