By Julie Kraft,
Bachelor of Arts, Early Childhood Education
I’ve spent my adult life overcoming the grips of anxiety. From an outside perspective, people describe me as a real go-getter; a woman who knows what she wants and can accomplish anything she sets her mind to, someone who has defeated the odds and conquered adversity. While much of that is true, there is an internal battle taking place inside me. I have been able to hide the fact that my past has left me with some brutal scars that can bring me to tears in an instant. It has taken me years to figure out how to accept my past as part of who I am. When I am not mindful, my anxiety is quick to attack.
I share this while considering the stress and anxiety many have faced due to the COVID19 pandemic and escalating racial tension in our society. Many are facing a whirlwind of anxiety for the first time and it is overwhelming (to say the least). There have been a record number of job losses and those deemed essential are working in an unfamiliar, often eerie environment.
Anxiety is real, it is crippling, it can overtake your life if you let it and has become more common than I would have ever imagined. The trick is to take over the anxiety before it clamps down on you.
Many of us, who attend National University also have full-time jobs, a family to care for or both. Without the proper tools, it can become daunting and you may get overwhelmed by it all. In fact, there will be times you most definitely will be overwhelmed by it all. As long as you keep moving in the same direction, those feelings will pass. You will gain confidence where there was once doubt. Progress toward your goal will be made. Luckily, for the students at National University, there are a plethora of resources at our disposal, like Silvercloud. Silvercloud is an interactive website that offers tools to build skills and manage ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, or STRESS – they even recently added a special program focusing on coping with COVID-19. The COVID-19 specific program include coping with challenging times, sleep difficulties, relaxation, meditation, and grief & loss. Whatever program you choose, it is free for all NU students. When signing up, you can also choose to work with a coach, who will help guide you through the program or you can choose the self-help option (a coach is still available, should you change your mind)
I hope to share some the techniques I have spent an adulthood practicing and perfecting. It is my hope that this information will be helpful to you, especially now…
Diet and exercise are EVERYTHING
Doctors have been touting this for years, right? I placed this in the first slot because it is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do for yourself. How you feel on the inside will be reflected by how you appear on the outside. How do you think I hide my anxiety from those who don’t know me? I work out and I eat well. Diet, effects how you feel. Your body needs a BALANCED diet to function properly. Eating empty calories will leave you feeling sluggish and tired. You brain needs nutrients (and carbs, believe it or not) to get through a long day of studying and work. Trust me, eat well and you’ll thank me later.
Waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning after a night of studying takes some serious discipline. Yes, it is hard, but when you feel that rush of endorphins, when you meet or exceed a fitness goal, you let the warrior within you roar with power… I mean, who wouldn’t want to harness the power of a warrior? That discipline I mentioned, that is what is going to get you through school. Practice self-discipline and it will take you to where you are meant to go.
Practice the art of SELF-CARE
Self-care means something different to everyone. For me, it’s going for a hike or taking a morning stroll around the lake with my husband and daughter. At least once per week, I spend an extra 15 minutes on my bedtime routine; the use of a face mask replenishes my skin and my spirit. Nothing else is as refreshing as a cool, invigorating face mask. Light a candle. Take a bath. Read a good book. Unwind. Spend some time to pamper yourself. Show yourself some love! An extra 15 minutes a few times per week is all you need.
BREATHE and count to ten
As simple as that may sound, it really works. I’m talking about deep full breaths. Breathing resets your body, it floods your brain with oxygen, stimulates your nervous system and promotes a sense of calm. Counting simply takes your mind off whatever it was you were about to freak out about. Do it with me, breathe in, breathe out, repeat. Can you feel it? Did that sense of clam wash over you and comfort you like a warm blanket? When you think about it, something as innate as breathing is pretty incredible. You are alive. You are incredible and you are about to accomplish something great. Breathe and be proud.
GIVE yourself some GRACE
As a perfectionist, this one is challenging for me. I really MUST be mindful here. The problem with being a perfectionist is that no one is perfect. I hate making mistakes or making a bad decision, but I do realize we all stumble and fall. What matters the most is getting back up and trying again. This is my 3rd attempt at completing college and getting my degree. I won’t go into detail about why it has taken me so long or why I have multiple failed attempts, but I will say, I needed to learn the lessons I learned after making mistakes. I needed to walk the tough path, so that I could appreciate how beautiful the journey is now. Giving yourself grace means forgiving yourself as you would your best friend. It means being understanding and kind to yourself, loving yourself. We are all human, making a mistake is inevitable. Don’t let the errors of your past prevent you from working toward a better future.
I am a full-time student; I work full time and I have a toddler. At this point in my life, sleep sounds like a foreign word. However, when life gets overwhelming or when I’m feeling like I won’t make it another day, my husband comes to my rescue (this happens a lot). A full eight hours of sleep works wonders. Through this educational journey, I’ve learned that it is okay to ask for help. Build a support system by surrounding yourself with like-minded optimistic people. Negativity breeds negativity. There have been days when I was so exhausted, that I couldn’t form a proper sentence, let alone, write a coherent paper. At times when exhaustion takes over, I go to bed early – I’m talking 8 pm early – and wake up an hour or two earlier than normal to research or write. It is much easier to do homework after a night’s rest than it is after a long day at work.
Life’s journey is about finding your passion and having the courage to chase your dreams. I hope this helps you to manage your stress and anxiety, so that you can live your purpose.
Well, there ya have it. A few insights from an anxious survivor, may they serve you well and help you get through this trying time!