Do you remember Jane? We met Jane in our last post and went through the anxiety she was feeling regarding her upcoming exams. To help you get a feel for what normal anxiety looks like compared to Jane’s, I wanted to introduce you to Sarah.
Sarah is Jane’s classmate. Like Jane, she is finishing her last semester of college and is preparing for the same comprehensive exam. Although she would love to have a perfect grade point average, her grade point average is, well, average. Sarah has been studying each night for about ½ hour for the exam that is approaching in two weeks. She finds when she lays down at night that she has some what if questions but she tells herself that if she doesn’t pass she can always take the oral exam.
Sarah knows that part of preparing herself for the exam includes making sure she has plenty of sleep, eats well and stays hydrated. She also decides to balance her study time with time spent with her friends and family. She shares with them that she is worried she may not pass the test, describes to them what she is doing to prepare for the test, and accepts their supportive comments that she will do well.
The night before the exam, Sarah goes out to dinner with her best friend. She shares her fears about not passing the exam. They talk about them openly. When Sarah gets home, she studies for her usual half-hour and goes to bed early enough to get a full night of sleep. She awakes the day of the exam feeling well-rested. Although she is a little nauseous, she eats a protein bar while studying her final notes for a few minutes.
Sarah arrives to the classroom feeling alert, but also nervous. Her hands shake a little when she signs in. She tells herself that no matter what happens she will be ok.
I’m sure you can see the difference between Jane and her classmate Sarah. While experiencing some worry and anxiety over big life events is normal, letting it completely dominate your life is not. Here is a little primer on what is normal and what is not:
It is important to remember that everyone experiences some degree of anxiety at some point in life. This is normal. In fact, there are many normal situations that are part of life’s journey that will cause anxiety. In those situations, it would actually be concerning if anxiety wasn’t felt to some degree.
However, for those who are experiencing an anxiety disorder, it is important to seek treatment. Research has shown repeatedly that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a very effective treatment model for those experiencing anxiety disorders.
Sometimes, not being “normal” is a good thing. However, when it comes to experiencing anxiety, it’s important to recognize when your thoughts and actions are outside the normal range and are impacting your life.
What happens when your "what ifs" take over? My next post will answer this question...stay tuned.
If you question if you are experiencing normal worry or an anxiety disorder, contact me and we can arrange a therapy session.
Jessica is a mental health therapist who specializes in helping women free themselves from anxiety, depression, and other stress-related conditions. She is honored to witness the experiences of her clients and work with them toward meaningful lives.