If you struggle with anxiety, the idea of leaving for college can be a terrifying one. And you know what? That's a totally realistic and rational way to feel. But, know that there are plenty of ways to manage anxiety when you leave for college, too. That's right, we are going to get through this together.
Anxiety can be a nasty monster. It can creep up on you when you least expect it, and leave you quivering in your boots without any specific reason as to why. It's also a totally common thing for humans to experience. Anxiety affects close to 18 percent of the population. That's basically like one in every five people. (And to be honest, I bet the real stat would be a lot higher than that if there was any error-free way of figuring that information out.)
If you are a little nervous about going to college, you are definitely not the only one. If you are flat out anxious about going to college, you are also not the only one. That knowledge in and of itself can be a huge relief. While leaving for a university can be a giant and challenging step for people with anxiety, it can also be an experience that is beyond rewarding. Take the proper precautions, and do what you can to make the transition easier, because you have that power.
1. Schedule an appointment with an on-campus therapist.
As a full-time student, you are likely going to have health insurance through your university. Take advantage of that. Most campuses have a mental health center that's there specifically to serve college students. Sign yourself up for an intake appointment as soon as you arrive at college, even if you don't feel particularly anxious yet. Therapy is a powerful way to help treat anxiety, and having that tool available to you while you're living on campus is priceless.
2. Let your roommate and R.A. know.
Sometimes half the struggle of having anxiety is feeling like you have to keep it a secret. Sure, you don't have to make it the ice-breaking conversation you have with every new friend you make at college, but you'll likely drop some weight off of your shoulders by letting the people you'll be living with know. It only takes a couple minutes to explain your anxiety to your roommate and your R.A., and trust me, they will not think you're weird for it.
3. Don't feel obligated to attend every event...
There's a lot of pressure during that first year of college to attend every single event. Don't stress yourself out. If you skip some concerts and BBQ socials, you're not going to ruin your chances of having a social life. Go to the events that feel comfortable to you, and be OK with skipping the ones that you think might trigger your anxiety.
4. ...but try to keep busy.
That being said, don't keep yourself locked in your dorm room. Keep the door open for socializing, find some student interest groups that you're interested in, and keep up with your school work. Letting the mind wander is just about the worst thing a person with anxiety can do, so make sure you're actively trying to keep yourself busy and engaged with the community around you.
5. Have someone off-campus that you can call regularly.
Before you leave for college, find somebody that you know you can call regularly once you arrive. It can be your mom, it can be your dad, it can be your sister or best friend. Sometimes talking to someone who isn't so intimately involved with campus life at your university can be a wonderful outlet. They'll look at things objectively and remind you that school isn't the end-all be-all.
6. Keep a journal.
Keep a journal to record your feelings. Ideally, write in it every single day. Whether you're feeling great or on the verge of having an anxiety attack, the process of writing things down helps bring your mind back down to earth and out of the clouds. Journals are also great to read over if you're having a bad day, because it reminds you of times you've felt relaxed and happy in the past, and how you've overcome anxiety before.
7. Create a back-up plan.
Even if you never need to use it, sometimes coming up with a mental back-up plan can help calm an anxious mind. Know where the closest airport is or what you could do if you decided you needed to go back home for a couple days. You'll likely never act on it, but knowing that it's always an option can be an instant comfort.
8. Pat yourself on the back.
Finally, and most importantly, pat yourself on the back. You're going to college, and that's a really big deal. Don't let anyone try to convince you that moving your entire life onto an unfamiliar campus should be easy. Not everyone can do it, and the fact that you're giving it a go speaks volumes about your strength.
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