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Mental Health

How to Navigate College with an Anxiety Disorder

College can be one of the most stressful periods in a person’s life. Many students struggle with living on their own for the first time and determining what they wish to do with their future. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems on college campuses. While difficult, it is possible to successfully navigate college with anxiety. Check out the tips below for advice on how to deal with stress!

1. Get Organized With a Bullet Journal

One of the biggest difficulties college students face is adjusting to being entirely in control of their own schedule. No one is going to remind you that you have a big test in two weeks or that you need to plan at least three hours to work on your project. From class to clubs to social events, it can feel impossible to complete or even remember everything, with 85% of college students reporting they had felt overwhelmed by their schedule at some point in the past year.

Try keeping a bullet journal! A bullet journal is just a notebook or planner that contains any information that you may need in the form of lists or bullet points. It can have your goals for the rest of the month, your daily to-do lists, appointments, test dates or anything else you may need to make a quick mental note of. While several bullet journal sites online have been dedicated to advising on making the journals incredibly detailed, a bullet journal can be as simple or complex as you need it to be and is a great way of staying organized.

2. Find a Quiet Place

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed on a college campus. Some students may experience difficulty concentrating on homework in loud areas or may experience anxiety after the prolonged social interaction. Thus, it’s important to have a quiet, private place to get away from a stressful stimulus. This quiet place can be a rarely used study room, a corner of the library, a table in Starbucks or even just a park bench. The location doesn’t matter, only that it’s a place where you feel you can clear your head and relax.

3. Stay Healthy

Taking good physical care of yourself can also improve your mental and emotional state. Eat a healthy diet with an emphasis on whole grains, vegetables and fruits. These foods encourage the release of hormones such as serotonin and dopamine that help your body relax. Junk food does little to spur on the release of these “feel good” hormones and may leave you feeling jittery if you experience a sudden drop in blood sugar. Drink plenty of water and avoid stimulants like alcohol and energy drinks.

Exercise is also extremely important for managing anxiety. Set small daily goals for yourself. Many college campuses offer a number of fun ways to exercise, including aerobics classes or intramural sports. Exercise can be as dedicated as taking a Zumba class or as simple as choosing to walk rather than drive to class.

And, don’t forget to get plenty of sleep! In times of stress, your body needs additional rest, so be certain to hit the hay as soon as possible.

4. Don’t Procrastinate

It’s advice constantly told to college students, but it’s still valid. Putting off studying for an exam or working on a paper will only cause further anxiety. It’s better to work ahead and complete an assignment ahead of time than to wait until the last minute. Besides, working ahead allows room for unforeseen circumstances, like getting sick the week before finals or realizing you need extra time to meet with your professor about a project.

If you’re like most college students and at some point have or will feel worried about the amount of school work you have to complete, then you might as well start on it early and get it over with, rather than spend extra time feeling anxious over an assignment.

5. Find What Resources are Available on Your Campus

With growing awareness of the mental health issues students face, many college campuses are expanding the resources they have available for supporting students with anxiety and other disorders. Most campuses feature some form of a counseling program, with many colleges even offering a certain number of free therapy sessions per semester. There are several members of campus staff with training in assisting with anxiety and other mental health problems. Several organizations geared towards mental health awareness have branches in various college campuses or may even host events during a mental health awareness week. Some colleges even sponsor special events where comfort dogs are brought to campus to boost student morale.

College disability offices are also increasingly recognizing anxiety disorders as a disability and making accommodations to help students succeed. These accommodations may include extended test time or permission to use a laptop in class to take notes. 

Navigating college with an anxiety disorder is difficult, but possible. Just remember that you are not alone and that you can take control of your anxiety.

For more information about the resources available to University of South Carolina students, visit this website.


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