Anxiety can affect anyone at any stage in their life, but it is one of the most common mental disorders on college campuses. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, forty million American adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, and 75% of those people have reported that their first anxiety episode occurred by the time they were twenty two.
Are you among them? Many of us who suffer from anxiety avoid seeking direct help. The stigma attached to the disorder is too strong, or maybe it’s just too embarrassing to open up about it. If you’re on a college campus, there will always be someone in student services who can listen and help. If you’re not ready for that right now, or are out in the work world, consider these other options.
Talk it out
Contrary to the actions of many young adults suffering from anxiety, your best first step is to reach out to others. Your colleagues, peers, friends, and family are an irreplaceable support system that can help you during serious episodes or periods of major anxiety. Having individuals to lean on in times of crisis is crucial for your well-being. If you hold in your feelings, things can get even worse. If you feel comfortable about it, disclose your anxiety to your boss or professor, in case you might need to take a day off or leave early because of your anxiety. If that doesn’t seem right, check out peer support groups on your campus or community.
As an adult in the workforce, counseling and other methods of support might not be as close as they are on a college campus. You might start simply, with calming activities such as yoga or meditation that can help clear your mind.
Have a plan for your bad days
Granted, there are some days when your anxiety is stronger than others. It is necessary for you to recognize your fears, and do what you can to gradually face them, instead of simply avoiding your struggles. Whether it be a social form of anxiety or fear-based anxiety, exposure or recognition of your trigger can help you in the long run. When dealing with something that stresses you, it can be helpful to “name it.” Giving stress a label can help it seem less overwhelming.
Mindfulness can also help. In college or at work, many develop anxiety before a test or an important project. Before you start overthinking or worrying, stop and take a breath in response to your automatic reaction. If you can slow down the pace of your body reacting to a trigger, this can be a helpful coping mechanism for anxiety attacks.
Engage in self care
Anxiety can make you feel exhausted or burnt out, and you might find yourself not caring for your own well-being. There are a variety of self-help activities you can engage in either before, during, or after school or work that can improve your mindset. Again, start small, with light physical activity, such as stretching, yoga, or meditation. Some even find that prayer even helps, especially if you are seeking to set the tone for your day. Be aware of what you eat. Some research has shown that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and folic acids can help ease depression. Did you know that caffeine actually enhances anxiety? A lot of caffeine can trigger a body’s fight or flight response, even if there is no actual danger, further leading to anxiety. Try green tea.
As you consider some of these coping strategies, remember that you are not facing this alone. If you need some proof of that, then check out Getting Past Anxiety and follow the story of Stella Maris, a thirty-seven-year-old professional woman who is fighting to break free from anxiety. The book is an inspirational novel designed to help you reclaim your life.
Just as the book’s author, Melissa A. Woods says, “It takes great effort to commit oneself to healing all the way to the source of the pain. It takes great courage to go inside, excavate, and understand the wounds, and to observe how you have used them in your life to control the people around you and even yourself. This understanding allows the psyche to release the victimhood and live in appreciation and forgiveness.”