Navigating the day-to-day experience at a top school such as UC Berkeley can be difficult. The pressure to perform at the top 25th percentile all the time is hard for the soundest of minds to deal with, never mind those of us who are working to manage anxiety. Here are the top five things we have to deal with as anxious Bears.
Worrying that you’re the only one who doesn’t understand
The class started out OK — you had your new notebook and your color-coordinated folders. Your mechanical pencils were on point. You were ready for this. So, why is it that when you look away for a single second, your professor starts speaking in another language? You look to your left and your right to see if your fellow students have also noticed this change. You see Timmy nodding while Wanda takes furtive notes and Vicky even manages to ask a pertinent question. You figure there must have been some terrible mistake. Maybe you wandered into the wrong class or came at the wrong time. You cry out, but no one can hear you. You have entered the Impostor Syndrome Zone.
Wondering if maybe your professors are ghosting you
After that awful class, you try to talk yourself into going to office hours. This is something that takes an anxious Bear approximately four years to work up the courage to do. You decide to email them instead. They don’t reply. Not so much as a “Read the syllabus. -Karen” is sent in response to your question. Nothing. This is already a nightmare in a class you hate, but it can be its own disaster when it’s in a class you love. “Why do they hate me?” you moan to your friend, 2 1/2 hours after sending the hated digital letter. “Did I sound like I didn’t do the work? Did I sound like I wasn’t trying?” The concerns are endless.
Finding the balance between school and life
Sometimes there are days where you feel like you have so much to do that you don’t even know where to begin. This results in procrastination, and not necessarily the fun kind. You turn down invitations to go out because you feel guilty, but end up binging videos on YouTube while you feel panic on the back burner until it reaches a boiling point. This is when the hideous magic of the all-nighter kicks in, resulting in work that’s fueled by 20 percent caffeine, 20 percent worry and 60 percent self-loathing.
Thinking you’re not doing enough
The fear that you’re not doing enough can be crippling. This can feel especially scary when your friend from Theta Apple Pie seems to have clinched that internship with Google and still makes time for their a cappella group, charity work and two academic clubs. This all while maintaining a GPA that won’t make their parents cry. How the hell can you possibly do it all? You fluctuate between doing everything and nothing. 20 units are always followed by burnout. You begin to depend on caffeine as you try to pull the rest of your semester back together again.
Fearing you’re doomed to be a failure
When you got to Berkeley, things seemed bright. You were one of the smart ones who made it to one of the top universities in the world! What could possibly go wrong? But after a couple of wrong turns and honest, easy mistakes, you find your world shaken. Every time you turn in an essay or assignment, you expect disaster. You’ve lost whatever you thought you could do with your life in the first place. “No one would pick me for my dream job,” you think morosely. The truth is they’d be lucky to have you.
The best-kept secret is that most people are faking it until they make it. Even if it seems like everyone has it all together, they rarely ever do. Anxiety is at a high among millennials — our school is actually studying it right now. Those intrusive thoughts are liars — they’re not helpful, and they won’t ever tell you the good things about who you are and the things you do.
So take care of yourselves. When you find yourself worrying about the future or something that feels silly or small, know you’re definitely not alone.
Contact Lauren West at [email protected].