Anxious and Aspiring: Managing Anxiety in My Professional Life
Journalism can be argued as one of the most high stress, fast-paced careers out there --you’re expected to be accurate, ethical, and important information is all weighed on your shoulders. But when crippling anxiety makes you constantly doubt yourself, merely doing your job becomes exhausting. The field is all about being quick, on your feet, making necessary edits in limited time and being able to finish a first draft and be happy with it. The day I decided to throw myself into this, I knew what I was getting myself into, and I can’t lie, I’ve done pretty well so far. However, in the last couple months, this has caused me to become very tough on myself--to the point where I tell myself that I shouldn’t be doing this.
I’ve always been an anxious person, and only recently realized that it is associated with an actual disorder I have. I’ve always worried too much and had my temper spark up at inopportune times. As I entered high school the pressure went up, as we were thrown college pamphlets and FAFSA tutorials towards us. Suddenly, I was a senior and had to decide what I wanted to do with my life, and I still didn’t know.
After floating through freshman year without no specific care or ambition, I had an epiphany sophomore year when I joined my arts and culture magazine: I wanted report and write for a living. I went into this full force, which is something I never really felt before: caring for something that would require a lifetime of work. Needless to say, this was the first free-fall step into adulthood. A year later I became editor-in-chief of The Vindicator, got an internship at a local magazine and here I am — fighting for my dream and drained as hell.
I love journalism. Sometimes though, I really hate doing what I love.That’s okay. Hating what you love doesn’t make you a failure or mean that you need to immediately change directions.There are many times when people are getting involved in a major and at some point during their college career, they mess up and think, “Well this means I suck at this, so I won’t do it.” But you’re supposed to suck - even at what you like. Especially at the beginning. And even when you get good at it, it’s okay to be completely sick of your job, because that’s how you learn and you grow and develop further.
The number one thing people warned me about the career I planned to go into was the competitiveness. Before my dad passed, I told him that I was thinking about journalism .His response was blunt. He asked if I was sure I didn’t want to be a teacher or professor instead, something less intense and competitive. Even a year later, when I was dealing with more anxiety, my mother asked if I was sure about what I was doing the right thing, if I could handle it. But I insisted — I told them this is the first time that I feel a genuine fire in my heart towards something that can be turned into a career.
These were valid criticisms. I’m fighting against my basic instincts — to worry, to second guess myself, to be too nice — the things that can make or break you in the journalism field.
And as I’m writing this, I’m staring into my LinkedIn feed, seeing all the positions people are receiving, all the new internships they’re starting, and I continue to ask myself, am I doing enough? And will I ever be enough? And most definitely, am I running out of time?
I have a tendency to start acting very mean to myself. Telling myself that I'm not strong enough for the goals I've set for myself. Telling myself that I need to be tougher, less sensitive and more competitive. This kind of attitude is what ultimately caused me to start neglecting my mental health.
I’ve learned that I do need to get tougher skin, but not in the way I treat myself.. This doesn’t mean that I need to change who I am.An entire generation of millennials like myself have grown into being so hyper-aware that the world is large, and we have only so much time to achieve what we want. We’re all anxious and aspiring. We want to create our own futures, and we want to be happy, and ironically — we’re making ourselves more unhappy achieving that. Anxiety is the highest presenting concern amongst college students. Around 41.1 percent of us are anxious about what the future holds. And this makes sense. We want all the endless hours in college and all the work we put into unpaid internships to be worth it.
We’re moving so fast, so intense all the time. We have our eyes on the goal without seeing the carnage we’re leaving behind, and the carnage is often on ourselves. We are an anxious generation, we want it all and for good reason — because it’s true, we don’t have much time. This is the way my mind views it, at least.
I’ve learned in the last few months to try my best to slow down. It’s necessary. At the beginning of the semester, I was going through a traumatic time due to a personal emergency, and I still kept pushing myself — too much. I was convinced I could do perfect at my internship and in my classes while still handling my emotional baggage. But I couldn’t — and I had a terrible wake up call where I found myself having the worst panic attack I’ve ever experienced.
Since then, I always think of that moment, when I felt like my body was crying at me, telling me to rest. I realized since then that it’s time to invest time into taking care of myself and handling my anxiety. Sometimes this is as simple as having affirmations each morning, or as difficult as finally admitting you need to go to a counselor. Whatever it is, we need to remember that there’s always time to stop and slow ourselves down for a moment.
As I start this semester, I’m more aware of my anxiety than ever before. I’m also more aware of the work I have ahead of me. I’m learning that I have a passion for something that is going to take a lot of my energy and time, but I need to balance that with being a human and remaining sane. Somehow, I kept telling myself that there is no balance, that to be a journalist you have to go to the extreme or you will fail. However, there is a balance. Because you’re not going to be able to succeed at what you’re doing if you’re being toxic to yourself. It’s okay to hate what you love, as long as you can reflect at the end of the day why you love it in the first place, and why it’s worth it.