It’s that time of year again. Oh Heavens, I wish it wasn’t. That semester of Hell. If you walk within a mile of a campus or a school, you can hear the low rumble of crying and cursing students. The end is so close and yet so far. It’s that dreaded time; the Assessment Period.
It’s that time of year when across the nation, youths and adults in education are stressing out. For those of you who do not know, May marks the beginning of exams, practicals, essays and results in universities and in schools. It’s a time feared by everyone; the terrified students, the parents at the end of a phonecall with a terrified student, the lecturers and teachers that cry knowing that they have months of marking ahead. Everyone I know who is currently a student is in a critical state of ‘OH NO, SAVE ME, OH WHY?!’ I’m currently so stressed out that I think I should be renamed Stressy McAnxioushead. Instead of me just whittling on about stress, let me give you some facts. According to YouthSight, 75% of students have personally experienced emotional distress at university, and 43% have experienced the mental disorder of anxiety. Yeesh. That is a lot.
Since coming to university, I have personally developed a chronic anxiety disorder, but it’s really not a rare thing at all. So many friends have confided in me or have made public the fact that they too have an anxiety disorder (we should start a group up like AA but instead of introducing ourselves and talking, we just have a cathartic group cry). Everyone deals with their anxiety in a different way; we are all very different human beings with different coping mechanisms. However, I’ve developed a few tactics that help me when I’m having a panic attack, an anxious episode, or am just generally fretting about life (I tend to do that latter a lot). And here they are –
1. Make a plan. By ‘make a plan’, I mean you grab a notebook/sheet of paper/calendar and just fill in what you need to do. List it out. Assign days, breaks, colour code it. Gosh, I love colour coding. Making a plan just gives me some form of control over a hectic situation. Honestly, I rarely stick to the plan in the end but it always helps just to lay everything down in front of you.
2. Have a hot bath (if you don’t have a bath, avoid this point, and I am sorry for your loss). And not just a ‘oh a pleasant, lukewarm bath’. I mean a ‘AH OW that’s hot but nice ohh so relaxing, that’s better’ bath. It makes your muscles relax, you can lock the door and have no-one bother you. You can block out the world, put on a Shania Twain CD (if you want) and read a non-work related book. That’s right, I’m looking at you, Mum. Put the book about Bible study down and get working on that reading list. Actually, the same rule should go for me. Reading Sarah Kane for a lecture really does diminish the relaxing nature of a bath.
3. Puppies. Find a puppy; pet it. Look at picture of puppies; smile. Watch a movie about a puppy; feel good (but not Marley & Me. Don’t ever watch that when you are feeling down. It’s a recipe for a teary disaster). The same goes for adult dogs, kittens, adult cats, and koala bears.
4. Jog/Run. Run away from your problems. Run far away. Run away to a different country. Run like Forrest Gump until you are so far away from your problems that you can no longer see them. Or you could just go for a jog to relieve stress and tension. That would work too, I guess.
5. Make food. Bake cookies, make a proper meal, try cooking something you have never eaten before. It distracts from the troubles of life, takes your mind off of the problems. Plus, you get to eat your feelings (I like that part).
6. Speaking of food… make sure to actually eat! With anxiety, it’s easy to forget to eat or not feel hungry at all. It’s true that the opposite can be said; some people over eat when they are anxious. We are all different. Regardless of eating habits, you’ve got to make sure that you eat and get your nutrients, otherwise you’ll just make yourself worse. Haven’t eaten all day? Go and make your favourite pasta dish. Feel guilty that you’ve eaten a whole chocolate cake but it relieved the anxiety? Oh well. You eat that chocolate cake and enjoy it. Everything in moderation, right?
7. Get colouring in. Go get yo’ paints. Go get yo’ pencils. Go get yo’ eleven year old colouring book and go crazy with it. Feel childlike and colour in that picture of Scooby Doo with passion. There are some amazing, more mature colouring books available for the less childlike of us, with flowers and quotes and things. I would seriously recommend them.
8. Don’t cram. If you have an essay, revision, a presentation, don’t do it all in one go. It’s just not sensible. Make sure to take breaks. I’ll say that again because it’s important. MAKE SURE TO TAKE BREAKS. If you don’t find the time to relax, your brain doesn’t like it and won’t function well. Simple. (I’ll admit, I struggle with this one a lot. I just want to power on through and get everything I ever need to do done in one go, but it never works. I’m working on my relaxing, I swear).
9. Sleep. If you can’t sleep, the anxiety gets worse. That’s just how it is. If you are tired, take nap. If you are beyond stressed, find time to take a nap. If insomnia is getting the better of you, take a short, mid-day nap. Naps are great, they solve so much. Naps have my heart.
10. This tactic, I think, is the best one ever. It’s so simple. It’s natural. Just cry. Sob uncontrollably into a pillow. Cry loudly and proudly. Have some quiet tears. If you need to cry, (in the words of Shia LeBeouf) just do it. Don’t ever leave it bottled up. If you are in a situation where you are around people and don’t want to cry, wait, hold it in, go home, and just bawl. I will admit, I cry a lot. I do. But that’s fine. It doesn’t make you weak or lesser. If someone tells you that you are weak for crying, they are very wrong and ridiculous. Let it all go. Cry.
I hope that you found this post interesting and maybe even helpful. It’s fine to be an anxious human bean. That’s life.
Let me know what you do to relieve anxiety or stress in the comments; the more help, the better!
(original posted on May 16th 2017 https://rosiealou.wordpress.com/2016/05/16/deep-breaths-exam-timetables-and-puppies/)