4 Ways to Deal With Anxiety Derived from A Habit of Overachievement

Growing up in a prominent suburban neighborhood, I attended an extremely competitive high school that encouraged taking as many AP classes as possible. In that school, you were taught to keep your head up even when you were drowning in homework, extracurriculars and employment. I, as an overachiever, was always that person; the one who went above and beyond during group projects, writing five-page essays instead of two and decorating poster boards like they were an interior design project for a new house. 

But now, here I am, watching the world fall apart around me as I am more academically burnt out than ever before. My biggest worry? A low GPA. I should be more worried about my mental and physical health, family and friendships, but I’ve been taught by my parents, teachers and the education system for so many years that “B” is the letter to fear. Now that I am a college student, I have had the less-than-pleasurable experience of receiving a GPA lower than 4.0 and feeling like a failure despite being told that I am doing exceptionally well. The saddest part of all? I’m far from the only one who experiences this. So, here are four tried and true ways to extinguish that gut feeling of guilt and resentment when you have disappointed yourself, all of which have been indispensable to me as I enter a college environment.

  1. 1. Start a journal

    Journals have proved to be an effective coping mechanism for me, providing a safe space to write down my feelings and think about my future. To start your journal, simply enter the date, and write down a few questions to get you thinking. For example, what made you happy today? What has stressed you out or hurt you today? What have you learned from this experience? Journaling encourages me to think of the past as an opportunity to gain maturity and empathy rather than a reason to be resentful or regretful. Through some reflection, I have learned that our experiences as humans are meant to teach us about the world. Rather than regretting your past — whether it be a low test grade, a slip-up during a presentation, or the loss of a job — use these experiences as opportunities for learning and growth.

  2. 2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

    Two women sit at a table and talk

    Our schools have counselors for a reason, and they want to help you; talking to them is never a burden, no matter how much it might feel like it. Simply having recognition and respect from someone in a position of authority can often make you feel better. Don’t let your friends or parents guilt you out of seeing someone for help, either. Sometimes, friends or family just don’t understand what we’re going through or don’t know the right way to help. Visiting your campus’s counseling center can be effective; speaking with a trained professional can make a huge difference and relieve stress that you may not even realize you have. 

  3. 3. Talk to your professors

    Overhead view of Students In Class

    The stress we face when our grades aren’t as great as we want them to be is often derived from the high expectations our parents held for us when we were younger, and what our elders hold for us now. It’s sometimes hard to recognize that working as diligently as possible doesn’t always work out. However, don’t forget that professors are human, too. If you truly need an extension, ask for one. The worst that could happen is that your professor says no; if you never ask, you might be missing out on an extra week that your professor would’ve given you for your essay.

  4. 4. Remember that it’s okay to not be okay 

    woman in white long-sleeve shirt looking out a rainy window

    We tend to try and immediately find solutions to our feelings, but sometimes it’s necessary to just feel sad for a little while. Don’t search for healing in empty spaces; distraction only sets issues aside, it doesn’t solve them. Feelings of hurt, stress, and resentment may feel like they will last forever, but they won’t. In the future, you will look back and realize that the “bad” grade you received had no significance in the long run, and you will appreciate what every negative experience has taught you. Good feelings may fade, but so do bad ones.

In high school, I thought that one bad grade was the end of the world. Now, I’m a new college student looking back on years of stress that could’ve been avoided if I realized that life is so much more than a number. I still struggle at times, but this only makes me stronger. Life consists of every achievement, failure, and emotion you have experienced; the pit you feel in your stomach will one day fill with the satisfaction of love, life, and meaning once again.