Keeping it Together

hi friendly readers – Meredith here.

It’s sunny in Kingston today – the threat of fall seems to have passed…at least for the time being. I’ve been in a bit of an angsty headspace lately, but I am doing my best to relish the crispy air and bright skies and keep the voices in my head in-check.

I’ve been feeling pretty frustrated with my work lately – I’ve been trying to get my last paper finished up, but things aren’t going terribly smoothly. I recently heard that I still have a ways to go, and that I probably won’t be able to graduate ‘on time’ — ie. before the end-of-September deadline for finishing up. I’m a little frustrated, but I guess this is just how it goes sometimes… things take the time they take.

What I’ve been having to remind myself, though, is that the anxiety churning around in my mind (and keeping me, I’ll admit, just a little paralyzed) is a construction. It’s something my mind is doing to itself.

I think it’s especially important for grad students (who, I’ve noticed, tend to be prone to worrying) to remember that anxiety is constructed and as such, is something we can control (even though it may feel impossibly hard at times!). Sometimes we get into negative and despairing ways of thinking (ie. “this paper is NEVER going to be done! Never! I am a supreme failure! I am not going to graduate on-time, and am thus doomed to a life of failure and defeat!”) and we start to believe that our thoughts are TRUE, when in fact, they are merely THOUGHTS.

The internet is, of course, full of helpful tidbits designed to help us keep our worry/anxiety under control. I thought I’d direct your attention to a few of them now. For example, this website offers up the helpful suggestion that we try to limit our worrying to a designated time (ie. a ‘worry period’)  – which helps us control our anxious thoughts (ie. you can only worry between 5 and 5:20pm, and only in the living room).

The site also provides a good summation of cognitive disorders — the ones that affect our thinking (often negatively) and tend to control us without our noticing them. It offers up this useful list of ways to re-examine our own thinking when we get anxious or worried:

Stop worry by questioning the worried thought:

  • What’s the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true?
  • Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation?
  • What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen?
  • If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
  • Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me?
  • What would I say to a friend who had this worry?

They are valid questions I think (maybe I will write them out on a huge sheet of paper and stick them over my desk?) because they force to consider how much our thoughts are constructions — not realities.

It’s certainly something I need to bear in mind as a push through with these revisions and try to determine what the heck I’m going to do with myself next.

Happy weekending, all!

Posted in SGS Blog 2010-2011, Student Perspective

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