College is an extremely exciting time in peoples’ lives and it is usually full of new experiences and new friends; however, with that comes new things to worry about. Back in 2013, it was reported by the American Psychological Association that as much as 41% of college students said that anxiety was a significant concern for them. That number has only grown and there are a lot of reasons why that is. The shifting political climate, growing pressure to do well academically, the increasing cost of college, all of these are perfectly normal things to be concerned about; however, it is important to understand how to navigate your anxiety so it doesn’t get the best of you.
There are a lot of things that you need to balance in college. Academics are important, of course. You understand that college is going to change the scope of your professional life forever. It is also very different from most people’s school experience up to that point. It always mattered for you to get good grades but this time, you have to consider your future a little bit more and this time, you are paying for it. You also deserve to have a social life. College can be full of meeting new people and that’s an awesome opportunity but it can be overwhelming. You’re going to encounter a lot of people who think differently, who have different stories to tell, and the newness of it can be a lot at first. For many people, this is the first time that you have ever really been away from home. Even though you know you’re capable, this first taste of adulthood can bring a new set of things to do, to take care of, and to worry about.
We understand that college puts a lot on your plate. In this article, we are going to explore 20 effective strategies for coping with anxiety in college. These tips were created with students in mind but anyone can benefit from taking a little extra care of their mental health.
A key point that we would like to make first, though, is that college is an incredibly rewarding experience. There are certain parts of continuing your education that may feel overwhelming and make you anxious but it is nothing that you can’t handle. We hope that these tips for dealing with anxiety help you create a plan to deal with it and leave you feeling better equipped to manage your stress. The most important thing to remember is that you’re not in this alone. The tips we are going to talk about are backed by science and used by thousands of people who are in the same boat as you. Even if one of them seems a little silly, we recommend you give it a shot. There is no wrong way to deal with anxiety as long as you are doing it in a healthy way. There are also additional resources at the bottom of this article for anyone who may need them.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is one of those words that can have a few different meanings depending on how you look at it. At its simplest, anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. Anxiety is perfectly normal and it can even be a sign of a healthy brain. If you’re anxious about a big test coming up or a date, for instance, this is a sign that your brain is functioning properly. This is actually more so just the feeling of being nervous, but the language has evolved to a point where anxiety is used synonymously with nerves. This is sometimes described as acute anxiety.
In reality, if you are someone who struggles with anxiety then you know that it is way more than just nerves. Medically speaking, anxiety is defined as “intense, excessive, and/or persistent worry and fear.” At this level, your anxiety is considered more severe. This definition most accurately described the second main type of anxiety, which is chronic anxiety.
Acute anxiety can be caused by stress from school or work, financial trouble, emotional trauma, medications, and things like that. Acute anxiety is usually easy to directly trace to a certain stressor and it is likely to go away on its own as you emotionally process your issues or the situation subsides. Even though this is technically considered to be “less severe,” you shouldn’t just ignore it. These tips for dealing with anxiety are going to be great little ways for you to navigate the stressful situation you’re dealing with until it subsides.
Chronic anxiety is a different thing altogether. This type of anxiety is harder to trace to a specific stressor. There are things that can trigger or exacerbate chronic anxiety but most of the time, chronic anxiety is just there. Exaggerated worry about situations, feeling powerless in situations you can’t control, sudden feelings of dread, catastrophic thinking, and panic attacks can all be characteristics of chronic anxiety. Sometimes this is caused by an underlying mental illness or medical condition and sometimes, people are just generally anxious. If you are dealing with chronic anxiety, these tips should be useful in helping you to find ways to calm down, clear your head, and cope with your feelings. However, these tips are not a good replacement for talking things out with a counselor, your doctor, or someone you trust. We’ll talk more about this later.
The symptoms of anxiety vary widely from person to person. The type of anxiety you’re dealing with can cause different symptoms and they can be mildly inconvenient things, or completely debilitating. Anxiety isn’t going to affect everyone the same way, so learning how it affects you is going to be your first line of defense when it comes to combating those feelings. A lot of people, as many as 20% of Americans, are affected by anxiety. A significant portion of those people has no idea that what they are going through isn’t necessarily “normal.” It isn’t abnormal and this isn’t to say something is wrong with you if you’re feeling anxious; however, anxiety is the most highly treatable mental condition, whether that is acute or chronic anxiety. Less than half of the people who deal with it every day seek any treatment or help. In large part, this is because they have accepted their symptoms as just part of life.
Some common symptoms of anxiety that you may be ignoring include:
- Racing heartbeat
- Feelings of “butterflies” or nausea without an attributable cause
- Feelings of restlessness or the inability to relax/sit still
- Difficulty with regular sleep, such as sleeping too little or too much
- Trouble concentrating
Even if you are experiencing just one of these symptoms, or one of the many others that come along with anxiety, this article is for you.
How Can I Cope With Anxiety?
The term coping has come to carry a lot of weight, even as society shakes itself free of the stigma surrounding mental health issues. “Coping strategies” has become one of those nebulous feel-good terms that seems kind of fluffy, or out there. The truth is that to cope just means to deal effectively with something difficult. Effectively dealing with your anxiety, or coping with your anxiety, has a lot to do with learning to coexist with it. Learning about what makes you anxious, understanding stressors (or triggers) for your anxiety, and having a set strategy (or a few) to deal with those problems as they arise are all important parts of how you can cope.
There are two different types of coping mechanisms, negative and positive. Negative coping mechanisms are ones that can exacerbate your anxiety later on, damage your health or wellbeing, or even lead to more severe problems. Negative coping mechanisms are generally risky, unhealthy, or self-destructive.
Some examples of negative coping mechanisms include:
- Eating a lot of unhealthy foods, or binge eating
- Using alcohol or drugs
- Severely withdrawing from friends and family
- Abandonment of your responsibilities
- Engaging in risky, reckless, or irresponsible behavior
- Self harm
Note: If you or anyone that you know is struggling with any of these behaviors, Mental Health America has a host of information about where to find help, how to open a conversation about needing help, and where you can turn if someone you care about is struggling. If you or someone you know is in danger of harming themselves or someone else, we urge you to contact someone immediately.
The problem with negative coping mechanisms is that they are short-term solutions and will only make things worse in the long run. Many people who are using one of these methods to cope feel ashamed of what they’re doing, they know that it isn’t helping, and it just creates an even bigger cycle of feeling stressed, getting anxious, and acting out. If you find yourself skipping a class that you’re falling behind in because you don’t want to deal with it, or reaching for an entire bag of chips after seeing you didn’t do well on an exam, you may be in one of these cycles. But, that’s okay! As long as you learn to recognize these patterns, you can change them. It’s very easy to replace negative strategies when you realize what is going on.
That brings us to the next point, positive coping mechanisms. These are strategies that result in less stress, increased health and wellbeing, and help break the cycles of anxiety so you can feel better. The 20 tips for dealing with anxiety in college that we’re going to talk about today are all great examples of positive coping mechanisms. You can incorporate one, a few, or all of these strategies into your life and know that you’re dealing with your anxiety in a positive way.
What happens when coping isn’t enough? The majority of people reading this are probably going to be just fine. Most of you are probably facing acute anxiety because college is new, exciting, and a huge investment in your future. These strategies, along with others that you create along the way, are probably going to help you drastically reduce your anxiety and you’ll feel much better. However, sometimes anxiety can be a little more prevalent in your life and it can start to disrupt your success, your relationships, and more. If you struggle to handle your anxiety on your own, know that there is nothing wrong with you. You’re not broken, it’s not stupid to feel so worried, and you are going to be able to succeed.
If you have tried to deal with this on your own and felt like it didn’t work out, or if you recognize that you’re dealing with chronic anxiety, you should consider talking to someone. Your parents, your doctor, or even the counseling center at your school are all great places to turn. Anxiety, as you read earlier, is the most highly treatable mental health condition. Talk therapy, such as with a therapist or psychiatrist, can help you to more effectively process what is going on and help you handle it. In some cases, anxiety is treated with medication. Anxiolytics, antidepressants, sedatives, and even antihistamines are all different types of medicines that can be used to treat anxiety. Most of them are covered by insurance and are are very affordable. It’s up to you to decide when it is time to talk to someone. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed if that’s the case for you. If you’re not sure what to say, here is a great resource that will help you figure out how to talk to your doctor about anxiety.
20 Effective Strategies for Dealing with Anxiety in College
Now that you’ve read about the different types of anxiety that you could be dealing with and have an understanding about positive and negative coping, it’s time to explore some positive coping strategies that you can use to handle your anxiety in college. These tips focus on a more general approach to anxiety and what you can do, but our site has a ton of other resources that you should check out. If you’re a nervous test taker, our College Student’s Guide to Test Preparation has everything from how to study and how to take better notes to test taking tips and strategies to help you breeze right through even the most stressful exams.
Getting enough sleep in college is crucial and if you’re having a hard time catching some Z’s, our 35 Blissful Tips For Sleeping Better in College might help you get to bed on time and wake up ready to face the day. You can also check out our tips for managing your time, managing your money, and more.
Now, onto our top tips for managing anxiety in college.
1. Be Mindful of Avoidant Behavior
Avoidant behavior is one of the negative coping mechanisms that we talked about above. It can rear its ugly head in many ways, like skipping classes, staying in bed all day, or even simply procrastinating your assignments. “Approach, don’t avoid,” is the advice from Dr. Luana Marques in her article featured on the Harvard Health Blog. You may be avoiding a certain class because you’re having difficulty in it and don’t know how to ask the professor for help, avoiding a certain assignment because you don’t know where to start, or you could be someone who struggles with habitual procrastination. The first step in beating your anxiety is to look at how it is making you behave. If you notice that you’re practicing avoidant behavior, this is a good sign that you need to go ahead and confront it. Even though that can be scary, it doesn’t have to be difficult.
If you are struggling in a particular class and you don’t know how to ask for help, take one small step. If you attend a physical campus and have trouble walking up to your professor then this is a good tip for you. Confronting your professors with questions can be tough for online students, too. To help get over that, we recommend that you just start small. Send an email to your professor that says something along the lines of “I have some questions about X.” You do not have to come right out and ask, but you brought it to your professor’s attention. When they respond and offer to help, it can ease your mind a little bit and help you say what you need to say.
If you are practicing avoidant behaviors in other ways, like chronically procrastinating or spending all day sleeping, it can be a little bit tougher to tackle. Be mindful of the fact that you are doing it. Start working on catching yourself in the act. This is a simple tip but bringing awareness to what you’re doing will force you to confront it. It makes it a conscious decision instead of a gut reaction based on your fears. You know that avoiding the things that you need to do contributes to a cycle of shame, stress, and anxiety. When you work on recognizing this pattern of behavior, it gives you the choice to take a small step forward. If you notice that you’re hovering over the third episode of that show you’re watching and think about why you are doing it, you can choose to do something different, even if it is something small. That something small brings us to the next tip.
2. Break Things Down
Anxiety has a lot to do with control. People tend to feel anxious when they feel powerless in a situation or when they feel like a task is too big for them to handle. Everyone has a different threshold when it comes to what is overwhelming, but breaking things into smaller tasks can help. When it comes to a big project or facing a situation that makes you feel anxious, part of that comes from the fact that you are looking at what your finished project is supposed to be and comparing it to now. The distance from point A to point B feels too big sometimes and it can paralyze you from getting started. If you find a way to break an assignment, project, or task into smaller parts, you will have a bit of a roadmap instead of just a visualization of the finished product.
Another reason that this helps is because you may be one of those people who has a perfect grasp on what you need to do to get started but you struggle with the type of avoidance you just read about above. If you find a way to break things down into smaller pieces, you can work on putting a stop to that avoidant behavior. When you catch yourself doing it, because you’re working on being mindful, you will have the option to make progress on the task you are avoiding. Even if you only get one thing done in that moment, it can make coming back to it much easier later on.
As an example, let’s say that you have a paper to do. You can start by breaking it down into pieces, or smaller tasks to do. On a sheet of paper, in a planner, in a Google Doc, make a quick to-do list. This can be as specific or as general as you need it to be. You could start your list with something like “gather sources” or break it down even more and start with “create and format Google Doc.” How big or small you make each of the pieces is up to you.
Now, you can use your to-do list to your advantage. If you don’t know what to do first to get to the finished product you need, start with step one and work from there. If you have caught yourself procrastinating, cross one thing off your list before you do. Make sure that you check things off as you go, too. Seeing the items that you have already crossed off signals to your brain that you’re making progress and it provides positive reinforcement.
This is also helpful if you’re the type of person who sits in one class and worries over your next one. Learn to handle things one step at a time and it will all start to come more naturally to you and you can relax and focus on what is in front of you.
3. Change Your Self Talk
Changing the way that you talk yourself through situations is something that has been at the forefront of mental health conversations for a long time. It is important to be compassionate towards yourself and have patience as you are learning how to deal with anxiety. This is especially important in college when feelings of inadequacy can start to creep on you, even if you know they aren’t true. In this tip, what were are specifically talking about is not suppressing your feelings, a tip that comes from Dr. Marla Deibler.
Anxiety is weird in the way that it always seems to snowball. It can start with something as simple as missing a few questions on a quiz, or not performing well on one of your assignments. Students put a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed. That is good because you deserve to succeed but if you find yourself spiraling in your thoughts, perhaps you’re putting a little too much pressure. So, let’s say that you check your score and it isn’t what you hoped it would be, and that hollow nauseous feeling fills the pit of your stomach. You didn’t do well on this, so how are you going to do well on the test? How is this going to affect your grade? Your GPA? Why didn’t you study more? What if you fail the class?
All of these questions can swarm you at once when you start feeling anxious and it’s common to just try and block those thoughts out. The unfortunate thing is that that doesn’t always help. In fact, trying not to think about something, or trying not to consider the consequences of something, can make you think about it even more. It can also lead you to draw even more outlandish conclusions because of your anxiety, like you messed up this quiz so you’re probably going to fail all of your classes, for example.
In this tip, we recommend that instead of trying to block all of those things out of your head when you start feeling anxious, change the way that you talk to yourself. All of these questions, and sometimes negative feelings about yourself, can be so loud when you’re feeling anxious. So, try responding to them with logic instead. Anxiety is barely ever logical and you can answer your own questions based on logic and it can help you realize that you’re just being anxious and that these fears are not realistic. Maybe you didn’t do well on the quiz, but you did just fine on the last two, maybe it was an off day. Maybe you didn’t do well on a particular assignment, but when you look back, it was because you rushed through it.
Confronting your anxiety by considering the facts in a situation can help you control your feelings. It can also help you see that your anxiety isn’t based on fact so you can differentiate between anxiety and legitimate concerns that you have.
4. Consider the Media You Consume
This is one of the strategies we know seems a little bit strange on the surface, but it is more important than you may think. You know that surrounding yourself with positive people, good influences, and a strong support system is important; the media you consume is just as well. Anxiety tends to be cumulative. You may be keenly aware of your racing thoughts sometimes, especially when you are feeling particularly anxious. You may not realize that that is going on behind the scenes in your brain all of the time. There are thousands of things that your mind absorbs and processes every single day and they can have a profound impact on your mood, your mental state, and your anxiety.
Horror movies are a great example. There is nothing like tucking in on a rainy night and watching a few scary movies before bed. Have you ever noticed the way that horror films are scored? All of the background sounds and high pitched musical tones throughout the movie are put in because they trigger your brain to go into fight or flight mode. You don’t even realize that it is happening and, of course, that is what makes these movies so enjoyable. We’re not saying that you should stop watching them, though. The point of the example was to show you how things you aren’t always aware of can affect your brain.
Think about the music that you listen to, the shows that you watch, and the people that you follow on social media. Surrounding yourself with positive influences is something that you know is important and we recommend that you apply this principle to the media that you’re consuming on a regular basis. The more negativity that you welcome into your life, the more anxious you’re going to be. Even if the two things seem completely unrelated. Maybe you followed a studying page on Instagram because you thought it would inspire you, but it turns out that it just makes you feel guilty for not studying enough and that makes you anxious.
Maybe, like most people, you listen to sad or angry music when you’re feeling sad, angry, or anxious. Consider how those things make you feel. Ruminating is something that humans have always done and probably always will. Sometimes it helps you feel sorry for yourself a little bit and then pull yourself out of it. But, if the media you are consuming is contributing to a negative mindset, or triggering you to feel anxious, guilty, or upset, it might be time to make some changes.
Going back to horror films as an example, you know how when you’re done with the movie, you put something else on? A comedy movie or a docuseries that you’ve seen a thousand times because it’s comforting and helps you relax? These are great ways to respond to the artificial anxiety that a scary movie creates. Think about how you can use this technique to respond to your real anxiety when it comes up.
5. Control What You Can, Relax When You Can’t
Like we touched on before, feeling anxious has a lot to do with feeling out of control. Maybe you are a perfectionist, maybe you hate unpredictability, maybe you don’t believe that you are capable of doing the things that you need to get done and that makes you feel powerless. There are a lot of things that can make you feel out of control and anxious. As much as it is uncomfortable to deal with, improving your relationship with the idea of control is one way that you can help deal with your anxiety. There are two ways that you can apply this strategy to your life.
Taking control of what you can is the first part. Think about what it’s like when you have a doctor’s appointment. If you were anxious that you were going to be late, you could set an extra alarm, or leave your house a little bit early. Those are examples of taking control of what you can control. When it comes to school, you can apply this in several ways. You can’t control how difficult an exam might be, but you can control how much you study. Maybe checking your email makes you anxious, or you have trouble going to bed because you’re thinking about everything you need to do the next day. Take advantage of the free apps online that help you manage your inbox, or try a to-do list like we suggested earlier that way you don’t have to worry about where to start when you wake up. When you start to feel anxious about something in college, think about what you can do right now. If there is something that you can do right in that moment, take control and do whatever that is.
Sometimes, you can’t do anything right away. That’s frustrating because you’re anxiety doesn’t really care about that. You’re anxious now. A good example of this is when you submit a paper or finish a test online and you’re waiting for it to be graded. Maybe thinking about the results makes you feel anxious. This is where the second part of this strategy comes in and it’s probably the most difficult part. Relax when you can’t control a situation. You submitted the assignment, you can’t make your professor grade it any faster, you already did the work, you can’t speed up time. Anxiety triggers your body into fight or flight mode even when there is nothing to fight and nothing to run from. Recognize that that’s going on and try to let go and focus on something else. A good thing to tell yourself when this type of anxious situation comes up is “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
6. Create a Routine for Yourself
A good way to practice taking control in your life is to establish a routine for yourself. College is the first experience in many people’s lives where you’re not being told what to do or where to go all of the time. This freedom is something that plenty of people thrive on but if you’re someone who is dealing with anxiety in college, it might not feel as liberating. Anxiety likes order. If you’re struggling with feeling a little bit lost with all the freedom to make decisions for yourself and that gets to the point that it is overwhelming and causing you anxiety, try creating a routine for yourself. A routine will provide you with a sense of stability; it also helps protect you from having to make decisions when you are having a particularly rough day and can’t stop worrying. You won’t have to worry about what to do next if you have a routine in place.
Easing the anxiety of having to make decisions is one way that you can help keep your worries at bay; however, there is another great reason to create a routine. Self care is one of the first things to get thrown out the window during periods of intense anxiety. Anxiety thrives when you don’t sleep enough, avoid your responsibilities, or aren’t eating right. These things push your body further into exhaustion. You also know how important it is to take care of yourself, so it creates more feelings of shame and anxiety when you aren’t doing them. Putting a routine in place will help you to build strong habits of self care. You can slowly incorporate things that you want to be doing by adding them to your routine over time, that way you are keeping the pressure very low on yourself and you’re establishing that self care is a more permanent part of your life. With a strong foundation of these habits, you won’t struggle to take care of yourself as much when you start to feel more anxious.
Another way to take this tip for dealing with anxiety in college is to create a routine for yourself when you feel anxious. If you have something coming up that you’re worried about or took a particularly difficult exam one day, you can sink into this routine to ease your mind. It could be something as simple as putting your favorite t-shirt on when you start to feel anxious, or a more elaborate routine like making your favorite snack, taking a bath, and watching a movie after a test. Having effective strategies for coping with anxiety in college is a process and it might take time to figure out what works best for you; but, creating a routine like this can help keep your mind from wandering off into worry and fear when you know you’re facing something particularly stressful.
7. Create an Anxiety Playlist
This is a great tip for dealing with anxiety in college that works for a lot of people. Music helps reframe your thinking. If you’re someone who really loves music, you can take some time to create a few playlists to listen to. Having the background noise might help you not to feel so anxious when you’re studying, or it could be a nice place of refuge to just chill out and listen to some music to help pull you out of the worried headspace that you’re in. Here’s a few ideas.
A study playlist is a good idea for a few reasons. The music is going to keep the wandering part of your mind occupied so you can devote your attention to absorbing the material instead of allowing your brain to drag you into an anxious spiral about how you might be doing in the class, what the test will be like, or whatever else you might be worried about. Anxiety also makes it difficult to focus. If you listen to the same playlist every time you study, you will train your brain to go into focus mode when it comes on.
An upbeat playlist could be helpful too. If you are someone who attends school on campus, you could create a playlist of some fun, positive music that puts you in a good mood to listen to while driving to school. If you’re going to an online college, you could turn these tunes on as you’re getting ready for your day or while you work on your assignments. One thing to remember is that music with words might be distracting if you’re actually working. Listening to some happy music releases happy chemicals in your brain which can help fight off worry. It can also help shake you out of a low mood or help you feel more awake, that way you are less likely to slip into some anxious thought patterns.
A true “anxiety” playlist might be the best one in your arsenal if you’re someone who experiences bursts of extreme anxiety or even panic attacks. Fun music is nice because it lifts your mood but when you are feeling extremely anxious, fast-paced or loud music can make you feel worse. One of our editors with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder swears by this method when he starts to feel an anxiety attack coming on. He suggests a playlist of softer, quieter songs that aren’t sad, and maybe some from your favorite artists or some you have positive memories attached to. The slower music will help slow your heart rate down and focusing on what you’re listening to can help you reign in your mind when it feels like its running down a one-way street to a panic attack.
8. Get Grounded
Grounding is a therapeutic technique that you may have heard of before. Almost everyone has a different approach to how they think grounding should be done and some of those approaches can seem pretty out there. However, grounding is a proven technique that we would be remiss not to suggest. Grounding techniques are used in patients with PTSD, self destructive urges, substance abuse, and more. It is a great strategy that pulls your mind out of that weird anxious place that it is in and puts you back in the present moment so you can handle what’s going on. Dealing with anxiety as a college student can be tough because you may not always be somewhere completely private when you start to get anxious. Another good thing about grounding is that it’s something you can do completely in your head and no other tools or supplies and it only takes a minute.
There are a lot of different grounding techniques. The most popular is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. To do this, when you’re feeling anxious, you should look around the room that you’re in and pick out five things that you can see, four things that you can hear, three things that you can touch, two things that you can smell, and one thing that you can taste. The order in which you address each of your senses isn’t necessarily important, though, feel free to mix the order up based on the circumstances. A tip from the experts about using this method suggests looking for things that you may not always pay attention to, such as quieter sounds or smaller details. This forces you to really focus on what’s going on around you and it is a great way to recenter your mind.
Another popular one is counting. Many people think that counting is something that will help you fall asleep because of the age old joke about counting sheep that we’re sure you’ve heard. Numbers actually engage your brain instead of relaxing it. Counting requires thought, because you have to remember the sequence of numbers, you have to think, and you have to pay attention. You can count down or up, run through a multiplication table, or do some other simple math in your head to help you focus on something else and quiet the anxious part of your brain.
There are mental, physical, and emotional techniques. We recommend experimenting with different techniques to figure out what works for you. Some techniques may work better for you in certain situations, depending on where you are and what exactly it is that you’re anxious about. We understand that it might feel a little bit silly at first if it is something you’ve never done before but you may be surprised at how effective it is for you.
9. Get Moving, Even if it’s Just a Little
We know you are probably well aware that exercise is good for you and that it’s something that you should try to do on a semi-regular basis. However, it’s worth pointing out because a lot of people neglect the fact that physical exercise improves mental health. It does so in a lot of ways. If you get your body moving, even just taking a walk a few times a week, it’s going to have a lot of lasting benefits on your wellbeing. Getting some exercise can help improve your confidence, reduce cortisol levels, and can provide a (healthy) welcome distraction from anxiety and other negative emotions.
You can try out yoga, even if it’s just a few Youtube videos in your room. Walking, jogging, biking, and plenty of other light exercises don’t require a lot of strength or equipment. You can try fitting it into your routine and see how it works for you. Regular exercise is a great choice for reducing anxiety in college because it establishes a habit of physical activity while you’re still young. That habit, if you can create a lasting one, will benefit your health for the rest of your life for obvious reasons. Regular exercise has also been proven to change the way that your body reacts to stress. It can lead to lower blood pressure, a lower resting heart rate, increase the chemicals that boost and stabilize mood in your brain, and it actually reduces the physiological response your body has in stressful situations.
While this is a good strategy to make a habit out of, don’t think that it can’t be used as a quick fix when you’re feeling extremely anxious. Like you’ve read, anxiety triggers your body’s fight or flight response. It raises your heart rate, increases adrenaline, and can cause a physical sense of restlessness. When you start to feel really anxious, try going for a short walk. If you’re working on a particularly stressful assignment or you’re watching a video lecture and having trouble understanding the concepts, whenever you can start to feel yourself becoming anxious, take a second to get moving. Do some light stretches if you can’t go for a walk. Do whatever works for you. The movement will help you clear your mind and uses up some of the extra energy your body is creating in response to the anxiety.
10. Keep a Journal
Anxiety is something that builds up inside us over time. The feelings that come along with anxiety have a tendency of just hanging around in our minds and coming back to haunt us at some of the most inconvenient times. This happens to a lot of students who have anxiety in college. You could be out with some friends and suddenly get hit with a wave of dread about the assignment you’ve been putting off or perhaps sitting at home for a weekend and you start stressing about your final exam in a few weeks. The problem is that these feelings just kind of bubble up to the surface sometimes and it can get your thoughts racing. Where do they go when they stop? Surely they aren’t really gone because you know you’re still worried about it.
Keeping a journal is a good way to give those thoughts somewhere to go. This is something that is recommended by psychiatrists, therapists, and professionals that come from all walks of life. When you sit down and write out your feelings, something wonderful happens. You have put it into something permanent, you have vented about it somewhere, and it no longer needs to hide in the corner of your mind just to creep back up on you when you have a ton of other things on your plate. Journaling also allows you to gain some perspective about the things you are anxious about. You can talk through how you’re feeling, what you’re really worried about, and it forces you to slow your mind down and really think about it. This relates to our strategy of changing the way you address your anxiety. When you look at it on paper, you have more room to think about a logical solution or approach to handling it.
Your journal doesn’t need to be anything special. You can use a spare notebook and a pencil if you’d like. If you are worried about someone getting ahold of it and reading it, you can choose to type it out instead on your computer or in the Notes app on your phone. You could also opt for getting a really nice journal and some pens that feel good to write with to make it a more enjoyable and immersive experience. The method doesn’t matter, your handwriting doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are getting your thoughts out so they have somewhere to go. This helps you to not feel so swarmed with your thoughts when you get anxious because you aren’t just bottling everything up until it explodes into a panic attack or causes you to feel completely shutdown and withdraw.
11. Keep Your Dorm or Room Tidy
When you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed with school, or with anything, clearing your mind is of the utmost importance. One thing we are sure that you know by now is that clearing your mind can feel impossible sometimes. This anxiety tip can help you in a multitude of ways. When you feel anxious, you can start to feel restless and you can feel like you can’t focus on anything. Getting up and tidying your dorm, your bedroom, or your house can be a great pathway to clearing your mind. It forces you to physically engage in an activity that requires you to focus. Also, the action of clearing the space that you live in will prompt your mind to start to feel more clear as well. You won’t feel as crowded. Having a clean, calm space to head back to after a long day will help you unwind better. You won’t be thinking about all of the schoolwork you have to do just to walk into a messy environment, putting another responsibility on your plate as well.
It is almost impossible to feel anxious about just one thing at once, so keeping your space clean can help you fight that feeling of being overwhelmed when you’re spending time in it. Getting rid of the clutter around you can help you if your anxiety makes it difficult for you to focus, too. When you are ready to start working on an assignment that you’ve been worrying about but you can’t find your laptop charger, or you don’t know where your car keys are when you have to leave for class in a few minutes can make you feel even more stressed out. It places barriers between you and the actions that you need to do, and anxiety makes it very difficult to move past those barriers. Having a place where you know where everything is and is clean can help you feel less anxious. It makes it easier to knock a few items off that to-do list you made.
When you are anxious, your brain starts to do something that it thinks is helpful when it isn’t, and that is shut down functions that it deems non-essential. Anxiety puts your body in a state kind of like survival mode. Almost all of your processing power is used up worrying so you may not have as much energy to dedicate to truly taking care of yourself. If you don’t already make it a habit to keep your space clean, a period of more intense anxiety can take that from bad to worse in just a matter of days. The more things build up in your living space and need to be put away, the bigger the challenge feels when you think about cleaning it up. It creates another pattern for you to feel ashamed that your room is dirty, stressed out because you don’t have the energy to clean, and anxious because you can’t be comfortable in a messy space.
If you take a few minutes every day to make sure everything is put away, you will have an easier time relaxing because it’s one less thing for your anxiety to create stress over.
12. Make Sure You’re Eating Enough
This tip may seem a little bit off the wall to some of you. It’s not a secret that proper nutrition is important when it comes to your mental health. In fact, a lot of vitamin deficiencies can have serious impacts on your mind. Not having enough Vitamin D can lead to depression and mood swings. Not having enough B12 in your diet, which is common for a lot of people who don’t eat much red meat, can lead to fatigue, confusion, and a laundry list of other symptoms. While it is important to make sure that you’re eating the right foods to get the nutrients you need, making sure you’re eating enough food, in general, is also very important.
Anxiety can make it hard to eat anything. This can be for a lot of reasons, like just feeling like you are too busy to eat or, in some people, anxiety can cause nausea. If you’re one of those people who get so anxious that you have trouble with food, you would be wise to keep an eye on that. Keep things around that are easy to digest like bananas, rice cakes, or soup. Things that are easy to just grab and eat are great for college students because of the busy lifestyle that many people adopt when they are in school. For a college student with anxiety, they can be lifesavers. You don’t have to think too much to prepare them and it’s easy to just grab something from the pantry while you’re thinking about it. Even if you’re experiencing a period of extreme anxiety, you should try to eat at least something if it’s been a few hours.
With that said, there is another reason that we brought this up. If you are someone who skips breakfast, or you’re following a diet or lifestyle in which you don’t eat a lot of carbs, there might be something else at work that is making you anxious. Having low blood sugar can cause irritability, tiredness, low body temperatures, and can also make you feel nervous or anxious. If you ever notice yourself starting to get a little bit more worried and irritable seemingly out of nowhere, think of the last time that you ate something.
Eating is also a really good way to take a moment to ground yourself and clear your head. Taking the time to prepare a meal and focus on what you’re doing can help you push anxiety out of your mind. Even if that’s not something that you have time to do, taking a break to eat without doing anything else can give you a much needed mental break as well as a physical one. Also, if you’re up late studying and find yourself searching for caffeine (which we’ll talk about later), you shouldn’t have too much of it on an otherwise empty stomach. That can lead to feelings of nervousness and can increase your heart rate. Too much caffeine mimics the physical effects of anxiety and can trigger it.
13. Practice Acceptance
This strategy for dealing with anxiety might be one of the most important. Anxiety does a lot of weird things in your brain. It can make you feel like you aren’t good enough, it can make you feel like you aren’t smart enough. It can make you feel childish. Because anxiety is often just worrying in circles, your mind can get creative in a bad way. One thing that we want you to remember is that your anxiety is a really great liar. You’re not a bad person, it’s not stupid to be worried, and there is nothing wrong with you. Plenty of people deal with anxiety on a daily basis, you aren’t in this alone, and there is nothing that you will have to face in college that you can’t handle. You’re smart enough. You’re capable. We encourage you to stop letting the anxious part of your mind put you down.
People have a habit of putting themselves down for having anxiety just as much as their anxiety tries to put them down, too. That’s what this anxiety tip for students is all about. You need to work on being patient with yourself. You need to work on having compassion for yourself. We’re sure that you know by now that if there was some magic switch that you could use to turn your anxiety off that you would have already done that. You know that anxiety, and managing it, is a process.
The first step in that process is accepting the fact that you have anxiety. If you get bouts of acute anxiety or if you’re struggling with chronic anxiety, you would do well to just accept that there is a part of your mind that thinks that way. Accept that you’re an anxious person instead of beating yourself up or trying to force it to stop. Accept that sometimes you are going to feel anxious and that is going to come with a lot of negative feelings. If you work on accepting that, you will have a better outlook when it comes to managing it. You will be prepared when your anxiety tells you that you’re going to fail a test. You will be prepared for when your anxiety convinces you that you don’t have friends. Whatever it is that your mind gets stuck on, if you accept the fact that you have anxiety then you will have a better understanding of what triggers that response in you. You will have a better understanding of how you need to take care of yourself to keep those thoughts at bay.
Stop making yourself feel guilty about being worried. Making yourself feel ashamed starts the cycle all over again, as you’ve read about a few times now. Understand that there are some things you will need to practice dealing with before it starts coming naturally. It’s just part of your process and that’s perfectly okay.
14. Prove Yourself Wrong
A quote that a lot of people like to use when it comes to dealing with mental health challenges and self-improvement is to “do one thing each day that scares you.” When it comes to having anxiety in college, you might be faced with a lot of things that scare you and the idea of going out and doing them on purpose can be mortifying; however, there is some merit in the quote. Instead of putting yourself in situations that you know are going to make you anxious just because some “motivational” Instagram said so, though, think about it as a test.
You know that anxiety isn’t very logical. If you approach certain situations in a logical way, though, you can start undoing the patterns of anxiety that you tend to slip into. You can treat it like a science experiment, almost. Because you’re feeling anxious about something, you think that you’re going to fail or that you’re not going to have a good time but, you could just try. If you have a big test that you’re worried about and you end up doing really well on it, celebrate that. Think about how nervous you were and then ask yourself, “What was I afraid of?” Show yourself that you can do it and that not all of those negative predictions that your anxiety causes you to make end up being correct.
When you do something that you didn’t want to do because you were nervous and someone else says, “that wasn’t so bad, was it?” it feels extremely condescending. Saying it to yourself is a completely different experience. It encourages you to realize that not everything turns out as bad or as uncomfortable as your anxiety makes it seem like it will. By taking a moment to test out different situations and acknowledge that it didn’t turn out the way you thought it would when you were anxious, you are confronting your fears with reason. Even if it’s just something small, you can work with this strategy to become more comfortable about things like taking a test, raising your hand, emailing that teacher, or whatever it may be.
So, maybe the idea of doing one thing every day that scares you isn’t going to work for everyone; however, when you start actively trying to do a few things that you’re uncomfortable with, it’s like practice. It’s a lot like going to a restaurant with your parents when you were younger. When you weren’t familiar with the ordering process, you weren’t really sure what to say or if you were doing it right the first few times. Now that you’re used to it, even if it isn’t your favorite thing to do, the fear doesn’t stop you in your tracks anymore. Using this strategy, you can experiment with overcoming your anxiety in small ways that are comfortable to you. Eventually, hopefully, you will stop worrying about some things at all.
15. Schedule Time to Worry
Planning out time to worry may seem counterintuitive, but it can be a very effective way to handle anxiety in college. This is actually very simple. Set aside a few minutes every day to just think about the things that you’re anxious about right now and what you can do about them. You could do it while you’re brushing your teeth, or driving to work, for instance. Dedicating time to think about your anxiety can be really helpful for a few reasons.
The first reason why this might be a good approach for you is that it gives you space to think about an active solution to the things that you’re worried about. If you are very anxious about a paper that you need to do, carving out time to worry about it might help you come up with a plan of attack when it comes to getting it done. If you’re anxious about an event coming up or something like that, something that is in the future, you can worry about it when you gave yourself the time to do so and then you can focus on the rest of your day because this event is in the future. If there is nothing that you can do to solve the problem right now, then there is no reason to let it disrupt your entire day. Giving yourself space to think about these things gives them a space to exist in so they won’t distract you from more important things that you need to be focused on.
Another reason that this is a good technique is that it can act as a pause button. If you’re in the middle of something and you feel yourself starting to become anxious about something that isn’t relevant to what you’re working on, this gives you a solid method for dismissing it. If you’re in the middle of doing one of the required readings for one of your classes and you start to think about your math lecture the next day or what you’re going to wear to lunch on Friday, stop yourself. Tell yourself that you can think about it during your worry time but you need to focus right now. This is a good method because you’re not just disregarding it or trying to ignore it, you’re telling yourself that you’ll come back to it. By the time that little bit of time you set aside to be anxious rolls around, you may not even be concerned about it anymore.
A caveat to this tip is to not sit around and consider all of the bad things that could happen, and not to sit there and let your mind go wild with negative thoughts and fears that you have. Choose to think about a situation, consider what you’re worried about that could go wrong, and try to think about how you can fix it, or how you can let go of it. If you allow yourself to wallow in the world of “what if,” you might end up not helping yourself at all. This approach may not work for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a shot.
16. Set Realistic Expectations of Yourself
College is going to change a lot of things about your life. You are going to have a lot more freedom but it goes without saying that your responsibilities, priorities, and your lifestyle are all going to change completely. All of your experience thus far has likely been filled with clear deadlines and set schedules. You know the bus comes at seven in the morning, you know that English class starts at eight and math at nine. Everything that you have experienced as far as school goes has been on a set schedule that didn’t require a lot of thought or planning on your part. The same is true of the other activities you may have been part of. You knew that you would see your friends at practice, or you knew that you would be meeting them at the mall on Saturday. Everything was pretty much stuck to a single schedule.
When you go to college, you have to be prepared for that to change and you need to practice setting realistic expectations. You are going to be responsible for getting up and going to class if you attend a campus; you are going to be responsible for setting time aside to work on your courses if you’re going to an online college. If you know that you’re not a morning person, or if you have a job that keeps you later at night, don’t take that eight am. If you’re someone who stuck with the same friend group through most of high school, understand that it might be a little bit weird trying to make new friends or that your schedules may not line up so perfectly anymore. Setting realistic expectations has a lot to do with being prepared to accept that college is going to change your life.
You should also set realistic expectations when it comes to doing your actual school work. Break things down. How much can you do in one week? How many courses do you think you have the time and energy to focus on each semester? Don’t compare it to you in high school and try not to compare yourself to any other college students you know. The worst thing you can do if you are anxious about college is fall into the trap of spreading yourself too thin. If you exceed the expectations that you set for yourself, consider it a win! However, when you set unrealistic expectations for yourself and then you fall short of them, it creates a perfect doorway for shame and anxiety to walk right in. That is what you want to avoid with this tip.
We also want to point out that it is completely normal to fall short of your own expectations. It doesn’t make you a failure when things didn’t go as planned. Take a look and what is working and what isn’t and don’t be afraid to make changes or ask for help. There is a fine line between putting pressure on yourself and understanding your own potential. Sometimes it is hard to unblur that line when you have anxiety.
17. Stay Away from Substances
This may be a controversial tip but we feel that it is important to talk about it. College is fun. It’s often the first taste of freedom, your first excursion into adulthood, and it’s awesome. You are going to have a lot of opportunities to make new friends, try new things, and start exploring the world and finding your place in it. There is nothing wrong with going to parties. There is nothing wrong with having a few drinks if you are of legal age. There’s nothing wrong with having an iced coffee on your afternoon break if it’s something you enjoy. With that said, it is important to understand that a lot of different substances can cause or intensify your anxiety. You should always be smart about what you’re putting in your body.
We will start with caffeine, which is the most widely used drug around the world. Caffeine is most often associated with coffee and energy drinks because that is where you will find the most of it but there are a lot of things that contain caffeine like soda, tea, and chocolate. Caffeine is a reliable way to help keep yourself alert when you’re getting sleepy and many people swear by its ability to increase focus, memory, and mood. Abstinence isn’t always key with caffeine because it might be truly helpful. If you drink a lot of caffeinated beverages, you could be addicted to it and not even know. Abstaining from caffeine, in that case, could lead to minor withdrawal symptoms like headaches and irritability. The thing to remember with caffeine is that it is psychoactive. It is a nervous system stimulant that keeps you awake, increases your heart rate, and can cause side effects like nervousness. If you have anxiety, caffeine can make it worse. If you’re not typically anxious and you notice that starts to change when you increase your caffeine intake, slow down a little bit.
Alcohol is something that you’re probably going to see in college. A lot of people like to take advantage of their newfound freedom by having or attending parties and that’s perfectly fine. If you are of legal drinking age and want to have a beer or two with your friends, as long as you’re being responsible, there is nothing wrong with it at all. However, you should understand that alcohol is a nervous system depressant. It alters the levels of serotonin and other important neurotransmitters and that can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and depression. It can take several days for those levels to return to normal. Alcohol can also disrupt sleep patterns and will dehydrate you. If you choose to drink, be mindful of the way that it may affect you. You might decide that it isn’t worth it at all. We’d also like to note that if you have chronic anxiety or another mental illness that you are actively taking medication for, you should not drink alcohol under any circumstances.
There are a lot of other substances that you may encounter in college because you’re around an entirely new set of people. We want to take a moment to discourage any illegal activity and say a few things about these substances. Drugs, even prescription ones, can worsen or cause anxiety and other mental and physical health problems. Drug use can lead to addiction and dependency. You should be careful not to put yourself in harm’s way by using them. If you or someone you know is currently struggling with substance abuse or is using illicit drugs as a coping mechanism, speak up. You’re not alone, you have nothing to be ashamed of, and you can get better. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers several free and confidential resources.
18. Take a Break
A lot of people describe anxiety as being paralyzing. For many people, that’s the case. There are some people who have a completely different reaction to anxiety, though. Sometimes people react to anxiety by needing to be busy. It makes sense. The restlessness and excessive adrenaline in your body need to be spent and a lot of people spend it by keeping themselves busy. Maybe you are someone who stress cleans, or perhaps you just have trouble relaxing when you actually have the time to do so. Anxiety can make you feel like you have too much energy in the short term and it can make you feel like your mind just never stops so you need your body to keep up. This is something that will inevitably lead to burn out.
Anxiety itself is tiring, both mentally and physically. When you have anxiety, your body prepares itself for an emergency with a rush of cortisol, adrenaline, and energy. If you spend a lot of time feeling anxious, that means your body is always in this mode and at the ready, even if the threat is simply perceived and not present. This wears your body out. It can be bad for your heart, bad for your veins, and even bad for your skin. Stress is very physical. So, when your body is under this stress on a consistent basis or even constantly, you are becoming tired even if you don’t feel it. Overactivity because you feel the need to be doing something wears you out more. This isn’t sustainable at all.
Learning how to take a break can be difficult if you’re someone who deals with your anxiety in this way but it is important. Even if you’re not someone who is overactive and you’re dealing with anxiety, you truly need to learn how to take a break. Laying in bed for several days under the guise of self-care isn’t a good idea; however, taking a night in, taking a night off, doing something you enjoy and not focusing on your worries for a while is completely necessary. You have to allow yourself time to recharge. Promise yourself you will come back to it, like in the scheduled worry time approach. Unplug for a day, spend some time outside, call a family member or friend, do something that you enjoy but never have time to do. Whatever it is that helps you to just check out for a while, do that. Get some rest. You have more to lose by burning yourself out to the point of exhaustion or mentally shutting down than you do by consciously choosing to take a step back.
It can be difficult to take a breather when you’re in college and have so much on your plate and are dealing with anxiety. Think of it like this: When you are on an airplane and they give the safety demonstration, they instruct you to put your own oxygen mask on first should anything go wrong. The reason that they tell you to do this is that a lack of oxygen can lead to confusion and anxiety before the dizziness and eventual loss of consciousness. You need to make sure that you are okay first that way you can effectively react to the situation and help others. Taking a break when you’re feeling anxious works the exact same way. If you don’t take a breath and clear your mind, if you don’t take time to relax, you’re going to run yourself ragged and won’t be able to handle the things that you need to. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break.
19. Try A Natural Remedy
If you are someone who experiences anxiety on a regular basis or you know there are certain situations that put you into an anxious state, natural remedies could really help. You should never take any substances or supplements that you’re unfamiliar with; however, doing some research and thinking about what’s out there could be of great benefit to you. There are a lot of different herbal teas and herbal supplements that are proven to help ease anxiety and help you relax and focus. We’ll talk about a few here.
Magnesium is the most widely talked about. It has been used as a home remedy for anxiety, irritability, headaches, insecurity, and more. Some cultures have sworn by it for centuries. It is a mineral that your body needs for several functions but it has a proven track record when it comes to anxiety. It can be found in nuts, dark chocolate, avocados, and some varieties of fish. You can also purchase it over the counter as a supplement. It absorbs quickly into the body and is a natural muscle relaxer and anxiolytic.
Valerian root is another good natural remedy for anxiety. You may be familiar with valerian if you’re a fan of sleepy herbal tea blends as it is a staple in most of them. Valerian has acids in it that are translated into GABAs in the body when you consume it. These acids are specifically responsible for regulating the activity of the neurons in your brain and helping you calm down. It can cause drowsiness. We don’t recommend that you take a valerian supplement or drink it in an herbal tea early in the day or if you plan to operate a motor vehicle.
Lastly, you could always try CBD oil. CBD is a cannabinoid that is found in the cannabis and hemp plants. It is not psychoactive like THC is, which means that it can’t get you high. A lot of people have heard about CBD as it has risen to popularity but don’t have a lot of information on why it works. You have an Endocannabinoid System that is part of your nervous system and it interacts with the cannabinoids that you put into your body and can help with multiple health problems and boost overall wellness. CBD has been researched as a treatment option for anxiety as far back as the 1970s. CBD binds to your cannabinoid receptors and can mimic the effects of serotonin. It can improve your mood, reduce anxiety, reduce your body’s response to stress, and promote restful sleep. You can buy CBD at plenty of local health stores or online. Just remember, CBD is legal in all fifty states as long as it is sourced from industrial hemp and not directly from the cannabis plant.
20. Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help
This is a very simple tip but it is important. If you feel like your anxiety has gotten out of control or you feel like it is disrupting your life to the point that you are struggling to be happy and do the things that you need to do, do not be afraid to seek help. If you feel like you can’t control your anxiety, if you are having panic attacks, nightmares, trouble concentrating in school, or you feel like you don’t really enjoy anything anymore, please talk to someone.
We wanted to make it a point to tell you again that you are not in this alone. There is a lot of strength in putting your hands up and saying that you can’t do it all on your own. No one expects you to do it all on your own. It is not immature, weak, or a sign of failure if you need to talk to someone about your anxiety. You, your health, your happiness, and your success are too important to let fear dominate and disrupt your life.
You can talk to a friend. You can talk to your parents. You can talk to your teachers. You can talk to your doctor. You can talk to your counselor. No one is going to be disappointed in you. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Needing help is a fact of life sometimes. It’s perfectly normal. If you are not comfortable seeking out counseling services from your college or confronting your doctor about what you’re going through, please see the resources at the bottom of this article for alternative options for seeking help. If you do decide to make that call, we’re proud of you. We know that you’re going to get through this.
Is Anxiety Normal?
Yes. Anxiety is normal in the sense that it is something that almost everyone experiences. Acute anxiety happens around big life events or when you’re exposed to new situations and it is a sense of nervousness that a lot of people experience from time to time. Anxiety is your body’s response to stress and, as you know, stress is something that everyone experiences as well. It is perfectly normal to feel anxious sometimes and it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you.
Chronic anxiety is also normal in the same sense. A huge percentage of Americans experience chronic anxiety, which is characterized by persistent and excessive fear, stress, or worry, sometimes without any clear cause. It is abnormal in the sense that it is not something that you have to live with. It’s not the way that our minds were meant to function. If you’re dealing with chronic anxiety, it could just be that you’re a natural worrier. It could also signify that you need to improve your mental health or that there is some unresolved psychological or physiological problem that is causing your body and brain to respond that way. Even though it isn’t necessarily the way that everyone’s brain works, it’s still normal. It doesn’t mean that you are crazy; it doesn’t reflect negatively on who you are as a person at all.
When your anxiety becomes too much for you to handle or impairs your ability to enjoy life or complete your responsibilities, that is when it truly tips into the territory of not being normal. However, if that is something that you’re experiencing, there are plenty of resources and even treatment options that you could explore.
Is Anxiety a Mental Illness?
The clearest answer to this question is no. Anxiety itself, as you just read, is a perfectly normal part of the human experience. Both acute and chronic anxiety are normal and can be improved or completely eradicated just by changing the way that you think and approach the world. With that said, though, anxiety can be a symptom of mental illness.
If you find that your anxiety is completely debilitating or you feel like it rules or is ruining your life, you may have a type of mental illness that is classified as an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of mental illnesses that are all characterized by severe, chronic anxiety that disrupts your ability to be a functional person. There is panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and there are specific phobias. All of these conditions fall under the category of being an anxiety disorder. These mental illnesses all share a common thread of symptoms that are focused around anxiety.
These symptoms can include heart palpitations, insomnia, restlessness, fear, nausea, and dizziness, among others. These symptoms can happen to anyone in a period of anxiety; however, if you are dealing with an anxiety disorder, these symptoms are more severe and occur more often. If you’re concerned that you might have an anxiety disorder, we strongly recommend that you bring it up to your doctor or a trusted mental health professional. You can’t diagnose, treat, or cure any mental illness on your own.
Anxiety in itself is not a mental illness. Anxiety is a natural response to stressors or triggering events and it is something that everyone experiences. Having anxiety doesn’t mean that you’re sick, crazy, or broken in any way. If you are someone who is concerned that you may need professional help confronting and coping with your anxiety, you should talk to someone you trust. It may also make you feel better to know that anxiety is the most treatable mental health issue that a person can experience. Most of the time, it can be treated without any medications. Further, there are several different categories of medications and a myriad of treatment methods. Don’t get discouraged if you’re getting help and you’re still having a hard time. Everyone experiences anxiety differently and everyone needs to cope with their anxiety differently. You will find what works for you.
When Is It Time to Seek Help?
Everyone has different limits that are personal to them and everyone experiences life, trauma, stress, and emotions differently. Because that is the case, it is hard to tell a general audience if it is time to get help. What one person is able to cope with on their own could be completely overwhelming to another person and that’s okay, neither of them are wrong. Everyone truly does experience anxiety differently. Everyone is going to need to go through their own process of handling anxiety, whether it is acute and situational or chronic and feels like it’s always looming over you.
There are a few key signs that you may want to look out for in your life or in the lives of the people you care about, though. If any or all of these things feel true to you, it might be time to go ahead and reach out to someone.
- You feel like you spend so much time and energy worrying that you don’t have time for anything else.
- You notice patterns of behavior in which you are struggling to fulfill your responsibilities at work, school, or home because you’re too worried.
- You feel like your anxiety prevents you from being able to live your life.
- You no longer do things that you enjoy doing because of your anxiety.
- You actively avoid voicing your opinions or talking about your feelings because you are afraid of conflict or how others will react to the point that it is affecting your relationships.
- You feel like you are very easily fatigued or notice that you are worrying yourself to the point of exhaustion.
- You have failed to complete a vital responsibility out of fear, such as giving a presentation at work or school.
- Your anxiety is causing you to withdraw from the people you care about.
- You avoid interacting with people due to your anxiety.
- You are having frequent or regular panic attacks.
- You feel like you are no longer capable of leaving your house or your room due to anxiety.
- You have been generally anxious for a period of three weeks or more without an obvious trigger or stressor. (An obvious trigger could be something like a car accident or a death in the family.)
If you notice one, a few, or all of these behaviors, it might be time. Also, psychiatrist Dr. Dennis-Tiwary says that if you are debating whether or not you need help, it might be time to lower the bar. If you know that you’re not yourself, take care of it. You deserve to.
What Resources Are Available if I’m Struggling?
If you are struggling with anxiety or any of the other problems that we’ve touched on in this article, here are some things you can do to get the help that you need.
Contact the Mental Health or Counseling Services Center at your college. Every school has one and students have access to it at any time. There are counselors and psychiatrists that work at your school that are there to help you through situations like this. In the event that you need some more help that they’re not able to provide, they will know what local resources to provide you so that you can get it.
You can always talk to your primary care physician or family doctor or your parents if you are having trouble as well. They will be able to help you out of whatever situation you are in, even if it feels inescapable. It can be hard to open up, we understand that, but please remember that you can go to any doctor, trusted family member, or trusted faculty member at your university. They will be able to help find you the right kind of help if you feel that it is what you need.
Finally, here are some additional resources that you can explore on your own if you don’t feel like you can talk to anyone about what you’re going through.
- The U.S. Department of Health & Human Service Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA
- The SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline Hotline, 1-800-273-8255
- National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH