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Destler Dodge

Dealing with stress — what a topic. But it's always kind of on the back of our minds, isn't it? Sometimes I even get stressed out about not getting stressed out and I become an actual ball of stress. It's a vicious cycle that does me no good, but I'm trying to learn to handle it.

I had my first panic attack when I was 15 during a competitive swim meet. My second one, when I was about to take the Algebra 2/Trigonometry Regents Exam (New York state natives know what I'm talking about). They kind of blur together after that, but what stays consistent is the feeling of fear and helplessness that I experience when I can't get air into my body, when everything starts to get overwhelming — which happens much more frequently during testing season.

I've tried different ways of dealing with it. When I was a teenager, it was to pretend like I didn't actually care about anything. I tried falling back on my friends, relationships, exercise and maybe one or two other, less wholesome means of coping. And you know what? Nothing really worked. 

Not any one thing, anyway. For me, dealing with stress is kind of a balancing act, one at which I'm still practicing. I still get overwhelmed, and you wouldn't believe some of the nightmares my brain can come up with when it's particularly stretched thin. But underneath the stress is a sense that I can handle it; I've been through so much and I've come out the other side. I like who I am, and I give at least a little bit of the credit for that to the situations that weren't easy, weren't comfortable, but that I was able to figure out despite my anxiety.

By no means is dealing with stress the same for everyone. Some find it much, much harder than others, and I don't want to make it seem as if I feel that everyone should be able to suck it up and get through it. There are resources — on campus and otherwise — to help those struggling with anxiety and depression, and I encourage you to make use of them if you need to. Remember, our mental health is so much more important than our GPAs. Take a break once in awhile; pull a Donna Meagle and treat yourself.

I do want you to know, though, that no matter how insurmountable those midterms might seem, you're not even going to remember them as little as two months from now, no matter how badly you do. We have an incredible ability to adapt to whatever happens, and tests should not even factor into our determination of self-worth.