The feeling of anxiety at Princeton

To give some context on why I’m writing this post: I have selective memory repression/loss and a form of aphantasia where I can’t relive past emotions (I briefly talked about this in my last video), and I’ve been feeling a lot of pre-nostalgia about my time at Princeton, so I want to record as much as I can while I’m still living it.

The level of anxiety I feel about my work at Princeton is insane and probably extremely unhealthy, despite me taking countermeasures like taking regular walks and making task lists. When I’m in an anxious time (midterms, weeks where I have a lot due—usually right before breaks) it’s difficult for me to sleep well, which is rarely a problem for me at other times. I can’t fall asleep because I’m thinking and maybe feeling guilty about all the work that I need to do/could be doing, and my sleep is restless because I wake up periodically in the night because (I think) my subconscious knows I have a lot of work to get done. I feel like I need to be a machine that just cranks out work. When I’m hanging out with people or doing anything other than work, I’m constantly aware of the trade off I’m making. Everything “extraneous” (including self-care) feels like a luxury that I will probably end up feeling guilty about. Even this morning when I submitted an assignment, I barely felt relief because I have a problem set I need to submit tonight, and even after that, I think it’ll take a few days before I can get out of this mental state and stop worrying about the 4 final papers (and project) I have due after break. There are things that I like about having final papers/exams after winter break, but that doesn’t undermine the very real emotional burden that results from it!

It’s a bit difficult to communicate this, since it’s not entirely logical, but one difficult thing is the awareness that it’s not entirely the “system” that’s creating the factors that make me feel so anxious, it’s also just me. For instance, if I “chose” not to have an existential crisis/emotional breakdown two weeks ago I wouldn’t have gotten behind on my work. Or if I just prioritized work more or less (either one works) then I would either have finished everything already or just give fewer shits about quality/deadlines.

I think the worst part of my anxiety is that it makes it difficult for me to feel anything else or even be present for extended periods of time. I predict that after I graduate, a majority of the most stressful moments in my life will be past me. I’m grateful in a way, though, to have had these experiences, since it gives me perspective in and on the other times. And of course I’m proud to be able to do everything that I’m able to do.

 

Doing pomodoros is changing my life

For people who don’t know what pomodoros are, they’re basically alternating periods of work + break (usually 25 min working / 5 min break), and there are a bunch of desktop and mobile pomodoro apps that you can get. I’ve known about pomodoros for a pretty long time but only started doing them after learning more about them when I took the Learning How to Learn online course while I was at RC. Even then, I never fully incorporate them into my work until this past month.

I feel like doing pomodoros has changed my life in a big time way, by making me more aware of both the passage of time and my own mental state. For instance, now I can set daily goals for myself like “work on cos pset for 3 pomodoros,” which allows me not only to break down big (and undesirable) tasks into manageable daily chunks, but also to become more aware of how long it takes me to do certain parts. Not only that, but I’m now also more aware of how many things I can actually do during the 5 minute breaks (like go to the bathroom, make tea, fold a few shirts, dance to a song, etc.), which feels pretty good. Also, doing pomodoros feels like a more sustainable way for me to work, because now I know that when I can’t get through a whole pomodoro, I’m mentally tired and should either take a long break or stop working for the day.

It’s not a perfect system, and writing this post actually makes me feel bad that I’m at a place in my life where I have to think about how to be super productive, but pomodoros have definitely helped with that! And doing pomodoros with friends is even better.