Academics have become more demanding over the years, especially for older teens and young adults. In addition to homework and studying, students often have to juggle extracurricular and social obligations while keeping up with their ever-growing workloads. Understandably, this can lead to stress, overwhelm, and anxiety.
Sometimes, anxiety and depression can hit students hard, especially during the late high school and college years. Students are coping with huge life transitions and often have trouble managing their emotions as they try to stay on top of their responsibilities.
If you’re feeling like you’re in over your head, know that you’re not alone—and understand that there are ways to manage and reduce your anxiety. Here are 5 tips to help.
1. Learn About Anxiety Triggers
If you want to learn how to manage your anxiety, then you have to build awareness about what’s causing it for you in the first place. Anxiety triggers are situations or cues that cause you to start experiencing symptoms of anxiety. Triggers come in many forms and might include anything from being assigned a lot of work to being invited to a social event that makes you feel unsafe.
Anxiety doesn’t just come up for no reason, but it can often feel that way. Anxiety triggers can be sneaky, sending you into a downward spiral without you even realizing why. That’s why it’s so important to get to know your own anxiety triggers so you can recognize the source of your anxiety when it occurs.
You can start to bring awareness to your triggers by starting to journal about instances of anxiety. What was going on when you started to feel anxious? Figuring out your triggers will help you prevent and manage anxiety moving forward.
2. Adjust Your Diet
Our bodies and minds are made up of a series of complex, interconnected systems. You really are what you eat, and in some cases, what you choose for fuel can either reduce or increase your anxiety.
If you’re struggling with anxiety on a regular basis, then it might be a good idea to look at your diet. Are you eating a lot of simple carbohydrates and processed foods? While grabbing a Pop-Tart might seem like a quick and easy way to get the energy you need for studying, it could actually be harming your productivity and mental health if you make a habit of taking these food shortcuts.
Instead, try to fill your diet with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein. Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and B vitamins can all help you experience less anxiety. Don’t skip meals and try to make every meal count by eating nutrient-rich food.
3. Adjust Your Perspective About the Issue
We often tend to forget that stress is actually a normal and necessary phenomenon from a biological perspective. It’s an important reaction that drives you to take action and can actually save your life in a fight-or-flight situation.
Although chronic stress can have a major negative impact on your health and happiness, it can be helpful to adjust your perspectives about stress and anxiety as a whole. It’s your body’s way of telling you that you’re facing a challenging situation. If you can, give thanks for this signal and use it as motivation to do your best on that quiz or paper. Growth is uncomfortable, even when it’s positive!
It’s also important to remember that symptoms of stress and anxiety might be telling you that you’re trying to do too much. Ask yourself if you’re spreading yourself too thin. If so, let go of some responsibilities or expectations if you can.
4. Build a Support Network.
Anxiety can be much worse when you’re living in a solitary bubble. If you’re away at college for the first time, loneliness and homesickness can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to build a support network you can lean on when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Making new friends can be hard, but remember that many of your classmates are going through similar struggles. They could probably benefit from a support network too! And don’t forget to call home regularly (and visit if you can).
5. Take It Seriously
Almost 3 out of 4 college students in the United States have experienced overwhelming anxiety at some point while pursuing their degrees. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean that anxiety isn’t serious.
It’s easy to brush off anxiety as something that you just have to live with. In reality, it is a mental health disorder that can be extremely harmful to your health, happiness, well-being, and academic performance.
Take it seriously. If you’re having trouble coping, reach out to the counseling center at your university for help. You should never downplay or feel ashamed of your anxiety.
Live in the Present
Worrying about the past of the future is one of the biggest drivers of anxiety and depression. It’s easy to think about how your grades and performance might affect you for the rest of your life, but that mentality is not going to serve you as you navigate your years in the classroom.
Instead of thinking about life after school, try to stay in the present. Focus on one thing at a time. Use mindfulness techniques and remember to breathe—you’ll get through this!