But! This year is different than the last 3 (at least that’s what I’m telling myself)! I have dealt with seemingly the majority of the things that needed to be dealt with, and I have ~realistic(er) expectations~ for myself. I have multiple backup plans for if things get stressful or anxiety decides to have a field day, so in theory, I should be set. I also have a God that will carry (or drag) me through this year and keep me in one piece because let’s be real: Life could not possibly get worse than last year. I can only go up!
However, just because I’m recovered doesn’t mean I won’t have my moments from time to time, so here’s a list to remind myself (and whoever else that might need it) of what to do when these moments happen:
1. Pray. “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” -Psalm 94:19. Prayer is literally the only thing that can calm me down from the worst of my panic attacks or flashbacks, and by prayer, I’m not talking about those nice prayers you say before you eat your meal. I’m talking about those super honest, frankly ugly, prayers where all the emotions spill out at once (Psalm 13, 69, and 102 are prime examples). The crazy thing is, by the time I finish the prayer, like with the Psalms that I mentioned above, my perspective shifts. I am less “in my head” and more reasonable. 10/10 would recommend.
2. Go for a jog. Outside. Like Nike said, “Just do it.” Seriously, this is one of the first things I do when I get anxious. It helps get the extra energy out my system that the adrenaline oh so inconveniently provides, and it forces me to breathe (not breathing is typically the first sign that I’m anxious). It also helps reset my brain. I don’t know the science behind it, if there even is any, but it just does. Being outside is really important because I need to feel like I’m making progress and going somewhere, and being on a treadmill is boring. Also, the alternative of not running and keeping the energy in is that I get tired and crash. Crashing = depression. And that’s something no one wants.
3. Breathe. I really hate this one. The last thing I want to do when I’m panicking is sit still. This is why I like running more, but when I’m taking a test and I’m having a moment, I can’t exactly bolt out of the room, so this is the next best thing. There are many types of breathing patterns, but the one I like to do is: breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4 and then repeat. I try to imagine a square, each side being one of the “steps,” and I follow along around the border (see picture above).
4. This is kind of like prayer, but talk or write about what’s happening. This has been so helpful because it gives the anxiety less power over me. Putting into words what I’m worrying about stops the thoughts from ruminating and circling around in my head and helps me realize that a lot of my worries don’t make much sense, and I’m usually able to walk my mind out of the irrational thoughts.
5. Hold ice. This one is more for if there are thoughts of self harm. It gives a physical sensation, which can satisfy the feeling of needing to do something, and it snaps me right back into the present. I’ll admit, this one’s pretty inconvenient, but so is anxiety, so it’s okay. If that still doesn’t work, dunk your head in a bowl of ice water. Ice bucket challenge 2.0.
6. Put your head down, listen to music, and sip some hot tea. This one is specifically if the anxiety is from sensory overload; in other words: everything that’s going on around you, is just tooooooooo much. It’s being overwhelmed by your environment. Anxiety is feeling a loss of control, so by putting my head down (sight), listening to music (hearing), and making/drinking hot tea (touch, smell, taste), I’m controlling what’s happening to all 5 of my senses. Just make sure the music doesn’t have distressing lyrics and that the tea is non-caffeinated ;).
7. Say nice things to yourself (This alone could make up an entirely different post). When I’m anxious, the majority of reasons behind any given episode is that I came to the conclusion that if x, y, and/or z happens, I am/will be a failure. By tweaking the things I say to myself and talk to myself the way I would talk to a friend, my brain slowly starts to go towards those positive thoughts instead of the negative thoughts. It’s like reprogramming and debugging the brain!
This type of strategy of dealing with anxiety is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and if it seems like something you’re interested in doing, I recommend researching it and possibly finding a therapist that uses the technique. The whole thing relates a lot to Philippians 4:8 —
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Calling myself a failure is by no means any of these things. Changing the brain’s “default” position of negative thoughts is definitely a long term thing, and results can be slow, but it’s made such a difference in my life and countless of lives around me.
I wish all you fellow students a good school year! Remember, no matter how much homework you have or how bad your grades may be, your health needs to come first.