According to Francesca Coltrera in the article “Anxiety: What it is, what to do,” anxiety symptoms vary widely. Many students in college deal with anxiety. While anxiety symptoms vary widely, odds are good that at some point you’ve experienced occasional physical and emotional distress signals such as panicky breathing, your heart pounding in your chest, trouble sleeping, feelings of dread, or even loops of worry. Today’s teens and young adults are the most anxious ever, according to mental-health surveys. They admit it themselves: In February, a Pew survey found that 70 percent of teens say anxiety and depression is a “major problem” among their peers, and an additional 26 percent say it’s a minor problem.
Even amid the rush of final exams and graduation celebrations at this time of year, college beckons with the chance to live on your own, find new friends and explore interesting ideas. Yet for college students, these changes can also be stressful. Overnight, college students separate from their traditional support system of family and friends.
For students: Approach, don’t avoid. College is challenging and many students cope by avoiding stressors (skipping class, staying in bed all day). However, we know that avoidance tends to make anxiety worse over time. Instead, practice taking small steps to approach anxiety-provoking situations. If you’re struggling in a class, try emailing the professor for help. If you’re feeling lonely, try introducing yourself to someone in the dining hall. Not at college yet? Practice this skill over the summer by participating in pre-college programs on campus.
Practice self-care. Many students struggle to maintain healthy eating habits, consistent exercise, and regular sleep without the structure of home. But self-care behaviors like these are extremely important for regulating mood and helping people cope with stress. Try to establish your own self-care routine — preferably before you even start college. Good sleep hygiene is key. Set a consistent bedtime and wake-up time each day. Avoid using your bed for activities other than sleep, like studying. Limit caffeine in the evening and limit alcohol altogether, as it interferes with restful sleep.
Find resources on campus. Many colleges offer resources to help students navigate the initial transition to campus and cope with stress. Investigate campus resources for academic advising, study support, peer counseling and student mental health. If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health issue, such as an anxiety disorder, you may also want to find a mental health provider near campus. If you struggle with anxiety and you’ll be starting college next year, you may find it helps to establish a relationship with a therapist.
For more information visit www.kidsheatlh.org.