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Raise Your Hand if You’ve Ever Felt Personally Victimized by Anxiety

"One Thing We Can All Agree On." PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons
Operant conditioning is a possible solution to help deal with the affects of anxiety. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons

By Michelle Ayr

Published: November 22nd, 2017

Everyone deals with some level of anxiety at some point in their lives. It may stem from something school-related, family situations that are taking a toll on the individual or the friends, and/or family members around them. Anxiety does not limit itself to any age bracket as people of all ages can deal with or be handed some complicated life situation that exposes them to a certain degree of anxiety.

Personally, when life hands me a situation that causes me to be anxious, I always tell myself to take a step back, reevaluate my situation, and breathe. When you take yourself out of that situation and give yourself an outside-looking-in perspective, you may find answers that can help you overcome that which you are dealing with at the moment.

Have you ever thought, “Why is it that I give such great advice to other people, but I always have a hard time following my own advice?” I have had this thought many a time, and I know others have as well, at least at some point in their lives. This is because things are always easier said than done. Taking yourself out of a given situation or even imagining someone else in the same position as you will subconsciously change your position and help you to reassess the circumstance or your mindset in that predicament. This makes it easier for you to come up with solutions for your problem.

If you are a person who tends to procrastinate with tasks or workload that you must get done, I have a possible solution for you: operant conditioning. If you have ever taken an introductory psychology course, you most likely have an idea of the method. If not, I will enlighten you. Operant conditioning, introduced by psychologist B.F. Skinner, is a learning process that manipulates the mentality and the strength of one’s behavior through a process of reward and punishment.

Let’s delve deeper and relate it to the majority of us procrastinators in college. Take this as an example: John has a final that he is dreading. He really does not want to study but knows that if he does not study, he will fail his class. What should John do? For those of you who thought, “Study, duh,” I applaud you. Let’s say, though, that John is really lazy or has other finals that he has to study for and hopes he can possibly just glide through studying for this one. A way John can overcome his dilemma is to bring in operant conditioning. He could tell himself that if he does not study for the exam, he will fail this class, resulting in a bad grade, lower GPA, “death by parents,” and money wasted on a class that he will need to retake next semester. However, if he performs his proper tasks and then rewards himself with something immediate and tangible, like ice cream, he will condition himself to not procrastinate studying for his exams, as he will then associate the completion of his task with a specific reward.

Therefore, if you or someone you know is dealing with a great level of anxiety, introduce them to the reward-and-punishment system (operant conditioning). This will help them reevaluate their position in a situation and hopefully help them to make the right choice that will benefit them in the long run, no matter what the situation is, and ultimately ease their anxiety.

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