I met anxiety on my first day at Hult in October. I was part of the October intake group and relieved that I wasn’t the only student expected to graduate later. Sitting on the fourth row on the right, I was listening to the speaker informing us about the school, its programs, and the rules and regulations. Of course, I was stressed and scared, but I was mostly excited to start on this new journey. It was my second year in the UK but my first in the magical city of London. I’ve always dreamt of living alone in London and sitting in that classroom, I was looking forward to the future.

I was fully immersed in the speaker’s words and would occasionally look at the slides which displayed both important notes as well as images. As the slide changes, silhouettes of the previous slide remained: I blink several times to adjust my vision, but I continue to see these shadows that were slowly fading away. Instinctively, my muscles tense up and my head spins as though I was going to faint. I remember that I hadn’t eaten all day and used this excuse as the reason for the light-headedness. What were seconds felt like hours; my heartbeat accelerates, my fingers go numb, my body weakens. The lecturer’s voice fades into the background and I panic. I look around me to ask where the nurse is because I truly believed that I wasn’t physically okay. As I refocus my mind on my breathing, I decided to give whatever was going on a few minutes to see if things will get worse.

For the first few weeks after that first anxiety attack, I was frequented by anxiety. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, so I turned to my best friend for her opinion on whether I should see a doctor or not. 

“It’s anxiety, Yara. Don’t worry” she said.

And all I did was worry. What is anxiety? Why is it happening to me? How do I make it go? 

For the first couple of months, I feared it. I had briefly read about it on Google and found out that if I stuck to a routine, it could help make it go away. It didn’t. Anxiety followed me everywhere: at times, our encounters were brief and other times, they were brutal. I also learned that anxiety frequents teenagers as well as adults, and although most people do not acknowledge it, it presents itself in various forms.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the feeling of unease, worry, and fear. When we are worried or nervous about something, anxiety can be psychological, physical, or both. It is also related to what is known as the “fight or flight” response; which is a biological reaction our body experiences when feeling threatened. Of course, we cannot control it.

There are various examples of situations where people will feel anxious. In my case, I was probably anxious about my bachelor’s program and my ways around London. In other cases, anxiety appears during an exam, an interview, moving away from home and the list goes on. Of course, these situations depend on the person’s personality – some may worry more than others as this trait is part of their personality. However, if you feel that worrying disrupts your day-to-day life, it is most likely that you suffer from a form of anxiety.

Symptoms

There are numerous symptoms of anxiety; they can take form in your physical being as well as your psychological being. Below is a list of these symptoms:

  • Nausea; Tense muscles; Dizziness; Cold sweats; Fast heartbeat and palpitations; Difficulty sleeping; Fearing the worst; Feeling the world slowing down/ speeding up; Paranoia; Ruminating on the past; Numbness; Lack of concentration; Exhaustion.

2 years later… What I did

For two years, I’ve constantly read about anxiety and panic disorders and worked my way around making it go away. I never understood where anxiety came from, but it is known to be caused by unaddressed issues. If you too suffer from anxiety, here are the steps I took to decrease its presence in my life:

Therapy, or just talk it out!

For a long time, I avoided going to a therapist for several reasons; the idea of talking to a stranger didn’t attract me and I couldn’t see how that could help. But it did!

Your thoughts will get the best of you and the more you leave them inside your head, the more you are nurturing them. Sometimes, a simple thing like letting them out will change. Whether it is to a friend, a family member or a stranger, talking about anxiety will put you back into perspective. Even if you feel like the other person will not understand, hearing yourself will make a difference.

Also, now that you have this column, speaking to Nick and me can be an option!

Physical exercise

I cannot stress this enough. I’ve always been active throughout my childhood and as I grew into an adult, exercising was difficult – especially when you are in your university years. Exercise is recommended by top experts for those suffering from anxiety – it is a game-changer. Going for a run or even a walk for at least 30 minutes a day will help you manage your anxiety.

Breathing exercises

Breathe… Often during anxiety and panic attacks, people tend to forget to breathe. Shifting your focus from the attack to the sound of your breathing will undoubtedly calm you down. Whenever I feel it coming, I stop whatever I’m doing and I breathe.

Write it out

If you’re not the talking type, writing down your experience will not only take that weight off your chest, but you will begin to find patterns of when your anxiety occurs. Knowing what causes it will help you manage it.

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