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Tackle Your Anxiety: 4 Tips to Try

Sometimes, I get so overwhelmed that I forget how to breathe. Sure, I’m a senior now and that’s terrifying in its own way, but I suppose I thought I would be better accustomed to college life and its responsibilities by now, right?

Wrong.

I still have days where I get so anxious that I can’t move. I get anxious about every day things: what to cook for dinner, how I’ll get all my homework done, wanting to go out but not having the energy, extracurricular groups that want too much of my time but I feel like I can’t say “no…” All very real problems, but also problems that can be solved. But those of you who get anxious know that when you’re in the thick of those anxious thoughts, it’s difficult to think straight or logically. You can literally feel paralyzed.

As an anxiety veteran, I want to set out to keep as many people from falling into the same anxious, worrisome pit of despair that I have been a victim to so many times. I have spent YEARS curating a list of ways to keep myself calm before the anxiety hits or to get myself feeling safe again if it hits suddenly. I’ve included four below, but it’s important to remember that everyone experiences anxiety differently. When I get anxious, I get horrific migraines, paralyzing back pain, and stomach pains that make it impossible to breathe or move or think. I have friends who get manic when they get anxious, friends who eat everything in sight… Anxiety looks different on everyone and feels different to everyone, so these tips are not “one size fits all.” Try them and modify them to fit your needs.

1. Exercise

Yeah, it can suck if you are completely out of shape and lazy like I am. I have had people tell me exercise was the best medicine for my anxiety for years before I finally decided to listen to them and try it––I still hate waking up every morning when I know I could easily sleep for another hour or two, but the mental and physical pay off is worth those early mornings (and late nights when I reaaallly just cannot get out of bed in the morning.) We live in a beautiful city and so many fun exercise opportunities around us. Walk around Audubon Park or go to a class at one of those hip and trendy places on Magazine. Sometimes I’m anxious to leave the house so I find a Zumba video or yoga tutorial on YouTube and don’t even have to leave my room. But y’all, Reily is literally FREE. Why didn’t I take advantage of this earlier? Ugh.

2.  A journal

I am still working on making this one a habit, but keeping a daily record of your mental health is a great way to track what makes you anxious so you can look back later and make moves to change those habits or steer clear of your stressors. Instead of falling asleep watching Netflix, take 10 minutes at the end of your day (or whenever you have ten minutes) and write it all out. It can be for your eyes only, you can share it with a friend to keep you accountable, it doesn’t matter. You’ll thank yourself later for writing down all of these stories from college anyway. It’s a win-win.

3. Phone a friend

Sometimes anxiety can sneak up on you really quickly and before you know it, you’re trapped. In moments like these, it can be hard to take care of yourself without some help, so I’ve implemented a plan of attack for myself. I have 3 people I can call (my mom, my boyfriend, and my grandma.) Usually, one of them is around and they can calm me down and help me think about a plan for making sure I feel safe and calm (or at least calmer.) But sometimes, they don’t pick up. Then I move on to my backups: my roommates. It’s rare that no one is free, but it has happened, and in those situations I call a hotline: a trained professional who knows what to say to someone who is in the throes of an anxiety attack. Tulane has its own confidential hotline, The Line, which you can reach 24/7 at (504) 264-6074.

4. Find your safe space

When you’ve been anxious long enough, you start to notice patterns. For example, my anxiety springs up when I spend too much time in bed thinking about everything I am not doing because I’m stuck in bed thinking about it. Food is a big trigger so I get anxious around meal times. It’s obviously impossible to avoid eating or sleeping in my bed, so I’ve learned to arm myself for battle, if you will, by changing the settings in which I do both things. I no longer let myself study in bed––my bed is my sacred space and bringing stress into it like homework just isn’t productive. I keep my favorite candle on my nightstand so I can light it when I feel any stress coming on. I have my favorite playlist lined up on my phone so it’s a click away whenever I go to bed. By making these little changes, my bed transformed from a place I dreaded, because I equated it with anxiety, to a safe place for me to escape the stress. The same goes for the kitchen: I try to cook in advance so I can avoid feeling like I don’t have time to make a healthy meal for myself and avoid the guilt I used to equate with eating. I’m still working on it but I remind myself every day that these habits took time to form and they’ll take time to get rid of too.

It’s important to remember that you are not alone in feeling anxious––your feelings are normal, your feelings are valid, and people want to help. If your anxiety isn’t going away or you start to have thoughts of self-harm, call or stop in at CAPS to make an appointment at (504) 314-2277. If you or a friend is having an emergency, call 911.

Your health is nothing to be ashamed of. Take care of yourself and have a great semester.

World's okay-est snuggler.
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