“A Calm Arises”: An Anxious Adolescent’s Experience of Building Self-Compassion Through Aesthetic Reading
de Leon, Clarissa
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In recent years, the Ontario Government (2013) has recognized that schools have a vital role in facilitating the prevention, intervention, and awareness of student mental wellness. Increased political attention to student mental health parallels studies that have found that 68.8% of the mental health problems in Canada have their onset in childhood and adolescence (Government of Canada, 2006). Of particular concern is anxiety since almost 5% of Canadians report experiencing threshold or subthreshold levels of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Therefore, it is crucial that we find tools that can be used to promote mental wellness in anxious adolescents. Stories have great cultural importance because they help us explore abstract and difficult concepts and experiences. For this reason, literature provides a rich opportunity to promote mental wellness in anxious adolescents. In my study, I looked inwards at my own experiences as an anxious adolescent for insight into how reading literature can help adolescents understand and cope with their anxiety. Using autoethnography and literary anthropology as the methodologies for my study, I analyzed internal (autobiographical memories and reflections) and external (personal journals, social media posts, letters, and high school assignments) data sources from my adolescence (ages 14 to 18 years) and found that my aesthetic reading responses to literature helped me understand and cope with my anxiety by building my self-compassion. This study adds to current research investigating the relationship between anxiety and self-compassion by contributing a first-person exploration of the intersections between literacy experiences, adolescent anxiety, and self-compassion.