Written By Step Above Stigma's Summit Team Logistics Coordinator, Natalee Schors
One day near the start of first semester I thought it was going to be a regular night. I was on top of what I had needed to get done for school, clubs, and work, along with fitting in time to exercise and socialize. I thought I had it all under control, but little did I know was that all the stress that comes with daily life was about to overwhelm me.
This specific night, I had just sat down in bed to watch Netflix. After not even two minutes, I felt the unrelenting need to do something, anything that did not require me to stare mindlessly into my laptop screen. I went to my desk to start doing some work for classes instead. Again, it was around two minutes when I lost all focus. I decided at that point I should organize my closet. For a third time, I was only a couple minutes into folding my clothes when I felt so wired and jittery that I had to stop. I started pacing around my room. My heart felt like it was beating out of my chest and I could not inhale enough oxygen into my lungs. I wanted to cry because it felt like I needed to get something out but I couldn’t. I went out onto the little balcony just off my room feeling that fresh air would fix my problem. It helped only the slightest bit. I still was unable to take deep breaths nor could I get my heart rate to slow. It was at that moment I decided I had to breathe or else I would pass out. I am a runner at heart and have always gone on runs simply because I enjoy them. So, I decided that even though it was the middle of the night, I had to run that instant. I threw on my running shoes and left my house in a rush. I thought that if I could not fully breathe, I needed to force my body to.
I left my house in a sprint. Trying to run as hard as I could so that I would take full gulps of fresh air into my lungs. Run. Run. Run. That was all I could think. With each stride, every time my foot hit the hard pavement, I felt a bit better. My breaths were deepening and I could feel my lungs fully expand with air. I kept running for a while. My thoughts slowed down and eventually I slowed too. I looped back around to my house and when I went inside I immediately felt better. Both my heart rate and breathing were returning to normal. I went back upstairs to my room and went to bed - falling asleep almost instantly.
The next day I woke up and went about my day, trying to block out my feelings from the night before. Later that afternoon, I called my mom and told her about what had happened. I have had anxiety attacks before, but I had never experienced one that came out of the blue so suddenly. Of course, my mom was worried when I told her; not only was I experiencing such an attack but also I had left my house in the middle of the night in a state of panic. Running has always been an amazing coping mechanism for me. It grounds me in a way that nothing else can and gives me a sense of physical joy. Physical activity has been proven to help alleviate stress and reduce anxiety, and it is something that helps so many people. However, at that moment I realized that even though I was using a great coping strategy for daily stress, that there were better ways of handling my anxiety attack. I realized that I couldn’t out run my anxious thoughts, and instead, I could talk to my amazing supports about them. My mom was able to calm me down and helped me see that I had a great support system that I could speak to at any time, whether it be calling someone or talking to my Kingston friends, and who would be there for me during these episodes as a safer alternative.
Today I still am always running because I know it helps me deal with the stressors of being a student during a pandemic. Although, I know that I cannot out run my anxiety now and face it with the support of others. So thank you to all my wonderful friends and family who have helped me through.
Read our blog posts about personal experiences and stories with regards to mental health. Posts written by our team or those passionate about mental health.