Written By: Rashi S.
1-Get Sufficient Hours of Sleep
You must get sufficient hours of sleep to deal with anxiety. Often, you hear IB alumni make statements such as “good luck surviving the IB” and there is a multitude of memes that indicate how it is impossible to simultaneously have good grades, a social life, and enough hours of sleep in the IB. Undoubtedly, the DP is challenging; nevertheless, you must be wary of taking all of this information from various sources and what is written on IB Reddit, for instance, at face value. Sometimes, students may get overwhelmed by all of what is said about the IB and they may start to believe information about it that is inaccurate, especially if they are unfamiliar with or have never heard about the DP. For instance, if you start telling yourself that you cannot have good grades and adequate hours of sleep, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Consequently, one of those two will suffer when in reality it is possible to have both of them with good time management. Thus, avoid dichotomous thinking and use tools that help you actively prioritize, plan, and pursue your goals. I will not go over the significance and benefits of getting sufficient sleep since I am sure that almost all of you are well aware of them. Overall, be wary of the negative opinions surrounding the IB and ensure that you get sufficient sleep so that you can be productive and focussed, enabling you to handle your anxiety better.
It is necessary to exercise to deal with IB stress. Exercising will also provide activities to do for CAS. I recommend working out every day. You can go to the gym, engage in a sport, go jogging…the choices are endless! You can also try cycling or walking to your school if it is relatively close by. I do not like exercising that much, however, I recognize that it is crucial and therefore cycle to my university (10.4 km in total every day – 5.2 km going to university and 5.2 km coming back home). I like doing this because I do not have to make extra time to work out – it happens naturally as I reach my destination. Physical activity helps pump up your endorphins (the feel-good chemicals in your brain), it is meditation in motion (after exercising, you may often find that you have forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements) and improves your self-confidence and mood. Thus, exercise for your mental and physical fitness and CAS on the side 😉 !
Not only for dealing with anxiety in the IB but breathing, in general, can help you feel more relaxed. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the nervous system, promoting a state of calmness, which otherwise would have been in a “fight or flight” mode. When you catch yourself spiraling into negative thoughts, instead of trying to rationalize, try taking a few deep breaths as that can help you snap out of it. Additionally, although easier said than done, channel your energy on the things that you can control. For example, you cannot control whether you will fail or pass a test; however, you can control the method and time that you use to study for that test. Therefore, think about what is in your control and act on that instead of catastrophizing about the future. This is a lesson that most of us have learned especially from the coronavirus pandemic. IB alumni that were affected by it (myself included) and current IB students (e.g. you) cannot control what the government decides is the best way to deal with the pandemic, when schools are shut down, and whether the IB exams will take place in the country of your IB school or not. I believe that the pandemic, overall, taught us to live in the present and make the most of what we have now. For example, may it doing the best that you can on your IA while you have the opportunity or spending time with your family. Hence, when you have anxiety-evoking thoughts, take a deep breath and reflect afterward on that lesson.
4-Some Tools and Techniques
I would like to share some tools and techniques that are particularly helping me deal with my anxiety, and hope that they will be useful to you as much as they are to me 🙂
1-Breathe in through your nose (try to fill your abdomen first, then up through your upper chest).
2-Hold your breath for 2-3 seconds.
3-Release your breath slowly through pursed lips.
The Worry Tree:
Although the DP workload and your anxiety may incentivize you to self-isolate and stay locked up in your room, you need to try and fight this urge; it is vital to put yourself out there and maintain your social life. Go to the hangouts and parties that you are invited to by your friends and acquaintances even though it may seem overwhelming at the beginning, say yes and open up to new experiences and be grateful. Moreover, you must learn how to take initiative. It is easy to think or say that “I am shy. I do not approach people but when they approach me, I can converse.” I am aware that this is challenging for numerous people, however, taking initiative is a skill that you will have to learn sooner or later. If you never take initiative the person may think that you are uninterested and are not putting adequate effort into the relationship. They may even stop taking initiative because the relationship can begin to appear to be one-sided from their perspective. Therefore, make it clear that you are interested (if you are) in building and maintaining a relationship with them by taking initiative occasionally and ensuring that the relationship is not one-sided.
Stop Social Comparison
Although social comparison is natural, as it is one of the most basic ways to develop an understanding of who you are and your strengths and weaknesses, it can easily start to negatively impact your mental health, including increasing your anxiety if you do it constantly. It will put your happiness, confidence, and sanity at risk. Therefore, learn to compete against yourself instead of others and practice healthy self-validation – if you are relying on social comparison (may it be a particular person, social media, etc.) for it, that is a short and fast way to unhappiness.
5-Seek Psychological Help
In general, adolescence years along with the DP academic pressure can often be stressful; nonetheless, if you constantly find yourself feeling drained, sad, anxious, or dealing with any other negative feeling, try to identify the problem that is causing it and act to combat it accordingly. You can first try to use general techniques such as exercising regularly and deep breathing as suggested in this blog. However, if you think the problem is getting out of hand, do not be afraid to ask for help. If you have a school psychologist, I recommend reaching out to him or her. The difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is that psychologists treat less severe conditions (learning difficulties, anxiety, and mild cases of depression) whereas psychiatrists treat more complex mental health disorders. Thus, generally, psychologists treat conditions that do not require medication. Going to your school psychologist is beneficial also because he or she can refer you to someone else if they think that you need more help before it is too late. If you do not have a school psychologist, I recommend talking to your general practitioner and he or she will most likely be able to refer you to someone. I understand there are still negative stigmas surrounding mental health issues in several places and hence, it may be difficult for you to acknowledge and talk about them. Nonetheless, you must take on this challenge and act accordingly and responsibly toward your mental health issue; it can start to considerably negatively impact other areas of your life if any action is not taken to deal with it.