Managing Anxiety in the Season of Endless Potential

“Just wait for summer! That’s when I’m going to start that blog to build my personal portfolio!”
“Summer is exactly when I’ll reach out for that professional collaboration I have been eyeing!”
“Summer? Oh yeah, that’s when I shall be starting with  that prestigious internship I was talking about!”
“I know I haven’t been keeping up with self-care and prioritizing myself, but Hey! That’s what summer vacations are for, am I right?”
“I’ve fallen behind on my course so much! Hopefully, summer vacations will give me enough time to catch up!”

And then suddenly, it is summer—and well, it does not seem to be going the way you expected it to go. The time of seemingly endless opportunities brings up that all too familiar pit of anxiety in your stomach, the feeling of unease that rises up, making you aware of every heartbeat as you choke on your words and acknowledge the sudden heaviness that your body has suddenly become overrun with. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar captures this perfectly through the protagonist’s struggle as she gazes at a fig tree, each fig representing a different potential future—creative supremacy, professional excellence, and personal gratification. The abundance of choices paralyzes her, leading to none being chosen, leaving her famished. This literary example, where endless potential turns into crippling indecision, resonates with what we might now call “analysis paralysis.”

The literary piece, as it retains its social significance talks about the very essence of the human condition, where as we strive for personal and professional goals, it is but natural to feel overwhelmed. It is a lesson that laments that making a choice is alright, focusing on the opportunity presented and perhaps more importantly focusing on the present is essential. Giving yourself grace as a human experiencing life for the first time, just like all of us, is perfectly alright.

Here are a few practical tips to keep the summer jitters at bay!:

1. Create a relaxed yet structured schedule by stressing on a few achievable and flexible goals, ideally further broken down into smaller tasks to make them less daunting.

2. Avoid catastrophizing and steer clear of social media profiles that trigger constant comparison and negatively affect your self-esteem. Focus on your own progress, slow as it might be rather than comparing your mundane day-to-day activities to somebody else’s curated highlight reel.

3. Start/catch up with a personal hobby that brings you joy and fulfillment while also helping in developing and nurturing your identity outside of academia.

4. Engage in fulfilling personal time with yourself, your family, and peers. In the same vein, feel free to opt out of travel itineraries that seem overwhelming and tailor your vacation around experiences that are emotionally and psychologically enriching for your mental well-being.

5. Gradually introduce mindfulness exercises and relaxation techniques into your daily routine. Use them to ground yourself when you feel overwhelmed, to revert back your focus to the present moment.

6. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help, whether it be from family, peer support groups, or mental health professionals. No problem is too small to address, no level of fear/nervousness is below the threshold that warrants reaching out, and there is no ‘wrong’ time to seek assistance.

Summer is a precarious time to navigate. It is both a time of immense external promise and intense internal pressure and turmoil. The key to navigating this paradoxical time is empathy for yourself. The goal shouldn’t be to achieve a picture-perfect vacation but rather strive to find balance and maintain self-care and mental well-being amidst the chaos.

Remember, it is your summer, and there is no one ‘right’ way to make the most of it.

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