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Surviving Senioritis While Having Anxiety and PTSD

Published on April 9, 2020 8:17 AM EST
Surviving Senioritis While Having Anxiety and PTSD

If you are a senior in high school or college (or know someone who is), you have likely heard this term before! Senioritis is used to describe the decreased motivation toward studies displayed by students who are nearing the end of their high school, college, or graduate school careers.

I managed to escape suffering from this affliction during high school and college and doubted that it was a real thing. My husband, who is a runner, says it is like “hitting the wall” right before reaching the finish line. 

Surviving Senioritis While Having Anxiety and PTSD

I wouldn’t know about that, but I do know that experiencing Senioritis is an uncomfortable and challenging feeling. Especially in grad school, because most of us are working full time and have other obligations. It can make staying focused even harder when work, kids, spouses, and even the dogs seem to be actively working against you! I also live with anxiety and PTSD, and those symptoms can mirror Senioritis. 

What are the symptoms of Senioritis

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. You might be suffering from this disorder if you find yourself:

  • Having trouble rising from bed 
  • Procrastinating (worse than usual)
  • Suffering from bouts of memory loss
  • Diminished motivational capacity
  • Skipping class
  • Restlessness
  • Increased napping
  • Increase irritability for academia 
  • Denial of the severity of the illness

For the last month, I have been trying to complete my Capstone course offered by WGU. This last class is the culmination of all the hard work I have done in the previous two years to earn a Master of Science in Management and Leading Teams.

The program itself focuses on leadership theories, productivity, and the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. If anyone should be able to lead themselves through this time and get the job done, I felt it should be me. 

However, instead of smooth sailing, every one of the last thirty days has been a struggle. I have procrastinated, cried, threatened to quit, and seriously contemplated ghosting my school mentor. In the moments of dealing with extreme fatigue and my fear of success, these threats of leaving are real.

Then someone reminds me how stupid this would be, and I sigh and attempt to do something. I needed more tangible ways to combat Senioritis. I wish there were a pill, but instead, here are some tips I have put together to help you, and myself, push through the end. WE CAN DO IT!

Engage in self-care

“Just when you feel you have no time to relax, know that this is the moment you most need to make time to relax.” Matt Haig

Just like you shouldn’t lose sight of how close you are to your goal, you should also keep in mind that the end of an era (like your senior year of high school, college, or grad school) brings about feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.

It is ok to acknowledge whatever emotions you are experiencing and do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Keep a journal of your emotions and name them
  • Go for a walk, do yoga or some other calming activity daily
  • Make time for something you like do like get your nails done or hang out with friends
  • Eat well
  • Practice affirmations

However, you take care of yourself is up to you. Just make sure that you are doing it, as it will help you stay organized and motivated.

Stay organized and motivated

“Organizing is what you do before you do something so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” A. A. Milne

Staying organized helps me stay motivated. When I am under a lot of stress, my innate need for order and organization goes out the window. I turn into some disorganized mess of a creature that I don’t recognize, and it makes me want to walk away from all the chaos. Hence, the quitting of school, in the final moments.

My brain can’t handle it anymore. I don’t want to come up with a grocery list, I don’t want to manage the finances for the house anymore, and I really do not want to take this video of myself presenting my PowerPoint. However, it must all get done, and I know that, so the best thing I can do is find some ways to stay organized and motivated. Hopefully, these tips will help you do the same!

  • Use the Pomodoro Technique for staying productive
  • Make a list and use a planner
  • Remember your “why” and use that to keep yourself motivated
  • Set specific and attainable (SMART)goals
  • Acknowledge your accomplishments

Take it one day at a time

“No matter how difficult your situation is, you can get through it if you don’t look too far into the future, and focus on the present moment. You can get through anything one day at a time.” Bob Parsons

Taking life one day at a time is excellent advice during traditional circumstances. It is even more important if your last 30 days of graduate school just so happened to coincide with a pandemic, an economic collapse, losing your job, and the veritable shit-show that has resulted. To say my anxiety and PTSD habits are in a heightened state would be an understatement. 

However, right now, in this moment and on this day, I have a video to record of myself presenting a PowerPoint presentation. I can do that. I can fix the few suggestions that the instructor sent back to me yesterday on a different task.

These are small things, and they are the last and final things to do! Take a deep breath, take it one day at a time, and do the last final items you have to do. You will be glad you took steps to finish and didn’t quit. (Please don’t stop!)

Believe in yourself 

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” Steve Jobs

A little bit of confidence and belief in yourself goes a long way. Remember, you have gotten yourself to this point in the first place, and it didn’t happen by accident. It happened because you are disciplined enough to do the work. Not only do you do the job, but you do it well! It occurred as the result of a series of choices and decisions. Our lives are all just a series of events, and they have all brought us to where we are now. 

For me, it was a decision at age 12 to not end up like my biological mom—addicted to drugs with no future. The overachieving behaviors were a response to neglect and abuse.

Graduating college with an AA degree was a result of those behaviors—the habit of being a life long learner and someone who excels in academic settings was a big reason for pursuing a masters degree in the first place. My dots have brought me to this moment, and there is no turning back now. I will get through this the same way I always have.

Remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel

That finish line I mentioned earlier. It is still right there. It hasn’t picked up and moved itself miles down the road. We need to remind ourselves that we are so close! Recognizing that we are dealing with Senioritis is the first step, and luckily it doesn’t require a doctor to diagnose. 

Treatment is also enjoyable and help us create better habits in the long run. After all, we could all use a little more self-care, especially in these unusual times. Learning how to be more organized and stay motivated in the face of adversity is an essential skill.

Taking life one day at a time is a skill I need to improve on. If you feel like it might be mental illness and not just Senioritis, than it might be time to bring your therapist into the mix! After all, they have the additional tools and tips that might be just what you need to make it through! 

As someone who has PTSD, each of these things brings its challenges, but I have made it this far. And so have you! That is the most important thing to remember, well, that and the fact that it is almost over.

We are also not alone in this! Share your efforts to combat Senioritis in the comment section below! Which one of these tips did you find most helpful? What goal are you so close to finishing? Whatever it is, I wish you good luck and peace in the final moments of this particular journey! 

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