10 Ways To Deal With Overwhelming Anxiety In College
Anxiety in college is common. Finding healthy coping mechanisms for anxiety is not as common. All of us are guilty of occasionally worrying and sinking to the bottom of a pessimistic bowl of overthinking, stress, and doom.
It wasn’t until I began college, that the words anxious and anxiety became normalized and familiar.
Anxiety is something that plagues all ages, economic backgrounds, and lifestyles. You can make money and still feel anxious over your finances.
You can have friends and still feel social anxiety.
It's also possible to seem like a carefree easy going person, who handles the world with ease, and still feel anxious.
Before we learn 10 healthy coping mechanisms for anxiety (especially while in college) we’ll discuss 5 common reasons for why students feel anxious.
Why do college students feel greater anxiety?
1- There’s not enough time in the day
Anxiety in college is often linked to productivity. If someone asked you how your day was, chances are your response is connected to your ability to get things done.
But when you spend hours of your day in a class, commuting, studying, working, and being social, it’s impossible to give equal attention to each. And this feeling of having "too much to do and not enough time" can increase anxiety in college students.
Working on top of going to school becomes a challenge if you don't have a work-life balance.
2- Lack of job security
Young adults face anxiety when it comes to finances and even the act of "adulting" in general because everything needs money.
Adulting - the act of being independent and living life to the fullest
In order to move out on your own, experience the world, decide you don’t want to work...you need money.
Finding time to make yourself an attractive job applicant is key to lessening your anxiety in college.
3- Lack of knowledge on life after college
What will you do after graduation? What is life like after you graduate?
There is so much uncertainty regarding what happens when you no longer dedicate time slots to sitting in a classroom or staring at a homework assignment. Anxiety in college is increased when we feel unprepared for what will come next.
Feeling unprepared is a common anxiety trigger.
4- High expectations
Anxiety in college increases when doing your best doesn't result in outcome you expected.
My anxiety in college skyrocketed during 2020, when I had a rough transition to working and learning remotely.
Productivity at home is not the same as productivity in a normal work environment. It was common for students with anxiety to place pressure on themselves instead of adjusting their expectations.
Some students thrive in a remote environment while others do not
Worrying about how to make more money after college is a common source of anxiety. This comes from not having experience, not having enough credentials, and the pressure placed on a 20something year old to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives.
Note: Most people change careers or jobs every few years. We are built for evolution.
Then, as we continue planning for all angles of life, it becomes easier to teeter closer to feelings of self doubt and in the end, anxiety.
With the help of hours of research, anxiety workshops, and speaking with health professionals, I have managed to develop a healthy range of coping mechanisms when it comes to how you can manage anxiety while in college.
Students ages 17-25 are more likely to feel anxious and then attempt to muffle their feelings instead of dealing with them.
Muffling your emotions isn’t just burying how you feel it’s also attempting to numb them through consuming alcohol excessively or indulging in harmful behavior.
Here are 10 things that can help you manage your anxiety.
1 - Express gratitude as soon as you wake up
The words you say represent your past, present, and future. - Robert T. Kiyosaki
If you can say 3 things (no matter how small) that you are grateful for, it helps you to stay in the present moment.
The more present we stay the clearer our thoughts are.
Some easy to remember examples of gratitude include acknowledging what you may have that others do not.
I’m grateful that I have a car to drive to work.
I’m grateful that I could buy a new ---
I’m grateful for hot water on this cold day
The more often you take a few seconds to wrap your mind around thoughts of gratitude the easier it will become.
We worry about what will happen in the future but when you have healthy coping mechanisms, dealing with anxiety in college becomes less of a chore.
2- Take some intentional deep breaths
Engaging in various breathing activities is another healthy coping mechanism for anxiety.
Try breathing in and out while counting.
One of my favorite breathing techniques, that you can do when you're dealing with anxiety in college or in a workplace, is to breathe in a pattern.
Breathing technique for anxiety in college
Breathe in for 4 seconds
Hold for 2 seconds
Breathe out for 6 seconds
Hold for 2 seconds
It ends up sounding like 4,2,6,2.
The air rushes through your body, clears your mind, decreases heart rate, and subconsciously you may even begin to become more aware of tense muscles.
Healthy coping mechanisms that you can do without others noticing are crucial to managing anxiety.
3- Talk about your movements
Think about the last time you bent down to tie your shoe and talked about it outlaid.
You were grabbing the laces, forming two bunny ears, going under the bridge and making a knot.
For many of us, the last time we outlined an activity was when we were in a math class or even learning a new recipe. Yet that is exactly what you will be doing when you mindfully engage in an activity.
My favorite, and another way that I express gratitude, is to wash my hands slowly in the morning with warm water.
The warmth wakes me up gently and lets me know I’m about to start my day. On the days where I wake up and my anxiety is running free, it’s crucial that I pay attention to all sensations that are around me.
Feet against a cold floor, hands curling around a mug, the texture of a doorknob, all of it can help to calm my anxiety in college.
The more you pay attention to the small details the less you focus on what is making you feel dread, worry, or any other anxious thoughts.
4- Quickly jot down what you are worried about
Grab a piece of paper, use the notes app in your phone, and write down what you are worried about.
In this moment you are free to express yourself. Sometimes being stressed and anxious is linked to not being able to get the thoughts out of our heads.
Schedule worry time
Worry time is when you pick a time and day to write down all of your worries.
When we feel anxiety in college it can be hard to confide in people because we don’t know if they will understand what we are going through.
Scheduling worry time lets yourself know that when you say “we will think about this later” that you actually will think about it later.
Not only will you build trust in yourself but you will alleviate stress and worry in the present moment.
Anxiety tells us that we have to think about something no matter how inappropriate the timing but when we schedule worry time we have more control. Essentially we are telling ourselves you don’t have to think about this now but your feelings are valid.
5- Ask yourself if you’re hungry, thirsty, or tired
When we haven’t eaten in awhile, drank some water, and aren’t sleeping properly it’s harder to have keep ourselves regulated.
Doing a body check-in can alleviate the strain you’re experiencing by not taking care of your physical needs.
6- Ask yourself if thinking about this right now is beneficial
Am I safe?
Is this a good time to think about this?
Will thinking about this help me in this moment?
Can I think about this later?
Often when we ask questions to guide ourselves and have more clarity, we feel more at ease.
Feeling more at ease helps to promote safety and feeling safe means you are less likely to indulge in unhealthy coping mechanisms.
7. Get moving
Related Post: 38 free ways to practice self care
8- Write down a list of things you have to do
Make a to do list, get organized, get the thoughts out of your head and out infront of you.
If you find that your to do list is long and overwhelming one tip for coping with anxiety in college is to make time for the things that are deemed urgent.
Getting an assignment done that’s due at 11:59pm? Urgent
Going out with your friends instead of catching up in a phone call? Not as urgent
It’s all about finding a balance between what you value, what needs to be prioritized, and what you can look forward to happening.
Related Post: How to set financial goals
9- Repeat affirmations
When someone says that affirmations do not work for them it just means that they haven’t found the right ones.
Some affirmations will make you feel super amped up and energetic and others will make you question whether you are a permanent pessimist.
When I feel anxious, my affirmations come in the form of challenging the thought that is ringing in my head.
Instead of saying “I’m such a failure” you can say “Things don’t always work out but I’m trying my best”.
If your mind is telling you to run, ask yourself if you are safe. If the answer is yes, affirm that it is safe to relax. If the answer is no, then listen to your gut and excuse yourself from the situation.
Having healthy coping mechanisms means finding what works best for you.
Check out these affirmations for dealing with anxiety. If the first one you try doesn’t feel natural keep searching.
Before long, you might find yourself repeating a song verse, a bible verse, or that one piece of advice a teacher gave you that finally makes sense.
Affirmations are self soothing and help you to regulate your body’s response to dealing with anxiety in college.
10- Apply pressure to pressure points
Accupuncture is the use of pressure on sensitive parts of the body. When tapped, touched, and pricked in the right way your body releases tension.
One of the physical responses to stress and anxiety is the tensing of muscles and irregular breathing.
For example, by allowing the tip of your finger to tap the sensitive spot between your eyes (aka the slight dip that is the base of your nose) you may be able to calm your breathing, release facial tension and feel better during an anxious moment.
HealthLine.com does a great job of pointing out different pressure points in the body.
Different methods will work on different days. Be kind to yourself. It may be frustrating to be in a moment of full blown anxiety and unable to immediately calm yourself, but allow yourself room to try.
When negative thoughts start to swim in ask yourself is that something you'd say to a friend. Usually we treat our friends who are suffering with more compassion than we will ourselves. Be your own friend.
Mental health is something that a lot of people struggle with but often do not recognize. We normalize constantly dealing with stress, feeling anxious, and overthinking to the point where we forget that our lives can be different.
We can learn how to recognize our stressors/triggers and become better equipped to handle our anxiety in college.
Let us know in the comments how your anxiety has been and what you have been doing to manage it!
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