Struggling with anxiety is no joke. Add in the pressures of college life while managing daily demands along with your emotions, and it can feel nearly impossible. However, it doesn’t have to be! Below, seven PI Girls share their personal experiences on how to cope with anxiety in ways that will help you successfully get through college life.
1. “The only thing that has ever helped me is prayer. Anxiety has a lot to do with fear.
I will pray for you! It’s totally normal [to feel] the way you feel. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).” —Heather M.
2. “Prayer is obvious. You have to find your personal coping strategy, honestly. I mean, I have mine, but it might not necessarily work for you. A lot of people do deep breathing, but that doesn’t really work for me. I like to look up yoga videos on YouTube and take a break and do yoga, even just for a few minutes. Maybe call a friend or family member and talk to them about anything except the subject that you are anxious about, just so you can take your mind off the issue and also feel connected to someone/less alone.” —Pamela K.
3. “See if your school has a counseling center! My school has this awesome thing where you pay a one-time $20 fee, and as long as you are enrolled as a student, you can use this resource as often as you need to and they can schedule you. I see a counselor once every two weeks and it’s been AMAZING.” —Marissa W.
4. “I was diagnosed with panic disorder in my sophomore year of college. I could probably write an entire article based on my experiences alone, but here are some tips I learned:
- Stay around people who understand your situation, but will also uplift you. I made friends with people who also had anxiety, but they kind of stewed in it, and as a result, we fed off of each other’s anxiety. There was this pervasive sense of hopelessness and darkness when I hung out with them. So it’s important to find people who will encourage you during the scary moments and help bring you into a better place, not just empathize with you. It’s even better if you can find Christian friends to pray with you and send you encouraging Bible verses!
- Get sleep. When I was first diagnosed with panic disorder, my body felt very drained after a day of fighting off and struggling through panic attacks. I was a night owl who liked staying up late, but I realized I was ready to go to bed at 9 p.m. If you get to a point where you need to choose between going to a late event on a school night or getting the sleep you need, choose sleep.
- Realize your limitations. The semester I was diagnosed with panic disorder, I was registered for five classes that were all reading-intensive. I quickly realized that there was no way I was going to keep up with all the reading and pass all these classes, so within the first few weeks of the semester, I dropped one class and took a summer class to catch up on my credits. I don’t regret that choice at all—I passed all four classes and actually enjoyed my summer class. I also got a note from my psychologist to give to my college resource center so I was able to get extra test time for my midterms and finals.
- Don’t procrastinate! Unfortunately, I always had the mentality that I work better under pressure, but the ideal situation is to do your work methodically ahead of time. If you’re assigned an essay that’s due in two weeks, but don’t feel like starting it right away, at least start brainstorming an outline the day it’s assigned. Then the next day gather quotes, and the next day start your rough draft, and schedule time with your professor to get feedback before you write your final draft. This way you won’t be up late the night before a paper is due, feverishly typing a sub-par essay.
- Spend quiet time with God. The biggest mistake I made during my college years was neglecting to do my prayer and Bible reading consistently. I sometimes wonder how my experience would have been different if I had set aside time to seek God every day. It doesn’t have to be drawn out—even 15 minutes can help. Have an honest conversation with God and tell Him everything that is bothering you. I also recommend journaling—this way you can look back and see how far God has brought you.
- Stay connected to your congregation. It can be tough if you decided to [attend] a college that’s far from home, but no matter where you are, find a congregation where you can worship, learn the Word, pray and experience fellowship with other believers. This can be a major lifeline when life begins to feel chaotic, and you might meet other people who have been through what you’re going through and can help you.
- Don’t be afraid to go for counseling. Whether you go to a secular therapist or a pastor who counsels, it’s up to you. I’ve benefited from using both. If you need to go on medication in order to be able to have a balanced, functional life, there is absolutely no shame in that, but think of it as a last resort. The most important thing you can do is learn coping techniques to deal with your anxiety, because whether you’re on medication or not, you still need to deal with stressful situations as they happen, and remember to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.”
—Nicole Marie V.
5. “There are a lot of different apps that help to track your anxiety so you can better manage it. The one I use is Mood Triggers. I also use the Headspace app for short meditations simply to focus on what’s in front of me. And finally, a lot of prayer! For me personally, I’ve had to mix and match things because one option will work for some things and another works better for others. I think it also depends where the anxiety stems from. I have general anxiety, and then I suffered a trauma, which made it a lot worse.” —Allysa L.
6. “Learn to say NO. Don’t make yourself anxious for no reason or try to be a people pleaser. This is from personal experience.” —Esther P.
7. “It really depends on the anxiety, but here’s what I’ve learned that has helped:
- Prayer and daily reflections journaling (writing to-do lists and gratitude lists, etc.)
- Sleep is a big one. Lack of sleep spikes anxiety, making it worse than it needs to be.
- Good nutrition, [like] turkey, dark chocolate, leafy greens, antioxidant-rich fruits, milk with vitamin D, and vitamin B complex. (Talk with a doctor or nurse practitioner before taking medicine/vitamins.)
- Taking melatonin when needed, when your thoughts are racing and keeping you awake at night.
- Exercise. Go for a walk and get some fresh air. It helps clear your mind, and being around living things, whether it’s plants, animals or friends, will boost your immune system. (Sunlight won’t hurt, either.)
- Anything that smells good, like a candle or essential oil, can help uplift your mood when you don’t feel well.
- Worry stones to hold in your hand or doodle when you are anxious in class.
- Sit in the back of the classroom if you need to excuse yourself (get there early enough to pick a seat you’d like).
- If you have stomachaches, take probiotics in yogurt or kefir to help balance out the serotonin imbalance in your stomach. Taking Tums may help, too.
- Do as much research about what you’re dealing with as you can.
- Listening to a podcast or video can help lift up your spirit to God.
- Keep a positive attitude that your body will catch up if you take care of yourself: sleep, eat, exercise, spend time with God and friends, etc. It just takes time for your moods to catch up when you’re down. Stay hopeful, trust that God is taking care of you and rest assured that you are doing everything in your power to get better.”
Do you have any tips you’d like to share with the PI community on how to overcome anxiety in college? Be sure to comment below!
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