Just Chill Out

Dealing with Anxiety and Deadlines

  • Graphic Sam Jones

Your chest tightens. You try to catch your breath but find yourself gasping for air. You grow anxious as your tongue turns to cotton. Your heart pounds. Your brain tricks you into thinking the worst.

Your chest tightens. You try to catch your breath but find yourself gasping for air. You grow anxious as your tongue turns to cotton. Your heart pounds. Your brain tricks you into thinking the worst.

This is what a panic attack feels like, and for those of you who’ve had one, you know it can be a dreadful experience. While sitting in the waiting room the second time I had a panic attack, even the most sympathetic doctor couldn’t change my mind about it.

Blood test, check heart rate. “You’re in perfect health. It’s just a panic attack. You’re an anxious person.”

Just a panic attack? As though it’s become the norm in every day society. Feeling stressed all the time is often a rite of passage for students—it means you’re learning to handle the real world.

And I am not an anxious person.

We’re all guilty. Pulling all-nighters to finish a term paper, skipping meals to work on a project, cancelling plans with friends and family to study, staying in toxic relationships just for the sake of having them. Yes, grades matter, but do they matter more than your health? Stress isn’t caused by the real world, it’s caused by how we manage ourselves in it. Lack of sleep and lack of steady meals are just two ways to increase your stress. When we have low blood sugar, cortisol (the stress hormone) levels rise from the adrenal glands, which leads to anxiety.

Anxiety, anxiety, please go away. Someone sing me a song.

One day I went to hang out with a friend right before he had a class presentation. Having not eaten since the morning, he stood there, pale-faced, as if he was about to pass out. While he headed to class, I went to the store and decided to buy him an energy drink.

“No one’s ever done this for me,” he said later on.

No one had done that for me either. We don’t even do it for ourselves. Don’t skip out on playing pool with friends just to be top of your class. You’re not selfish for putting your happiness first. Chances are your professor is hanging out with his buddies right now. If you’re stressed about finishing a term paper on time, start writing it earlier.

As someone studying cinema, I have the habit of staying up editing projects until five in the morning. Then it got to the point where on nights I had to go to bed early for work, I couldn’t fall asleep. Even the simplest task would give me anxiety. The panic attacks seemed inevitable, until I realized going out for a walk made them disappear. Soon enough, the minute I would feel my chest tighten, I was out the door.

That’s when I realized two things: a) I wasn’t active enough, and b) I take things way too seriously. We all do! Even when there are issues with the bus I worry how the people I have to meet are going to react to my being late. Usually, they’re just happy to see me.

Ironically enough, anxiety has actually helped improve my quality of life. I exercise, and I pay attention to which situations are likely to trigger anxiety. Oh, and I make sure to do things that bring me joy. Personally, I enjoy writing and listening to music. If you have anxiety, it means you need to learn how to manage your time better.

If you find yourself stressed over the trivial, to the point of sacrificing your health for something that won’t matter once you graduate, you need to reset your priorities. Sometimes it takes a panic attack for your body to remind you to just chill the eff out.

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