Overcoming Anxiety as a College Freshman

The first year of college is probably one of the scariest yet most exciting events that a young adult experiences. Freshman year, for most, represents the first time away from home, first time being responsible for yourself and first time getting into a new routine. While this sounds like the coolest opportunity in the world for some, for others, it can be absolutely terrifying. And for people with anxiety disorders, it could seem like the worst time in the world. 

Forty million people world-wide suffer with an Anxiety Disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, everyone experiences this disorder in a different way. Sometimes anxiety manifests itself in a physical sense: shaking, trouble breathing or inability to complete daily functions. Other times it’s strictly mental: excessive thoughts of worry or nervousness, trouble concentrating or constant fatigue. The bottom line is that Anxiety Disorders vary, meaning no two people share the same experiences. That being said, there are commonalities that most people can relate to, and these can be easily turned from negative to positive. 

Let’s talk about that pit in your stomach on those first few days of classes. Where are you supposed to go? Who are you supposed to sit with? Will people like you? Is your hair okay?  What if your professor is strict? These are all relatively common thoughts that people have, but for someone with anxiety, they can make or break your entire college experience.  It’s easy to let these feelings prevent you from getting up and out, but it’s not impossible to overcome them. 



First things first, grab your favorite face wash and head to your bathroom. Washing your face in the morning is not only good for your skin but helps to metaphorically wash away all of the bad vibes you may be feeling. Continue your morning routine, first by moisturizing: this revitalizes your skin and gets you ready to take on the day with your soft and radiant aura. At this point, you may start to feel a bit more comfortable, but if not, don’t worry, there are many more steps you can take. 

It can be difficult to pick out an outfit. However, this step in getting rid of those anxious thoughts by building self-assurance. Anxiety may prevent you from feeling like your best self, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t look like your best self! To start, choose your favorite combo– a shirt and pants, sweater and skirt– whatever you feel confident in.


There’s nothing more helpful than distress tolerance. Professionals Alec Miller and Jill Rathus discuss Distress Tolerance as a Dialectical Behavior Therapy coping mechanism in their book DBT Skills Manual for Adolescents.  The skill refers to coping and surviving a difficult situation by changing physical sensations. As you’re getting ready to leave your room, be sure to fill up a distress tolerance kit. Some essentials can include a facial mist to cool down your body temperature and introduce a sensation besides anxiousness, ice cold water to shock your body in case you experience a sensory overload, a stress ball to healthily let out built up tension or tightness and a granola bar to make sure that you are less vulnerable because of hunger. Feel free to add any tools that you have found helpful in the past.


Those burning questions and thoughts that flood your mind from the moment you wake up will eventually simmer down once you know that you are prepared to take on any situation that comes your way. Preparation can be the most important part of managing an anxiety disorder in college, and luckily, it can be one of the most basic skills to learn. 

Anxiety Disorder is one of the most challenging obstacles that young people have to face, and college can bring out the worst of it. It’s important to always be prepared and to know yourself. If you know that your anxiety manifests itself physically, pack supplies that can bring your body back to a baseline level like a portable ice pack or fan. If you know that it affects your concentration, prepare yourself with strategies that may help, such as taking bathroom breaks or short walks in the middle of class. Always remember that, although it may not seem like it, professors are on your side. If you ever experience anxiety so badly that you can’t bring it down, reach out to your professors and ask for help. You are not alone, although you may often feel isolated. And of course, you got to college, which is the hardest step. The fact that you got here means that you’re ready to conquer every barrier that comes in your way, even if you don’t think you can. 


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