Friday, November 13, 2009

'A' is for Anxiety

An interesting word I've learned and lived here at Mac is the term "catastrophizing."

'That's not a word', some may say. But language changes to accommodate and define one's own changing reality (a little tidbit from my Cultural Anthropology class). Whether or not everyone agrees doesn't really matter, because the symptoms of "catastrophization" are very real for a lot of college students.

When you "catastrophize", you expect the worst. It's an anxiety that a lot of students - especially students who expect a lot out of themselves - can experience, as I certainly have been for the past few weeks. The demands of a rigorous education, after all, can put a lot of pressure on people to succeed, and I'm of the belief that, unfortunately, a lot of people associate success with a 4.0 GPA. I'm still one of those people, but I'm getting better.

First and foremost, stressing to get perfect grades is not in any way healthy. A speaker at this year's commencement said in his speech that "your business here is to learn." Those are true words, and I've taken them to heart. My business here IS to learn, NOT to please the professor and get straight A's. You've gone through the arduous process of college applications; you're forking over tens of thousands of dollars a year. The college experience is for YOU, and it's what YOU get out of it that's important.

When I find myself "catastrophizing", I'll look at a project that'll be due in a week or two and think, "Oh geez, this is going to be so hard. I'll NEVER be able to get a good grade on this." When you panic or worry about the grade, then you end up procrastinating. It ends up becoming a self-defeating state of mind. And it's time to break out of that; this isn't high school any more.

Now, instead of thinking, "What do I have to do to get an A on this assignment?", I think, "How can I get the most out of this assignment?" It's not easy, and it's going to take some conditioning, but I guarantee I'll be less stressed and more satisfied with my work if I know that I put a lot into an assignment and got a lot out of it.

A letter grade is one person's opinion on your work, so don't "catastrophize". You'll get bad grades and you'll get good grades, but at the end of the day, and at the end of your academic career, would you rather be bragging about your grades or would you rather be satisfied with what you learned in college?