Students’ stories: Got anxiety?

1Anxiety strategy: Counseling

Young man leaning on fence“I was deeply affected by anxiety my whole junior year. It took many deep talks with my best friend to finally seek help. I wish I had sought help sooner, for my counselor helped me clarify the root of my thoughts and gave me non-pharmacological ways to manage my anxiety.”
—Undergraduate, Marquette University, Wisconsin

“I am medically diagnosed with a panic disorder, and I was struggling with balancing my workload. I was unable to get out of bed for fear of failure. I sought assistance from behavioral health services on campus. Talking to someone who specializes in working with students helped me work out new strategies for managing stress, and I was able to attend seminars on studying effectively.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Maryland Baltimore County

“I have anxiety and panic disorder. Through working with my therapist to build skills and change patterns and learned behaviors, I have been able to come off of medication. I still struggle from time to time, but as long as I keep obsessive thoughts under control I do really well.”
—Second-year student, Anne Arundel Community College, Maryland

“My counsellor has helped my change the way I relate to anxiety. Anxiety was not bringing down my grades, but it was destroying my quality of life. I realized this was unsustainable and have been able to adjust my work load and my stress this year.”
—Second-year graduate student, University of Victoria, British Columbia

“I could not focus on the actual class or anyone around me. It felt as if I were in a dream. To fix this, my counselor taught me to count off three senses that I am experiencing in that moment (sight, touch, hearing, etc.). This forced me to feel what is around me and get out of my head. I also focused on breathing exercises so I could calm myself down.”
—First-year undergraduate, University of Maryland Baltimore County

“It took many deep talks with my best friend to finally seek help. I wish I had sought help sooner, for my counselor helped me clarify the root of my thoughts and gave me non-pharmacological ways to manage my anxiety.”
—Undergraduate, Marquette University, Wisconsin

2Signs of anxiety: Academic struggle

Searching for inspiration“Due to my social anxiety disorder, I frequently find myself unable to talk to professors, whether it is to ask a question in class or meet in their office, even if it is to the detriment of my understanding of the material and my grade.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador

“I worry about writing papers, that I won’t do a good job or I won’t quote correctly so I might be called out for plagiarism. This has never happened, but I have been so affected by these thoughts & feelings that I haven’t done papers & I have gotten lower grades.”
—Third-year undergraduate, College of Southern Idaho

“At one point my social anxiety became so debilitating that I stopped going to all four of my classes, which tanked my GPA and impacted my eligibility for financial aid. I attended therapy and [became] able to graduate and transfer.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Maryland Baltimore County

3Anxiety strategy: Consider removing the source

“I was overwhelmed with school work and keeping a full-time job. I stopped doing school work for about a week or two. It was really difficult to catch up on everything. Got a D in one class. I quit that job, choosing to have less money and focus on school. Ended up being a good thing.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Maryland Baltimore County

“My first face-to-face class in college—News Writing and Gathering—I was in over my head. I was paralyzed and they expected me to sprint. I realized journalism wasn’t for me and I needed to go for what truly sets me at ease: music. I finally got the bright blinking neon sign that told me to stop the direction I was headed in and go for what I know is me.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Del Mar College, Texas

4Signs of anxiety: Social isolation

“Anxiety makes it difficult for me to go to club meetings where I have to interact with a group. This negatively affected my ability to make friends and be a positive/reliable part of a team. This semester I’m going to communicate my availability better and be more honest about my problems being social.”
—Second-year undergraduate, University of Maryland Baltimore County

“This is my first semester in college, at a new place by myself. My social anxiety is crippling when it comes to trying to get out there and meet new people. I even find myself getting physically ill when anticipating such situations. I went to the Welcome Week events but was still unable to approach people. It does make me very sad and depressed at times thinking about how alone I am here, but I am still trying to go to events and join interesting clubs.”
—First-year undergraduate, University of Maryland Baltimore County

5Anxiety strategy: Find ways to take care of yourself

Young adult posing serious“There have been times when I have felt like I have to work nonstop and don’t take any breaks. This can make me feel like everything is closing in on me and I shut everyone out. I force myself to take breaks now, no matter the importance of what I’m working on.”
—Second-year graduate student, University of Maryland Baltimore County

“I worked through it with a positive mindset and trying to better my time-management skills.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, SUNY Empire State College, New York

“Going into my first exam in Statistics, my mind when blank and I couldn’t figure out the first problem. I was getting very worked up. [Finally] I told myself to calm down and move on. I was able to do the next problem easily, and when I went back to the first problem I immediately saw the way to solve it.”
—Second-year undergraduate, University of North Dakota

“I suffered from fairly severe anxiety. I coped by drinking, and sometimes acted out irrationally as well. I have since cut my alcohol consumption to, at most, two to three drinks per month. I work out five days a week. I have a network of friends who are helping me socially.”
—Student, John Tyler Community College, Virginia

In a recent survey by SH101, students identified their most effective anxiety management strategies:

  • Support from friends or family
  • Regular physical activity
  • Getting more or better quality sleep
  • Listening to music and reading
  • Professional counseling
  • Actively maintaining a work-life balance
  • Being in nature
  • Mindfulness, meditation, or mindful yoga
  • Taking breaks from routine

Source: SH101 survey, September 2016.

6Signs of anxiety: loss of perspective

Pensive young man sitting on steps“My first semester at community college I was placed in a math class that gave me terrible anxiety. I must have been visibly shaken because my instructor and classmates asked me if I was OK. I cried hysterically and seemed to think that I couldn’t get through the class and would never get through college. No one could calm me down or diminish my unrealistic fears.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Maryland Baltimore County

“I end up blowing things out of proportion. For instance, if I stutter in conversation, I wonder if the other person will judge me for that, and eventually stress myself out with the logic that such an event will shape my life for the worse.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador

“Last fall there was a lot of recruiting going on for internships, and I didn’t feel like I was ready for it. I got a couple of interviews but didn’t get an internship, and I spent the entire semester worrying about how I wasn’t going to get hired after graduation. My grades were terrible that semester because I felt like a failure.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

7Signs of anxiety: turning to alcohol or drugs

Disappointed girl“Second year of school, stress of final projects and exams piling up, I started taking ‘study drugs’ which in turn made my anxiety worse and had bad physical effects. After that semester I realized that study drugs are not the way, and more effort/ organization in school is what it takes.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Victoria, British Columbia

“I dropped classes, stop focusing, and even stopped going out. I took up marijuana as I thought it would calm me, but became somewhat dependent and that further affected my performance. I took it upon myself to visit the university counseling center to seek professional help to talk out my problems. After a few weeks, I felt better and my anxiety withered away.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador