First things first: positivity journal. Yes, I’m still doing it. Yes, I still think it’s working and I’m going to keep doing it. I do want to qualify my 21-day review with this: that first week I did it (right before I wrote my post) was a really, really good week. A lot of random awesome things happened to me and I was experiencing an unusual lull in school stress.
The weeks following have been kind of the exact opposite. For a variety of reasons, this semester is turning out to be the most challenging semester I’ve ever experienced, and it’s not because it’s intellectually difficult (although it is), but because it’s throwing at me the perfect storm of all of the things that have the very special ability to stress me out more than other things.
I’m an INTJ (Google it, there’s tons of info on all the personality types and it’s pretty interesting), and as such my biggest weakness (or strength, depending on the situation) is that I am a perfectionist and need to have a tremendous amount of control over my immediate situation in order to be comfortable.
Enter: fall semester 2013:
- My electrical engineering professor, let’s just say he leaves a little to be desired as far as actually explaining the material. So my classmates and I are essentially teaching ourselves electrical engineering concepts with the help of professor Google. We’re piecing together all kinds of sources and trying to make sense of things, never sure if we’re exactly right. This is a horrifying situation for a perfectionist.
- My second class, mechanical design, is based entirely on group projects. Perfectionistic control freak + group projects – knowledge of how to do the projects = paralyzing anxiety. I’m saving a whole other post to talk specifically about group projects and why they don’t do what educators want and expect them to do, so I won’t go into that here. I want to get every project done early, and perfectly, and I’m trying to coordinate a group of 20-year-old boys to achieve that. You guess how well that works.
- The career fair is today and tomorrow. We’ve been beat over the head for the last six weeks with urgent information about preparing our résumés, researching companies, buying suits and preparing our “elevator speech” to sell employers on our general awesomeness. I know all of this is primarily directed at college students who are a little less conscientious than me. I know that I’ve been stressing about this job fair since July and have researched the heck out of the companies that are coming and have already revised my résumé five times. I know I’m probably over-prepared, but the perfectionist in me still worries that despite this, employers won’t see anything valuable in me and I won’t get an internship next summer, which is the linchpin of everything I’ve been planning for the last several months.
- I’m still trying to work full time and be engaged and committed. The above three items are on my mind all the time. They crowd out anything I should be thinking about at work. I still get all my work done, but it’s challenging to stay focused. Of course, no matter my situation, I am extremely dependent on my paycheck and my benefits for just a little bit longer and I need to be a good enough employee to continue to receive those things.
Have I ever been this stressed before in my life? I don’t know. Probably. But it’s been a while. A huge part of my ability to stay sane is getting enough sleep. Some people can survive on very little sleep, but I can’t. I need at least six and a half hours every night just to function. Seven or eight to function well. So now I go to bed and my mind spins in circles for a good hour and my heart races and I get this feeling in my stomach like a jack-in-the-box that’s being wound up. And then I finally fall asleep (thankfully once I’m asleep I usually stay that way – my mom always said I could sleep through a freight train). And when I wake up I feel great for a couple of minutes until I remember everything that is going on and my mind starts circling and my heart starts racing and the jack-in-the-box feeling comes back.
I feel like I’m living my entire life at the end of a high-dive diving board. I go to sleep every night clinging to the board, afraid to fall in, and I wake up in the morning, realize I’m at the end of a high-dive diving board and think “holy crap, this is insane, what am I doing here!?” I question how good my sleep has been lately. And I question the effect of stress and anxiety on my body.
I’m a little nervous to even post this. My parents are already worried about me and this post is only going to make them more worried. But I also know that tons of people deal with stress and anxiety and they cope with it in lots of different ways. It helps to hear from other people who are dealing with the same things, so I’m putting my experiences out there. I’d also love to hear from others about what works for them to stay grounded. I also know there are lots of different medications out there that really help people. I have fought hard for many years to avoid taking anything, and I’m still fighting it, but I’m open to the possibility if this doesn’t get better after the career fair is over.
Despite all this, lots of good things are happening. My positivity journal really is helping me focus on what’s good and I highly recommend you try it. I’m stressed, yes, and there’s very little I can do about the sources of that stress for the time being, but it’s better to battle stress by trying to focus on what’s good than feed it by focusing on what’s bad. What do you do to battle stress and anxiety? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. Off to the career fair! Fingers crossed!