For me, college appeared as a minefield. I feared beginning my first semester as a freshman because I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. I stressed about everything and everyone I came into contact with. So, when I started college, I made a list of things I did (and plan to continue in the future) that made my anxiety manageable.
1. You are what you eat!
For me, there is no better indication that I am stressed out than binge eating. To avoid that freshman fifteen, every time I feel anxious, I make sure I don’t eat more than the recommended portion found on the nutrition section of a food. This allows me to associate healthy habits with anxiety, making me feel better about myself. In addition to this, drinking water everyday is essential! I sometimes forget to drink water and instead live off of coffee and juice for a couple days at a time. A healthy solution to this is drinking tea rather than coffee when you need that pick-me-up and purchasing a water bottle with a straw. The straw will make you drink more water without you even noticing it!
2. Sleep helps.
We all know that, to most college students, sleep is the least important objective on the agenda. This is exactly opposite of the truth! In order to have a healthy mind, you have to let it take a break. Also, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO TAKE NAPS. I understand that a lot of people don’t think that they’re ‘nap people’ but that will change when you get to college if you let it. 20 minute naps are the best treat you could give your mind during a long day.
3. Surround yourself with positive people.
Nothing breeds negativity more than a Debbie Downer. If you want to be happy, you have to surround yourself with people whose company you genuinely enjoy rather than friends of convenience.
4. Do a name alphabet every now and then.
Here’s a neat trick I learned from someone I worked with. ‘Name Alphabets’ are exercises I do when I feel like I’m about to have a panic attack. What you do is you go through the alphabet letter by letter and think of a name that starts with that letter and repeat the cycle until you feel better. This gives you something to focus on other than the twelve million negative thoughts racing through your head. Here is an example: A is for Abi, B is for Bailey, C is for Caroline, D is for Danny, E is for Eli, F is for Frank… and so on and so forth until your throat has stopped constricting and your breathing has evened out. For best results, say the first name that pops into your head rather than trying to stick to a certain theme or group of people (i.e. all girls or people in your geography class)
5. Avoid self-medication at all costs.
I will say this one more time: AVOID SELF-MEDICATION AT ALL COSTS! The worst thing you can do to yourself is to take any sort of medication or drug that claims it can help you wind down or make you more focused without a prescription. If you were meant to be taking it, a doctor would have prescribed it to you. Also, drinking to forget something is a temporary fix to a permanent problem that will eventually ruin your liver.
6. Find YOUR library.
A library, for me, is the most relaxing place on campus. My favorite time of the day is when I have enough time to curl up in the library with some soothing music playing through my ear buds with a nonacademic book and a cup of tea and de-stress. What you need to do is find your library. Maybe you calm down by exercising in the campus gym or by practicing violin in the music center or crocheting in your dorm. Regardless of what makes you feel better, the best thing you can do sometimes is slow down and find your happy place.
7. Don’t be afraid to say ‘No.'
I have a BIG problem with saying no to people when I am already overwhelmed. Sometimes, you need to put your needs before other peoples’. The first step in not feeling guilty about putting yourself first is in realizing that YOU are your number one priority. You deserve to have time alone every now and then to relax and unwind.
8. Tell people if you’re having trouble.
The best option when you’re feeling down is to talk to somebody. No, you don’t necessarily have to see a therapist, but you should at least talk to someone that makes you happy about something that makes you happy to brighten your mood.
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