How I deal with my anxiety as a graduate student.

Anxiety and depression in graduate school is real and is a problem. It can affect your work and your personal relationships. While most institutions provide resources to help their students, many still struggle. Those coping with anxiety or depression, unless pushed, will not come forward and talk about what they are dealing with. No one wants to be a bother, or always being the one complaining. We are all dealing with our own things, so it’s a lot easier to just hide. Despite your difficulties, you are still more important to yourself than your school, your job, or your research. You must take care of yourself first. If you don’t, it does not matter what you want to do, you won’t be able to do it, because you will be too overwhelmed to do much of anything.

Anxiety and depression can occur because of a lot of different things, and while some may say ups and down is part of a normal day, a lot of people feel down all the time. It can be because of school, future, work, a failed relationship, family, self, friends, a bad memory or a bad experience. Whatever the case, it’s real.  A comment from a reader on a previous post about anxiety and how the body responds got me motivated to share my tips on how I deal with my anxiety. Depression is something I have only witnessed, I cannot say with confidence I have experienced it.  Below are 4 things I do to deal with my anxiety.

•    Reach out and talk to someone: It’s such a simple thing to say and can be so hard to do sometimes but talking could make all the difference in the world. Find someone who at minimum is willing to listen, just listen. For me, talking is also an opportunity to process my feelings. When you are inside your head, try saying it out loud sometimes. You will be surprised how different things sounds when you say it to someone else compared to when you say it to yourself.

•    Read: When I start to feel overwhelmed I read. Read a good story or if you are like me, read about the anatomy of anxiety and depression.  I have come to learn that when I do not understand what I am feeling, reading helps. Once I have a picture of some of the possible triggers to my anxiety, I could start to evaluate what has been happening in my life that may have brought about the tension.

•    Exercise: One of the best things you can do for yourself is excise. During training, your body releases growth hormones of various types that strengthen mental and physical capacity, all of which counteract the adverse effects of anxiety and depression.

•    Experience: Broaden your experiences and try new things. Make it a point to try something new, atleast once a month. I have come to realize that, the more I experience, the less anxious I feel. When you try something new, naturally you’ll be anxious, you have never done it before. But the more times you put yourself out there, the more confident you will become. Strength comes from experience. I know that sounds like a quote but the science behind it is cool. Comment below if you would like to know more.

Share your tips on how you deal with anxiety and depression in the comment section below. I welcome stories or resources other students might find helpful. Knowing that someone out there knows what you are going through could make all the difference.

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