Anxiety can pull students under, but some professors understand

March 30, 2015

Eleanor Skelton
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My gut twinges.

The panic cyclone is coming. Swirls of worry claw at my insides.

Some days I think I’m drowning in thought cycles.

If you don’t get an A on this exam, you won’t stand a chance in grad school. Maybe your parents were right. You’re just a dropout.

You can’t make it on your own.

They always said your ADHD would catch up to you without medication if you didn’t work harder to retrain your mind.

Some days I’m exhausted before I even get out of bed.

My anxiety ramps up toward the end of a semester. I often can’t eat breakfast the morning of an exam. Or I finish final papers somewhere close to the bathroom. Nausea increases as the deadline looms.

One of my English professors told me going through a phase of life like moving out on your own can increase these feelings. I was encouraged to just write the final paper and not overthink it.

“Be sure to take care of yourself, eat regularly and don’t feel bad about taking time for yoga,” one of my chemistry professors recommended this semester.

She told me being creative like painting, writing and making crafts and reading for fun are important. I shouldn’t feel guilty about having a life outside academia.

It’s important to find professors who understand. Find the ones who had emotional breakdowns while in their graduate programs. The ones who also had nightmares about exams.

The ones who ultimately survived.

They can tell you how to cope with semesters when the sky feels like it is falling in.

One professor told me she still has anxiety and that I should consider discussing medication with my doctor, because it helps her.

Another one suggested reading Buddhist philosophy to help let go of the crazy building up inside.

My English professor said to not let my failures haunt me and that I could learn to laugh at my demons.

I found out in the past couple of years that my professors are human, too. Sounds obvious. But as students, we usually overlook it.

Talk to your professors when you’re struggling. They might say, “I’ve been there, too.”