Before I begin, I must acknowledge that I write this from a place of privilege, a fact that plays into how my opinion likely will — and probably should — be read. That being said, I also acknowledge that, especially during a time like college, we all go through struggles that may be brief, or may be ongoing. What I want to do is share one perspective on ways to approach those struggles; these practices have helped me, and I hope they’ll help others too.
I am a junior, a few courses into my major, and while I’m still trying to figure out my thesis and extracurriculars, learn how to make friends, and generally get my feet under me, I finally feel like I’m starting to figure out this whole school thing.
Last year was a different story; I spent most of last year an anxious wreck, calling home six times a day, barely leaving my dorm room. I had no idea what to do or how to get help.
Thanks to a great deal of outside support from friends, family, counselors, and dogs, I have learned a few things about getting through the muck. I’m a big believer in paying good things forward, so I’m taking this opportunity to share some of the best advice I’ve gotten.
3 hours of class a day, plus work, homework, and hopefully socializing means there seems to be no time to slow down. It’s tough to get out of the mindset that you need to be productive every waking minute of every day; but honestly, that’s how you get neck cramps, that’s how you become sleep deprived, that’s how you forget to eat three square meals a day. Every day, try to set aside even just an hour to relax, maybe with a close friend or a pet. Good music, a book, a cup of tea, or even a little shut-eye can work wonders to slow a racing mind. The discipline needed to slow down is the same discipline it takes to speed yourself back up.
2: Ask for help!
There seems to be a widespread stigma against asking for help, but there is nothing wrong with seeking assistance. Your own mind can often be your worst enemy — you send yourself negative messages, tell yourself you aren’t good enough, think you can’t handle things you absolutely can. When your mind turns against you, look for outside resources to tell you the truth: you matter; you are capable; you are loved. The Colorado College counseling center is an incredible resource, and you get six free sessions a year — take advantage! I promise that you will be better for it.
3: Figure out who your friends are!
With regard to social scenes, my biggest lesson in high school and college has been to learn who is really there for me. I’m not great at making friends, so I sometimes wind up in places I don’t want to be because it’s convenient. Just like there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out people who you like and who like you back. It can be tough, and will take time, but surrounding yourself with the people that are good for you and for whom you are good, too, will make your world a little brighter.
4: Know you aren’t alone!
Anxiety, depression, and social phobias are widespread mental illnesses; but, despite being so common, each person’s experience can be totally isolating. There’s always that little voice in the back of your head nagging you, “You’re the only person who feels this. You can’t get help. No one else knows what this is like.” That is total crap. You are not alone. It’s strange, but for me at least it has been comforting to hear from friends and family who have dealt with the same things I have — they have found ways for themselves to cope and are always willing to share those methods.
Sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s a good practice. When you have good days, think about what made them good, even write that down. On days that go badly, you’ll now have tools to fall back on to boost your mood and improve your experience. Furthermore, show people that you appreciate them and you’re grateful to have them around. Give love and more often than not, you’ll get love back.
These are just a few strategies that I’ve picked up and been taught as I’ve sought out ways to cope with my own anxieties. They don’t always work, and what’s good for one person will not always be good for another, but these tips have been helpful to me, and it is my goal to spread the love. So, to whomever might be reading this, I hope they help you too. And if they do, don’t forget to pay that help forward.