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Mental Health

Ashoka for the Anxious Soul

Edited by: Oishiki Ganguly

I put off writing this article for the longest time, I must admit. Even when I finished it, I put off sending it to my editor. During the process, I attributed my discomfort to an unanticipated dog bite, a random burn, and the start of a new semester. I now realise I was simply scared. As much as this article may establish relatability or elicit half a chuckle (don’t tell me if it doesn’t), it is an open declaration of all my fears. Fears I have deemed irrational, irrelevant, shameful, and more. This list is a representation of the confusion that highlighted my first year, and will possibly continue throughout my journey at Ashoka. I am learning to make my peace with it, and I hope this list helps you do that too. 

  1. Face it. You’re going to have an existential crisis about your life choices every second day. Might as well come up with coping mechanisms like screaming into your pillow and buying waterproof mascara. Staring at my ceiling and making dark jokes really worked for me, Gen Z style. Seriously though. Self-doubt will hit you at the most unexpected of times, and it is normal. Universities and corporations with unpaid internships literally thrive on existential crises. Remind yourself that you are creating your own path at Ashoka, which is a great place to start. 
  1. Hold space for meaningful friendships. I have found myself tap-tap-tapping through Instagram stories of parties and brunches more times than I’d like to admit, feeling inadequate and friendless. I’ve moved around all my life, changing cities and schools. I’ve been privy to many a secret and made many a best friend, only to realise the impermanent nature of some relationships and the lifelong nature of a fewer some. The trick is simple. Be honest. In your compassion, your disagreement, and your grief. ‘Popularity’ may feel like a priority, and understandably so. (Been there, done that, got the t-shirt). However, your life will be equally enriched even if you don’t feature in a post-party red cup polaroid or a vegan cafe boomerang. 
  1. We all like our pretty frivolities. As someone who is perpetually in comparison mode, the thought of setting up my dorm room is super scary to me. I don’t know what part of my personality to showcase through posters, I can’t take care of plants, and fairy lights give me a headache. The idea of being put together, having an aesthetic, and always being a notch above the others has always been enticing to me, and I am not alone. However, someone will always have a prettier room, a better phone cover, a cuter journal, yada yada yada: you get the drift. I know it will be difficult, with anxious thought spirals giving you company (they’re practically my frenemy at this point). I also know that you will be able to prioritise, find the things you like, and eventually be able to afford it too! If all else fails, you can always soothe your left-liberal heart by remembering that these are all mindless capitalist purchases that contribute to exploitative working environments and toxic influencer culture. 
  1. Get some sleep. No matter how much college movies glamourise pulling all-nighters and chugging coffee at 2 AM, it’s not fun (or even remotely healthy). Pre-end sem, first semester Reha would vehemently disagree (yes, I learnt my lesson, no, I will not talk about falling asleep in class way too many times). Sure, indulge yourself to your heart’s content, if that is the kind of experience you desire. However, sleep deprivation has serious consequences. Step into these cycles with awareness. You will need enough sleep to grasp your courses, stabilise your moods, give your extracurriculars time and devote yourself to your assignments. Do not take your sleep lightly!
  1. Emails are hard. They can be confusing and stressful, especially as a first year. You are always walking on eggshells in order to avoid breaking some kind of social protocol. Ask for help. Have someone proofread your emails and help you create templates. Having an email tab full of drafts with email templates is bound to make your job easier! (Pro tip: Do not fill in the receiver’s email address until the very end. I speak from experience).
  1. Classes can suck.  My first year, I had an 8:30 AM with a professor that told me to stop my presentation midway because it sucked (IT DIDN’T SUCK!). I spent an entire online semester tumbling through a course I really didn’t want to do, and I’m currently trying not to feel like an idiot for taking only four courses. Honestly? There are some miseries you just cannot prepare for. You may not get the course you desire, have a professor that terrifies you, struggle with readings, find classes boring, or have an 8:30 AM class. A bazillion things can go haywire. There is no one solution. You will feel anxious and have a cry or two, and that is okay. You can always better prepare yourself by asking for Professor reviews, hunting down old syllabi and assignment examples, asking your TF for extra sessions, and devoting all your efforts to getting that one thing right (which may or may not be worth the effort). Pick your battles. 
  1. Living in Transit is possible. As hard as I tried, I have been unable to adequately prepare for what may come. Will I go to campus? Will classes resume offline?Will I be sent back from campus? Will I spend this semester at home? Will I have to wear pants? Will I… won’t I… I don’t know. I don’t know if I should buy a whiteboard for my room at home or fairy lights for my dorm room. I don’t know if I should print out my readings or take notes in my notebook. I don’t know if I should hyperfocus on being independent or allow myself to be lazy. I don’t know what to do, and I am working on being unprepared. Don’t get me wrong, I read way too many Buzzfeed articles about work-from-home Amazon finds and constantly contemplate going paper free, but I don’t shame myself for it. I trust in my loved ones and wait for them to help me prepare. I allow myself the space to make mistakes. It is not the end of the world. 

It sounds impossible, but sometimes the key is to simply not take yourself too seriously. Fall on your butt, wear a top inside out, slip on spilled water, unmute yourself at the wrong time, and laugh it off. Watch me do it with you too!

Yours in anxiety and ever-elusive peace,

Reha 

Hi! I’m Reha, perpetually hungry and unapologetically hyperactive. I love words. How they roll around in my mouth, what they mean, how they are strung together in beauty. It fascinates me. And so I write. To me, it is a means of survival, much like compassion, comfort and sunshine. I write about anything under the sun, have zero filter, and am always up for a chat!