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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Toronto chapter.

Edited by Trinity Roche

Those closest to me know that I have been struggling with anxiety for years. Unfortunately for me, it runs in the family. For as long as I can remember, I have dealt with the symptoms every time that I’ve been put under pressure. Even when I’m not in a stressful situation, anxiety still manages to creep up and weave its way into my thoughts. I can go from calm to a panic-driven mess within five seconds. It’s a skill.

It took me a long time to learn how to manage my anxiety. I don’t think I will ever be completely rid of it, but I have come a long way in learning how to control it. The turning point for me was when I decided to start working on my relationship with driving. I struggled with anxious thoughts and physical symptoms of the anxiety: not being able to eat, sleep, or focus leading up to the idea of getting behind a wheel. I was so nervous leading up to my G2 test that I was ready to cancel.

My family and friends are the ones who pushed me to get my license. I was content being a passenger princess the rest of my life, but they told me I could do it. I took a crazy amount of driving lessons in order to feel comfortable on the road, and I also practiced with my partner. I am forever grateful to him for forcing me to test my boundaries and take the wheel whenever we were together despite him liking driving.

Three things helped me the most when I eventually took my exam and started driving alone:

Taking deep breaths. I know it sounds cliché; it is the go-to line for everyone. However, it really does work. Taking a few seconds to take a deep breath makes all the difference. For me, it takes me from the panicking mess I become when I’m engulfed by anxiety to a much more rational person. I’m able to think more clearly and figure out a plan if I’m in a stressful situation. It genuinely helps so much.

Focusing on my surroundings. This one takes practice because it is so easy to forget ways to calm yourself down when you are anxious. Solidifying myself when my anxiety was getting worse helped me to get back on track. For example, during the moments leading up to my driving test, when I was waiting for the examiner, I focused on how the steering wheel felt beneath my hands, how the cold air from the open window felt against my skin, how the car felt as the engine kicked into gear when I turned the car on. Turning my focus towards small things like these helped me ground myself in the moment. I didn’t let my thoughts get out of control (the worst of which being, what if I hit a person?) and focused on being present in the moment instead.

Getting to the root of my thinking. Asking myself questions. This one applies to scenarios in which you are letting anxiety get into your thoughts and cause overthinking. It happens to me a lot when I’m doing a task that doesn’t require a lot of focus. Problems I had forced out of mind come forward and I begin to think of the worst possible scenarios for each one. I learned to ask myself questions that helped rationalize my thought process. For example, why did I think I was going to hit someone? What evidence was there that I would? Why would my instructor or even my partner encourage me to go for the test if they didn’t believe I could drive safely?

Despite passing my test, it took me time to begin to feel comfortable driving by myself. If I know beforehand that I need to drive the car, I will work myself up with the worst possible scenarios in my mind to the point where I’ll do anything to get out of driving. However, when I am driving, I don’t have time to focus on the anxious thoughts and I instead put that energy towards the road. The anxiety melts away but comes back during the time before I have to drive.

Driving is not the only thing my anxiety has affected, but it is one of the best examples of how badly it impacted my life and how I was able to cope with it. I know that I won’t be completely rid of my anxiety. However, the steps I have taken to manage it during stressful situations and learning how to control it has helped me so much overall. There was a time when I thought I would never be able to get better, where I would always turn to panicking and thinking of the worst instead of being able to calmly handle a situation. My beliefs have changed so much. For those who feel like anxiety is taking over their lives, there are so many resources that you can turn to. UofT has many resources (listed below). The steps I mentioned helped me so much. This article is a lot more personal than the ones I have previously written, but I want people to know that they are not alone and that there is so much they can do to get better at managing their anxiety.

Link to the Health and Wellness department at UofT St. George.

Maham Qaiser

U Toronto '24

Hey! I'm a full-time writer and editor for Her Campus at UofT. I'm majoring in English, and minoring in Indigenous Studies and Urban Studies. I hope to pursue journalism in the future. When I'm not writing for Her Campus, I'm reading, exploring new cafes in the city and feeding into my shopping addiction. I draw from personal experiences for my articles, and hope to impact those who read them.