The beginning of the school year is typically an exciting time, a chance to start anew. Meeting new people, attending new classes, and discovering new places on campus are all experiences that accompany this time of year. While change is ultimately a positive and necessary component of life, it is completely normal to also grapple with nervousness during transitional periods. I have struggled with anxiety since I was young, and I have since developed some habits that allow me to stay in control of my feelings and instead focus on being the best person and student I can be.
Planning can be a stressful event since it requires some decision-making and facing all the responsibilities and assignments to come in the future. However, I have found that taking time to map out my quarter has actually given me some peace of mind. There are several applications and websites in existence today that can be used to do this, but my tried and true is Google Calendar. My roommate introduced me to the program and it completely changed my life. I am able to input my class schedule quickly, color code classes and their corresponding discussions, link events to locations so I can easily check which building and room number my class is at, as well as set notifications to be reminded before an event starts, all in one application. The visual aspect of seeing my week spread before me helps me conceptualize just how much time I have between classes to eat, or plan which days are best to work on certain assignments. Before, I would just keep mental notes in my head, which would be very overwhelming and jumbled. Now, balancing class, assignments, work, clubs, appointments, and my social life is not as daunting.
My Google Calendar has helped me manage my weekly stressors, but I think it is also helpful to have a system for the little things that arise in life. Many times, I find that having a designated outlet for my anxious feelings provides comfort and relief from the thoughts racing in my mind, as well as allows me to give all my attention to the task at hand. Writing down anything that I am fixating on, like my feelings about certain tasks that need to be completed in the future or ideas that I have for an assignment, or an awkward encounter I had earlier in the day, prevents me from overwhelming myself by thinking about too much at once.
Every Sunday night, I quickly jot down personal tasks that I hope to complete for the week and then delegate them to certain days of the week while looking at my Google Calendar to see available time slots. I then take note of my weekly readings and map out when to read them. Lastly, I write the due dates for any assignments I have in my planner, estimate how long it will take me to complete them, and decide which days I need to work on what. My workload for the week becomes more digestible because I break it up into smaller sections and I allot myself ample time to work.
When I would feel overcome with anxious energy while working on homework, I would typically gravitate toward my phone and spend time watching TikToks until those feelings dissipated. Most things are healthy in moderation, but this was not the best self-soothing method for me. I would scroll on TikTok, wasting time, and then cause myself even more stress by dwindling down the time I had to work on assignments. It ultimately became a vicious cycle that stirred up feelings of self-disappointment. This year I have incorporated something new and it has made all the difference; instead of coping with my stress by passively scrolling, I decided to do something active. When I am struggling to focus, I get up and do the dishes or walk my cat or make a snack or workout. I do something productive so that I stay in an operative mode instead of switching to a lounging mode. Moving my body and completing a task proves that I am capable of finishing what I start, which in turn means I can easily finish the assignment I started. It can be hard to convince myself to take breaks while I am working because I get too stressed out to waste time, but it is beneficial to remember that if stepping away for a little bit will help you focus better, perform better, and feel better when you return, then it is worth it.
Lastly, and most importantly, always get some sleep. Symptoms of anxiety are actually intensified when sleep-deprived and sacrificing sleep to finish up studying, reading, or writing is oftentimes not worth it. Performance is significantly better when the brain is well-rested, meaning you are more likely to remember information or understand concepts when you have some sleep under your belt.
Everyone’s experience with anxiety differs and some of these tips may not be what works best for you, but hopefully, they will provide some guidance. We have all had anxious feelings before; it is a part of the human experience, so talking to someone about it or finding coping strategies and systems that work best for you are not behaviors to be ashamed of.