Anxiety: check yourself before you wreck yourself

Batul Chitalwala, Chief Editor

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Individuals with anxiety, a habit of overthinking, or a need for perfection often struggle with mental overload. Mental overload is when you feel like you have too many tasks to accomplish, and you keep thinking and worrying about them until you’re left feeling panicked, stressed, exhausted, and/or downcast. It can affect your physical as well as your mental health.

Students regularly encounter mental overload when having to juggle homework and studying, sports, clubs, part-time jobs, and social activities on top of the daily requirements of life such as eating, sleeping, going to school, and hygiene. Mental overload can complicate how you think, make decisions, and just generally live.

A few small changes in your mindset and habits can help you accomplish those necessary tasks without feeling overly drained. 

First: write down all of the thoughts in your head. When I have a million things to do, I often find myself constantly repeating what I need to get done so that I don’t forget it, which leaves me feeling even more overwhelmed. Studies have shown that writing things down not only helps you remember them better, but in the case of emotional benefits, writing is a way for you to be able to examine your thoughts without having to rapidly sift through them in your brain. Scribbling it all down on paper is a brain dump that instantly helps me feel less panicked. To-do lists are also excellent in that you can physically check off as you finish each task, which gives many people a sense of satisfaction. You can see how productive you’re being.

Next: prioritize. When coming up with your to-do list, see what is most important or urgent and take care of those tasks first. Sometimes I make two lists: one just full of everything in my brain and a second with those tasks in order of priority. I myself have a tendency to do work in order of most to least favorable, which causes me to push back things I hate doing to the next day, even if they should’ve been at the top of my priorities. Working my way down my second list helps keep that in check. 

Now this third idea may sound hippy dippy, but it’s genuine: meditation. Meditation works to calm you down and help you become more focused. By shifting your mindset and letting go of negative thoughts, regular meditation can allow you to feel refreshed and increase your productivity. There’s no need to do anything fancy; even something as simple as deep breathing sends signals to your brain and body telling it to relax. This lowers your heartbeat, blood pressure, tension, and stress. Deep breathing doesn’t require much time or any tools, and there are different types that you can try to see what works for you. Those who struggle with anxiety also often employ this method to calm themselves down when feeling anxious (this is not to say that deep breathing cures anxiety; please seek professional help if your issues are serious). 

Using these exercises regularly can greatly benefit not only your productivity levels, but more importantly, your mental and physical health. There are so many of us who constantly overwork ourselves, striving to do as much as we can that taking care of our health falls on the back burner. I’m certainly guilty of it. Unfortunately, mental overload is abundant in the life of a high schooler, and it can lead to health problems that continue to affect you later in life. Dealing with it is not only important, but necessary.