As I write this, my stomach is in a bundle of knots, my heart is racing, my palms are sweaty, and I feel very much like I’m going to have a panic attack.
Because I have a huge test at school tonight and I don’t feel prepared, even though I’ve studied and studied until my brain has been fried.
The stress I’ve had in the last two weeks after starting school for phlebotomy have been the hardest two weeks I’ve had in recent memory when it comes to stress levels and my anxiety.
I’m so stressed out, I’ve lost seven pounds in two weeks and my period is five days late — yeah, that can happen when you’re overstressed.
Sometimes I feel like I am not going to get through these classes, and clinicals haven’t even begun.
But deep down I know that my anxiety, just like depression, is a liar.
I’ve been working as hard as I can to study and learn what I need to know, and I can honestly say, even if I fail, that I’ve tried as hard as I can.
So what the heck can I, or anyone do, when we’re this stressed out?
I start with deep breathing.
Taking the time to do some breath work, deep breathing and focusing on the breath in and out while trying to erase everything from my mind but the breath, is my first line of defense in fighting anxiety.
Deep breathing is a tried and true method for stress relief.
It’s one of the first things they teach you in therapy as a grounding exercise because it makes you focus on your body, not what is going on in your mind.
Not to mention, the extra oxygen getting into the bloodstream and brain just makes you feel better and lighter inside.
I do breathing exercises every time I feel anxiety really starting to creep up on me, and sometimes they’re enough to keep the panic at bay while I work on other skills to ease my anxiety.
I use the “thought stopping” technique.
When my brain starts swirling with anxiety fueled lies about my abilities and potential of success or failure, sometimes I just have to tell myself to stop.
When negative thoughts come into my head, I just tell myself “No, stop!” and a lot of times, that is enough to work, or at least enough to get my mind on another subject.
In general, when the negative thoughts come, they need to be shut down and replaced by positive ones, and by completely rejecting the negative self-talk, it’s easier to get into a better mindset that will ease the anxiety if not completely relieve it.
I force myself to think positively.
In the last few weeks, I have been doing a lot of reading and research about the fixed and growth mindsets.
I fear that I’ve always had a fixed mindset — believing that I have the abilities that I have and that even through hard work and dedication, I might not grow or learn what I need to learn to be able to succeed.
Lately, I’ve been consciously trying to place myself into a growth mindset, reminding myself that we are all capable of learning, growing, and changing ourselves even when we think we can’t.
I remind myself again and again that I’ve been working very hard, and that hard work is what pays off — as long as I continue to believe in myself and my abilities.
There’s no room for negativity when it comes to any kind of personal growth, and banishing the negativity from my mind is my number one goal when I am trying to decrease my stress levels.
I believe others, even when I don’t believe in myself.
I have been so fortunate to have the most amazing support from friends and family when it comes to this school endeavor, and when I am feeling particularly down and discouraged, I remind myself how many people are rooting for me and believe I can succeed.
There’s a lot to be said for taking another person’s word above your own.
These people aren’t in my head, they don’t know my fears or anxieties, they only know what they believe of me, and they believe that I can do anything I set my mind to if I work hard.
When I can’t talk myself into a positive mindset or drag myself out of my hole of anxiety, I think of all the people who are rooting for me and work even harder for them.
They aren’t worried about me failing, so why should I be?
I remember that stress has its purpose.
When all else fails and I am still stuck stressed out and panicky, I remind myself that there is a good reason for it.
To feel this much stress and anxiety over something means I want it more than I want most things in life, and that makes it worth fighting for.
It shows me that it’s important enough to go through a little bit of suffering to eventually get what I want, and all of these uncomfortable feelings are actually making me try harder, not back away in fear.
Stress causes you to get into that fight or flight response scenario, and it sucks.
It’s that thing that makes your heart race and palms sweat, it’s that thing that scares you to the bone — but it’s also the thing that makes you aware of what is most important to you in life.
And for that, I choose to fight.