I told my mom, “I think I am going to drop my math class.” I had just finished my first quarter at college since my brain injury, and I had an anxiety attack about the next term that was starting only one week later.
I registered for critical thinking and math classes over this summer quarter. Compared to the term that had just finished, this quarter moved three times faster.
What really gave me anxiety was the fact that the part of my brain that was injured was the part that processes math. While I could add and subtract simple change, it was here I was forced to take a college-level math class to transfer to SJSU.
With all of that in mind, my mother responded to my apprehension by saying, “Do not drop your class, try it first.” So I did.
In the end, I kept all of my classes this summer, which taught me a valuable lesson on how I can deal with anxiety. This was to do your best instead of giving up, think slowly, and confront challenges (try to overcome them) instead of allowing the anxiety to overcome me.
On the first day of my math class, my professor welcomed us all and gave an explanation of how things would work. He explained that we would work in groups of about six students each, and if you don’t like your group, you can switch to a different one.
We were told to do our homework in groups and to take our exams in groups as well. One way that I learned to overcome anxiety was to practice acceptance and take things in life as they come.
My initial anxiety was about how my grades were going to turn out at the end of the quarter. Instead of worrying about the future, I just took life moment by moment, concentrating on doing the best I could each step of the way.
With all of that said, I had no idea what I was doing in class, but I was learning about the lesson plans as I went, and all I could do was try my best and accept the final outcome.
Simon Sinek said, “Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see the options.” Accepting the outcome and the source of my anxiety allowed me to take action and overcome the math class that was causing me so much mental negativity.
However, the irony of the situation is that the first lesson plan in the second class that I had to take, critical thinking, was about how to overcome anxiety. Ultimately, when I got out of my math class and walked into my critical thinking class, I was taught how to overcome anxiety and practice slow thinking.
“The only way out is through.” Robert Frost has an excellent perception of handling anxiety – no matter what your anxiety is related to, there is only one way to get out of it (overcome it), and that’s to push through it.
Our bodies and minds will instinctively tell us to fight these anxious feelings when they surface, but when you learn to accept them instead, you can learn to understand and cope with them more effectively. What is your mind telling you? Why is it telling you that? What is the outcome of your reaction going to be? How can you switch your thinking or actions to help cope with this anxiety and live with it in harmony rather than always being in a constant battle with it?
No matter what you’re feeling anxious about, whether it’s before speaking publicly in front of an audience, worrying about what others might think of you, fearing the unknown, feeling constantly worried, or even terrified of normal circumstances, remember to slow down your thinking and embrace this “danger” the next time they arise. Don’t run, but welcome the feeling, the thrill, and the fear.
I promise that you will emerge happier and more fulfilled from this challenge by taking it head-on and not letting yourself succumb to its negative intent.