College Is Hard, But Being Anxious & Black Make It Harder

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

This article is part of Her Campus's 'Anxiety on Campus: Feeling Seen & Speaking Out', a project dedicated to highlighting mental health and anxiety on campus. 

Imagine you're walking to class on the sunniest of mornings, but in your mind there's a powerful storm, raining on your day before it even begins. This feeling is familiar for many students who are carrying the weight of their own problems, plus worldly issues, on their back. As a young black woman in her second year of college who struggles with anxiety, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. From childhood on, black girls are raised to become the caretakers for their community. We are the hero and sacrifice of every story, as we are expected to put everyone else’s needs before our own. We're checking in on everyone else, but who in particular is checking in on us? This results in feeling like you have to be self-reliant, and as you continue your matriculation throughout your college years, you must remember this: sometimes you are not strong enough to do it alone. And that's okay. 

Whether you deal with stress that comes with being the minority at a PWI, or the underlying issues of colorism at an HBCU, “there’s no sin or shame with being anxious,” states Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett, a professor of Psychological Sciences and director of the Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders among African Americans at Kent State University. Being in college is hard, but being black and anxious is even harder — here's what Dr. Neal-Barnett has to say on what it means to be an anxious black college woman and how to start overcoming the anxiety.

  1. 1. Speak up for yourself

    Black women are so used to being everyone’s spokesperson, that they forget or even put off speaking up about the things that affect them from the inside out. Some are first-generation college students, while others are just black girls trying to make it in a world that wants to see them fail. Yet, you must tell someone when you’re feeling drained both mentally and physically.

    Some are going through the dread of receiving the, “it’s nothing, just pray about it” response when they bring it up. Others might not want to speak up, wondering to themselves if they're going mad — which is totally false! 

    “Being anxious is not the same as being crazy,” Dr. Neal-Barnett states. If we have the chance to receive help in our darkest times, there shouldn’t be any hesitation to take it. 

  2. 2. Talk to your sisters

    Surrounding yourself with a strong support system and people that care about you is an amazing thing to do. When you feel down, you can vent to your friends on what’s going on in your mind. It’s okay to be vulnerable because sometimes exposing your roots is the best way to plant yourself in a better foundation. 

    “Sometimes, we use a 'sister circle model,' which is a group model to initially do cycle social education about anxiety and gives them cognitive behavioral tools to use," Dr. Neal-Barnett says. "This 'sister circle' experience isn’t enough for some college students, but for others, it gives them the courage to seek further help, which is individual treatment.”

    While your girls may not be your solution, they can be a step toward the answer.

  3. 3. Be honest with yourself 

    There’s no point in hiding from yourself. Take it from me, a girl who has been dodging revealing her internal problems in fear that she might find something that slows her down. Avoiding something that’s potentially hurting you is what really slows you down. The more you try to run from it, the faster it gets on trying to sneak up on you. 

    While being strong and standing tall is your instinct, we are not indestructible. You can feel weak, you can need help — you are human. The more you fail in trying to change something, the more it stays the same. 

    You are worthy of your own attention, and you are deserving of your own care.

Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett is a professor of Psychological Sciences and director of the Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders among African Americans at Kent State University. She is the author of "Soothe Your Nerves: The Black Women’s Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety, Panic, and Fear". Dr. Neal-Barnett is the recipient of numerous grants and has authored numerous journal and public articles on Black females and anxiety. Dr. Neal-Barnett is a member of ADAA's Multicultural Advances SIG and the Women's SIG

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.