How to Handle Anxiety in College

I’m a mess. I can’t stop shaking. My mind won’t stop racing. I’m constantly up at night worrying about the never-ending list of things I have to get done. Tests to take. Projects to work on. Assignments to complete. Meetings to attend. My mind then shifts to the never-ending list of disappointments and failures I have racked up on my record. The test I didn’t pass. The project I didn't have the courage to present. The assignment I didn’t finish. The meeting I missed. Next it goes to social encounters. My friend gave me a weird look today: Is she mad at me? My boyfriend had to cancel our plans: Is he going to break up with me? I hope the teacher doesn’t call on me tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow, I have to make sure I remember to eat. And get some kind of sleep at some point, since it’s clearly not happening tonight. 

College is something that naturally causes anxiety for more students than you'd think. Being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder only adds to the built up pressure that an everyday student faces. Whether it’s academic, health or social, there are ways to cope with anxiety disorders and still get the best out of your college years.

1. Accept that your feelings are valid.

People become anxious for a number of different reasons. While some may think that your anxious feelings about something are unjustified, it can be completely plausible to you. You should not have to explain yourself or your anxiety because it doesn’t define you; it is just a part of your journey. You are allowed to freak out and be afraid. You should not feel ashamed or judged; It’s okay to feel the way you do. And trust me, you are not the only feeling that way.

2. Meditate.

When I start to feel anxious and my body goes into panic mode, focusing on my breathing helps. Breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth regulates my heartbeat and brings my body back to a calm state. I also use self-talk to talk myself down from the anxiety. Repeating statements like “Everything will be okay”, or “I’m not in any kind of danger right now” helps your mind and body relax. I know it may sound corny to some, but these meditative practices can actually work.

3. Connect with your professors.

Professors aren’t like teachers in high school. You spend more time with them and develop more of a personal relationship. Once in college, you are on your own and treated like an adult, especially by your professors (well, most of them). They understand that life gets in the way of things sometimes. If you are going through a rough time, reach out to them. More times than not they will understand and work with you in order to reduce anxiety while still getting your work done.

4. Surround yourself with support.

A support system is key to coping with anxiety. Whether it’s five people or one person, find someone who you feel comfortable enough talking to you when you are feeling anxious. It can be your best friend, your significant other or your parent, but it needs to be someone who can trust so your mind knows to listen to them when they are trying to talk you down. I don’t know where I would be today if I didn’t have my support to help me get through my daily battle with anxiety disorder. Nobody can handle any kind of mental illness alone.

5. Get involved on campus.

It’s true that keeping busy does help mental health. Getting involved on campus not only takes away the available time to overthink things and have anxious thoughts, but it helps get yourself out there as well to meet new people. Like I said, having a support system can be extremely beneficial to dealing with anxiety. Not only that, but it can give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment by filling your extra time with helping people or doing something you enjoy.

6. Take time for yourself.

Although it can help to occupy yourself, you also have to remember to allot some time for yourself. Set some time aside every day for yourself. Read a book. Write a letter. Take a nap. Listen to music. Anything that you enjoy that brings you to your happy place will work. Having that time to yourself will help you reenergize when you feel like your anxiety is getting the best of you. Some days you will have more time than others for this, but any amount of time is worth it. Life gets crazy, but it’s crucial to remember that you have to put yourself and your health, both physical and mental, first.

7. Take it one day at a time.

Anxiety doesn't go away overnight, especially in what can be a high stress environment like college. One of the ways I keep myself calm is by focusing on the present. Every morning, wake up and fixate on what needs to get done today and how you are going to handle it. Don’t freak out about tomorrow or next week. Taking it one day at a time is the only way to avoid a massive panic attack and get your anxiety under control. I know it’s hard to do sometimes, but with practice, it becomes easier. Anxiety does not define you, so don’t let it control you. You can do it.