A Guide to Taking Care of Yourself: Step One - Ask for Help

I recently discovered that anxiety is the most common thing the Belmont counselors see students for, which is crazy because you never hear anybody talking about it! From my personal experience I know very well that it can be incredibly difficult to accept that you need help, let alone actually reaching out for it, but I’m here to tell you that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and of great courage. It’s admirable.

As someone who has gone her whole life doing and accomplishing everything on her own, I have a pretty big chip on my shoulder and find it almost impossible to ask for help in regards to anything, even when I know I need it. Believe me, I know how difficult it is to realize you need help, especially when it’s for something completely out of your control. It doesn’t have to be so scary though; there are plenty of baby steps you can take to getting there. Asking for help doesn’t mean you have to charge right through the doors of your campus counseling services. It can simply be asking a friend to keep you company or talk during times when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It can even be asking a professor nicely for extra time on an assignment or exam if need be.

The point is, if you need help, please reach out for it. There are an unfathomable amount of people out there who are going through the same thing and they are willing to help you in any way. The most important thing is you and your well-being, so don’t be afraid to utilize your peers and resources to better yourself and your mind. Here are a few ways you can ask for help in dealing with stress and anxiety.

1.Asking Yourself

The first person you should ask for help is yourself. They make coloring books specifically for anxiety now, so maybe try giving yourself half an hour every night before bed or sometime during the day to color away. Writing is another great creative outlet for anxiety because actually getting all the thoughts running through your head out on paper really helps reduce all the noise. You might even want to try mindfulness techniques that include breathing exercises and meditation; mastering these and implementing them in your daily routine can help you overcome any anxiety or panic attacks that might come about by focusing your breathing and your mind. I also highly suggest working out every day because the release of endorphins that occurs during physical activity is a natural remedy to an anxious mind, acting as a natural painkiller, improving sleep, and reducing stress. An example of a good workout to do by yourself to clear your head would be going for a run or yoga (my personal favorite). Try doing one or both of these at least three times a week and see if it makes a difference on your ability to manage your stress and anxiety. Also, prioritize sleep. Your brain is never going to function correctly if you only give yourself five hours of sleep every night, so manage your time and get yourself to bed at a reasonable time. Seriously.

2. Asking Your Family

Sometimes all it takes to get you out of your own head is to hear the voice of your best friend from back home or some awful dad jokes. Seriously, give your BFF or parents/grandparents a call more often! They’ll love it, and it will make you feel a whole lot better, even if only temporarily. They can either distract you with updates in their lives or with pictures and videos of your family dog, or, if you’re ready and willing, you can ask them for advice. Best friends have a way making life seem less scary, and parents/grandparents can give great perspective. Take what you can get and see if it helps any.

3. Asking Your Friends

Text or call a friend at school to hang out with you as a distraction or to chat ! It doesn’t have to be about what’s going on with you, although that’s encouraged, because of course you can always just talk about things to help keep your mind off things that are bothering you. Grab coffee or lunch, go to a group fitness class, or even study with your school friends. These are great, healthy ways to get you out of your own head. I highly encourage talking to your school friends about any stress or anxiety as well because, it's more than likely that your peers are experiencing the same thing; even if it’s not to the same extent, they can still understand you and try to help you, or at least listen and sympathize.

4. Asking God

I’m a huge fan of the 5-minute journal, which is just a way to avoid negativity and check your blessings. You can journal as many times throughout the day as you wish, but basically, you sit down and journal for 5 minutes at a time, during which you list the positive things in your life or day, what you are thankful for, etc. I especially like the format that looks like this:

Morning: list three things you are grateful for, list 2 things that would make the day great, and write a daily mantra.

Afternoon free flow: sometime during your busy day, especially when you feel your mind is the most cluttered, write about all the things worrying you or stressing you out. This is a great place to keep a prayer journal as well, if you’re into that. Write down everything you are anxious about, and pray for strength, courage, ability or whatever it is that you feel you need most that day.

Evening: list three amazing things that happened during the day, list two ways you could have made the day even better, and write down a reason you are proud of yourself.

This is a really effective way to rid your mind of any poisonous thoughts, or at least diminish the amount of them, because it forces your brain to put in perspective the reality of your life. Yes, there are a million and one things you need to get done. Yes, you might feel incredibly insecure about the job interview you have next week or the audition you have in a month. Yes, you have 3 exams to study for this week. Yes, it’s absolutely terrifying thinking about the future and what you’re going to do next year when you graduate. But taking your life into your own hands, focusing each day as it comes to you, holding yourself accountable for the positive things that are happening, reminding yourself of all that you have to be grateful for, reaffirming yourself, reflecting, and praying for the things you cannot control, will make all the difference in the world.

5. Asking a Professional

When it comes down to it, if you do suffer from anxiety and it’s more than you can handle on your own, there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. When all else fails, and you’ve done everything you can think of to overcome your anxiety on your own, sometimes seeking out professional help is the only thing that can help. This doesn’t mean you need to be put on all the meds right away, and sometimes you don’t need to take anything at all, but talking to a professional who knows what they’re doing, can be really beneficial for you. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. In the same way you would stretch or rest if you’ve hurt or strained a muscle, you must give your mind a rest when it becomes overexerted.

As I said before, the most important thing is you and your well-being. So put yourself first for once and go get em, Tiger.

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