Everybody should read this article if you are in college. Whether you are a first-semester freshman or a last-semester senior even if you don’t suffer from anxiety. There are going to be times in your college career where you don’t think you can do it and you will have mental breakdowns, there is no stopping that. College takes its toll on all of us in different ways. Not by any means is college easy, no matter the majors or minors. There may be some majors that are harder than others. Regardless, there will be at least one college class that takes its toll on you this is out of your control. What is within your control is how you handle that stress.
The stress that we experience in our college careers doesn’t always have to do with the courses/ course load. There is a social expectation that wants to be met while in college. People say “these are the friends you will have for the rest of your life.” What happens when you’re not good at making friends or you end up with a friend group you don’t see being there for the rest of your life? What happens when we graduate and your friends are scattered? These and other questions often cross my mind as I come to an end in my college career.
I’m not going to overwhelm you with statistics you may already know. I want to give you some advice from a person who has been where you are.
I’m going to start by telling you how to deal with an overwhelming semester. The most credits I have ever taken in one semester was 19. So I give those of you props who have taken any more than that. When you start to feel like you can’t get everything done or don’t know where to start, make a list and prioritize. Trust me when I say writing your assignments down will save you a lot of stress and you never forget to do something. It took me until my Junior year to realize this. Most professors will make a schedule in the syllabus I recommend you print that and plan out your semester on a weekly basis. Things happen and professors get behind in class so I do not recommend writing everything out for the entire semester. When an assignment is frustrating you and you can’t seem to move past a certain point, walk away, even if it is just for a couple of minutes. Sometimes stepping back taking a couple of deep breaths (in through the nose out through the mouth) will help you calm down relaxing you physically and mentally; essentially helping you focus on the problem at hand. We are all guilty of procastination but one thing that will help decrease the amount of stress is to space out your work. This goes back to writing a to-do list and sticking to it. Just because something is not due for another couple weeks doesn’t mean you can’t start it earlier.
We all have short attention spans so listening to a professor read from the slides for 50-75 minutes can be painful. When you find yourself drifting off thinking about what you else you could be doing with that time, you can bring yourself back by focusing on something in the room. Whether it be a pen, the desk or another student, just focus in on something, how does it feel? What does it look like? Look at the detail then at least you are in the moment. I chew a lot of gum since being in college, it helps me stay focused and helps me use taste and olfactory memory on tests and quizzes (this works for me but may not work for everybody). You will find yourself feeling like your brain is at full capacity and there is nothing else you can do for that day without your head exploding. I usually take a couple of hours for myself, doing something I enjoy or something mindless. You have a lot more free time than you think its just how you use it that matters. We all need time to not think about school or work or anything that causes stress so it is important to take that time.
Now a lot of us suffer from some form of social anxiety. Whether it be in large crowds of people or just in general, there are many people who deal with this. I have always suffered from getting anxious around large crowds of people, especially that I don’t know. In recent years I have noticed a social awkwardness when it comes to certain situations. Then I think to myself am I doing something wrong, what if they don’t like me, why did I say that, and the list goes on. This is anxiety. I am still dealing with this but sometimes I like to think to myself, life is one big what if question. We make decisions in everything we do. Treat every interaction as a learning experience, if you believe you could have done something differently then don’t dwell on the moment that has already passed, use that in the next interaction you have. When somebody is having a bad day or you think is being harsh don’t take it personally. I know it’s easier said than done but don’t let it eat away at you. That will not help you.
If there are times where you’re in a public place and you start to feel anxious, no matter what you do, do not focus in on it. If you feed it, it will grow. I know it may be difficult to not focus on the tightness in your chest or the feeling of being out of control. You need to find something else to focus on. One thing I have found works is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method. This is where you describe 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. You’re activating all of your senses letting your brain focus on something other than your anxiety. Another method that works for me is deep breathing and counting backward from 10 (again in through the nose out through the mouth works the best). It’s hard to feel tense while taking deep breaths and counting backward activates your brain more than counting up.
One thing everybody should always remember no matter what you’re going through is that YOU ARE IN CONTROL. This is your body, your brain, your thoughts don’t let them be out of your control. If you ever need someone to talk to most colleges offer free counseling services to students. I go see one every other week and it has helped me significantly. They can give you professional advice on dealing with your anxiety. The counseling center here at Brockport is located
in Hazen Hall.