By Tim Werth
College is officially back on track for the fall 2018 semester, but while many students are looking forward to seeing friends, many others are stressed for the year to come. With anxiety disorders becoming more common, methods of coping with stress and anxiety are becoming a necessity.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 18% of the adult population is affected by an anxiety disorder.
And the numbers are only increasing. A 2018 poll performed by the American Psychiatric Association discovered that Americans are more anxious than last year.
If you’re going back to college and anxious for the year to come, here are some tips and tricks for managing stress and anxiety in a college setting.
Don’t look too far ahead
Anyone who suffers from anxiety knows that worrying is what they do best. That includes worrying about post-grad life to an insufferable degree.
While planning for the future is important, worrying about the future is not. Whenever you find yourself obsessing over the future, try to bring yourself back to the present. Practicing mindfulness can help you focus on living your best life right now.
Remember to live in the moment and make the most of the time you have.
Ease yourself into independence
Most college freshmen begin their college career in one of two ways: living in the freshman dorm or commuting to school from your parent’s house. As you progress through college, begin to ease yourself into independent living. For instance, if you are still dependent on your parents financially, challenge yourself to take on one new monthly expense each semester. When you graduate, you will need to be prepared to pay your cell phone bill, auto insurance, student loans, utilities, and rent.
You can also move toward independence by moving into your first apartment during college.
Plenty of students choose to rent — in fact, more than 111 million people rented housing in the United States as of 2017. This number is only expected to grow. While the dorms are great for freshman year, apartment living can be great preparation for post-college responsibilities.
Get into the groove
The groove of a routine that is (but dancing is not out of the question). A good routine will ensure you’re getting enough sleep at night, getting enough to eat, and getting enough time in for hobbies and activities.
Many college students get absorbed in one of two things: studying or partying. While both are ingrained in the college experience, too much of either can be detrimental for your health. Taking the time for hobbies will keep your stress levels down while physical activity is good for your health. While you might not need to do the same thing every day, setting aside time to do the things you want to do is essential.
If you’re not the type to follow a routine, consider sticking to a day planner or agenda. That way you won’t be overwhelmed with sudden tasks or forgetting important dates. You’ll also be sure not to overbook yourself in social situations (one can only take so many lunch dates during the week. When anxiety is the first and foremost concern among college students, trying out a routine or sticking to a day planner is just one of the ways you can prevent anxiety from forming in the first place.
Get your beauty rest
Adults generally need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Of course, many college students pride themselves on pulling all-nighters, whether in the college library or at a raging house party. While the occasional all-nighter is normal, necessary even, in college, lack of sleep can make your anxiety even worse.
Go to a counselor
As more and more people have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders across the country, the stigma against mental health treatment has begun to lessen.
If you find yourself unable to cope with high levels of anxiety, there’s no shame in visiting a counselor to vent your frustrations or get advice. At the very least, many colleges offer therapy dogs that deserve a pat or two every now and then. It’s like you’re doing a public service by visiting the dog, right?
Start something new
Whether you’re into movies, shows, or art, starting something new can help you feel motivated. When you start something new, your body is present, in the moment, and ready to tackle any challenges that are thrown its way. Many people choose to colour — experts have officially proven that adult colouring books are a valid way to lessen anxiety. Dr Blackburn of the Baylor Scott and White Medical Center claim it has to do with focus.
“It helps the person focus on the present, and it gives them a break in the action, if you will, from the daily stressors of life. It gives them pause to just reflect on coloring,” Dr. Blackburn claims.
One writer even finds solace in an unexpected television show.
Julie Muncy didn’t want to like Steven Universe but the sincere and emotional aspects of the show couldn’t help but pull her in.
“Sincerity like the kind that Steven Universe embraces has a way of cutting through my fear of the unknown. It offers a real sense that intimacy is messy but worth it, that you can be vulnerable and show the shakiest parts of yourself and be accepted anyway,” Muncy writes.
However, it’s important to be aware of the dangers to starting new projects. Sometimes, it’s easy to settle into the habit of starting something but never completing it. Before you work on a new project, try to finish another.
Take care of yourself
Project confidence. This sounds strange, but if you adopt a more confident demeanour, your brain may follow. This starts with taking care of yourself and dressing in clothing that makes you feel good. An estimated 60% of women have trouble finding a cute look each day; picking out your outfit the day before may ease some of your stress in the morning and keep you feeling confident throughout the day.
Incorporate self-care into your daily routine. Showering every day, maintaining your dental health, and washing your laundry can be hard to remember in college, but it’s vital to decreasing the amount of stress you feel. Almost all adults — an estimated 99.7% — think that having a healthy smile is important socially.
Bonus: Recognize when you have anxiety
Anxiety isn’t always paired with feelings of worry or stress. An anxious person may experience a variety of symptoms stemming from their anxiety including:
- An upset stomach
- Excessive yawning
- Sore muscles
- And irritability
These symptoms don’t always appear when you’re experiencing anxiety, but they’re important triggers to watch out for if you regularly experience high levels of stress.
Try these tips for when you’re experiencing stress in college. While anxiety is growing more common among the U.S. population, so are the ways to cope with feelings of stress. College can be hard for everyone, including those who appear to be handling it better than others.
Have fun. Make mistakes. But most of all: take care of yourself.
Tim Werth is an analyst at Hubshout.
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