College has a unique mix of scenarios that can trigger anxiety. There are lots of built-in pressures to prove oneself, succeed academically, manage your time, money and priorities. Additionally, everything is new. There are opportunities for fun that are really tempting might not be good for you and the support that used to be there may not be anymore. Toss ADHD into the mix and you can see how many students end up feeling anxious.
Though every student has a unique blend of issues that make up their particular anxiety cocktail, there are certainly some trends. Perhaps one group of students put so much pressure on themselves that they become paralyzed with fear. Another group of students loads up on too many great opportunities and the anxiety starts to show as they get weighed down by their commitments. Perhaps some other students had never failed before and once they taste failure in one area they panic about potentially failing at something else. Many of our anxious students have picked up some astoundingly bad sleep habits or other habits that make them more susceptible to anxiety.
I don’t want to paint too bleak a picture; I’ve found anxious college students to be astoundingly willing and able to overcome their struggles and to thrive. Here are a few tips:
- It makes some sense to start with getting a bit of sleep, exercise, and healthy food. It is way easier to feel good when you’ve taken care of the basics.
- If you’re worried about one specific thing that is causing anxiety go ahead and schedule a short amount of time to assess and troubleshoot the situation. Don’t allow yourself to worry without boundaries, you have too many other things to do. Give your issue the time it deserves and address it. If it isn’t currently your scheduled time to address this issue then dismiss it… you have time set aside for this. Instead pay attention to what is currently going on around you.
- Talk to your “right person”. Most people have one or more friends that they can depend upon for level-headed conversation. You need someone who makes you feel secure while helping you into action (if needed) so that you succeed. You can even let them know you need help and that your goal is to feel secure so you can act and succeed.
- Keep careful track of your successes. This isn’t likely the only time that in your life when anxiety is a problem. Were there times in the past where you transitioned out of anxiety? What did you do? How do you think the anxiety went away? Your emotions are not always as out of control as they may feel. Often our actions and attitudes will impact your emotions. Sometimes our emotions are astoundingly formulaic and we can change our mood by following the same actions that changed our mood *last* time. Also, it is really heartening to know that you can and have succeeded in transitioning from anxious to some other, better emotion.
If you are dealing with anxiety in college, you are not alone. You’re not even close to alone. There are many, many, many other students who are dealing with varying levels of anxiety, and many others who have learned to overcome or at least deal well with it. Like any other issue that life deals to you, take action, get help, be well.