A lot is on the line. Graduating and earning a bachelor's degree is one thing, but the fear of the unknown life waiting after graduation has been enough to cause me to lose sleep. I applied to grad school, for Ph.D. programs in Biology. Hell yes I want to be accepted to my #1 choice school! I daydream endlessly about moving out of my beloved childhood home (I commuted to undergrad all four years. It saved money and I'm not complaining, but it's time to change!) and into an apartment all my own in an area that I have been in love with since my first visit as a child. But I also have to prepare for deviations, such as being turned down (read: rejected) by my top choices, or even being turned down by everywhere I applied to.
Some of my friends aren't applying to graduate school, and the pressure is on them to go find a job. Something they may or may not do for the rest of forever... Our parents are telling us to make use of our expensive degrees and go be something. Not all of us are born knowing what we want to do. Oftentimes our ambitions change as we grow and become exposed to more of the world. Personally, I wanted to be a doctor all my life until I hit sophomore year in college and I realized I'm too squeamish for cadavers (you know, those dead people they cut open for educational purposes) and that I would much prefer working in a lab, hence the Ph.D. dreams. Nonetheless, we are all being pressured. My mom and dad would simply say, "hey, get used to it, you're going to be pressured all your life". Sigh.
I haven't thought of any backup plans (shaaaaaame on me) as to what I will do if I don't get into a single graduate program. Should I apply the following year? Retake the GRE? Go job hunting? Cry endlessly in bed all day so I can drown in my sorrow?
That last option isn't going to happen to me. And, my dear friends (fellow undergrads or not), I don't want it to happen to you, either. We are all above self-loathing and self-pity. We can't just sit around all day and mope. It won't help us lower our stress levels. Let me tell you what happens when I get stressed out. It's not pretty. My hair starts falling out, my acne acts up, I gain weight, I snap at everyone around me because I'm always on edge. And I don't sleep well. Some or all of this may even happen to you. It's normal. Go ahead, wallow a little bit in it. Acknowledging your feelings is a good thing. But as soon as you start feeling so bad that every minute of your life feels like crap, stop.
Yeah, yeah, easier said than done. But that's everything. Look at it this way, if you don't calm the hell down, you can't tackle your stress/fears/tasks. If you aren't 100% there for yourself, who else will be? I know I'm supposed to be YourAwesomeBFF, but I can only provide help. I can't calm your nerves for you. You have to take charge of yourself and make the effort to de-stress. I do, however, have another list. These are just some things that I have been trying to do lately to take the edge off. Stress isn't ever going to go away completely, but you can try to curb some of it:
How to Manage Your Stress
- Acknowledge that you are stressed. I have blamed other people and situations far too many times. When I get stressed out, everything around me seems far more annoying or worse than what actually is. Accept that it is you that is feeling crummy. Apologize to others that you may have hurt because you're feeling down, especially if those others are the ones that didn't cause your stress in the first place. And P.S.-Easy on the road rage. Don't go driving like an angry maniac just because you're stressing. It could get you and the people around you in a lot of trouble. So cool it.
- Keep busy. It's possible that you're stressed because you're busy, but what I meant to say is have a schedule. If you have a lot on your plate, organize your tasks on a list or calender of some sort. You'll feel a lot better if you get things done on time and in an orderly fashion. Plus, the satisfaction of crossing tasks off the list is just amazing.
- Keep busy #2. For people like me with light schedules, having nothing to do is the worst. When I'm not busy, I sit and think about everything wrong with my life, which just perpetuates sadness. Instead, I: do household chores (i.e. dishes), watch some TV, crochet, talk to someone. Anything to deviate from excessive thinking.
- Find a hobby! Something that is all about you. I mean, you are on the internet. Go search something up; there isn't anything you can't learn how to do. You might even find something that you're passionate about! Doing at least one thing that is just for fun is enough to help you feel like your life is about something other than some daily grind.
- Exercise. Don't go getting some gym membership (unless you really want one). A simple walk around the block can help. Even pacing in your own home or doing some cardio and stretching can really help. Devote at least 20 minutes. It won't take away from your busy life, but it will add to it by making you more functional. But it will help you recharge and feel better once you get the blood flowing. Even lazy, unathletic bums like myself can get up and move around. Or hey, get up and dance! Even if you look like a fool. This is about your health, not your looks.
- Don't stop at dreaming. You want something? Well, you're not going to get it by just picturing it. There's no such thing as some magical genie that will give you what you want. Make plans. Being ambitious only gets you so far if you can't make moves towards those goals.
(Note: I feel like I have to say this. I'm not a professional therapist or life coach or fitness instructor or anything certified. I'm just a college kid putting things out there. If you have any doubts about whether you're healthy enough to exercise or how to go about it, please talk to your trusted doctor. And lastly, don't go attaining your goals and managing your stress at the expense of others. Make sure whatever you're aiming towards is safe and legal. No seriously, please. Look out for yourselves and each other! Don't say I didn't warn you to be good! I totally did.)