Dating, work, family, love, and money: all common stressors. Having written about dealing with anxiety, it may seem odd that I’m writing about how to relax, but it’s probably because I have so much experience being stressed out that I know how to best calm the eff down. The trick is REMEMBERING to do this. I’m hoping that some of my tips can inspire others, and you can share your tips, and we’re all more relaxed than Roger Sterling at a pool party.
– Light a candle. I know, how silly does this sound? “Thanks, Almie, do you want me to play George Michael’s ‘Carless Whisper’ as I do this?” No, you don’t need to. Something about lighting a candle triggers something in me that signals my brain to settle down. I turn off all the lights, light the candle, look into the flame for a few moments, and I feel better.
– Actually stop whatever it is you’re doing, inhale deeply and strongly, and exhale the same way. I know, I know, another well-worn piece of relaxation advice, but I’m sharing it because it works. Sometimes when I’m working for hours on end, fingers jumping around my keyboard, keeping an eye on the clock trying to meet all deadlines, I suddenly feel like I’m holding my breath. I say to myself, “Whoa, slow down”, stop everything, and breathe. The brief change in pace really helps.
Anxiety is something I think everyone experiences to a degree. But some people experience it to the point where it decides what you’re going to do with your time — with your life — and it really, really sucks. I mean, to just be simple about it, anxiety sucks.
Freshman year of college wasn’t kind to me. I felt an incredible amount of pressure to live the idealized undergraduate life I’d seen in movies and television shows: excellent grades, tons of new friends, a wonderful boyfriend, a solid athletic career. I already had a sweet boyfriend and was a straight-A student. Those things were nice, but they weren’t new or exciting for me. I wanted the friends and athletic success even more.
After a few months on campus, my life resembled a constant cycle of worry and disappointment. I got along with my roommates but I didn’t have a lot of other friends. My track teammates were nice, but they were also faster, thinner, and more outgoing than me. Basically, college wasn’t what I wanted it to be, and that freaked me out. The new anxiety caused me to overeat and occasionally binge, and soon a twenty-pound weight-gain became another source of worry.
My boyfriend, who I’d been dating for two years before going to college, did his best to make me feel better. He told me not to worry about my social situation, and he encouraged me whenever I vowed to get my weight in check, but nothing felt right anymore. I felt like a pudgy failure. Two months before the end of spring semester, I told him we should see other people.
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