I am a nervous wreck. My mind is constantly filled with regrets I have, things I need to do, and a laundry list of disappointments I have caused. I have dealt with anxiety for as long as I could remember, and while I managed to get a firm handle on it in high school, college was a completely different story. No longer policed by my parents, I was left to my own devices, and my severely underdeveloped sense of responsibility became my Achilles heel when augmented by my anxiety disorder.
For the past four semesters, I’ve skated by on mediocre grades and have dealt with professors and peers who have failed to take me seriously. This semester, I knew I had to make a change so that maybe, I’d have one or two fewer things on my aforementioned laundry list.
1. Accept that whatever you’re feeling is valid. You don’t need a reason to feel anxious, and often it’s the constant mantra of, “you’re being unreasonable,” that only worsens the anxiety. If you feel anxious, it’s okay. You’re allowed to freak out, you’re allowed to feel scared, and you’re allowed to want to shut out the world and just stay in your room with hard cider and the Hunger Games trilogy. Try your absolute hardest not to shame yourself for being anxious. So many other people shame us; we don’t need to get that from within ourselves.
2. Communication. This one seems like it’d be a no-brainer, but if I had a dime for every e-mail I should’ve sent to my professor, boss, club president, etc., I would have been able to pay my tuition by now. Just talk to your superiors. Tell them what is going on in your life whether it be that you’re having a hard time getting out of bed, or that you’ve just been feeling very overwhelmed lately. Unless they’re wildly unreasonable, they’ll try their absolute hardest to understand and come up with a way to help you succeed.
3. Open your e-mails. Even the ones from your professor asking you where you were in class today. So you missed class and forgot (and by forgot I mean conveniently found yourself marathoning Criminal Minds episodes instead of writing that short e-mail explaining your situation) to email your teacher. Alright, it happens. I’m unbelievably guilty of this one. But the one thing I’ve learned is that if your professor e-mails you to check in: REPLY. I’ve made the mistake of leaving those e-mails unread in my inbox. It eats away at me, with every move I make; the nagging voice in my head (that is, on an unrelated note, the enthusiastic voice of Steve Martin) reminds me that the e-mail still sits in my inbox. Hours pass, turning into days, turning into weeks, when finally I muster the courage to open it, only to find that it was the nicest written e-mail in the history of the Internet, and that this could’ve been avoided by simply taking responsibility.
4. Find that one person who can tell you (bluntly) that things are going to be ok. As I previously mentioned, it’s important to accept whatever you’re feeling and not shame yourself, but I think it’s also important to have that person in your life who can objectively let you know when they think you’re overreacting. Sometimes it’s hard to hear, but I’ve found that it helps me to keep things in perspective.
5. Keep yourself busy. The more tasks I put on my plate, the less idle time I have to sweat the small stuff. This is definitely a short-term solution to a long-term issue, but when you’re just trying to survive, it can make all the difference.
6. Netflix. Seriously, Netflix. Everyone jokes about how they spend too much time on Netflix (myself included) but I think it’s important to let yourself escape and your mind wander. I’m easily overwhelmed, but I’ve found that if I let myself watch an episode or two of a favorite show, or even a movie I’ve been dying to see, when I absolutely need to, I feel better. For that hour to two and a half hours, I’m at peace, and I often come out of it feeling like I’ve gotten the rest I need to tackle the tasks I have on my plate.