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5 Signs You’re Mentally Stressing Over Nothing

Anxiety is shocking—and especially real—during college. Maybe you’re new and you want to get a cup of coffee at GCBC, finally wrenching yourself from your dorm and little Keurig coffee you budgeted yourself to drink; but you go there and you’re surrounded by activity—people, everywhere, talking, in groups or alone on their computers, crunching in their last essays before the due date. You stand in line and a girl in front of you glances back; and, for a heart stopping moment, fear hits you—Did she just look at me weird?

All of a sudden, worry hits you. Is your outfit weird? Do you have a stain on your shirt? Or maybe, God forbid, you smell weird. Through this, you stand there, anxious, trying not to look in her direction and quickly order your coffee. You can’t wait to go back to your dorm. You’re certain, for a fact, she doesn’t like you.

For another example, you take the first lecture of the new semester. A dread spreads over you because you know for certain you can’t do it—you suck at writing, you suck at math, whatever it is, you’re certain you can’t do it because you already have too much going on at home, at your job, and that stress is already on top of you. Adding another stress would just make you break. So you think, I’ll fail; I’m terrible at balancing school and work.

However, the truth is—are you?

In psychology—and philosophy, they call these a cognitive distortion, or, deceptive brain messages. Here are the most common ones:

  1. Mind Reading. This is the case at the coffee shop. You perceive a situation and automatically jump to conclusions. Someone looked at you weird, so that must mean they don’t like you based on some random, obscure fact you’re insecure about.

  2. Fortune Telling/Catastrophizing. Obviously, we can all look into the future. We tend to do this and short change ourselves, thinking the worst before we even begin. Not taking that class because you think you’ll fail, even though you’ve never even taken it before. These can manifest in what ifs? And you fall into this circular trap of questioning the what if—what if I fail? What if the professor hates me? What if I have no friends here? And you stop yourself and stay in whatever more you’re in instead.

  3. Emotional Reasoning. We’re all guilty of this. Every emotion we feel must be valid. It must mean something is wrong with whatever it is, right? Unfortunately, no. Just because you feel depressed about classes does not mean you should stop going to class. The whole idea behind this is—because you’re feeling x, you must stop y because y is the problem, when in reality, there can be a whole other array of problems behind it and to recognize ways to move around it.

  4. Negative Filtering. Every notice that no matter how many compliments you get, if there’s one negative thing, it bothers you until that’s all you think about? Let’s say you choose an outfit. All your friends, except one, say they like it. What do you do?—Change it.

  5. Blaming. Nothing is ever your fault. Of course, it isn’t! You failed that class because the professor sucked. You can’t keep a relationship because your parents are divorced. The root of your problems is never—I’ll say it—you.

So what do you do with these? These worries, anxieties, emotions that trigger you or make you want to stop, hole up in your dorm? Maybe it’s the small things, or the big things, but the best thing to do is this: Recognize it for what it is, deep breaths, relax. Well, you might think, how, exactly?


Take a step back. Ask yourself a question: What is the evidence? That’s it. Question your emotions. Ask yourself, why does it matter if the person likes you or not? Why does one look determine a whole array of emotions on you? In reality, the evidence is minimal, if any at all. Some girl looked at you. What does it matter? So many others are insecure, they’re not worried about you. You smell fine. You’re not on the runway, in front of cameras, being picked apart.

If you’re thinking you’ll fail, based on fear, ask yourself, why? Because you’re scared. Because last time, you didn’t try hard enough, or because you got a bad grade in class. Ask yourself where’s the evidence that you’ll fail again, because this time—you’ll change. That’s the thing about cognitive distortions; they stop you from changing for the better, developing into someone confident, and sure of themselves.

It’s not an exact science. Everyone experiences stress, anxiety, and everything listed above, but it’s how you act with it, is what matters.

Student, coffee enthusiast, and writer from the PNW.
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