While the stigma around mental health is reducing, especially in a post-pandemic world, there is a lot that remains unsaid. In a worldwide mental health crisis triggered by COVID, the onus is on us to talk, recognise and cope with the problems for what they are.
It comes as no surprise that the prevalence of anxiety and depression in young people is at an all-time high as we live in a world ravaged by the pandemic, systemic inequalities and war. So, let us talk about anxiety, particularly in higher education and the ways to cope with it.
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What is anxiety?
It is quite common for people to mistakenly identify stress or nervousness as anxiety or even trivialise anxiety as “just stress”. But here is a difference. When you are stressed or nervous, you have a perceptible external stimulus. Anxiety, on the other hand, is an emotion wherein one feels irrationally tense, worried, or fearful. While there can be a recognisable trigger, there need not be one, anxiety can be purely existential. When this feeling lasts longer it can indicate an anxiety disorder.
10 ways to cope with anxiety
New universities and new countries can be immensely exciting but also quite nerve-wracking. If you are the kind who can get overwhelmed by the entire experience, here is what you can do to cope with anxiety.
- Find support in new friendsAnxiety does not make you different in any way. It is human and far more common than you think. So, try opening up to new feelings. Externalising your anxiety can give you a fresh perspective. In a new campus, you will be surrounded by people who are experiencing similar feelings, and there is nothing wrong with talking about it.
- Reach out to peopleStay connected to the people you are comfortable with. Call/ Video call your parents, siblings, childhood friends, pets when you feel overwhelmed. Wrap yourself in the feeling of comfort and familiarity, it will ground you and keep you afloat.
- Feel at homeWhether it is campus accommodation or a private space that you are renting, when you are setting up, go the extra step to make it feel home-y. It can be a few pictures, soft lighting, a few plants or anything that will help you sleep better. Ensure that your bed is comfortable, do not compromise there. Spend some time maintaining the space and avoid clutter.
- Establish a routineWhile life does have a habit of throwing curveballs at us, try to stick to a routine for work/ studies as much as you can. It will help you compartmentalise better and essentially deal with life in bite-sized chunks.
- Work-relaxation balanceRemember, leisure is just as important as your work schedule. Give yourself some time away from your gadgets or anything that can be taken over by work. Be realistic about your course load. Give yourself some time to relax and unwind in ways best suited for you.
- Know your triggersContemplate, introspect and know your triggers. That way, you can avoid them in already stressful situations or deal with them better since you won’t be blindsided by them.
- Create a ‘tool box’Yes, a ‘toolbox’ for dealing with your anxiety. Essentially, you keep handy anything that will stop you from spiralling –– a favourite snack, calming music, paint supplies, your go-to game or a book, anything that will help you breathe when triggered.
- Problem-solvingWhen you are on overdrive, channel your mind into logical thinking mode. Problem-solving can remove the stressor out of the equation, making your anxiety manageable.
- Self-careDo not compromise on yourself for coursework or fitting in. A good night’s sleep, exercise, healthy eating, skincare, cleaning your house are all important parts of your life that make you feel good, both physically and emotionally.
- Seeking professional help
Whether you practise the above-mentioned ideas or not, it is absolutely okay to seek professional help to deal with anxiety disorders. Most campuses have in-house support for therapy, peer counselling or even study support. The bottom line is that you find healthy ways of coping with it.
Check out also how volunteering helps students and measures to balance mental health.