6 tips for reducing anxiety

Why hello there! For those of you who don’t know, I am moving to Paris in 4 days to start my last two years of university at the American University of Pairs. I wanted to start a blog about my experiences, but not just because it’ll be awesome and beautiful (which it will be). I am tired of seeing blogs from wealthy people who are just seemingly living the dream in all these exotic places. I want to live the dream as well but I am a hard-working, starving artist/poor college student who happens to have a passion for travel but also crippling anxiety and occasional depression. Boom. There ya go. I want to write a blog that shows how to study abroad (or even just go abroad) with not a whole lot of money and with anxiety and still have a (hopefully) amazing time.

So, like I said, I leave in 4 days and, as you’d expect, I’m freaking out a bit. I’m mostly excited but I’m also waking up in the night and having heart palpitations. AS A PRE-NOTE: I take 30mg of Cymbalta a day for my anxiety/depression and Lorazepam for flying. I am all for medication if it is NECESSARY. I started meds about a year and a half ago when I was having daily panic attacks from ordinary activities like riding on a bus or going to a movie. I do not think everyone needs to be medicated, but I think there is also a stigma about taking meds that needs to be addressed. Sometimes just improving your diet and “thinking positive thoughts” is not enough to battle anxiety and depression. The chemicals in your brain are not functioning properly–either too much or not enough is being produced. That isn’t something you can fix by just taking a walk around the block to clear your head. Ok rant over. Please comment if you have any questions or anything regarding any of what I just said. My mother is an adolescent and family therapist and we talk about these issues a lot.

So, even with my medication, this is still a big change and a big deal and it makes sense that anyone would be nervous. That being said, here are a few things that I have found have helped ease my mind a bit:

  1. Make a VERY specific packing list

If you’re like me, you love making lists. It makes you feel prepared and on top of things. One of the hardest parts about studying abroad is the change and lack of control that change brings. By making a detailed packing list, you can take back the power. My next post will go into packing in more detail. I know packing sucks for most people, but I’ve got you covered.

2. Make a friend ahead of time

There is this nifty thing called Facebook. Heard of it? Awesome! It’s great for getting to know people before actually arriving in a strange place where you don’t know anyone and they speak a different language. Most schools or groups of any kind have a Facebook group you can join. I personally met my future roommate via Facebook only a few months after getting accepted. We started up a conversation and actually met a few times (this won’t always work because of distance and whatnot but mine happened to live a state over) and now we text all the time and can talk to each other about our fears and excitement about this big change! You’re not alone!

text

3. Stop drinking caffeine for the 2 weeks before you leave

You don’t need another brain chemical in there revving you up. Have mild anxiety? Here, have a booster cappuccino! Suddenly you’re jittery and every little worry feels ten times scarier. I know it’s hard, but either switch to decaf or start drinking a single cup of tea a day. It will stop your heart racing all the time.

4. Distract yourself

If you’re not being constructive and packing or getting necessary things in order, try not to focus on the move at all. Go see a movie, read a book, get out and play Pokemon Go, whatever, just don’t let your mind ruminate on what’s to come.

5. If you smoke weed, STOP

Many people smoke to relax, but over time, marijuana actually reduces the amount of serotonin (the chemical that calms you down) that your brain produces, so it’s harder for you to chill out naturally. As soon as you stop smoking weed, your brain will replenish itself and you’ll feel calmer and have more focus to get those necessary things done (re: packing).

6. Most changes do not happen instantaneously

While it might seem like on THAT DAY your life is going to change FOREVER, it really isn’t. If you can think about all the little things that have to happen for this change to occur, it really won’t feel like such a huge thing. Life happens slowly. You will be prepared for it. This adventure isn’t going to jump out at you like that snake in the last Harry Potter movie. Each little bit of life that takes you from point A to point B helps get you prepared for what’s coming. It eases you into it. If you keep that in mind, THE BIG SCARY CHANGE will just feel like “that exciting thing that’s slowly happening.”

5 thoughts on “It’s the Final Countdown”

  1. Such great advice, Maddy! To get stronger you have to do stuff you don’t think you can do and you have to do that stuff while you simultaneously doubt you can do it. It’s so paradoxical. As Reid Wilson says (to Anxiety): Good! I want this. Bring it on!

    You can totally do it and by writing this blog you are showing others they can do it, too!!

    Love,
    Your biggest fan.

  2. The coffee thing is so hard for me to remember … I finally am able to recognize peaks in anxiety as times when I shouldn’t drink alcohol (after years of hungover, panic attack-riddled morning subway rides, before I even knew I was having panic attacks and pretty much just thought I was dying), but still can’t always give up coffee when I should be drinking tea instead — I don’t have have the English genes that you do 😉 it’s funny how some foods or lighting can ignite anxiety too… Like I can’t go into restaurants if I’m feeling on edge and I’ve learned exactly what to avoid… Excited for you and looking forward to reading more! Need more tips for how to deal with airplanes because I can’t handle them anymore! -Nina

  3. Oh I hadn’t even thought of the lighting, but that’s so true! Harsh, fluorescent lighting is so rough. And I know not drinking caffeine is really hard. I’ll try to post some good tips about flying too because I have always had trouble with them too. Stay tuned 🙂

  4. Full disclosure – I was admittedly stalking you and Melissa’s Facebook page to arrive here but this is interesting!

    As a neutral observer I would have never guessed that you struggled with anxiety! Both you and Melissa both seem totally at ease in conversation.

    I’m a big blog reader though so hopefully you stay committed to writing on here!

    Cheers,
    Michael

  5. Thanks!! I’m glad we come across well and not super anxious. As a fellow introvert though, you can understand our dislike of large social gatherings. We may not come across as nervous, per se, but our nerves kind of articulate themselves as uncomfortableness or awkwardness. This whole process has been surprisingly less scary than I anticipated though!
    Thanks for commenting 🙂

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