Students struggle with anxiety, share survival strategies

Your hands are shaking and you can’t restrain them. Your stomach hurts and your chest feels tight. You feel trapped, scared and alone. You feel like running but you don’t know where to go because this feeling will follow you everywhere.

This is anxiety.

As college students battle stacks of schoolwork, ominous deadlines and the threat of failure, it’s not easy to tell if what they’re experiencing is normal.

Stress is an emotion felt by everyone, but it weighs especially hard on students. This makes it difficult to draw the line between normal and chronic stress.

“Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is more than the normal anxiety people experience day to day,” said the general staff on PsychCentral, a website for helping people through such disorders. “It’s chronic and exaggerated worry and tension, even though nothing seems to provoke it.”

Anxiety becomes a problem when it disrupts the lives of those experiencing it. If you’re feeling a significant amount of worry and apprehension every day or if you feel nervous for no apparent reason, seeking guidance may aid in stress management.

“Chronic stress distorts a lot of things about how you function,” said Director of Counseling Gaither Terrell. “Anyone would be stressed about a test, but when you’re so anxious that you can’t function, then that becomes a whole different thing.”

Many students experience this level of apprehension when it comes to schoolwork.

“I would run from teachers and never did very well on tests,” said first-year Ward Sandberg. “I always worried about how my parents would react to tests and quizzes, and sometimes I just didn’t tell them because I was so worried about it.”

In recent years, he began working on managing his stress levels, but nonetheless, it’s an ongoing struggle.

“I have been able to give myself confidence and been able to talk with people, but I still have problems with talking to girls, taking tests and even asking for advice from teachers,” said Sandberg. “I take medicine now to help as well.”

Many suffering from chronic anxiety take medication to help them calm down like Sandberg. However, there are other ways of handling any amount of stress. Even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder, it can be harmful if you don’t use the right coping mechanism.

“Some people might just need somebody to sit down with them when they’re feeling really anxious or stressed … to help them organize their thinking and mobilize their coping skills,” said Terrell. “The anxiety studies that I’ve read indicate that if you have an ongoing program of some kind of practice, whether it’s running every day or meditating every day, your resilience to stress is going to be much better.”

Every student has their own way of managing stress levels.

“I make sure that at least once a week I set aside a night where I do nothing stressful just to recharge,” said Early College sophomore Aubrey King.

No matter what you do to stay on top of stress, always remember that you are surrounded by students going through the same thing, and reaching out to them will help you both.

These feelings of worry are best weathered together.

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