As college students, it is incredibly difficult to try and take moments out of our days to just be. I find that with our generation, we have this innate sense of urgency. Everything we do is go, go, go. We all have situational anxiety at times, but I am talking about the crippling type: the type that sends you chasing after your own breath for no reason, the type that causes your palms to moisten with sweat, and the type that sends your stomach in whirlwinds. The problem with our generation and anxiety is that it is incredibly common. The benefit is that we can talk about it.
Anxiety sucks. To put it quite honestly, it is almost impossible to see the benefit of having anxiety, but after living with it for so long, I am going to try to give you all some perspective. Anxiety is a crippling mental illness; everyone struggles with it differently. For me personally, I could write you a multiple-page paper on what triggers my anxiety to start acting up. But here is what I have learned.
To start, anxiety makes me a more empathetic person. Taking on the weight of the world is something I do frequently, which becomes really overwhelming at times, but it has caused me to be able to see the world from others’ points of view. I have learned that I can be a shoulder to cry on for my friends because I can actually feel for them, especially those with anxiety. My old therapist once told me that her favorite patients have been those that struggle with anxiety because it is the most rewarding to watch them grow. It really can be rewarding because there is so much room for improvement.
Anxiety does not have to be a negative thing: it can be your own stepping stool to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. Anxiety has pushed me to my ultimate limits, but it has not defeated me. I have learned all that I can handle a lot, even when my own brain is fighting me. I do have control. Because of anxiety, I have gotten into writing. I have discovered yoga. I have realized that I can and will turn a struggle into a triumph. And, although I am relentless, I am diligent. My anxiety is like the kinetic energy I need to accomplish my goals.
What I’ve learned with anxiety is that you have to learn how to detach yourself from it. Think of it as a separate being so it is easier to conquer. From there, use it as your stepping stool. My goal for myself has been not to live anxiety-free, but to separate myself from anxiety and not treat it as a parasite. I have learned to love myself, anxiety and all, because it has made me realize how strong I really am. I can only hope that all you fellow anxious beings can learn how to change the way you look at anxiety too.
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