How to cope with anxiety in college

While college seems like an exciting place with no worries, especially because of its depiction in movies, this is usually far from the case. Many things that make people excited about colleges, such as the thought of new friends, new environment, change of workload etc., also give them anxiety. A study by the American College Health Association says that 63% of college students suffer from overwhelming anxiety. This is over half of the population. 

Anxiety is that intense feeling of fear or dread that can cause you to have any of these symptoms, sweatiness, shortness of breath or heavy breathing, rapid heartbeat or even restlessness. While this may vary in severity from individual to individual, this is one that doesn’t just go away with time but rather gets worse. It can be clinically controlled and even treated through therapy and medication.

While mental health has been on a decline and the general mood of young adults lower, it can be said that the time spent on electronic devices such as phones and computers is one contributing factor. Other causes of anxiety disorder are; sleep deprivation from excess caffeine and all-nighters, loneliness, school stress etc. can also cause psychological distress among university students. Anxiety and stress are easy to mix up; this shouldn’t be the case because the difference between the two is that you feel a sense of doom looming with the former. This article explores some helpful ways you can manage;

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Practise Self Care

Self-care is in the little things like maintaining a healthy diet and eating good food, consistently exercising and having a full night’s sleep. It is not necessarily expensive or fancy like spa dates and pedicures. It could be as basic as taking a walk. These habits are paramount to helping students deal, as well as regulate their moods. It is important that when you get to college, you try to create your self-care routine.

This could even be as normal as watching a funny movie when you feel overwhelmed. Research has proven that laughter is really “good medicine” because it drives physical and mental change that reduces stress and improves health.

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Identify your triggers 

Anxiety always has a set trigger or triggers and being able to identify what causes the feelings of an adrenaline rush and shortness of breath is one way you can control it or manage it. 

Triggers could range from your lifestyle changes in your college life or thoughts about your workload; drinking lots of caffeine or alcohol, irregular sleeping patterns, a poor diet can all lead to anxiety and leave you pretty crappy. Other triggers of anxiety in college students include big changes such as; being homesick, loneliness, relationships and breakups, poor adjustment to new surroundings, uncertainty about the future, getting high etc. Mindfulness and knowing what exactly ticks you is a great step.

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Seek help

Knowing your triggers is not all that matters but also taking it a step further by going out of your way to seek support. Help could be you talking to a friend or family member. It could also be you seeking help from a therapist or peer counsellor from the college student center, where you can get counselling and know-how to handle pressure better. 

While many students are skeptical about speaking with a mental health professional, this process, however, can help you work through your anxiety and give you the reassurance that you are not alone. This first step in seeking help may end up being one of your best decisions because of the outcome after your stay. 

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Be realistic about your goals

Being a go-getter is great and being ambitious is fantastic, but this is only detrimental to you if you’re taking on more than you can chew or carry. The course load of college is different, so if at any point you get overwhelmed by classes or living, you should consider reevaluating and re-strategizing. Live in the now.

You know your strengths and your weaknesses. Do whatever you must to make the burden lighter, even if it means not taking as many courses in a semester or finding a tutor to help or even a website that write essays for you throughout the day. Speaking with a professor can go a long way.

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When picking out your courses for the academic semester, consider everything from work to extracurricular activities, as well as ample time for rest.

Avoid self-isolation

Self-isolation and anxiety are a terrible combo. It may seem like you do not have time to socialize but secluding yourself can lead to a lonely life. Loneliness has been associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression. Being alone creates room for anxious thoughts to creep in. You’ll begin to self-doubt and over criticize and analyze and ask yourself questions such as; “what is my purpose in life” etc.

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If you cannot go to a social event on campus, you can start by making yourself comfortable in spaces with other students such as libraries, cafeterias, etc. This helps you take your mind off it.


Anxiety is difficult and very common amongst universities or students. This is why it is always advisable to seek help. These five means of coping should be able to help you for a while till you decide to speak to a therapist. You can find health lines for your institution’s health services where you can schedule an appointment starting whenever you feel ready and have the resources.

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