College is basically a four-year transition to real life, and that means more stress. Managing anxiety or stress while being a college student can be hard because you’re still learning how to take care of yourself mentally.
There’s also a difference between anxiety and stress, although you can have them both (as it often happens, for me at least). Anxiety is something that lingers long after a stressful moment, causing you to reflect obsessively over some specific thing you did or worry about something you have to do the next day. It’s important to know the difference, since they aren’t interchangeable terms.
I’ve dealt with anxiety for a long time, and I’ve gotten somewhat good at keeping it under control. Being ambitious and having anxiety can suck – it can really hold you back if you let it. You can’t always avoid feeling anxious or panicked, so you have to push past it.
For me, my anxiety gets worse if I’m stressed out about something, most likely something to do with school or work. Here are some of the methods I use for managing my stress and anxiety, not just during the school year, but all the time:
Eat right. I had to put this at the top because I feel like this is something a lot of people overlook when thinking or talking about mental health. The food you eat has a huge impact on your physical and mental health. If you eat like crap, you’re going to feel like crap. Eating healthy is a challenge while away at school, especially at the dining hall. It pays off to cook a healthy meal once in a while, if you can.
Exercise. Like eating healthy, exercising impacts you mentally and physically. I love to run because it makes me happy, and helps me release any tension I’m feeling. Take advantage of the fitness center on campus or go for a quick jog, you’ll feel better either way.
Have something around your workplace to fiddle around with. Sorry, I couldn’t think of a better way to word that – what I’m talking about is keeping your hands busy. I have to always be moving. I usually have something on my desk I use, like an eraser, play-doh or a miniature slinky, while reading or on my laptop. It also helps keep me from picking at the skin around my fingernails, a horrible habit that I’ve had since I was little.
Take time for yourself. When I hear about millennials being “lazy” or whatever, it always frustrates me because I’m the opposite, and many people around my age work ridiculously hard. I’m always doing something, mainly during the school year. Giving myself time to recuperate and do something I enjoy is something I’ve struggled with, since sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve a break, or that taking a break is a sign of weakness (fun fact, it’s not). Everyone needs alone time, or time to relax everyday, not just once in awhile. Even laying in your bed for fifteen minutes can help.
Journal. I’m not just saying this because I love to write, I’m saying this because it helps you center yourself. I’ve had multiple journals throughout the years, and it’s helped release my thoughts and feelings somewhere private, and still feel productive. You can use it to reflect, make lists and plan outfits (yes, I do this).
Plan ahead. This might be a product of my anxiety, but I worship organization and preparation. Like I said above, I’m that person who plans her outfits for the week. It just helps me feel more prepared, especially if I have something coming up that’s stressing me out, like an interview. I color code my planner, which I write everything down in. It helps me manage my time, and therefore, manage my stress.
Show yourself some self-love. Stop being so hard on yourself. Stop beating yourself up over that bad grade or for feeling like you said the wrong thing. It’s okay to make mistakes. If you can’t stop thinking about something you feel you messed up on, try to distract yourself with something else.
If you struggle with anxiety, know that you’re not alone. Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to tell people “no” every now and then.
If you have any other ways to manage stress and anxiety, let me know in the comments.