More Than Back To School Nerves

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The new school year can bring mixed emotions for many students. Some excited, some joyful, and some nervous about the school year ahead. But when first day of school nerves settle and students are still experiencing anxiety, they may be dealing with a bigger issue. In our latest blog post, our Summer Student Peer Support Worker, Natalie, shares her experience with anxiety and how she has learned to cope with it and succeed in school.

I never anticipated that I would make it to graduate school, let alone survive the 5 years it took me to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with Honours. But here I am, years later going for my Masters of Social Work degree. It hasn’t been an easy journey. In fact, sticking through school has probably been one of the biggest challenges of my life. The first 3 years of university were especially difficult, as I had a full-time course load, worked part-time, and lived with a parent (and an aunt) with a mood disorder. Amidst the stress of work, school deadlines, and family obligations, I began struggling with my own mental health. After experiencing a series of panic attacks and difficulty falling asleep, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Panic Attacks. Skeptical of my diagnosis, I figured I could keep going the way I had been, only now relying on anxiety medication and caffeine to combat the exhaustion I felt. Deep down, I knew I didn’t feel healthy. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be in a professional role where I can support people struggling with life challenges like mental illness, grief and trauma. It was a turning point for me when I realized that in order to help people in the way I wanted to I had to take care of myself first. I decided to cut out caffeine completely (it was a major trigger), begin eating healthier, exercising regularly and practicing meditation as a way of coping with my anxiety. I understand that these strategies are not always enough to treat some symptoms of anxiety, but for me, they helped immensely. As I begin to mentally prepare myself for my upcoming (and final) school year, I find it necessary to remind myself of the self-care strategies I’ve used in the past to manage my symptoms. It’s easy to let things like exercise, deep breathing/yoga and healthy eating take the backseat when life gets busy, and there always seems to be something more important demanding my time and energy. I feel my anxiety building as September approaches, but I find comfort and confidence in acknowledging how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished since my initial diagnosis.  Living with a mood disorder is not easy; but I strongly believe that my personal struggles have taught and equipped me, just as much as my education, to better support those who I encounter in my work as a Peer Support Worker and Social Worker.  

- Natalie


For more information on anxiety disorders, check out our fact sheet here.

If you believe you may be living with a mood disorder, take our online Check Up From The Neck Up quiz.