Self-care is essential for everyone. Self-care for anxious students is even more so.
We’ve heard it before – “college is the best four years of your life.” Umm…say what!?
I know for myself, and many others I’ve spoken with, this was by far NOT the case. For me, one of the main reasons my college years were so difficult was because I was suffering from debilitating anxiety.
According to the World Health Organization,
“Worldwide, it is estimated that 10–20% of adolescents experience mental health conditions, yet these remain underdiagnosed and undertreated.”
We know young people are struggling with mental health, which leads me to today’s post. Let’s talk self-care for anxious students.
I see you. I know what you’re going through. I know it feels scary and overwhelming. But, I also know you will get through these tough years. Life gets better. You are resilient and brave and capable of incredible things.
College life can already feel hectic and stressful, add anxiety into the mix, and things can start to feel pretty overwhelming. But the good news is there are simple everyday things you can do to help manage your anxiety.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this blog is written from personal and lived experience. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace professional mental health services, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health or mental health, you should always consult with a health-care professional.
Self-care for anxious students: 5 practical tips
# 1 – Keep a Journal
Journaling comes with a whole bunch of health benefits. From getting to know yourself better, to letting go of negative thoughts, to reducing stress, routinely writing things down is a practical way to manage an anxious mind.
To stop our negative thinking patterns, we must know what they are first! Writing our thoughts and feelings down helps us identify our automatic negative thinking patterns and get to the root of our anxiety.
How To Do It?
Try to journal for at least 20 minutes each day. If this is too difficult, don’t be too hard on yourself! The key is to be consistent. Journaling a few times a week is still a step in the right direction. Do the best you can, that will make all the difference.
Here’s what NOT to do:
Don’t worry about spelling errors, or not knowing what to write about; just let it all out! And don’t overthink it either – write everything and anything that comes to mind.
Need some help?
Tiny Buddha has some excellent prompts to help you get started:
- Today, I choose to let go of the things I can’t control, including…
- I recognize that I don’t need to have all the answers right now. Today, I give myself permission not to know…
- Dear inner critic: You always focus on everything I’m doing wrong, but I know I’m doing a lot right, including…
- I know I’m strong enough to handle whatever comes at me, because I’ve survived a lot, including…
- Instead of worrying about making the “wrong” choices, I trust that no matter what I choose…
Keeping a gratitude journal, and jotting down a few things you are grateful for each day, is another way of coping with anxiety because it puts you in a positive frame of mind by helping you focus on the good in your life.
# 2 – The 333 Rule
Think about the last time you were anxious, were your thoughts racing? Yes, they were. One thing that can help with this is to try to bring your thinking back to the present moment. Although this may sound simple to do, it can be challenging and often takes some practice.
Web MD shares a trick to make this process easier. They refer to it as the 333 rule. Here’s how it works:
The next time your anxious thoughts are getting the best of you, do these three things:
- Name three things you see
- Name three sounds you hear
- Move three parts of your body – a finger or toe, for example
This simple and effective rule will help bring your mind to the here and now. And you can take this little trick with you wherever you go!
# 3 – Avoid Sugar
It can be difficult to make healthier eating choices in college. You tend to eat what you can afford, which is not very much for most of us! But, if there’s one thing you can do that will make a difference, it’s trying your very best to avoid sugar.
Sugar is terrible for our physical and mental health. And when it comes to anxiety, it can make it worse. The high and crash of sugar can lead you to feel irritable, shaky, and tense. It can also lead to depression and negatively affect your memory and learning.
So what’s a gal with a sweet tooth to do? Say goodbye to processed sugar and enjoy healthier alternatives. Check out these dessert recipes with zero added sugar over on Greatist.com!
# 4 – Get Outdoors
I know when I’m feeling anxious, spending time outdoors, in nature, helps instantly ease my anxiety. And there have been countless studies on these positive effects.
Research shows that nature does wonders for our well-being – both physical and mental. In addition to helping improve stress, depression, and anxiety, it can also have beneficial academic effects. It can improve attention span, self-discipline, and can even improve symptoms of ADHD.
The importance of this is especially crucial if you’re living in an urban area where green space can be hard to come by. Visiting a nearby rural area, or spending time at a smaller local park, can be ways you can still reap the benefits of nature while living in the city.
Student life = crazy busy life. I know, I’ve been there. And I’m not expecting you’ll have hours to spend outdoors. But, even a little time makes a significant impact. Spending even 20 minutes in nature can help reduce stress levels.
# 5 – Schedule in Me Time
I’ve noticed that when my anxiety is at its worst, there is very little balance in my life. That goes for now, and back when I was in college. Folks, balance in life is everything.
Student life makes it challenging to find balance. You’ve always got a million things that need to get down, like by yesterday! And sorry to break it to you, but this is one aspect of college life that continues as you get older. Some may even argue it gets harder!
The truth is, it’s very easy to forget about your well-being. Everything else always seems more important. But, taking even a few minutes each day, or an hour a week, whatever you can manage, for YOU, counts.
What is “Me Time”? It’s taking the time to relax. It’s about giving yourself a breather. It’s about unwinding and reducing stress.
Read a chapter from your favourite book, go for a walk, take a nap. “Me Time” includes doing something that brings you joy and helps you de-stress.
What is “Me Time” NOT? Selfish.
Self-care is vital to your well-being. Take care of your physical and mental health by making time for it.
You got this. College can be tough, but you are tougher.
Turn to these five self-care tips when you’re looking for some guidance:
1 – Keep a Journal
2 – The 333 Rule
3 – Avoid Sugar
4 – Get Outdoors
5- Schedule in Me Time
And, remember, you are not defined by your anxiety. You are a bright, caring human with a heck of a future in front of you.
I wish you continued self-love, strength, and happiness. Thanks so much for stopping by <3