Working through Panic Attacks

I am currently in my second year of a PhD in Chemical Education at the University of Oklahoma. I fight anxiety and depression on a daily basis, and I’m finally going to counseling consistently and managing my anxiety and depression through medication.

I’ve always known I have anxiety - my first panic attack (though I didn’t realize what it was then) was in 3rd grade. Then, after some harsh family situations through high school, I gained depression on top of that. It got worse in university, and finally in graduate school, it got to a very dark place.

I wasn’t sure I’d survive with all that work, but I did, and I asked for help. I’m still here, and I’m grateful for all of my friends for helping me through and reminding me that it’s okay to not be okay. Some of the things that have helped me succeed in graduate school are:

1) I have an advisor to talk to. Having an understanding advisor was so important to me. I couldn’t be a 40hr/week graduate student, and I am glad my advisor just asks for communication when I’m going through rough times.

2) Ask for help. Utilize university counseling centers, other graduate students for advice, and have someone you can trust be your contact in case you have a really bad day and need to talk.

3) Take a deep breath. When you’re feeling anxious, one of the best things that helps me is to make sure I’m breathing.

4) Know when “good enough” really is good enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect every time. Some things just need to be good enough. Say whaaaat?

5) When giving presentations, do practice runs. Don’t procrastinate on the presentation. Get a group together, different groups, or a single person to sit and give feedback. Heck, I use employees at my local game shop as practice presentations. Practice practice practice, that’s what gets you through. The more you practice, the more it becomes like a conversation with the audience rather than a lecture to them.