Coping with anxiety

I didn’t know what anxiety meant. For a long time, I thought that anxiety had to be where you see someone feel short of breath, where they were paralyzed by anxiety so much that they felt the walls closing in. I didn’t experience this, and I thought that I didn’t have anxiety. I think anxiety happens and manifests differently for everyone. Also, for a long time, I didn’t want to think about anxiety. Just the thought of anxiety made me nervous. I didn’t want people to see me differently. But people live with anxiety everyday, and the ways that they are able to cope with anxiety makes them all the more stronger. Anxiety happens. Panic attacks happen. Stress happens. And it may manifest differently in everyone. For me, sometimes I don’t know when or how I come to feel anxious… but here are a few ways that I use to cope with my anxiety.

  1.  Acknowledge and tell someone about it. For me this really helps to say it out loud. It is very cathartic to talk to someone about my problems. Tell a friend, write in a journal… talk to a therapist or counselor. My university has free mental health counseling for students. Maybe yours does too?
  2.  If you can identify why you feel anxious, that’s a start. Sometimes for me, it’s about feeling inadequate or feeling like I’ve failed…
  3.  Once I identify why I feel anxious, I can try to alleviate those feelings, by acceptance. It’s okay to feel like you failed, it’s okay to feel like you didn’t do a good job… it happens! And that’s okay! Let yourself have those feelings…for me when I let myself feel those emotions then I can accept it and it will feel like a huge weight has lifted.
  4.  Take a deep breathe and remember that everything will be OK. Maybe take that break. Don’t beat yourself up about not accomplishing your goals today! You got this!

Remember that everyone can be affected by mental health and that these can manifest and look different for everyone. Your mental health is unique to you. Embrace it. It feels good to talk about it.

These are things that have helped me and I hope they help you as well.

How to fail forward

Failing forward is when we learn from what happened and move forward. We all make mistakes, and that is OK! I fail all the time. Recently, I had to change my dissertation submission date because I couldn’t finish in time. I made a goal that was too ambitious and too short of a time frame for me to finish writing my dissertation. But I learned something and I tried!

As Dr. Randy Pausch (author of The Last Lecture) once said,

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”

We need to remember that we are all human, and we are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.

The next time I feel that I have failed… I will try to remember these few things.

  1. It is OK to fail at something, what did we learn from it? Try not to think about it as a mistake or as failing at something. Own your mistake! Instead think about it as learning. We learn the best by making a mistake. As a researcher I am constantly testing out new ideas, and most of the time I am wrong. But, we wouldn’t know that we are wrong unless we try. So make those mistakes!! Make them into learning moments.
  2. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It is really easy to put ourselves down for failing at something. We feel horrible. We feel like imposters. But I think we need to remember that everyone started somewhere!
  3. Be flexible. Sometimes, things happen. Tomorrow is a new day.
  4. We are all human!

Hope this helps you!