The word “anxiety” is all too often thrown around out of context, especially on college campuses. Everyone is under a great deal of stress, but some have it a lot worse than others. I always knew I was an anxious person, but I thought it was pretty normal to be constantly stressed. Now I know that anxiety is a lot different than just being stressed about a test or even a paper. It is about doing the simplest everyday tasks and just waiting to have another panic attack. I had my first bad panic attack just while casually walking around campus, and it felt like I was having a heart attack. I didn’t know what to do other than to try to get help and cry. That first one was scary, but it kept just getting worse. Towards the end of the summer, I still didn’t really know what was going on, and I ended up in the ER three times for chest pain. Doctors thought I was crazy because everything came back perfectly fine. That is when I realized that I kept feeling this way due to extreme anxiety and panic attacks. I spent the rest of the summer terrified that doing anything would cause another panic attack and especially scared to go back to school halfway across the country where my parents wouldn’t be there when I needed them.
For a while, I contemplated not going back but decided that I wasn’t going to let this condition control me. Every day there is a constant reminder that while I will always have this condition, I can get it under control and learn how to deal with it. I am writing this article because I know I am not the only one out there who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, and I want other girls out there to know that they aren’t alone, and we will all survive college together. Here are some of the ways that I have learned on how to deal with anxiety during the stressful years of college.
1. There are counselors on campus trained to help
Still, in this day and age, there is a stigma about people getting help from therapists or counselors for their mental health concerns. The reality is that these people want to help you succeed in school and your daily life, and it is an amazing resource that is very helpful. These counselors and therapists know techniques that you can use to deal with your anxiety, and if you go to your clinic on campus, they are specially trained in dealing with students. I talked to my counselor about how my anxiety causes me to not do as well on tests, and he gave me specific techniques that I can use for academics. Also, having a third party outside of your normal support system is very helpful. They have a different perspective on your life and your concerns and can give you advice that fits your needs.
2. Having a strong support system on campus is crucial
A strong support system means that you need to surround yourself with people that genuinely care about you. I like to say that I would rather have three amazing friends who care about me than 20 “friends” who barely even know me. These are people that I can call at any time, and they will be there for me. I understand that this can be hard to find, but I promise that those people are out there for you. If you haven’t found them yet, the best way is to be yourself, not someone who is just trying to find friends. The best relationships happen when you’re not trying at all, and the people for you just somehow find you. If you are a new college freshman who doesn’t have that strong network yet, my advice is to just hang in there and cut the negative people out of your life if there are any.
3. Take time for self-care
College is an extremely busy time, and it is so easy to forget to spoil yourself every once in a while. This means take an hour or two to take a relaxing bath, do a face mask or just do something that makes you happy. Worrying about all those deadlines is doing nothing to get them done, and you won’t perform at your best when you are super anxious. When studying, stop every hour or so and take a breather and spend fifteen or twenty minutes to do something that makes you happy. I know all too well that when I get too overloaded with assignments and tests that I just shut down and self-sabotage my grades. Don’t let yourself get to that point and spend time on yourself.
4. Exercise can be as good of a cure as medication
This goes along with self-care, but it is so important that I am making it its own point. Exercise is something that I completely cut out of my life as soon as my anxiety got worse. This was a completely wrong move that made my anxiety even worse. I am definitely not someone who likes working out, but I realized that every time I force myself to do it I feel happier, stronger and less anxious. It is one of the only times where I am able to close my eyes and stop the millions of thoughts that are usually floating around in my mind.
5. Realize that good days outweigh the bad
It is okay to have bad days where the anxiety controls you. I know how awful this feels, but you just have to keep telling yourself that it will be over soon and that tomorrow is a new day. Realize that you are not crazy, and it will get better. The bad days do not define you, and having a bad day every once in a while does not make you weak
6. Mental health days are needed
When you do have bad days, it is okay if you need a day off. Pushing yourself when you are at your worst sometimes make the condition worse. For me, in high school, a “mental health day” just meant that I wasn’t actually sick but just didn’t want to go to school, but now it has a whole new literal meaning. I’m not trying to tell everyone to just skip class, but when you need to you need to. If your professor is very strict about attendance, and you think it will affect your grade, reach out to them and tell them what is going on. If your professor still has a problem or doesn’t accept that excuse you can take it up with higher ranking members of the university because mental health issues among students should not be taken lightly or looked down upon.
7. Do not procrastinate!
I am guilty of this one and therefore I have suffered the consequences. Procrastinating on all of your assignments or studying until the last minute creates a ton of stress, and when you have anxiety you need to avoid these instances at all costs. That means to do everything ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it. If you know that something is causing you stress or anxiety, just cross it off your list so it’s not in your mind anymore. As a bonus, not procrastinating will increase your grades overall, which will decrease your stress even more.
8. Stop being sorry for yourself and don’t be scared to put yourself out there
Like I said earlier when my anxiety was at its worse, I basically didn’t want to leave my house because I was just scared of everything. I’m still working on this, and it’s slowly getting better. I made myself go through sorority recruitment, which is out of my comfort zone, and it was so worth it! I’m continuing to try to put myself out there while also giving my self days off where I just relax. If you just lock yourself in your house, you mill miss out on so many amazing opportunities. Don’t miss out on those opportunities, and definitely don’t give up on your dreams.
I hope that these tips help and that if you are reading this and you suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, you know that you are not alone and that you can get through it.