Ask The Therapist: “I Am Very Stressed Out Due To My Studies…”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, or simply need advice about their problems, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained counsellor. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“I am very stressed out due to my studies, along with the desire to pursue my passion from a young age. I cannot take this. I feel so frustrated about my studies. I feel a lot of pressure when it comes to my studies, and I have a fear of losing my dreams too. I don’t know how everything will work out, and I need some advice. I have lost many of my good friends, and been betrayed by many close ones. I have exam stress and I don’t know how to convince my parents that I want to be an actor. This is all so frustrating, I need help kindly.”

Haya’s Response:

Dear Anonymous,

It’s a frustrating feeling doing something while wanting to do something else, and feeling like you need to convince your parents to support you. I see that you want to pursue being an actor, but don’t know how to convince your parents. In the present moment you will need to be practical and see what you can as of this minute. Will worrying about wanting to be an actor in the future make the experience of giving your exams any easier right now? 

No. 

At the moment you have exams going on, which you need to focus on. Be mindful of that. Don’t let the anxiety of the future ruin your present. After you’re done with your exams, you then need to start trying to strategize and see how can you move forward with your passion. Speak to your parents about what your passion is and what drives you. Openly express to them how you really feel about acting, and what it really means to you, how it drives you. Tell them what you really want from life. Don’t let the fear of losing your dreams affect and overwhelm you in the moment, or the quality of your studies. The only person who will be at a loss is you. Once you’re done with your exams, see how and what you can do to pursue your passion.   Maybe you can pursue your dream while also finishing school. Maybe experiment with acting on the weekend, or a freelance project to start off with? That way you will know how you feel about acting in terms of practicality. Maybe you could even go on to get a degree in acting. You have endless possibilities in front of you! 

As you approach the end of your education, things start changing naturally. Things start getting real. Challenges may start to crawl out of unexpected areas, and the pressure begins to build up. Pressure can be due to various reasons, family, expectations, and the goals you have set for yourself even. Things your friends are doing, the career path you have envisioned for yourself can all begin to cloud your vision. We often get shaky under this pressure. It seems like fear is taking over you. I would encourage you to create your own path. Take the time to discover yourself, your likes, your dislikes, and what you truly want for yourself. The answer, and your path, will be easier when you create your own foundation. Know yourself enough to be able to make your own decisions. If you chase someone else’s dreams you’ll grow too tired to chase your own. Set your own goals, define your own measurements of success, and create new standards for yourself. Because this probably won’t be the last time your parents try to tell you what to do. At the end of the day, what every parent wants is for their children to be safe and happy. It’s not about being afraid of whether your parents are right or not. It is about being ready to face the possibility that they might be right, but your love for your passion should give you the courage to face those possibilities and tackle them. To prove them wrong, even. Parents see that no matter what, your happiness is guaranteed even if your financial safety might not be, or the dreams they had for you. They see that you are not implying that their fears are small or that they won’t come true, but that you have found something bigger and more important for yourself than those fears. That’s usually enough to put them at ease. 

Everyone has fears – that doesn’t mean there’s anything seriously wrong. But if your fears prevent you from doing things that you truly want to do, then you have a real hurdle to overcome. Fortunately, big or small, you don’t have to be a victim of them. Below is a guide for how to overcome your fears!

Identify Your Fear

Be specific with yourself about what you fear. For instance, as you prepare for the summer, you might think about how you wish you could overcome your fear of swimming. However, as you reflect on this, you might realize that your fear really involves swimming in the ocean, rather than swimming in pools. Not only can that insight clarify exactly what you are afraid of, but it also gives some clues about how to begin tackling your fear – such as starting in calm pool waters.

Develop Self Compassion

People too often respond to their fears with impatience or even harsh self-criticism. For instance, you might repeat to yourself,

“what’s my problem?”

Or you might resort to name calling, such as,

“I’m such a loser!

However, if you can understand your fears and have compassion for them, then you are likely to respond with a more caring, supportive approach. Imagine trying to help a youngster who is afraid of going to his first day of kindergarten. You might say something like,

“It’s okay. Everyone is afraid on their first day of school. But your teacher will help you; you’ll make lots of new friends; and I think you are going to have a great time! I’m so proud of you for being brave and doing this even though you are scared.

That child will undoubtedly feel supported and encouraged – and the same approach can help you, too. Face your fear. Even though you may still feel afraid, that’s just an emotion. It doesn’t have to dictate what you do. Use the support you are giving yourself to help you overcome your fear. Make the decision to act and then use your self compassion to talk yourself through “getting in the water.” Alternatively, you can certainly try beating your fears into submission. But, all too often, people who do this just end up keeping their fears and also feeling like a failure. So instead, give the caring approach a try. It’s amazing how often self-compassion can fill you with the courage you need to master your fears.

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