Did you know that 1 in 5 college students suffers from anxiety? It’s true. The number of students seeking treatment for anxiety has steadily increased year-over-year since 2013. Depression, also on the rise, follows as a close second. At College Plus, we have personally found this to be true. Most of the students we support cite anxiety as one of the challenges of attending college.
So, what’s to be done about it?
Know the Cause of Your Anxiety
First off, it’s important to determine the cause of the anxiety. Dr. Diane Roberts Stoler stresses that anxiety is a symptom of a larger issue, similar to the engine warning light in your car. You need to look under the hood to see what’s causing it. Only then, can you effectively address it.
Let’s look at some common causes of anxiety.
Biological Factors. Perhaps you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD or a mental illness. Perhaps you were just born with a more anxious temperament. These are part of one’s genetic make-up and lead to higher anxiety levels.
Trauma. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects those who have experienced violence or near-death experiences. Symptoms include flashbacks of the event, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, and jumpiness, to name a few. Anxiety in PTSD patients can hang around for weeks or years.
Cell Phone Usage. Yes, studies have shown that those indispensable devices can contribute to anxiety. We use them as our planners and calendars. We check our emails & social media constantly. It’s our alarm to wake up in the morning. We download apps and games onto them. When we forget our cell phones at home, we feel lost.
Social Media. While social media outlets are a way to connect with others, it can also create unrealistic (and unattainable) expectations. The ‘real’ world is often not as glamorous as the ‘virtual’ world, so the pressure to keep up with peers’ spurs anxiety.
Stress. Many times, college is the first time a student is venturing far from home and family. Everything is new and unknown, and they do not have their parents supporting them as before. It’s no wonder that the combination of homesickness, pressure for good grades, harder workload, and increased responsibilities cause extreme anxiety in some students.
How to combat anxiety
#1 Seek help First off, it’s important to seek help for your anxiety. Many campuses are expanding their counseling services to coincide with the demand, so take advantage of what they have available. If you have private insurance, be sure to check your mental health coverage options there as well. If you are working with a doctor, they can make the determination if medication is the right option for you. More than likely, there is a support group at your campus where you can connect with other students in the same boat as you.
#2 Practice self-soothing techniques Once you understand the cause of your anxiety, you can start to learn what self-soothing techniques will work for you. Here are some ideas to get you started but check out our resources at the end of the article for additional tips.
- Exercise. Exercising releases endorphins, which can help with anxiety. Find a routine that works for you, such as walking, dancing, boxing, or any other fitness program that you enjoy.
- Music. Music has a powerful effect on mood and emotion. Try listening to relaxing meditation music, or your favorite artist. Keep in mind when selecting your music, the goal is to make yourself feel calmer.
- Get creative. Find a creative activity that resonates with you. Try things like journaling, painting, knitting, or acting.
#3 Take a break from social media Why not take a break from the virtual world for a bit to avoid that added pressure? Consider limiting social media usage to specific times during the day or taking a weeklong break at a time. While you are off social media, you can focus on being present and developing relationships on campus.
#4 Reduce Your Workload. Are you having trouble keeping up with your classes? Maybe start with a lighter workload and gradually increase the classes in subsequent semesters. Or, keep a lighter load if that works best for you.
#5 Get a good night’s sleep Anxiety and sleep go hand in hand. Anxiety causes sleep deprivation and sleep deprivation can cause anxiety. Try powering down your electronic devices 1 hour before bedtime. Instead, practice one of your self-soothing techniques to help you relax to get a good night’s sleep.
Anxiety Disorders are the most prevalent mental illnesses in the United States, so remember that you are not alone. There is also no shame in asking for help.