Starting something new can cause some worry and anxious thoughts and feelings. It’s a lot of pressure to meet new people, navigate around a new environment and be learning new things all at the same time. For example, you might be starting a new school, joining a new club, or it could be your first day of a new job.
This can feel especially daunting if you don’t know anyone who is going with you. However, it’s important to remember that everyone goes through this and there may even be others going through it too.
For example, starting a new school is something that we all have to go through, whether it’s moving to a new school or moving up from primary to secondary. One of our young ambassadors, Jamie, has this advice:
Listen below for more advice from another one of our young ambassadors, Nik:
As Nik mentioned in his video, it can be helpful when starting a new school to provide information to your teachers or school staff about what CMN is and how they can help you to be more comfortable.
In the Toolbox, you can find a teacher’s guide to promoting appearance diversity and acceptance within schools. This guide aims to help teachers to support their classes to be more accepting of everyone, no matter what they look like. You can also find a fact sheet about supporting young people with CMN. Both of these can be printed or sent to your teachers to give them some information about CMN and how they can support you and others in your school. Remember to speak to someone you trust, for example a parent or a friend, to help you to plan when you are starting a new school.
Here are some tips for starting a new school or college:
A few weeks before:
- If possible, see if you can visit the school before you start. This can help you to minimise any worries about finding your way around on your first day.
- Remind yourself of your new timetable and make sure you have all the equipment you need, for example pens, books and a good comfortable bag. Treating yourself to something new or something that makes you feel good can make you feel much more positive and excited about the day.
- If you know anyone who is also going, try to arrange to meet with them so that you can arrive together, or ask to meet with them at breaktimes.
- If you’re worried about interactions with new people and how they might react to you, it might be helpful to plan your responses. There is more information about how to do this below. Furthermore, see ‘REACHOUT’ for help with social situations.
The day before:
- Minimise what you can worry about by being as organised as possible. Plan out your outfit/uniform and leave it somewhere handy, pack your bag, prepare your lunch or money for lunch, and make sure you know exactly how you’re getting there.
- Remind yourself of your responses and your introductions
- Have a look over REACHOUT.
- See if you can spend a little while looking over a map of the school. Don’t worry if you don’t know your way around, you can always ask for directions!
- Print the teacher’s guide to promoting appearance diversity and the ‘supporting a young person with CMN’ guides. It could be an idea to find a quiet time to give these to your teacher.
- Take some time to think about everything you are looking forward to and are excited about.
- Set your alarm
- Relax and get an early night.
On the day:
- Wake up with enough time to get ready
- Leave plenty of time to get there
- Have a big breakfast. You might not feel like eating if you are nervous, but you’ll feel a lot better throughout the day if you’ve got enough energy
- Double check that you’ve got everything you need
- Have fun and enjoy it – you’re well prepared!
Plan a Response
Something which can cause worry and anxiety when starting something new is the worry that someone will point out, draw attention to, or ask questions about your CMN. Even though it is unlikely that someone you’ve only just met would be this direct it’s important to remember that people normally aren’t trying to be unkind, but they are genuinely curious about you.
Instead of worrying about if this is going to happen or not, a proactive step you can take is to prepare what you would say if this did happen. Not only will this mean you are able to deal with the situation if it does arise, but you’ll also worry less about it happening because you’ll feel more confident in your ability to deal with it. It can be useful to prepare a variety of different responses, which you can use depending on the particular situation. For example:
- A quick and easy response. This is the one you’d use most often.
- A confident and firm response. Perhaps you’d use this if someone asked quite a direct question, or if someone was rude to you.
Things to consider
- How much do you want people to know about your CMN?
- How visible is your CMN – will you likely get questions about it?
- Who is around you?
- How do you feel right now? If you are feeling really worried, stressed or pressured, it’s probably good to give a response which will distract others from your CMN and change the subject. If you’re feeling calm and in control and are comfortable to do so, give a little more information if you want to.
Different ways to respond:
Shut it down. Of course, not everyone will want to talk about their CMN, and that’s perfectly okay. You can easily say you don’t want to talk about it. For example, “It’s just what my skin looks like, I don’t really talk about it”.
Give a little more information. This shows people you’re up for talking about it, but it’s not a big deal. For example, “It’s a birthmark. I was born with it, it doesn’t really affect me, but I have to be careful when I’m in the sun.” or “It’s a scar from a surgery I had as a child to remove a birthmark. It’s a condition called CMN, it’s something I was born with. Don’t worry, you can’t catch it”.
Bring it up yourself. You might not like people to wonder and would rather tell people about it. This means you’ll have more control over the situation and you can get it out of the way on your terms. For example, “I sometimes get some attention because of my birthmarks, but everyone’s made me feel really welcome today”, or “I noticed you looking at my arm, this is a big birthmark I’ve had since I was born. I don’t really notice it and it doesn’t hurt me”.
If your CMN is noticeable, it might be an option to bring it up as soon as you introduce yourself to others. This means that others won’t be distracted by wondering what it is, whether they should ask about it or whether they should ignore it. For example, “Hi, I’m Toby. If you’re wondering about my face, it’s just a birthmark, kind of like a mole. What’s your name?”
It is normal to feel anxious and worried when starting something new for the first time. You might find yourself having worrying thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Remember the hot cross bun model? Sometimes the physical sensations that anxious thoughts can cause, for example shaking, sweating, and having a racing heart, can feel really uncomfortable and cause us to behave differently to how we might like to. For example, it might stop you from speaking to someone new.
Here are a few relaxation techniques that you can use to calm your body and mind when you’re feeling stressed. Different techniques suit different people, so give them each a try and see what works best for you.