Anxiety Through the Mind of A College Freshman

Trigger Warning: Anxiety

When I was in high school, I found I had a hidden talent: I could inhale in such a way that my chest would make make a popping sound. It didn’t cause me any pain. Whenever I did this, my mom — a pediatrician — would cringe and tell me to stop, but I never would. Since it didn’t hurt, I didn’t see the point.

When I came back from Italy in December, I thought my life was going to continue exactly where it left off. I was going to go back to Boston and grow the ties I had with those close to me back at Northeastern. My main concerns would be coursework and keeping up with my involvement.

But within that first month, I learned why the word “expectation” exists. You can have an idea of something that you are so sure about, but then it can change in an instant. Sometimes that change is positive; other times, it breaks you. And unfortunately, the latter happened to me. With seven words.

This causes me to have a real pain in my chest. It’s the opposite of my hidden talent: I don’t have to do anything, yet the pain is always there.

This is how my anxiety manifests itself.

A 2016 report from Penn State University’s Center for Collegiate Mental Health found that anxiety is one of the major health concerns among 61 percent of the observed population (which, in this study, consisted of 100,000+ adolescents who received treatment from student health centers across the U.S.). However, this anxiety is not always the result of a situation similar to mine. For college students, anxiety often revolves around a particular part of the year: exam season.

I’m familiar with the stress that comes with preparing for exams. The long nights, the cups of coffee consumed, the sleep lost — I’ve been through it all. But nothing could have prepared me for college exam time. The best way I can describe the feelings I have about exams is as if the anxiety is one of those cartoon snowballs rolling down a hill, getting gradually bigger and bigger; the tests and anxiety flow continuously, enlarging the snowball that is my overwhelmed mind. A little stress is manageable, but a lot adds weight. Not only do exams cause this anxiety, but simply being a student has its stressors. With clubs and organizations requiring your participation, commitment packs a punch. In fact, the 2015 National Health College Assessment found that commitments throughout the school year overwhelmed 85 percent of college students.

Despite all of this, the important thing I’ve learned about anxiety is that it does not define who you are. It may consume your every thought. It may make you rethink your every decision. But there is so much more to you than your anxiety. You have worked so hard to be the person you are in this moment — and you deserve to be proud of that. If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, there are various helplines available if you have questions or are unable to speak to anyone else. Here is an extended list of these hotlines. If you would rather speak to someone in person, look into your university’s health center or look into other resources in your area.

I can’t think of a better way to end this article than with my favorite quote by Sierra Boggess: “You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are.”