Six Months Anxiety Free

Anxiety makes the words on a page blurry. It makes you forget everything you studied when you look at a test. It makes you feel like you need to drink to go into a party, or you don’t go at all. It makes you jump and cry and doubt yourself and limit yourself. I couldn’t bring that baggage with me to college and expect to get anywhere. I knew I had to find a way to let that part of me go. I had to find a way to defeat the beast that was in my head. If i knew who I was through and through, if I knew my core principles, I would follow my own constitution in every situation and become the best version of myself. I just didn’t know what my core values were. I am still working on myself and discovering my principles, but these six months have shown light on the strong, independent person that I am, giving me more confidence than ever before.

One thing I discovered that helps with anxiety is being 100% in the moment. Studies have shown that people are almost always happier when their minds are not wandering and they are focused completely on the task at hand, even if that task is unpleasant. In Cambodia I found myself doing that out of necessity, because every time my mind wandered, I felt anxiety and homesickness creep in. I often had this sinking feeling that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I felt like I should be home, or somewhere else in the world. I would think destructive thoughts like “This isn’t me, I am not brave, I hate hot weather and everything is covered in dirt.” Once I realized my thinking needed to change for me to be happy I decided to own myself and my decisions. I was in Cambodia because I chose to be. I made a brave decision because I am brave. Once I was able to recognize anxiety coming on, I found a way to stay stronger than that feeling was and focus my thoughts and energy on what was physically in front of me. That is something Cambodians are really good at, and taught me by example. They don’t check their phones or look at social media outlets and compare themselves to others. They are a joyful people who focus on what they have, despite having so little. Transitioning back home for Christmas was one of the most difficult challenges I faced. I felt air-conditioning hit me like a semi truck in the Charlotte airport and I remember how angry I felt. How dare these people live in a refrigerator with no regard to the environment? How dare they blast cold air when people in other countries don’t even have enough fans? As hard as it was, I had to accept where I was and that this was the American culture. It is wasteful, but screaming at a random airport employee about the thermostat wouldn’t help get AC to Cambodia, nor would it get anyone to adjust the temperature for the sake of our earth. I had to take a deep breath and find the strength to accept what I could not change.

When I was in New York City, everything was fast and driven. It seemed like a breeding ground for anxiety: comparing clothes, people being money centered, or workaholics. Surprisingly, none of that loosened my control over my anxiety. I focused my energy on what was right infant of me and what I enjoyed doing so much, design and fashion. I had the opportunity to explore a career path I would have never had the opportunity to to if I went straight to school, and I soaked up every minute of it.

Instead of focusing on memorizing material for classes and reading text books I have been focusing on my own thoughts and feelings, and reading for fun, a luxury I forgot I valued. I can focus on myself, how I learn best, what subjects I truly enjoy, and what is really important to me. Spending the past six months listening to myself, and allowing the world to be my teacher, I have learned more than I ever imagined. I know growth is constant, so I will continue to learn more about myself and my world for the next 5 months of my gap year, and the next four years as an FSU student.

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