Medical school is a stressful time for most people. There’s the gruelling hours of study and the challenge of getting through exams. On top of this, you may be juggling part-time work on the side to support yourself. This constant pressure can leave many feeling on edge and overwhelmed. But how do you know if what you are experiencing is stress or anxiety, and when is it time to get help?
Some key signs
Everyone experiences stress and anxiety in different ways. But here are some common signs to look out for:
- You are feeling uneasy even after the stressful event has passed. This is a key factor that sets stress and anxiety apart. While many find assignments and exams a shoulder-tensing, stomach churning experience, these unpleasant sensations usually go away once the stressful event has passed. Anxiety on the other hand, is hard to shake off.
- You worry excessively. Everyone worries from time to time of course, but if you have anxiety, you tend to blow your worries out of proportion. You also focus a lot on “what if” scenarios.
- Your worries get in the way of daily life. A lot of people with anxiety have trouble sleeping and concentrating. Worrying all the time can also negatively affect your relationships as it can make you feel needy and insecure.
- You are experiencing panic attacks. This is more than feeling panicky about an upcoming deadline or presentation. Panic attacks are sudden intense fear or discomfort and involve symptoms such as pounding or racing heart, sweating, shaking, breathing difficulties, choking sensation, chest pain, nausea and feeling unreal or detached from yourself.
Some tips for overcoming anxiety
Talk to someone
When your worries are starting to get out of control, talk to someone like your partner, a family member or a friend. While you might not be in the mood to be around others when you are feeling anxious, talking face-to-face with someone you trust can help you gain perspective and calm down.
When you’re anxious, you usually breathe faster which often leads to you feeling dizzy and faint, making you feel even more stressed. So the next time you’re feeling anxious, try deepening your breathing. Breathe in for three counts, hold for three counts and breathe out for three counts. Keep doing this till you’re feeling calmer.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, grounding techniques can help anchor you to the present. One way of grounding yourself is to focus on how you are sitting or standing and straighten your posture. Wiggle your fingers and toes, then bring your attention to your breathing. Become aware of what’s around you and focus on three things you can see, hear and touch. Then return your attention to your breathing. You repeat this process till you feel more relaxed.
Adopt healthy habits
No doubt you’ve heard over and over how important it is to exercise regularly, eat healthy and get enough sleep. While it’s easier said than done (especially when you’re under a mountain of study and work) living a healthy lifestyle can really help to keep your anxiety symptoms at bay. Movement in particular, has been shown to be a powerful way to destress.
If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety, help is available by calling beyond blue on 1300 22 4636 or lifeline on 13 11 14. It’s not good to deal with this alone. After all, you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.
* This article was outsourced to a freelance writer and provides research based on factual information. The information is general and is not intended to serve as advice. DPM Financial Services Group recommends you obtain advice concerning specific matters before making a decision.