What to Do If You Feel Like You Can’t Do Anything

It’s post-spring break, and you’re flung yet again into the bedlam of classes, work, and just going about your life.  If you’re anything like me, you have a knack for getting lost in the pandemonium, and getting stuck in your head.  The weight of existence literally locks you inside your mind, or ties you to your bed.  If any of this sounds familiar, first know that you are not alone.  Stress and anxiety are not things to be taken lightly.  Take a moment to breathe and ground yourself.  Everything will fall into place.

The first thing to do when you feel a panic attack oncoming is a grounding exercise.  It’s pretty simple and focuses on the five senses to bring yourself back into the present.  Notice five things you see.  Four things you physically feel.  Three things you hear.  Two things you smell.  One thing you taste.  Another helpful exercise is to focus on deep breathing, from the diaphragm (deep in your stomach) rather than your shoulders.  Take a breath in for four seconds and breathe out for six.  Repeat this until you feel calm.

The next thing that helps is to write out your thoughts.  This also applies more generally to finding a creative outlet.  Drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, music, etc.  I just write everything that comes to mind; I don’t worry about the final form it takes on the page.  I find that some of my best writing comes from when I don’t hold myself back or censor myself.  I have a specific journal that I use to write in when I’m stuck in a spiral, or if I don’t have that with me I grab any old scrap of paper.  If you don’t have a knack for art, this could also be in the form of a physical activity.  Leave it all out on whatever your page may be: a court, a stage, a canvas, a field.

If there is something that you know helps to pull you back into the moment, latch onto that.  I have a specific song (this one) that really helps me.

Consider if something physical could be worsening your stress.  For me, I find that consuming caffeine can pull me into a spiral of thoughts even on a good day.  So, ditch the coffee, get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, eat balanced and nutritious meals, go for a walk or work out, and relax—have some fun!  Your life shouldn’t be constant work.

Reach out to the people around you in your support system.  Make plans to look forward to, text your parents for a picture of your dog, ask an old friend to grab lunch.  Keeping yourself socially involved is vital to pulling yourself out of a negative headspace.  After all, your friends and family will still be there when this passes.  And it will pass.

The ultimate step is to seek professional help.  For many, this is the most difficult step to take.  It can feel like giving up, like admitting that there is something abnormal about you.  However, know that seeking help is exactly the opposite.  It is the start of a journey to a real, solid recovery.  It took me three years to take this step, and I couldn’t be happier that I did.  Pitt has a great counseling center that takes walk-in appointments daily from 9-12 pm and 1-4 pm.  Find more information on their website here.