For those of us who are introverts or deal with anxiety, transitioning to college life can feel overwhelming. Between constantly being surrounded by strangers, having new stresses that high school did not prepare you for, and no longer relying on your safety net of high school friends, anxiety in college can be difficult.
For example, during my second semester (I have no excuse), I was working on an assignment late one evening in the computer lab. The building was deserted for hours prior to this. I was happily creating graphs in Excel, when I heard the large, entrance door on the mezzanine open and close. Voices drifted up from that awkward place between floors one and two. My heart felt as though it might beat straight out of my chest and onto the desk in front of me. I listened closely. They were DEFINITELY coming closer. As they started down the corridor, I made a hasty decision: I leaped from my chair and hid underneath a desk across the room. (Really???)
Imagine my chagrin when two individuals came into the computer lab and sat down. At this point, I had two options: either stay in that position indefinitely, waiting for them to leave or pretend I had chosen to take a nap on the floor. I went with the latter. Yes, they looked at me funny as I stood up, yawned and stretched. However, I think I made the right decision since they remained in the lab for another hour.
Dealing with anxiety takes practice. So I have come up with a few ways to help cope with anxiety in college.
Remember that you have as much right to be there as anyone else.
Your opinion is valid and you have the right to voice it. Remind yourself that it is okay to take up space.
Mental and physical health is more important than a “good” grade.
Do not sacrifice your sleep, hygiene, or nutrition to get everything done. If you have commitments, try to extract yourself from some extracurricular activities.
Meditation and breathing strategies work.
Focus on drawing a box in the air. Inhale as you draw the first line, exhale for the second. Continue until you have calmed down, or draw a spiral with blue ink until the attack subsides. Shut your eyes and go to your happy place. (This works best if you come up with a “place” to go to and practice it before the anxiety comes on. The place does not have to be real.) Most importantly, remember to BREATHE.
If you need medication, don’t view it as accepting defeat but rather as a proactive strategy for ending your anxiety.
Many people I know are on different medications including myself.
Take a moment to go for a walk outside.
Fresh air is said to clear the head. Exercise also boosts serotonin levels, which will help improve your mood, productivity and increase your confidence. Another proven strategy is using “power poses,” such as raising your arms high over your head in a “V” shape.
If the anxiety attack is major enough, go lie down somewhere.
As impossible as this one is for people who have anxiety: try not to get into the self-defeating cycle of anxiety over having anxiety.
Too many times, I have worked myself into a worse attack by embarrassment about having anxiety. Don’t get anxious over anxiety. It isn’t worth the time.
Lastly, college is about trying different things and having new experiences.
You are not going to get everything right your first time. One thing that has helped quell my anxieties is learning to just let it go. You have to allow yourself to make mistakes, look like a fool, trip or embarrass yourself, and have the wrong answer. It’s okay. Just enjoy the ride. You really are only young once.