How to Manage Anxiety at College

From deadlines to a busy social life to working a part-time (or even full-time) job, college has many built-in stressors that cause students anxiety. In addition to the stress of having many responsibilities and commitments, college students often experience tremendous change in unfamiliar environments. They may live in a new place each year with new people, have classes in new parts of campus, and study under different professors — all of which can feel frightening or destabilizing.

For you as a student, as the pressure builds, you may begin to experience some mental-health issues, such as anxiety. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways you can cope. And with finals right around the corner, now is the perfect time to educate yourself about managing anxiety at college.

How Anxiety Impacts People

Anxiety disorders create a number of symptoms that, when combined, can create feelings of overwhelm, worry, insecurity, and sadness. If you feel irritable much of the time, feel fearful, experience your muscles tense and ache, get tired easily, experience restlessness, have trouble concentrating, and dread certain activities, you may be dealing with anxiety. In addition, anxiety can cause you to worry excessively and prevent you from getting enough sleep. If you’re experiencing several of these symptoms, consult a trained counselor or a medical professional; they can help.

Managing Anxiety

There are several ways you can reduce your anxiety. For starters, it’s important to have a strong, reliable support system. Enlist your parents, a sibling, a roommate, sorority sister or frat brother, or close friend to be on call when you need a dose of positivity or you need to vent your frustrations. You may also want to take advantage of on-campus counseling so that talk therapy and other treatment options can help you deal with your anxiousness.

It’s also important to take care of your body. Though college life doesn’t lend itself to a regular sleep schedule, getting adequate rest is one way to alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety. Don’t overlook the importance of eating three healthy meals each day. Because exercise helps reduce stress, you need to find time to walk, jog, or bike each week (preferably in the sun so you get some helpful Vitamin-D). Want to give yourself a boost of power and energy? Participate in an on-campus Zumba or aerobics class. When you take good care of your body, your mental health follows suit.

The physical elements of getting active can help relieve anxiety but there’s a social benefit as well. When you participate with people who share your interests, it’s easier to stay active, motivated, positive, and accountable. Check out clubs devoted to causes, hobbies, and the arts to find a group that’s right for you so you can meet your people and support one another. Sometimes just being around other people is enough to take the edge off when you feel anxious.

Don’t Self-Medicate

One of the best reasons to see a counselor is to get an understanding of your anxiety and its causes and some guidance on how to address the issues, whether through therapy or medication. What you don’t want to do is self-medicate. Alcohol may chase away your anxiety for a couple of hours at a party, but it’s actually a depressant. That means you can end up feeling more sad and anxious after consuming alcohol.

If you’re anxious about studying for a big test, avoid energy drinks, tons of coffee or other caffeine, and any performance-enhancing substances. Though they might give you a brief burst of energy, they’ll leave you feeling down when the buzz dissipates. In fact, caffeine contributes to irritability and restlessness, two symptoms of anxiety disorders.

To keep yourself on the right track, engage with your support system, get help from a counselor, and avoid substances that heighten anxiety symptoms. And breathe consciously to settle your heart rate and your blood pressure. You’ll be surprised how just the simple acts of taking time to stop, to look around at your surroundings, and to inhale and exhale fully can bring the chill.

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