Many of us have struggled with mental illness over the years. Some of us before the pandemic, and for some of us, our mental illnesses arose from the locked-in spaces of the pandemic. Most college students figure out their mental illnesses while in college, the main component being anxiety. You feel anxiety when a test comes up, right? When you do not think you will pass it so you worry so much, you bounce your leg, you cannot stay focused. You feel anxiety in social areas and meeting new people, right? You have a fear of rejection and of not everyone enjoying your presence as your childhood friends have. You feel anxiety in a new city, right? This city is not like your hometown, it’s nicer, or maybe it’s not nicer. But change is a big anxiety chaser, isn’t it?
We, as humans, do not appreciate big changes such as moving out of our childhood home, losing friends, moving away from our parents or siblings. We hate it. We wish we could stay with our family forever. But we have to adult and we have to start paying bills and making our own doctor’s appointments. Now there’s an anxiety chaser, calling the doctor on your own to make an appointment -- mom can’t do it anymore, can she? You worry about your classes, if you’ll pass them or if you’ll fail them. Exams are coming up and oh man, does that make you nervous.
But here is something professors do not teach you. Anxiety will not be permanent in your life. Professors teach you about what they’re supposed to, they teach you what they are paid to teach us. They do not relate most of their subjects to the real world, same as high school. They do not give us pointers on how to cope with our anxiety and our mental illnesses, mostly because they are not us. They cannot cope the same as Mary or Joe in their classroom. Everyone reacts and copes in different ways. We are taught some of the coping mechanisms in psychology courses, but where does it get taught directly to us? Where can we sit down, look at it, and plug it into our lives? We can’t, because we have to study the subjects for our next quiz, test, or exam, so we don’t have time to relate it to ourselves.
But that does not mean your anxiety is the end of you, it does not mean your overthinking is permanent and will haunt you forever. It means you need a better group of friends who will support you. If you have others around you in your friend group who say “that sucks” or “I’m sorry” with no further helpful resources, they are not healthy for your mental state. It would be better to have individuals who say they are sorry but ask if they can do anything to help. They give you a song recommendation to get your mind off of it; they take you on a car ride so you can have some fresh air; you can go out to dinner or lunch with them.
To help cope with anxiety, one major aspect is to get outside. If you lock yourself in your dorm room all the time, you are only letting your anxiety settle even longer, which makes the digging out tougher than needed. Another aspect to help with anxiety is some sort of ring or bracelet, a fidget toy that is not distracting to anybody else, but will keep you focused in classes and distract your speedy McQueen thoughts rolling around in your brain.
Now yes, that also helps with ADHD, but it can also help with anxiety. Personally, I have a silicone ring I wear on my right hand that I mess with when I am not taking notes in class when I am speaking to my friends or roommates or girlfriend, or when I am waiting for food to be ready at the restaurant I work at since I am the food runner. My point is, there are ways we can cope with our mental illnesses. There are multiple healthy ways we can accomplish climbing over the obstacles. Now yes, if it gets too bad, medication may be an option as well, but that is something we won’t get into, for now, non-medicated healthy opportunities are being given.
Finally, we are not defined by our anxiety. Like in my last article, we are not a victim to our abuser, we are not defined as such, we are not defined as our anxiety likes us to be. We are stronger, smarter, and healthier than that. We can overcome any obstacles we set our mind to, and as long as we stay motivated, we can do it. We must have a community around us that will help with this portion of our lives as well, healthy people.
We must fight ourselves to get out of bed every single day and not let our anxiety overwhelm us and stick us to our bedsheets. Instead, we must do things to distract ourselves from the thoughts in our heads, we must have happier thoughts to overlap the negatives. That is definitely easier said than done, but staying motivated and keeping a good group of people around you will help in the long run. Not everybody has the same timeline of when their anxiety decreases, but it is possible for everybody to overcome it.