Self-awareness became the key I used to turn my anxiety from life-crippling to life-changing.

You wake up three or four times a night, constantly checking the clock, wondering how the next day will go.

When you finally wake up to your alarm, you feel your heart drop in panic. I have so much to do today, and it has to be perfect.

You frantically check your to-do list, email, texts and social media, anticipating you missed something you have to do today. Everything you do is in a rush, filled with anxiety of the next activity or meeting. Social interactions with friends are fun, until you once again fill your mind with daunting thoughts of the worst possible scenarios and made-up perceptions of your life.

This was me–before every exam, speech, leadership role or general busy day. I was an average college student, motivated to pack as many internships, leadership roles and extra activities on my resume before my four years ended.

I packed on the pressure, I dove into everything I could find and I didn’t give myself room to breathe.

It didn’t help that I was in a long-distance relationship­–the one person I wanted most was (almost always) six hours away, which made these feelings a little worse.

This is my anxiety story–but it’s a happy ending.

Because while I did have anxiety throughout college–and still suffer from it occasionally–I learned from it.

There’s not a lot more difficult than training your mind not to worry. By nature, we’re worriers. Uncertainty is scary. When things are uncertain, an anxious mind tends to wander to the worst-case scenario of it. I continued to live life on the edge of my seat, always picturing the worst and feeling off-centered if anything didn’t go perfectly.

One day, it clicked.

Although I knew cutting down on my activities would be a big part of lessening my stress, the real thing I needed to work on was my perceptions of the world. My anxiety caused me to make up so much of my life in my head: thinking certain people didn’t like me or thought I was incompetent, thinking twice about a project or paper and completely starting over, thinking my relationship with my then-boyfriend (now-fiancé) was going to end because of the distance… the list goes on.

I let my anxiety alter MY perceptions of MY world, and I was sick of MY world looking so damn gloomy.

I began to step back at times when I got anxious and reflect: Does this person really not like me, or am I just worried that she doesn’t? Do I really need to start this paper over, or am I just overthinking it? Does it seem likely that my relationship will end, or am I just blowing this out of proportion?

Self-awareness was my key. Self-awareness, for me, was a complete eye-opener. Because I looked at my anxiety as a way to grow, I feel so much better today.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Self-awareness was my key to beating my anxiety.” quote=”Self-awareness was my key to beating my anxiety.”]

Cue cheesiest quote ever­: “Everything happens for a reason.” My reason for anxiety was growth. It may always affect me, but it happened to help me learn from myself.

By no means can I speak for those who have anxiety­–because it affects everyone SO differently for SO many different reasons– and I can’t say my anxiety is gone forever. When the work and worries pile up, even though it’s less stressful that may time in college, I go straight to worst-case-scenario-panic mode. Learning from the stressors in life isn’t a one-time fix, but a long road of curves and growth.

And as much as I wish I could never feel an ounce of anxiety in my body every again, I feel good about where I’ve gone and how I’ve grown.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Learning from the stressors in life isn’t a one-time fix, but a long road of curves and growth.” quote=”Learning from the stressors in life isn’t a one-time fix, but a long road of curves and growth.”]

Sometimes, the things in your life causing you stress are there to put you on a path to growth.