DIY Self-Care Guide For College Students Living With Anxiety

DIY Self-Care Guide For College Students Living With Anxiety

Wherever you are out there, you're doing great.

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Your anxiety does not define you-- but, I know it takes a toll. I'm a fighter myself, on my own journey. Here are some tips and tools that I use that might help you, too.

1. Identify the trigger.

One of the most important things to do when confronted with any type of anxiety is identifying the trigger. It could be something personal in your life-- a relationship, body image issues, social interactions, past relationships, or really anything that could affect a person either consciously or subconsciously. It could even be as simple is the cumulative stress that you're feeling in school, no matter how happy you may be.

The first step in reducing the onset anxiety is to identify the root issue and what is causing it to stir up. Once you know your triggers, you can learn your coping methods as well as the things that help you over those hurdles more effectively and smoothly. If possible, you can even learn to avoid such triggers if they are toxic and unnecessary to your abundance in life.

2. Take action!

Once you have identified your own personal anxiety trigger(s), you then can begin efficiently taking action and swiftly kicking you anxiety's ass. I don't even mean mental action, necessarily. While that is certainly the place to start from, sometimes the initial distressed mind is not the brain you wanna be talking to yourself with. Something that I've noticed in my own personal experience is that I have a habit of shriveling up and internalizing when I am anxious. My immediate fight-or-flight instinct says to run, when really; 99% of the time there's nothing to run from.

One of my best pieces of advice that I feel I can give ever is to actually take physical action if you're feeling the burdens of anxiety creeping in. Whether that is going to the gym, turning on your favorite jams that make you feel like you, dancing in your room, going out with friends, doing your homework, doing your laundry, doing a facemask, treating yourself, watching a movie, going to a new club/activity on campus, or just doing what's right in front of you. It can be anything-- anything that has a better chance of getting you out of your own head than ruminating over your irrational thoughts ever will.

3. Prioritize.

All of the above being said, don't worry about "doing things" to much to the point where it stresses you out more. If you need to, make a list of what you need to do on any given day if you really just need to take a break for your own mental health. Here's the list of things that I prioritize: 1) Myself, 2) Sleep, 2) Enough Food, 3) Brain Power, and 3) What-I-Absolutely-Need-to-do-in-This-Day.

Something that often happens when humans feel overwhelmed is that we feel like everything in the world needs to get done, be fixed, be cured, be alright, and have answers. This is a fiction made up by our sensitive hearts and brains in reaction to our anxiety. It is not a truth, and it is not up to you. If you are struggling, take things day by day. Enjoy the moment. Be gentle with yourself. Do what is needed for you survival, your health, and your happiness.

4. Accept your anxiety for what it is.

It's important to remember that, unfortunately, about 50% of the world knowingly suffers from anxiety. There is nothing about your anxiety that makes you incapable, an outsider, ostracized, or less than. You are enough.

It's also important to recognize that you need to, in a way, become friends with your anxiety. It is a part of you, at least for this moment. If you need to have a sit down talk with yourself and your anxiety just to say, "hello. I recognize that you are present. I understand why you are here, but you are not in control of my life", then that is totally acceptable! The only way that you are ever going to grow from it and move forward is to accept yourself with your anxiety. It's just another one of those imperfections that makes you human and beautiful.

5. Come to terms with the fact that you are the one in control.

One of the biggest things that will make an uneasy person feel even more helpless is feeling out of control. Sometimes the spiral gets so uncontrollable and deprecating that we start to feel like it is no longer our battle to fight. This is not true. If you've come up from it once, you already know you have the strength. If you're having your first mental breakdown (hopefully these things will prevent you from this if it hasn't already occurred), then it is imperative that you become aware that you are so much stronger than you think.

Your anxiety is in your head, and that's what makes it so difficult. Yes it manifests through somatic and physical symptoms, but it is a sickness of the mind. You have to right to take care of yourself. You have the right to heal yourself. Take the reins of your life, tell yourself what you know is the truth and grab ahold of that abundance you know you are worthy of.

6. Be careful of where you put your energy…especially if you’re an empath.

Ugh!! This is so important!! Not only am I someone who has struggled with anxiety, but I am also an Enneagram Type 2 who is an extreme empath (and proud to be one). It is not surprising that these things all go hand in hand. One of the things that I've learned a lot about being an empath with anxiety is that it is all too easy to overextend, co-depend with people, and experience other people's pains, fears, and worries. It is crucial that you develop the ability to distinguish your own feelings and needs from those needs and feelings of others. This is way easier said than done if you are a person who feels energies and vibes as strong as a physical touch.

It is absolutely necessary to your mental health for you to pick and choose your battles. Yes, you are an empath. Yes, you care about other people deeply. Yes, you want to help. However, you need to understand that you cannot give the help that you want to if you are not first fully loving and taking care of yourself and your needs. Set your boundaries very clearly, and know when it has become out of your own control to help another person. These experiences affect your mental health and your personal anxiety more than you probably realize.

7. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is essentially the practice of accepting and enjoying the moment. It's a practice of being present, and it has become one of my most treasured remedies for anxiety in my own personal life. Some things you can do literally whenever (such a perk) to practice mindfulness are listed below

  • Identify one thing in the present moment that can be assigned to each of the 5 senses: smell, touch, sight, hearing, taste.
  • Do a body scan and notice what things feel tense, loose, out of place, or any other general state of being. Begin to focus on releasing the parts of the body that feel tense.
  • Close your eyes, touch an object that is available in your present moment, and soak it in.
  • Recognize the moment that you in, take a deep breath, and accept yourself in the present.

Mindfulness is literally one of the best things ever and I'm so glad to be a missionary of its existence! Breathe in, breathe out. You got this.

8. Accept that it’s okay not to have the answers.

Alright… this is a big one. I am one of the biggest culprits of being a worry wart as it pertains to this very issue. One of the most common things that an anxious person does is worry about literally everything that is unknown or in the future. Feeling anxious can basically compare to driving in a dark tunnel with a blindfold on without knowing if there's a cliff at the end. We want to know every single answer to our lives, fix every single thing, and solve every single problem there is in the world. Well, sorry to tell you irrational brain-- but you're probably not gonna know who is going to marry you within the next day.

This is a great place where mindfulness can come into play, also. If you're finding that your mind is piling up with these obsessive thoughts and keeping you from even getting the answers you're so desperately searching for, then you must take a breath. You must realize where you are in your own process, and stop comparing it to everyone else's journey. You must realize that, again, it is not in your power to cure every single bad thing in the world. You must realize that you have so much life to live, and that life is for learning. It's okay. It's okaaayyy. I promise.

9. Journal.

Okay so, this is one of my favorite things to do in general. That being said, it really does help with sorting thoughts out. I'm serious when I say that if your brain just feels like it's a bunch of staticky, white noise; journaling will probably help you align all of that chaos up there.

Also, keep in mind, journaling does not need to be some pretty, organized thing. It's beautiful in it's messiness, just like you. ;) You can write about anything. Your day, your favorite memories, what's really going on and setting you aflame, that guy you've had a crush on but just haven't told anyone, anything. This is also a great place to begin to identify your anxious triggers if you are struggling. It's also just awesome. So, yeah.

10. Seek Help!

Please, please, PUH-LEASE seek out help. Even if you are not dying or going through a complete mental breakdown, I would still strongly consider it. Among other options, there are things like: psychotherapy, medication, and more natural things like CES (cranial electrotherapy stimulation) that is one of my favorites. I'll put the link below this paragraph. I am in talk therapy, and let me tell you-- I love it. It's great, and it makes you more aware of what's going on and how to handle it. Then, once you know how to tackle it-- that's half of the battle. Most colleges and places have services where you can get insight/psychotherapy, and if they don't; there is somewhere you can find it. Please do. It's so worth it. You are worth it.

I am not a clinical psychologist nor am I a licensed therapist, so I can only do what I can do by sharing my own personal nuggets and tools with you! Don't be afraid. Break the stigma. Go get that self-care.

https://www.drdiane.com/ces-device-treating-anxiet...

11. Read Self-Care Books!

Okay, real talk. One of my favorite authors ever is Sylvester McNutt. He's honest, vulnerable, raw, and relatable in his writing. He does not sugar coat his truth and the truth of humanity. Here are some of his phenomenal books that I've read below:

https://www.sylvestermcnutt.net/books/care-package-a-path-to-deep-healing

https://www.sylvestermcnutt.net/books/this-is-what-real-love-feels-like

https://www.sylvestermcnutt.net/books/lust-for-life-1-ktcl7

Also, here are his main social media handles, because he's just amazing. Yes.

https://www.sylvestermcnutt.net/

&

Instagram: sylvestermcnutt

Okay. I will now get off of my soap box.

12. Listen to Dear Evan Hansen.

Okay... It doesn't even matter whether or not you're a musical theatre person to enjoy this musical. It's beautiful, honest, hilarious, considerate, accurate, and so promotional to the mental health of our generation today. Also, it's my favorite show ever. I think you can see why.

Link to the cast album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DO1dAwW-wUk

And to their website: https://dearevanhansen.com/

14. Lastly and most importantly, know that you are not alone!

Out of everything I've said, this is the most important!!! You are not alone. You are enough. Your anxiety does not define you. You are valid. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. There are so many people in your struggle with you, myself included. Never be afraid to reach out.

Also, I know you may not believe it but your anxiety is actually something that attributes to the beautiful, complex human being that you are. You're anxious. So what. It's because you are a living, breathing, feeling, empathetic, caring person who yearns to find every bit of meaning there is to find in life. What you need to do now is recognize the strength in your anxiety, and use it to your advantage. Use it as an asset. As a superpower. Use it to help yourself. Use it to help the world. You are you. The beauty, the ugly, all of it-- and that is enough.

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My Anxiety Is Not Your Next Trend

My mental health is not cute or trendy

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I have had diagnosed anxiety since I was seven years old. Since then I've been in and out of therapy, have tried medication, have cried myself to sleep countless nights, have had panic attacks about things as simple as not getting a text back, and have made my parents sick with worry.

One day in particular though stands out to me. I was a junior in high school and was sitting in my third period English class. I'd just bought a new glass Starbucks cup the night before and had it sitting on my desk. The cup started to slip off of my desk, fell on the ground, and shattered. Everyone was watching me at this point, and I excused myself to go to the bathroom and get some paper towels to clean my mess. I walked back to the classroom, humiliation filling me and paper towels clenched in hand. I could feel myself losing breath and getting anxious, but I managed to calm myself. By the end of the period, everything was cleaned up. Fourth period comes along and I walk to my speech class. I sit at my desk, the period starts, and my teacher puts on a film. I reach out my phone to send a text to my dad about how I broke my new cup. I hear my name called in a stern tone, and am told to put my phone away. I reach in my bag and grab my planner, I start to write in it to keep my mind distracted. I hear my name called in the same stern tone once again. I am told to pay attention and that I am being disrespectful. At this point, the whole class is looking at me. I feel humiliated once again and can feel tears start to come out of my eyes. I need an excuse to leave the classroom, so I ask to go to the nurse.

As I walk down the hall to the nurse's office my vision starts getting blurry and I start getting sick to my stomach. I make a run for the bathroom. I sit in the stall struggling for breath, heart rate spiked, sweat dripping from my palms, and tears dripping from my eyes. I know that I am having a panic attack. I think of everything bad that happened to me on that day and how embarrassed I was. I walk back to the classroom and am asked why I took so long. I'm too scared to give a valid answer and make up a fake one. My teacher called the nurse and finds out that I never went into her office. I'm pulled into the hallway and told that I was a liar, disrespectful, and have lost all of my teacher's trust. This conversation brought the feelings I just had in the bathroom stall back on, but there was nothing I could do. I felt helpless and had to call my dad to pick me up.

This is what anxiety is. Anxiety is not a beautiful girl needing to be saved by some prince charming. Anxiety is not feeling a tiny bit nervous before an exam. Anxiety is not a word to be put in cursive on a necklace or on a hoodie. Anxiety is feeling like you're helpless and trapped. Anxiety is having a breakdown over something as simple as not getting a text from your dad. Anxiety is feeling so scared and anxious that you can't eat or don't have the motivation to get up for class. Anxiety is canceling plans that you've looked forward to all week because you wake up and feel like all of your friends hate you.

Mental illnesses are not something to be seen as trendy to be put on clothing. There is nothing cute about mental illness. A few days ago I heard about a YouTuber named Corinna Kopf experiencing backlash for her new merchandise. I decided to look up a picture of her merchandise and see a hoodie with the definition of the word "anxiety" printed on the back.

Looking further, I find necklaces on a site called ban.do. These necklaces are gold nameplates that spell out "anxiety" "depression" and "bipolar." These necklaces are sold out. Urban Outfitters even sold a crop top with the word "depression" printed all over it and a t-shirt with the words "Eat Less."

The problem with making mental illness "pretty" is that it's so out-of-kilter with reality. Anxiety and other mental illnesses are almost suggested as a desirable character trait for women to have. Speaking from personal experience, anxiety is frustrating and demanding for partners. Anxiety isn't pretty and definitely isn't fun. Anxiety is painful and a daily struggle for some.

My anxiety isn't beautiful and sure as hell shouldn't be used as your next fashion statement.

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A Reminder That Your Best Is Always Enough

Don't let the stress of the season wear you down; just keep doing your best!

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Life gets overwhelming. For me personally, adjusting to college has been a whirlwind of finding new classes and studying habits, meeting new people and balancing school with a social life, and applying for jobs, scholarships, and now, apartments. This whole "adulting" thing is hard. It's not easy to find time to do everything you have on the agenda, on top of keeping yourself healthy mentally and physically. This pressure has been getting to me lately; I have so much to do before the end of the quarter and my stress levels are rising continuously. Of course, I'm excited about spring, the end of the year, and the excitement that next year will bring. But in the meantime, we all have a lot on our plates.

Personally, I've really enjoyed this first year of college so far, but I have felt the stress and pressure of it all, especially through this past winter quarter. I've been studying French for years now. This has been my first year of taking university-level French classes, and I've really been enjoying them. At the same time, though, it's been a lot of work to push myself to the standards of my professor and feel like I'm actually reaching fluency. As I'm sure many language learners can relate, I've reached a certain point in my studies that I feel I've reached fluency in comprehension, but I still hesitate in speaking the language and I get nervous about making mistakes orally.

I know that the solution to this roadblock is practice. I listen to French songs, watch movies and videos in French, and read French news articles and Tweets. Still, I don't feel like I have the time that I need to commit to becoming fluent. In addition, this year introduced me to the zero-waste routine. Although it's been an incredibly rewarding effort, it takes a lot of time, money, and dedication. Living in a dorm with a very small kitchen has made it difficult to truly practice the zero-waste lifestyle I hope for. Although I've reduced my waste immensely in shopping practices, there are still many ways that I could cut back on waste if my budget or living space allowed for it.

I do my best to practice what I preach, but sometimes I find myself taking the more convenient, wasteful route. My campus offers lots of ways to recycle and compost, but still, I can never escape the non-recyclable plastics that I have to throw away.

In reflecting on these thoughts the past few weeks, I have realized that all I can do in facing these hardships is my best. I'm reminding myself that I am not alone in my stress and personal dilemmas. Springtime tends to be insanely busy for me. As the school year wraps up there's a lot to do. I know that these next few months will fly by, so my goal is to stay productive and busy to keep myself happy and as stress-free as possible!

So, here's to each of us trying our best. Remember that pushing through struggles often results in a stronger, more confident version of ourselves. Keep up the good work; enjoy the spring weather and let it inspire you to stay on top of what needs to be done. Take care of you, and remind yourself that your best is always good enough!

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