Tag: mental health

Self-Care for the Anxious and Overburdened

Woman's hands holding a cup of tea or coffee.

Anxiety is something I’ve been dealing with since I was a teenager. It’s that overwhelming sense that things have gone wrong, are going wrong, and will go wrong and that I will suffer the terrible consequences. As a teenager, I was convinced that I was always making some grave social misstep when I interacted with people, and as a result, I felt that I was constantly being judged. I didn’t think anybody liked me and I isolated myself. I watched people’s interest in me dwindle, hemorrhaging friends every year. Devastating words like “failure” and “loser” and “alone” reverberated around my mind, chipping away at something inside me every time they collided with my insides. No one really called me these things to my face, but in my experience of anxiety, I was my own bully.

Fortunately, once high school was over and I went off to university, things slowly got better. I didn’t leave high school without scars and tattered self-esteem, but experiencing the freedom to take care of myself for the first time helped me begin to heal. If I was feeling overwhelmed, I could have alone time to get myself together. I could try to face social situations that intimidated me slowly, in a way that didn’t provoke a breakdown.

So when I left undergrad a few years ago, my anxiety came with me, but it was controlled. Instead of a wild, ravaging wolf, I had an unruly retriever on my hands. I could put it on a leash.

I thought that was the end of that, until last week, when I found myself awake at 5 am, on the verge of tears, and quickly spiralling. What?

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How I Manage Anxiety in Grad School

how to manage anxiety in grad school

Image via STIL through Unsplash

gGrad school is a different beast to undergrad. The stakes are higher, because now, I find myself doing work that can launch a career. And the margin for error is smaller. It doesn’t take much to fail, and if I do, there is often an impact on people other than me. The combined workload of my courses, thesis, and research work is a lot heavier than undergrad, and at this point, I’m also starting to get a very scratchy itch to see what life is like outside of school (I’ve been a student for nearly 20 years!).

If anxiety sets in, I start to feel like I’m in a pressure cooker, and I get a sinking, helpless feeling in my gut when I realize how much I have to do. This is when I tend to procrastinate, which provides a very temporary escape, but in the end, only worsens the way I feel.

I know I’m not alone in this (and if you can relate, neither are you!). Other grad students (see here too) experience anxiety, and it’s something that can be managed. I know that immobilizing nervous feeling all too well, and while I’m far from perfect, I have some strategies for keeping my anxiety under control. I don’t always follow them, but when I do, they help me a lot.

However, I’m not a professional, so don’t substitute this for professional advice. If you’re in need of help, you can go to your local student wellness office. If you’re in a crisis, you can call your local emergency number.

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