They're the words you tell someone who is buried deep under revision or coursework. They're also the words you say to someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder.
Both of these situations, when in combination, make all sense of the term 'don't worry' disappear. I'm currently sat in my last lecture before a 6000-word submission which has been looming over my head for six months since I started my masters degree. To be honest, I should be paying more attention, but I'm actually thinking about how many sweet potato fries I had with my lunch today.
I left St Vincents eating disorder hospital in 2016 after eight months of outpatient treatment for anorexia, but I'm still very much in recovery. Most of the time, I can block out my obsessive thoughts around food and body image, but when my life begins to feel out of control, those thoughts become a challenge to manage. So as I sit here, listening (half listening) to my lecturer reassure us with the same old same old, 'don't worry' doesn't seem to bring the feeling of control that I'm hungry for.
An hour later and I'm sat in the cafe local to my university with a green tea, a sweet treat and my headphones in. I am allowing myself to make time for intentional acts of self-care. Man, I wish I had known about these mystical acts of intentional self-care when I was studying for my A-Levels and my undergraduate degree because, particularly during my undergraduate degree, I put an immense amount of pressure on myself.
It is common for those suffering with an eating disorder to also feel the need to achieve unattainable goals of perfection – also referred to as 'perfectionistic' behaviours. This was me. I had to achieve a first, I had to be perceived as high achieving by my peers and tutors and heck, even my therapy had become something I was pushing myself to gain a lifetime of 10/10 happiness from (totally unattainable...I digress). The truth is, none of us are perfect and we are most definitely not 100% right 100% of the time. So when the term 'don't worry' is thrown at you, this is the world telling you to ease it up a bit. Back off from whatever is causing you anxiety and allow yourself to partake in acts of intentional self-care. Whatever makes you feel good in your body and your mind, do that.
Go for a walk, listen to your favourite music or go and borrow a dog for the day (I totally recommend! Visit borrowmydoggy.com). We have been raised to understand that we need to pass exams to gain work to then gain a career. As a basic view on the generic existence of society, this is true. However, remember how to prioritise. If you don't have a healthy mind, how is it possible to even comprehend where your exams will take you and your future? You come first. So go and catch that movie, move your body, eat that sweet treat, call that friend and finally – don't worry.