You’re alone in your new apartment. You hear the door open. Is it your roommate or a murderer?
The horror movies your brain has absorbed over the years start playing in your mind. You don’t want to wind up on the news as a serial killer victim. You’re too young to be made into a skin suit.
Relax, it’s just the stress talking. The stress of college, new living arrangements or loneliness can trigger panic attacks. Being on your own for the first time can be unsettling at first.
You might have weird or undependable roommates who would only know you’ve died if your body started smelling up the apartment. You might not be used to living without some kind of protection like your father or a dog.
Either way, being on your own can wear on your nerves.
Paranoia can stem from stress, and as we all know, “college” should be a synonym for “stress.”
Worrying about having your life play out like a horror movie is a little on the extreme side. Stress turns into anxiety which usually interferes with your life in other more realistic ways. For example, you’re stressed and have had no sleep for the past two days so you could catch up on your schoolwork.
You finally make it to your bed, and thoughts of sweet, precious sleep adrift in your weary mind. Then you see a bug skitter into your sheets. Those sweet thoughts turn to skin-crawling, bug-having-babies-in-your-ear thoughts.
When your heart stops quivering and the nausea passes, you decide to sleep on the couch for the night.
How do I avoid the stress that can stew into anxiety and boil into a panic attack? Well, you can’t avoid the stress, but you can handle it in a way that leaves you more relaxed and confident. Sounds like a win-win. That’s because it is. I can sense you doubting me — don’t.
Drugs are bad, m’kay? Don’t dull down your life by using drugs that might work for an hour or two but will seriously mess you up in the long run. You can become addicted, and you won’t learn how to deal with stress that will inevitably be present for the rest of your life.
Trust me, I myself am a neurotic writer (also words that could be synonymous), and here’s the secret to less anxiety (not actually a secret).
Exercise. That’s it. You’ll be healthier, more confident and ultimately happier.
Yes, yes, running involves jiggling in public and wearing stupid workout clothes — what’s up with the neon shoes? — but just think of what you’ll gain afterward. You’ll feel relaxed, confident and productive, which will carry over into your school work.
I’d recommend running either early in the morning (scoff) or around twilight but before night time. As always, you should make an effort to be safe. For example, text someone:
“Went running. If I don’t text you back within an hour, I’ve been kidnapped.
P.S. Avenge my death”
OK, maybe not so dramatic, but you get the idea.
Don’t let your stress turn into anxiety. Deal with it in a healthy way, and you’ll be quite pleased with the results: a more confident, happier and healthier you.
Email Taylor Leckie at firstname.lastname@example.org.