Saying And Experiencing Are Two Different Things

Saying And Experiencing Are Two Different Things

Saying that you have a mental illness is different from living with mental illness.

Mental illness is no joke, but recently it has become a fad to claim to have an illness when actually you're just throwing a bunch of words around. I'm not saying the average person doesn't have down days or things that make them nervous—we all have those things. However, claiming to have a mental illness when it's "just one of those days," is actually very hurtful to people, like me, who do struggle daily. If I had to describe what I go through on a daily basis, it would be something like this:

You know that little voice in your head, the voice you hear when you type on your keyboard or while reading? Imagine that voice in your head constantly critiquing everything you do, everything you say. It doesn't even have to be recent, things you did a decade ago can resurface in your mind and not leave. It starts as soon as you wake up and stays until you go to bed. It is everywhere. It's a silent struggle most of the time—if I don't tell you it's happening then you won't know. I can be hanging out with a group of friends while battling with myself in my head, trying to control my breathing while my palms are pools of sweat and my heart is beating a mile a minute. I've become a master at hiding.

One time, I had a panic attack and fainted in Chipotle. It is when that voice was suddenly quiet that everything went bad. Prior to the silence, I had so many thoughts spiraling through my head—it sounded like a million different voices and I wasn't able to differentiate my voice from all of the people speaking around me. My body went numb, my vision went dark and my heart felt like it was exploding. The only thing I heard was my head hitting the floor. I woke up about 20 seconds later, according to my friend. I just remember people screaming that I wasn't breathing, that they were going to call the police and then I was surrounded by people.

It isn't just one day out of the week, it's every single day. It's not being able to cross the road because you are scared that someone in their car waiting for you to cross is angry at you, even when you have the right of way to cross. It's when you enjoy being alone, but being alone is also when the thoughts cloud your mind the most. It's being in class and fidgeting with anything you can get your hands on in order to hopefully distract your mind from the thoughts racing through it. The reality of mental illness is not cool or trendy, it's having to rely on pills everyday, but that doesn't necessarily mean that everything is fine and dandy because even while typing this you've had to wipe your keyboard four times due to how much sweat has dripped from your hands from knowing that your family will read this, and you've never told them how you truly feel daily.

Saying that you have a mental illness is different from living with mental illness. It isn't just a "slump" that you can get over. If it is, then you probably don't have anything wrong with you except that you use WebMD way too much and you use medical terms without knowledge of how living with these disorders can be crippling. I'm not where I want to be yet mentally, I'm still learning how to overcome my daily struggles. However my anxiety, depression, and PTSD will not tear me down, and all who suffer from mental illness please do not give up! But to those of you who use these words to describe your everyday emotions, please stop. Having a mental illness is not something you want to have to live with, it is not glamorous.

Rest In Peace Talia (1996-2016)

Cover Image Credit: Christian Sampson

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10 Simple Ways To Manage Your Anxiety In College

Don't let anxiety dictate your college experience.

The summer before I started college, I had major anxiety over the prospect of going to school in a city six hours away that I had only visited once before. With the first semester of freshman year under my belt, I can assure anyone who deals with anxiety or is nervous for college, that everything is going to be okay. I didn’t die, I found amazing friends, and college has been one of the best experiences of my life so far.

After asking around, I discovered that several people I know experience anxiety too. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults in the United States suffer from this, with anxiety being one of the most common mental illnesses in the country.

Before I share a few methods that have proven helpful to me in dealing with my anxiety, I’d just like to say that your anxiety does not define you. You are not alone either. Having anxiety is not shameful, and it is certainly not shameful to ask for help, whether that be talking to family, friends or a therapist.

1. Meditation

Practicing meditation is an effective way to physically calm down the body by reducing the heart rate. This helps with mindfulness and de-stressing. You don’t have to be an expert at meditation to try it either. You can start by lying down, listening to guided meditations, or only beginning with two to five minute sessions. I like to either look up meditation guides before I go to bed on Youtube or use the apps “MINDBODY” and “Insight Timer.”

2. Yoga

Yoga is another great way to practice physical de-stressing. Yoga achieves the same goals as meditation by allowing the nervous system to relax. Yoga has elements of both mindfulness and physical exercise. Often, college campuses will offer free yoga sessions if you look for them.

3. Coloring

This method is one of my favorites. Coloring is another way to keep the mind active, yet keep your mind off of whatever you’re worrying about. I have a stack of coloring books and supplies that I use when I’m feeling stressed. The best part of this method is you have an art piece when you’re done!

4. Exercise

Physical activity is important for not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Studies have proven that exercising helps with anxiety and depression, but sometimes going to the gym three times a week is not always plausible. Exercise doesn’t always have to be lifting weights and running on the treadmill. Walking to class is an easy way to stay active. There are lots of options, such as doing a ten-minute ab workout in your dorm room or going for a bike ride with your friends.

5. Listen to your favorite music

This is another fun one. Listening to your favorite type of music always cheers you up and puts you in a good mood. Listening to nature sounds while studying sometimes help people focus as well. Sounds of the ocean, rain or humming are popular sounds to listen to when trying to focus.

6. Talk to someone

If you have stuff you need to get off your chest, talking to a close friend or family member can help a lot. Sometimes you just need a person to listen to you vent. Don’t feel the need to keep your feelings bottled up. If needed, a therapist is an amazing resource that can help you in your daily life. Therapists are a neutral party with an educated background that can provide you with specialized help. Remember, it is not embarrassing to go to therapy, and it actually has tons of benefits. Additionally, colleges often have free therapy available to students through their health services.

7. Talk to your professor

For those who get nervous speaking in class, participation based classes are a major source of anxiety. If participation is a part of your grade, talk to your professor about finding solutions to this. Professors want you to succeed. Just let them know you struggle with this, and they most likely will be willing to accommodate you.

8. Treat yo' self

We all get really overwhelmed sometimes, and anxiety can be consuming. It is important to take time for yourself. Take each day at a time. Celebrate the small wins, and treat yourself! Have a movie night with your friends. Eat that cookie. Take a walk. Study outside. Remember to enjoy the little things in life.

9. Keep a journal

Writing is a great way to acknowledge your feelings and talk about them without actually telling anyone about them. If you don’t want people to know about your personal issues, write them down! I keep a journal where I write one good thing that happened to me each day, to remind myself of all the good things happening in my life. It’s also fun to look back and see all the fun things you’ve done in the past.

10. Get involved on campus

Find a fun, non-academic project or activity on campus that you’re passionate about. This can be joining a club sports team, the astronomy club, or if you’re me and go to school in Wisconsin, the Cheese Club. You can even find activities to do right in your room, like drawing or playing an instrument. There are endless options.

Everyone needs to remember that having anxiety is no less shameful than having a broken leg. We can overcome anxiety by taking small steps each and everyday.

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6 Ways To Take The Stress Out Of College, Kinda

When you start to feel overwhelmed by the workload of college, you should practice some of these techniques in order to help make college less overwhelming.

Stress is one word that every college student or worker is familiar with. According to, the formal definition of stress is your body’s response to any type of demand or threat, which is also known as the fight or flight response. Stress in small amounts is fine, but too much stress can cause negative effects on your health, such as heart diseases, depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. And as finals are growing closer, students in college have more reasons to feel stressed. College can be very stressful and can cause students to feel very overwhelmed or depressed, especially in their first year. However, there are ways you can handle stress. Here are the six ways that you can deal with stress from college.

1. Exercise.

One thing that has always helped me with stress is taking the time to exercise. Exercise can relieve anxiety and can help you to focus better in class. It’s also very beneficial for helping you stay fit.

It can be very hard to set aside time for exercising, especially if you are taking a lot of hard courses, but try to set aside 15 minutes to exercise three times a week. You could even opt for taking the stairs instead of the elevator to class or taking a longer walk to class. Whatever the case, exercising can really help relieve a lot of stress that can be caused by the pressure from courses.

2. Study and plan assignments.

One of the most common things that almost every college student will do is cram for a test or turn an assignment in at the last minute. Almost every student has at least once tried to turn in an online assignment at exactly 11:59 p.m. on the due date.

However, doing assignments or studying at the last minute can cause unnecessary stress. Therefore, it’s better to either do the assignment right away or break the assignment into chunks each day. Most students will use a planner to help them decide how to break the assignment or studying into chunks.

You can also plan how much time you will spend on each part of the assignment. For example, you may decide that you will spend Monday studying for 15 minutes or an hour the next day.

The one exception to this is if you are the type of person who can't do an assignment in chunks. I’ve heard of several people who work better on assignments by finishing the assignment all in one day. If this is the case, you should at least do it as soon as possible to get the assignment out of the way. This will help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by your workload.

3. Avoid caffeine.

This is something in which I personally have a hard time doing since I run on coffee. Caffeine, however, can cause more stress and anxiety since it can cause your heart to race. I notice often that when I drink coffee before an exam, it worsens my test anxiety. Therefore, it's best to avoid coffee before a test or if your dealing with a lot of stress.

4. Get plenty of sleep.

This is the one thing that a lot of students in college don't follow. Especially since a lot of students pull all-nighters where they stay up all night studying for their exams.

Not getting enough sleep can cause major problems with focusing in class and with memory. You can also end up over studying for an exam if you spend too much time studying with no breaks. Pulling an all-nighter won’t help you get the grade that you are hoping to get on your exam. Therefore, it’s best advised to stop studying an hour before bedtime, preferably at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m.

It’s also best that you make sure that you are getting nine to ten hours of sleep. Students that get only four or five hours of sleep are more likely to feel stress. Therefore, if you really want to relieve your stress, you should try getting enough sleep every day.

5. Listen to music.

Music is a great way to take your mind off of an assignment or test. Classical music is especially soothing. Listening to music can also you complete assignments. When I am trying to do my homework, I will often listen to classical music since it is not only soothing, but it also helps keep my mind focused. Unless you are the type of person who can’t listen to music when working, then I suggest listening to music to help relieve stress.

6. Try taking one course of interest.

When I was taking Calculus, I knew beforehand that the class would be very stressful since I had never had any experience with taking a Calculus course in high school. Therefore, since one of my interests was acting, I took a theater course right after my Calculus course in order to relieve any stress that I had from Calculus. I'm now thankful that I did this since when I was under a lot of stress from Calculus, going to my theater class helped relieve a lot of that stress since it was something that I was interested in and it kept my mind off of my Calculus course.

If you are taking a really hard course and can fit an extra class into your schedule, you should try taking at least one course that you find interesting or that features something that you enjoy, such as history, theater, or math. Whatever it is, if you know that it will help take your mind off of a difficult course, you should at least try it.

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So, when you start to feel overwhelmed by the workload of college, you should practice some of these techniques in order to help make college less overwhelming. I know more than anyone how difficult college can be and how stress can take a toll on your life. However, if you follow the tips from above, you can avoid the harmful effects that stress can have on your health and start to enjoy college.

Cover Image Credit: Thought Catalog // Unsplash

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