Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Overthinking: Notes from an ex-angsty teenager

Friday, September 30, 2022
Graphic by Emma Kratky

“Dismiss the idea that you are cursed to suffer for eternity and start bringing little joys into your life NOW. It will build up over time…”

-pathologising, Tumblr

When I was in high school, it was a common occurrence for me to lay on the floor of a band practice room and listen to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” in the dark.

I was pretty chronically stressed back then. I frequently had more on my plate than I could handle, and I didn’t understand the importance or significance of taking care of my body and my mind. The awful things I felt seemed awfully permanent, and the least I could do was to listen to the story of a mentally unwell rockstar going through a psychotic break and feel a little better.

And I really did feel a little better. I don’t listen to Pink Floyd nearly as much these days, which I think is because I’m in a much better place now — it doesn’t resonate with me the way it used to. Something about the spacey guitar and the feeling of emptiness and cosmic loneliness transcended explanation and soothed my soul in a way nothing but music could.

I’m in an abnormal psychology class (yes, that’s actually the name), and we recently talked about how many people who have a social anxiety disorder irrationally believe they have no control over their feelings of anxiety and how to manage them. Keyword: irrational. This made me think. How malleable are our feelings of stress and anxiety, really?

For me, the answer starts with Pink Floyd, and when I understood in my “tummy,” if you will — not my rational brain — that there were other people who felt the way I did. Not only that, but they made great art about how they felt which millions of people listened to and resonated with. I felt understood in a unique and healing way.

I think an extension of this feeling is the idea that it’s ok to not feel ok. I know this is a pretty popular phrase right now, but I want you all to take this thought to its logical conclusion with me.

Imagine you’re sitting in your room and thinking about how stressed you are. You have two options: continuing to fixate on how awful you feel, or allowing the stress to exist, sitting with it, without drawing any conclusions about it. Your life will still be ok, and this feeling will pass. I know the second option isn’t a crazy or revolutionary idea, but making this line of thinking a regular practice has helped me a lot.

Another potentially underrated component of managing stress is managing your body. The past couple weeks and this school year in general have been one of the most stressful times of my life, and feeling overwhelmed has been a near constant for me as of late.

So I started doing my best to take care of my body. I’ve gotten back into cardio (running is very therapeutic for me) followed by a guided deep breathing exercise, and my feelings of stress have reduced immensely. In my opinion, the importance of activating your parasympathetic nervous system (the system in your body which deescalates stress) cannot be overstated.

So as this school year picks up speed, take care of yourself, lovely people. Actively think about the way you perceive stress and negative emotions, and what you’re doing to handle them. Try to do something nice for yourself every day. If life is really hard right now, I promise it will get better, and you have more control over it getting better than you might think.

Good luck out there, readers, and be kind to each other.