Anxiety has always been one of my life’s obstacles. I was able to control it in high school, but my mental health has transformed into a different sort of battle since I’ve entered college. With academics, being thousands of miles away from home, and being a division one athlete, I have grappled with many coping mechanisms. Now that I have discovered ways to help with my mental health, I want to share what works for me in case it can help others.
What works for me will not work for everyone. Many of the recommendations people have given me have not helped – which is why it is important for people to share their experiences. The more we know, the better we can serve ourselves. These are the specific things that have helped me with my own anxiety, and it has taken a lot of time to get to this point.
I like to break things down before getting upset about them. If something bothers me, I want to deconstruct my emotions and the situation until I feel at peace with it. Unfortunately, my anxiety often prevents this from happening. To manage, I engage in and enjoy self-reflection.
I know nothing will go perfectly in my life. Inconveniences happen, and sometimes I need to take a moment to decompress my thoughts. I specifically use self-reflection when I feel overwhelmed. With anxiety, it can feel like you’re drowning in a room full of air. When I take time to look inside myself, I am often able to identify where my emotions stem from and move from there.
Once I reflect and am able to figure out what is fueling my stress, I can decide what I can do to feel better. Maybe I’ll call my family and loved ones. Sometimes I write or confide in friends. Regardless of what I end up doing, I end up feeling better after.
“It’s just a thing”
In my experience with anxiety, I tend to inflate situations beyond their importance. If I don’t get exactly eight hours of sleep, I get scared I’ll be exhausted all day. If I have a bad practice, I think I failed everyone. When I go to bed, I stay up for hours out of nervousness for the next day if there is something nerve-wracking I need to accomplish. These are all negative habits, but I have tamed them by repeating to myself: it’s just a thing.
Ever since I started holding on to this catchphrase, I have been able to deflate my anxiety attacks. If something small begins to grow, I can squash it by minimizing the situation. I tend to follow up with an affirmation. For example, if I am stressing over tomorrow’s training, I tell myself: Volleyball is just a thing. It won’t be forever, and I can handle whatever comes my way. I always have.
Change it or leave it
Another function of my anxiety is control. If I cannot fully control how a situation will play out, I will lose my mind. However, I have learned to combat this function with a concept my parents taught me.
When I am faced with something that bothers me, I have two options. One, I can change that situation to make it better. The second option is to leave it alone. In the end, there is nothing else I can do. If I have the power to alter something to make it less stressful, I should do it. If I do not have that power, there is no point in stressing over it because what’s done is done.
I often apply this to school. I attend the University of Virginia, but my family and I are from Los Angeles. Whenever break ends and I must report back for school, I face tons of anxiety. I love my school, but it can feel isolating when you are so far away from home. So, I have used this saying to cope. Do I have the option of never returning to my responsibilities at UVA? No. In that case, there is no point in stressing over leaving because I have no choice. Instead, I will make the most out of the time with my loved ones. I will be able to see them again soon, anyway!
Loving myself (anxiety and all)
I have been through bad days when nothing seemed to help my anxiety. Regardless, learning to accept my struggles with mental health has been crucial in my journey to getting better. The first step tends to be admitting you need help. Nothing has “solved” my anxiety, and maybe nothing ever will. However, the beauty in discovering more about myself every day has been worth it.