I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder in August 2014, but I’ve been struggling it with years before then.
Though it didn’t gain considerable strength until my high school years (which I’ll get to later in this post), there were traces of anxiety within me even as an elementary school student; I very rarely raised my hand in fear of saying the wrong thing, I was terrified of giving presentations and would sit in my desk in a state of dread as I awaited my turn, it was difficult for me to socialize since I didn’t want to be judged, and overall I was just a shy and quiet kid. Middle school heightened my nervous, worrisome nature, since, as we all know, middle school isn’t exactly for the faint of heart. More public speaking, new people, and a lot more “unexpected” made for a more anxious me.
Junior year was my absolute worst year with my anxiety. It became a serious problem that affected a huge aspect of my life: school, and the relation to my education and grades. It was during this time that I started experiencing frequent panic attacks, to the point where I felt physically sick and, in some occurrences, caused me to act out in class. These panic attacks almost always happened in the middle of class (English class to be precise) and would result in my body being thrown into that “fight, flight, or freeze” survival mechanism. I was so full of anxiety that my body thought I was in danger, even though in reality it was just a presentation or class activity. It was awful since I knew that I wasn’t this person, but my anxiety was controlling me.
Anxiety deserves more attention. It is a serious condition that has the potential for being extremely harmful to one’s life, not to mention the added struggles that our added to everyday life. We need people to understand that it is way more than not wanting to deliver a speech or being worrier; it can make your life a living hell.
I’m by no means an expert on this topic, but I have picked up some tips that have at least helped me when it comes to handling anxiety:
- Talk to someone. The benefits from this cannot be underestimated. Verbalizing your worries and receiving feedback can help put things into perspective and give you a sense of relief. Or the topic can be completely unrelated; a conversation focusing on a favorite TV show can be a great way to get your mind off of things.
- Practice self-care. This well help you be more relaxed. Sometimes if I have a particularly anxiety-provoking task on a certain day, I’ll make sure I give myself a “reward” – watching a movie, taking a nap, etc. – if I get through it. Here’s a wonderful list of self-care ideas.
- Think big picture. Otherwise known as thinking realistically. No one is going to remember you stumbling through your PowerPoint in English by the beginning of the next class, let alone for the rest of their life. Put yourself in there shoes: you wouldn’t remember that either!
- Make a list. Whenever I find myself feeling overwhelmed (which, less face it, is pretty much everyday), I like making a to-do list so I can physically see what I need to get done for the day. Organizing the jumble of thoughts in my head always make me feel better and gives me a much-needed sense of control, and can help with alleviating the anxious feelings.
- Challenge yourself. The only real way to truly conquer something that gives you anxiety is the perform the task. A big one for me was driving – I would always get extremely anxious once I got behind the wheel, for multiple reasons, which, in turn, discouraged me from driving. But then the school year started and I started driving myself to and from school everyday. Now, I drive all the time and my driving anxiety is almost nonexistent. It can be done!
If you think that you have an anxiety disorder (do you experience a considerable amount of these symptoms?), I highly recommend you go see a mental health professional so you can receive help. I deeply regret not seeking help earlier. Doctors can provide relief from the constant anxiety in the forms of medication or therapy, or both. You are not “weird” or “weak” for needing help, trust me. Many people struggle with this issue. You are not alone.
But do not expect all a cure-all. I’m on medication and I still deal with anxiety on a daily basis. You are the one who has to fight through it, and no amount of medication can make that battle go away. It might make the battle easier to win, but YOU STILL HAVE TO WIN IT.
Another interesting thing is that some people are just naturally more inclined to be anxious. I’m a worrier, and I always be a worrier since it’s something that it is embedded in my personality. But if it gets to the point where it has a heavy, negative influence on my life, then it’s a problem.
If you are struggling with anxiety, there is hope out there. I have complete faith that anyone has the potential to decrease their anxiety. You can punch this mental illness right in the face. I know you can.