If you're anything like me, you aren't too worried for the beginning of the semester. The books will get bought eventually, classes will start, the homework will be manageable. Like every other semester this far, you will manage to make it through. But what are we worried about?
Yeah, thanks to anxiety, the only thing that stands out as a possible stressor is the worry itself. What if I break down in my first exam? What if I forget to bring my textbook to class when I need to? What if I fail all my classes? What if I never graduate?
First of all, you won't break down in your first exam because chances are the beginning of the semester motivation won't have worn off by then. You'll remember to bring your textbook to class because the night before, you always get your backpack ready. You won't fail all your classes. You will graduate.
It's not really you worrying about all of this, it's the anxiety. The good news here is that we can manage it and stop the worrying in its tracks. We can stay on top of the panic and fear before it even kicks in with a little TLC and a handy trick to keep you going throughout the day. Because no one needs a nervous breakdown when they still have two lectures and a four hour lab to go.
This method of coping is called grounding. Grounding is a tried and true method for stopping anxiety in its tracks. It reconnects you back to your five senses, thus giving you a solid connection to reality. Sometimes, when anxiety takes you out of your current state of wellness and makes your every nerve feel fried, grounding can be a way to come back to baseline. Here's how it works:
Take a deep breath and look around, find 5 things that you can look at. Say them to yourself, like "I see grass. I see my books. I see shoes. I see a blanket. I see a rug."
Now, feel 4 things. Again, say to yourself, "I feel my soft t-shirt. I feel the rug under my feet. I feel the hair tie around my wrist. I feel the breeze from the window."
Then, listen for 3 things. Say to yourself, "I hear the birds outside. I hear my fan on the bookshelf. I hear the bugs chirping."
Try to smell 2 different things. If you can't smell anything where you are, think of your favorite smells. Say them out loud like, "I smell freshly cut grass. I smell my favorite shampoo."
If you can, try to taste one thing. If you can't taste anything, think of your favorite thing to taste. Say this out loud. For example, "I taste my minty toothpaste." Or "I taste lemon meringue pie."
As you reconnect with your senses and the world around you, take deep breaths. The best thing you can do for yourself when you start to worrying is allowing yourself to feel what is going on in your body, and connect to what you know exists around you.
Don't start off the semester worrying about worrying! You can take away anxiety's power and learn to manage it before it starts. Just remember, you got this!