So this post is pretty important to me since anxiety is something I personally deal with. For those who don’t know what anxiety is, it is a mental health disorder whereby one over-worries, even about the smallest of things and tends to perceive a situation as much worse than it is. What makes anxiety distinctive to the normal worries one incurs, is that it can impact your day-to-day activities and your sleep.
I for one have suffered with anxiety for awhile now. I think I started to realise this during my sixth form years (no surprise whatsoever) when I became more unconfident with my academics. I can’t pinpoint where my anxiety stems from but I do know that academics do play a very large part in it. I have touched on this topic in my “being the smart friend” post. I’m definitely an advocate for the pressures being the “smart academic” entails and I’ve definitely internalised it to the point where it triggers my anxiety.
Back in January was one of my worst times academically, to the point where I thought I’m not worthy of being in uni and my anxiety was at its worst. The harsh realities had settled in once deadlines were pouring in and grades were coming back, marked way harsher than first year. But me being me, internalised it to the point where I was so unconfident academically. This made me even switch one of my modules to one of the harder modules, simply because it would avoid me writing yet another essay (aka my academic weakness). I have been known to put up a strong front, but what people need to realise that it’s beyond the grades … it’s more of a mental battle. I really try not to let my grades define me but it’s hard for me not to necessarily care. So once I get a grade that I’m not proud of but worked so hard on, it causes me to overstress everything since I’d tried. It is an ongoing battle to understand that only my best is good enough and that I will be successful regardless. But I still suffer from symptoms, one being my disruption to sleep.
When my anxiety is bad, I find it hard to sleep because my mind is either 1) overthinking to the point I realise I’m no longer sleeping anymore or 2) I overthink my time constraint so my body wakes me up to start working earlier. I’m definitely a very organised person and I do my best to stay on top of my work so I don’t have to worry about things like this. However, it’s not that simple. Most of the time I want to sleep (infact, I very much so love and enjoy sleeping) but anxiety really disrupts my sleep beyond my control. The one benefit I can say that anxiety has helped with is revising whilst sleeping. This sounds weird but I can actively revise whilst sleeping (but it only works during exam season and usually the day before an exam). The day before one of my economics exam I still didn’t know how the teacher got to the answer of one of the practise problems he had given us during the semester. Infact, neither did my friends too, so it was always a mystery that we overlooked. But anxiety being anxiety wouldn’t allow me to sit that exam not understanding how that kind of question was solved. In the end, I worked it out whilst asleep. I didn’t think it would be right but when I woke up, I remember the calculations and tried it out on my whiteboard. It worked.
I can’t say anxiety is fun. It isn’t at all, but luckily it can be controlled. On the brightside, it has fuelled my work ethic and motivation most of the times. It’s only when it’s at its peak when its mentally and physically draining. That’s when my energy is at its worse and I prefer to shut off. Some strategies I like to do when my anxiety is at its worse is to write in a journal. I’m not consistent with this but it definitely does have this effect where it feels like you can get rid of some of your mental baggage since its stored safely. Another strategy I do is watch interviews of people I look up to or some TedTalks. Recently my anxiety was really, really bad (due to assignments – no surprise!), but after watching Tiffany Haddish’s breakfast club interview (watch here), it gave me hope and ignited some motivation to get out of my slump that anxiety put me in. One thing that I really learnt this year that speaking up is important. Try and get that confidant that you trust and can open up to. It can really help put things into a different perspective and help you let go of some of your worries. I’m thankful for my girls Jackie, Comfort and Tasha, who are always available with a listening ear and I trust enough to open up to. Anymore suggestions, please comment below; if you too, suffer from anxiety and have no one to talk to, I can offer that listening ear. It’s much better opening up to someone than suffering in silence … trust me, I would know. Also, one thing I’ve had to learn is that there’s no need to worry about what you can’t control!
This post was much longer than intended but it is definitely needed.
Thanks for reading,