How About National Stress Øut Season?

  • If you've checked out the ADAA website recently, you've seen the announcement of our annual college campaign called National Stress Øut Day. The campaign's goal is to provide overworked, under-rested students with some pre-finals stress relief, as well as information about anxiety and how to manage it.

    We know that going to college can be extremely stressful, especially in times when scraping together the tuition is harder than usual, not to mention worrying about post-graduation employment. Add to that the stresses of absorbing hundreds of pages of reading, writing papers all night, and keeping friendships and romances from breaking down or blowing up. I'm thinking that all of us-students and nonstudents alike-might do well to try to extend the spirit of Stress Øut Day year-round. A day isn't going to do it; we need to make this a long-term priority. Let's all work to dedicate our overworked, under-rested, and stressed-out selves to getting through these anxiety-provoking times. And I propose each of us start by homing in on how we relate to our anxiety-that is, how we respond to it when we feel its chilly tentacles snaking up our spines.

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    Take me, for instance. When I'm anxious I like information because it comforts me. It provides a framework on which I can layer facts and opinions and second opinions that enable me to make good decisions. This was never clearer than when my husband went in for routine gall bladder surgery a few years ago. I learned everything I could about gallstones, gallbladders, and anything else the surgeon happened to mention. As I sat in the waiting room, I thought about what the procedure entailed and monitored the time carefully so I'd be ready to talk to the surgeon the moment he emerged.

    I checked my watch: One hour and 47 minutes had passed. Nothing to worry about, but... My mind started wandering to the stories I'd heard about somebody's uncle who went in for gallbladder surgery, but when they opened him up they found something else; and another man who got an infection in the hospital and ended up dying from that. My rational mind knew that the chances of this happening to my husband were remote, but you never know. I started planning the eulogy.

    I had gotten to the part where I was saying what a wonderful guy my husband was, how grateful I was to have found him, how he had raised three wonderful kids, and how I blamed myself because maybe if I had taken him to the doctor a little earlier fatal complications wouldn't have set in, when a small voice inside me piped up: "Your husband is having a gallstone removed and you're planning the eulogy. You think that's normal?" Sure it was normal-for me.

    What's normal for you? Each of us employs coping mechanisms, patterns of behavior that get us through the anxiety-provoking situations that life inevitably nudges our way. You may deal with anxiety by avoiding thoughts and situations that remind you of it, or you may try to think your anxiety into submission. Whether you avoid your anxiety or think about it will depend on how you perceive yourself in relation to the anxiety. Is it so powerful that your only way of coping is to avoid it? Or do you see yourself managing it? In either case, the important question is whether the relationship works for you. Take a look at my new book, which has tons of tips: One Less Thing to Worry About: Uncommon Wisdom for Coping with Common Anxieties hit the bookshelves during the week-or season-of National Stress Øut Day.

  • PLEASE NOTE: The Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) does not endorse or promote any specific medications or treatments.

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Published On: April 20, 2009