Owning your Anxiety
I’ve been hearing about this one a lot lately and I just want to touch on it a little bit.
Anxiety is something just about everyone deals with at some point in their lives. Some call it just getting a little nervous/anxious before doing something important or about something of importance that has happened. However, these things can get worse and cause an unwanted amount of stress, worry and fear. In some cases, it can become so severe that you actually develop an anxiety disorder; where you are in a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension. This can lead to compulsive behavior or even panic attacks.
For me personally, I always had test anxiety. No matter how well I would know the material or how long I studied, I would always panic when it came to tests. I would have a higher than normal pulse, have beads of sweat forming on my head, start to get that pit sweat, and so on. I was literally a walking train wreck in these situations. I absolutely hated it. I would know the material and when it came to the test, I would go through numerous emotions and all that mentioned above. I would get my test back a few days later and I had failed. I would go talk to my instructors because they thought something was wrong. Well, yes, obviously there was something wrong when I went to those meetings and could explain things that were on the test to them in full, most of the time being correct. It was a mystery to them to why I was failing these tests.
What I finally came to realize that the majority of the anxiety didn’t come from not having the knowledge of the subject, but I let others get in my head. You know those times when you think you did something right and then someone else comes in with a different way of doing it? It makes you question your work. Makes you question when you did it right. Well, for me, it was taking a test with a huge crowd. I couldn’t focus on the test with others around. To see other people struggle made me nervous. To see other people finish their test quickly, made me nervous. To get stuck and look around seeing other people doing the same, made me nervous. So, finally one of my professors suggested that I try a different approach to taking a test. For one test I was put in a separate room from everyone else. Without the distractions of others, I took the test. Was it weird taking the test by myself? Absolutely. It was eerily quiet. But, I was able to focus. The only thing that would derail me now were my own thoughts. A few days after that, I got my test back and to everyone’s surprise (not really), I pretty much aced the test. From then on, I made special arrangements, either with the instructor or the disabilities team, to set aside a space that would allow me to take a test in a more private manner. I would make sure to take steps to prevent myself from overthinking things and keep that anxiety lower.
We obviously don’t want to live with anxiety, but in some people it’ll happen inevitably and they will get to a point of panic. If you start finding it difficult to maintain your emotional and physical balance, you are mostly likely suffering from anxiety. At this point, you need to take action. Obviously, if it’s bad enough, I would say always consider seeking professional help from a therapist or a counselor. They see this type thing everyday and can at least point you in a direction that will have that anxiety subside some.
I’m going to share with you some of the things, other than making arrangements, that helped me with not only test anxiety, but the other normal nervousness that would pop up into my daily life. And yes, that includes work stress, race stress, health stress, and stress in general over everything! Dealing with it is never easy, which is why I mentioned about seeking professional help if you think you have a bad case of it. It gives you someone to keep you accountable. Anyways, on to a few of the things that helped me. Remember, all of these things do require you to battle with yourself. It is about making changes and committing to them, which is the hardest part.
The first thing that helped me was always thinking in a positive light. This one is definitely easier said than done. When you get into that rut of being anxious and nervous, it is really easy to get stressed out. Usually this will lead to a lot of time by yourself trying to collect your thoughts. This is where you need to stay positive. It is really easy to get down on yourself and want to sit there in your pity party. Your thoughts will always be your worst enemy with anxiety, so it is best to battle them head on. Don’t let your thoughts overtake you or allow you to over think. Make an extra effort to find a nice distraction, whether that be nice music or socializing.
Avoid binge eating. This one is also really easy to fall into. This will tie into the last part where you might get too stressed and end up sitting by yourself and having a pity party. What do we all do when we get sad? (I should say, most of us) We go towards junk food. Yup. When you’re down, what picks you up? Chips, candy, ice creams, donuts, you name it. (Although, I would argue I eat this stuff all the time. Just not binging it because I’m sad). This is a big one. Use that energy to do something more productive. Go outside. Play a game. Draw a picture. Something.
This leads me into my next point; taking care of yourself. This means taking part in physical activity or exercise. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym, but something that you feel comfortable doing. Remember, it’s all in your head. You are bettering yourself, so do something that is your pace. I guarantee if you ask people at a gym why they’re working out aside from getting fit, you’d get a lot of responses about stress relief. Physical activity not only helps keep you fit, it helps with your immune system (don’t overdo it though, as it will be result in a weakened immune system), and releases endorphins, which in turn helps burn away any stress you might have.
Along with this, I personally like to meditate and do yoga. This helps relax your mind. If you take a class, you’ll learn how to breathe (silly, I know, but trust me, it works and makes a HUGE difference). This allows you to relax not only your mind, but your body. Plus, it’s a good workout.
The biggest thing that helped me however, was learning to accept my anxiety. Acknowledging the fact that I had those issues and choosing not to run away from it. You’ll often hear, the best way to face a fear is to face it head on. You have to accept it is there and take no for an answer. It won’t be easy at first, but as I mentioned above, it’s all about battling your own mind and staying positive. The more you’re able to face your fear, the easier it will become to overcome it.
These are some things that definitely help me with anxiety and nerves, but like I said, I’m no professional on these matters. If you feel like you need the help, go out and get it. I will say though, dealing with it is the first step you need to take to cure it. Eventually (and hopefully), you will learn to control your anxiety and be ready to tackle any obstacle.