Anxiety is a common problem faced by many people who wouldn’t even consider it a mental health issue. Due to the pressures and worries of academic and social life, college students are especially susceptible to anxiety.
The American Psychological Association (APA) describes anxiety as “an emotional state marked by sensations of unease, worried thoughts, and physiological changes such as elevated blood pressure.”
According to a 2018 assessment by the American College Health Association, 63 percent of college students in the United States reported overwhelming anxiety. To help students manage this anxiety, we’ve gathered insights and expert advice on coping strategies.
Lean on family and existing friends
It always helps to hear that old, familiar and loving voice that doesn’t question or judge, only supports. If you’re feeling homesick, there’s no shame in calling home for some extra FaceTime. If you can, steal some time off and make that trip back home, especially if your schedule allows it.
Remember, time is the most important thing in our lives, and it should be spent with benefit and pleasure. That’s the motto of Bob Burks, a writer at Royalwriter UK essay writing service.
Finding support in new friends
Starting college or university in a new environment with new friends and peers can be intimidating, and that’s enough to cause anxiety. Dr Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University, suggests that everyone else is also starting anew, and while some may put up a front of bravado, other students feel just as insecure.
To combat this nervousness, consider joining clubs, volunteering on campus, or participating in Greek life if it aligns with your interests and values. Take your time to get to know people and avoid toxic friendships and situations out of desperation to belong.
Create a comfortable living space
Asma Irfan, a college student in the greater Massachusetts area who has battled anxiety suggests making your dorm room or apartment feel like home. Add little treasured trinkets and personalise your space with photos and items that remind you of happy times.
Ensure your bed is comfortable for a good night’s sleep, as sleep quality can directly affect your anxiety levels. Keep your space clutter-free, as research suggests that clutter can increase feelings of anxiety and stress.
Asma also suggests keeping a mini-fridge with a combination of all your favourite treats and snacks for those days when you just need some sweet loving.
Get some self-care into your routine
Self-care is essential for managing anxiety, and it couldn’t involve the simplest of things. Dr Karin Gepp, PsyD, advises that self-care should be based on your schedule, finances, and habits.
Here are some other ideas for embracing self-care from Asma Irfan:
Read books to help you overcome your anxiety and stress. This could be a lighthearted read, a travel odyssey, or even a gem such as “Man’s Search for Meaning”.
Let yourself rest and stay in bed if you need to. Explore services such as Royalwriter to help you work through academic assignments if you’re too exhausted.
- Journal your thoughts on a notes app or diary.
- Take yourself out for a coffee or an ice cream.
- Watch a funny movie with a friend to improve your mind state through laughter.
- Prioritise exercise to keep your body and mind active and rejuvenated.
Finally, practise giving gratitude in every situation by maintaining a spiritual outlook on things, or even volunteering and giving back to the less fortunate.
During moments of sadness or depression, isolation might seem tempting, but it’s often the worst thing to do, according to Dr Hafeez.
Throwing yourself into campus activities, schoolwork, and evening events can help combat homesickness and facilitate new connections.
Manage your course load
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Dr Hafeez advises evaluating the courses you’ve registered for and considering your capabilities and other time commitments like work and extracurricular activities.
Don’t forget to factor in adequate time for rest. It’s okay to re-engineer your schedule and take fewer credits in a semester if you feel overwhelmed. Again, try strategies such as getting essay writers for hire for your most challenging assignments and free up time for yourself.
Identify triggers and know what sets you off
Common anxiety triggers for college students include homesickness, difficulty making friends, dating and breakups, a heavy course load, adjusting to new surroundings, responsibilities of living on your own, and fear about the future.
Lifestyle choices such as excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption, poor diet, substance abuse, and sleep deprivation can also aggravate the effects of anxiety. Awareness of these triggers can help you develop strategies to tackle or avoid them.
Seek professional help
Anxiety may turn into a debilitating condition if left unchecked. Most colleges offer resources such as study support, peer counseling, and mental health services, including therapy. Don’t hesitate to use these resources if needed. Some off-campus options for seeking help include:
- Exploring telemedicine mental health services through organisations like the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA).
- Contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).
- Using the American Psychological Association psychologist locator.
Remember that it’s okay to need a little extra help, and reaching out to a counselor or therapist can provide valuable coping strategies and treatment options.
A broader culture of well-being
Schools are facing anxiety as a wider mental health issue; therefore, a holistic strategy needs to be integrated into the system. These strategies include:
- Holistic support including group therapy, peer counseling, and telehealth services.
- Integrating faculty as first responders.
- Some colleges embed counselors within academic units to develop cultural expertise tailored to specific student populations.
Group therapy and peer counseling programs help students work through various challenges including stigma.
A stepped-care model ensures that students with greater needs receive more intensive care.
Some colleges are developing wellness apps that allow students to create personalized wellness plans, access timely content, and connect with peers for support.
Institutions are adapting policies and procedures to better support student wellness including flexible leave policies and educational campaigns.
Anxiety isn’t uncommon for college students given their phase in life and the pressures that come with it. However, with the right strategies including building support networks and institutional support, students can overcome effectively.
Through your journey with anxiety, you will get to learn more about yourself and your capabilities. Therefore, embrace your fears and rise up a greater version of yourself.
David Radar, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.