Coping with Anxiety in University

The first step to dealing with and working around anxiety is realizing that it’s happening to you. Anxiety is something that almost every University student struggles with at one point or another, and it's totally normal. I'm sure each of your friends have told you that they are "anxious" about an upcoming test or assignment. What I'm going to be talking about is people who have anxiety disorders and/or experience panic attacks. 

I personally have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which for the sake of this article just means that I experience fear, light-headedness, trouble breathing, a feeling of impending doom, and get shaky when confronted with things that trigger my anxiety. There are different levels of my feelings of anxiety, the worst being a full-blown panic attack. It's different than the butterfly in the stomach feeling that many people experience daily when they are scared or nervous. A trigger is something that sets off feelings of anxiety and/or a panic attacks. Many people, including myself, can struggle with even wanting to get out of bed in the morning or leaving the house when these feelings of anxiety hit, and of course this makes going to University that much harder. Here are some tips that I have found helpful in both coping with my anxiety, and living a pretty normal life: 

1. Talk to your doctor- Chances are if you are concerned you may have some sort of anxiety disorder, you probably do. Attempting these feelings isn't going to make them any worse, and your doctor is there to help. Finding out exactly what you're dealing with, and why your body is responding to certain situations in these ways is the first step to dealing with it in the most healthy way possible. Your doctor can also prescribe you with medication, or refer you to a therapist, both of which you may find extremely helpful. 

2. Go to therapy- Maybe just once, maybe for years. Whatever you feel comfortable with. A therapist is trained to deal with people who are going through exactly what you are going through. They are full of suggestions and exercises, and at the end of the day, having someone validate your feelings can just feel nice. 

3. Listen to yourself- Once you understand your anxiety, this step becomes quite easy. The hard part is distinguishing hard situations that you can't handle and ones that you can. The best way I can describe it is that it's a feeling in your gut. If it becomes overwhelming, remove yourself from a situation. Go to the bathroom or outside and just focus on your breathing, and 9 times out of 10 you will be able to go back and finish whatever you were doing. 

4. Breathe- The Internet is your best friend in terms of breathing exercises. Google a bunch and try them out, and write the ones that work best on cue cards to keep with you so that you can use whenever you need. Your breathing is a great giveaway to exactly how you're feeling in terms of anxiety, and learning to control it and bring it back to normal is an asset. 

5. Confide in friends- once you figure out your triggers and coping methods, letting your friends know this information is super helpful. Ideally, your friends never want to see you upset or anxious, so if they know when it's happening and how to help they can be a great comfort to you. 

6. Find what makes you calm- It could be music, drawing, Netflix, the Internet, reading, writing, playing an instrument, talking to friends, exercise, or really anything. When you feel yourself needing comfort, go do that thing. I’ve stopped panic attacks before they even happened by repeating a quote in my head or listening to familiar music. Find what works for you and use it.

At the end of the day, communication is the best possible thing that you can do. Tell people how you feel. Especially seek the help of a medical professional. If you aren’t sure what’s happening to you or why you are feeling certain ways, getting help will only improve your life in the long run. Mental health problems are just as real as any physical ailment you can think of, don’t be shy or embarrassed to get treatment, it’ll only make your life better. 

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