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Mental Health

Cutting through the Red Tape: Collegiate Level Anxiety

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Understanding your feelings is the first step to overcoming them.

As September draws to a close and our Bruins, new and old, settle into their campus routines, one fall staple will undoubtedly resurface in all its glory: autumn anxiety. Although prevalent across all different stages of life, mental health concerns are especially poignant on college campuses as students undergo the stresses of independence and major life transitions. Psychologists estimate that alongside veterans, college students are among the most affected demographic relating to generalized anxiety. It’s no secret that reclaiming your mental health can feel like an uphill battle; however, students on our hilly Westwood campus are no stranger to hiking up inconvenient elevations. Her Campus is here to help you out with this incline so that you can feel your absolute best and fuel your soul this Fall Quarter.

The familiarity of people, places and even things can often provide a security blanket against stress, and university life presents the unique obstacle of unknown terrain, especially for first years and new transfer students. The pressures of adapting to new responsibilities and simultaneously trying to build genuine relationships, hold a steep learning curve. In such a high achieving environment, students are also put under the microscope of continual self pressure and performance stress.

Without the constant presence of friends and family to fall back on in moments of failure or success, it’s easy to feel isolated and lost. You can meet a million people in one day and still feel endlessly lonely; complete your work and still feel inadequate; be excited about the future and still miss home.

As they say, the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem, and the cliche holds surprisingly true in the collegiate anxiety struggle. While feelings of unrest are almost universal, few people concretely self reflect on their emotional state. Unnamed issues give us the most grief – recognize that you aren’t feeling okay and know that emotion, in itself, is okay.

While generalized anxiety feels ambiguous and overwhelming, it is actually a predictable problem that can likely be broken down very practically. Our emotional state is often a function of a set of identifiable, and changeable, factors that become clear if you just take the time to notice they’re there. Understanding the “why” can help you to ward off feelings of hopelessness and even hopefully move towards change.

One reason for this over-prevalence of anxiety is the simple truth that mental health risk factors have become an integral part of the collegiate lifestyle. Physically, lack of sleep, poor nutrition and increased substance use wear down on your body’s capacity to feel its best. Further, as countless students transition away from the organized sports that dominated their high school experience, regular exercise habits sharply decline. There is an undeniable connection between body and brain, and treating yourself with kindness and health-conscious behaviors is an imperative step in getting ahead of the stress.

Generationally, our peers also face a unique set of specific circumstances which increase the significance of mental health struggles: your back-to-school-blues are actually a well-documented sociological phenomenon. The rise in social media has created a constant reality of comparison and communication with others, often leaving users without the true serenity that comes from alone time. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent transition from isolation to a semi-normal reality is a major cause of anxiety, whether it be social, financial, or health-related.

This is not to oversimplify the very real diagnosis of an anxiety disorder or even to discredit the discomfort of being in a new environment, but instead should serve as a blaring reminder that you are normal and never alone. Treat yourself and others with empathy as we each navigate the difficulties and joys of acclimating to such a wonderful school. Get that sleep, grow that confidence, and give yourself the much needed quality attention of self love.

Claire Smith is an Orange County local studying Human Biology and Society at UCLA. Claire loves to read, try new coffee places, and spend time outdoors with friends.
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