In high school, I was a verifiable walking stress machine. I was on-edge constantly, jumpy and quite literally had a knot in my stomach. It wasn’t until after high school and a stress-free summer did I realize I ever had a stomach ache; it was so constant I just thought that’s how stomachs feel.
Since then though, I’ve mostly avoided putting myself in stressful situations. Sometimes during finals week I’ll have a knot in stomach (the tell-tale sign I’m stressing out), but never have I been that stressed out for more than two or three days in a row.
I’m studying abroad to South Africa in 11 days, and I’m panicking. The trip itself will be fine I think, but until I am in Cape Town, in my room and unpacked, I know I will have this knot in my stomach.
I am working until the end of the week, ten hours a day, spending most of it running around trying to tie up loose ends and ensure everything is ready for the intern who is replacing me. During this time I am also trying to iron out financial aid details (my school is not making it easy) and packing up to move out of my apartment. Of course, since I will be out of Boston and away from my friends until January, I am trying to see everyone I can at least one more time to say goodbye.
As the trip gets closer, I think of a million more things I forgot to do and need to get done before I leave. I thought I was well-prepared; I even had a list. But of course the list was incomplete, and truthfully trash and I’m actually a mess and keep putting stuff off and when it comes time for my plane to take off, I won’t be ready.
In high school when I had knots in stomach, I was constantly on the verge of a panic attack. Full-on tears, the inability to breath, hiding in the corner. And it happened two or three times.
But I’ve learned since then! Focus on the task at hand, not what you have to do next. Don’t think about things you can’t effect. Keep your workload manageable. Sleep, and get exercise.
I am sure I will learn a lot on this trip, and I am excited to go. But the most important thing I learn might not be on the trip, but instead beforehand. If I can get through all the prep work for this trip without a panic attack, that will be a major milestone. This trip is going to be a blast, and being able to say I was able to manage my stress and anxiety while preparing for it will only make it all the better.