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Anxiety is a “hair-on-fire” problem. Building skills must be one part of the solution.

December 7, 2020

Young adulthood is one of life’s great transitions and, as with any transition, a certain amount of anxiety is to be expected. However, current statistics should be raising alarm bells. 

In 2018, 63% of college students in the US reported suffering from “overwhelming” anxiety. (source

Even before COVID, anxiety levels were on the rise. Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State University, and author of iGen, reported in a study that cases of moderate anxiety rose from 23.2% in 2007 to 41.1% in 2018 and severe anxiety rose from 17.9% in 2013 to 34.4% in 2018. In Canada, 69% of university students report experiencing anxiety. (source) Throw a pandemic into the mix and it is a miracle that people are coping at all. 

The causes for anxiety are complex. Poor self-care habits like sleeping, eating and exercise are obvious culprits. Some point fingers at social media and streaming services. I am an educator and an entrepreneur (not a psychologist). My concern comes from what I see in the classroom and from extensive interviews I have conducted while developing my business, Skillpod. 

Universities, colleges, parents and students feel the weight of this issue, as do politicians, evidenced by the recent Government of Ontario announcement of $19.25 million for services to address this crisis. What I am about to say is by no means meant to undermine the need for accessible and quality mental health services. Therapy and medication can be very helpful. Mindfulness and meditation are useful and inexpensive tools to help calm the mind and make days (and nights more manageable).  However, there is another option which it seems to me is woefully unexplored. 

In fact, I want to stand on a rooftop and shout this one out to anyone who will listen. There is an option of building real skills to help people have more confidence in their ability to face uncertainty.

 Why are we not 100% focused on helping people build the skills and mindset that will help them become the flexible, adaptable and agile thinkers and learners that they need to be in this crazy world? 

We are living in a dichotomy. Technology has changed the way that we think, the way that we problem solve and has made us cognitively (and physically) lazy. You don’t need to figure out how to make 100 different meals out of spaghetti, you can just order UberEats. You don’t need to know how to hail a cab or navigate public transit systems, you can order an Uber. When travelling to foreign lands, you don’t need to learn the basics of a language, you can Google translate your way around. Is backpacking around the globe even challenging any more? 

Technology has made our lives so much easier at the same time the complexity that we live in requires resilience, creative solutions and a growth mindset in abundance. Where are we learning these skills? In extensive customer interviews, the most common responses are, “I have no idea” and “YouTube”. 

This is where Skillpod may be able to play a role. Skillpod is a program, designed to help people, particularly those 18-30, build 7 skills that are critical for work and life in the world we are living in. 

The Skillpod skills include:

  • Smarter learning 
  • Selfwork
  • Design & Innovation
  • Teamwork
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Information Management

Building hard skills can be done quickly and there are tangible results. You can take a 6 week course in coding and you will easily be able to demonstrate what you have learned when the course is complete. Building “power” skills takes time and a focused effort. And there is a big payoff for this effort…

Three big benefits of developing power skills:

  1. Building confidence based on evidence
  2. Reducing anxiety 
  3. Building a mindset that is equipped and resourced to face uncertainty

5 tips to help you grow your skills:

  1. Investigate the skills that are most critical for what you are doing right now. 
  2. Evaluate your strengths in each of these skills. If you are unsure, ask someone who knows you well for feedback. 
  3. Create a priority list and choose one skill to work on at a time.
  4. Look for high quality resources to help build these skills (check out Skillpod’s courses).
  5. Sign up for Skillpod Fundamentals Course – launching January 2020! 

Visit skillpod.ca to learn more or reach out at connie (at) skillpod.ca

Connie Wansbrough

Co-Founder and CEO, Skillpod, Inc. 

I am a Toronto, Canada based entrepreneur, teacher and designer. Skillpod is a social mission driven company that helps people discover their potential by building 7 skills that are critical for success in the digital economy. When I am not working, I am likely playing tennis, making weird creative things, playing with my puppy and hanging out with my family.