College can be a really stressful time. From having classes, homework, a job (or two!), and a social life, the word anxiety and college seem to go hand in hand. Having anxious feelings is completely normal but if your anxiety causes disruptions in your every day life, please consult a doctor. Other than that, here are my top ways to manage anxiety in college!
1. Sing a little song.
If you find yourself staying awake at night thinking about all the homework, projects, and tests you have to study for, one little trick I like to do is start singing the lyrics to my favorite song in my head. Whenever I’ve had nights where I can’t sleep because my brain won’t stop thinking about my ever growing to-do list, or I start feeling anxious about trying to find a job after college I’ll take a deep breath, close my eyes, and start singing a Taylor Swift song. Her lyrics have gotten me through some really tough nights but find the songs that speak to you and help you calm your mind!
2. Podcast story time.
Another way I manage my anxiety at night if I’m trying to get to sleep is by listening to podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to keep your mind distracted from anxious thoughts. Whenever I listen to a podcast I get absorbed into the story and it helps take my mind off of overwhelming topics. Anxiety has a lot to do with the fear behind upcoming events or not knowing how certain things are going to turn out. Some of my favorite podcasts have not only kept my brain calm but have also encouraged me and eased my anxiety depending on the story they’re telling. Some of my favorite podcasts are Welcome to Night Vale, The Penumbra Podcast, and King Falls AM.
3. Take deep breaths!
This might seem like an obvious way to manage anxiety but taking deep breaths before a test or presenting a huge project can be really helpful. There are a couple of breathing techniques I’ve learned but my go-to involves taking a deep inhale through your nose and then counting down from 5 while exhaling through your mouth. Make sure to count down slowly while exhaling. This is important because it helps control your breathing while also slowing down your heart if it’s beating really fast. Practice this even when you’re not feeling anxious because then this will come naturally once you find yourself in a stressful situation.
4. Gym it up.
I know, I know. Going to the gym and spending 30 minutes on an elliptical is not everyone’s favorite thing to to. I workout four times a week and I still have a hard time finding the motivation to go. Yet there’s something to be said about finishing a workout and feeling great at the end. Whenever I’m feeling anxious I go to the gym and once I’m done I end up feeling much more calm and relaxed. If you don’t have access to a gym you can go to a local park, bike around the neighborhood, or even use fitness videos on YouTube! There’s a lot of great ways to stay active without having to pay for a gym membership.
5. Mantra repeat
One thing I like doing when I start feeling overwhelmed is by saying an encouraging statement to myself. I’ll repeat that statement in my head or I’ll write it down on a piece of paper multiple times. Sometimes the visual can be really helpful in calming my anxiety. A mantra is personal to each person and for me it is an affirmation that I can do everything I’ve set out to accomplish. Some examples of mantras are, “I will overcome,” “I am strong,” or “This too shall pass.” Practice repeating different mantras to find out what works for you.
6. Write/Plan it out.
Let’s face it, as students we are always going to be surrounded by what seems to be a an ever-growing list of things to finish. There were times when I looked at my planner in dread and wanted to put off my list until later. However I found a way to not only look at my to-do list, but to actually want to finish it too. I recently got a Happy Planner and I fell in love with the system because of the amount of cute stickers they provide! Now you don’t have to go out and invest in a new planner like I did, but I’ve found that the prettier something is, the more I want to spend time actually looking at it. So grab a journal or a planner and decorate it with stickers, washi tape, or even paint! You’ll find yourself actually looking forward to opening it.
7. Speak your mind.
Talking about the stuff you’re going through can be really therapeutic! You don’t necessarily need to talk to a counselor or anything like that, but even just having a conversation with a friend is a good outlet for anxiety. Talking things out with others can even give a different perspective and they might even give other good suggestions for dealing with anxiety. College students go through a lot of similar situations so getting together with friends will form a great support system.
8. Find support groups on campus.
At Johnson and Wales, the Health and Counseling Services started a series of support groups for all different kinds of topics. Finding similar resources on your campus is always one of the best ways to manage anxiety in college. We don’t have to stop in every week so it’s more flexible so we can drop by whenever we feel like we need a little extra help. Next semester one of the groups I’m planning to join incorporates yoga! You can find out if your campus does something similar or join other groups near by.
9. Pleasant scents!
If you find yourself in the middle of the day overcome with a sense of anxiety and you can’t immediately do some of the other things I’ve mentioned, having a fragrance in your purse or backpack can be a good way to relieve your anxiety in that moment. There are a lot of good scents you can carry around so find one that you enjoy and carry a small sample so you can spray it on your wrist if you start feeling anxious. Lavender oil is a great essential oil and it comes up a lot as an alternative to medicine when it comes to decreasing anxiety symptoms.
10. Watch something fun.
Taking a little break from the world is a great way to escape for awhile and immerse yourself in something different. Catch up on your favorite series on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime but try not to get stuck watching stuff all night long or else you risk causing more anxiety because of procrastination!
11. Sleep it off!
Sometimes our bodies just need to recharge and get some rest. A lot of times we push ourselves throughout the day to go to class, get homework done, study for exams, exercise, and hang out with friends. Students will say, “we’ll sleep when we’re dead,” but that kind of attitude could not only affect our mental health, it can have physical effects as well. Getting a good night’s sleep will not only rejuvenate our minds and bodies but will leave us ready and full of energy to get through the day.
12. Focus on your passions.
Sometimes we spend so much time studying and learning subjects that don’t always appeal to us (ahem, math) so take some time to learn about new topic that you’re interested in. If you’re thinking of traveling to a new country maybe study the language or maybe study something related to your major that’s a fun part of your industry. For me as a Beverage Operations major I get to learn about wine but there obviously isn’t enough time to study every aspect. I recently bought some really great wine books and it’s been so fun getting to read up on that part of my major.
13. Color you world.
Coloring books have made a recent comeback lately and they are a really great way to take your mind off things. You can always print out free coloring pages from google or invest in a full book. There are some great ones you can buy and they range from really simple to more advanced designs. Just pick up some colored pencils or markers and you’re good to go!
14. Bath time!
This one might be a little harder if you live in a dorm that has shared bathrooms with the whole hall, but if you do have access to a bathtub or even a jacuzzi on campus that would work too. Hot water seems to have this magical relaxation effect and it can feel so satisfying to just soak in a hot bath for a little while. Bath bombs are really popular and Lush has some amazing colorful ones that are mixed with scents that are meant to relieve anxiety. If you’re worried about too much color in the dorm bathtub, Lush also has some bath bombs that don’t have any color or glitter.
15. Stress ball.
Sometimes we need a quick outlet for anxiety that comes up during class or at a meeting. Having some kind of stress ball in your pocket to hold onto is really helpful because you can pull it out at any time. You can always combine squeezing a stress ball with one of the breathing techniques in order to maximize quick anxiety relief throughout the day.
I hope some of these tips were helpful. If I missed any comment down below some of your favorite ways to manage anxiety in college!
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I'm a junior at Johnson and Wales University in Denver. I love being outdoors and staying fit while still getting to enjoy the foodie lifestyle. I'm a planner babe, all-around nerd, and sports enthusiast. Talk to me about all things girly and nerdy.