Coping with Anxiety

College can be anxiety-inducing even under normal circumstances. As we navigate the continuing impacts of the pandemic and begin the gradual transition back to campus, it remains incredibly important to take care of our mental health and emotional wellbeing. Here are some helpful strategies to manage stress and cope with anxiety. 

In the Moment

There are moments when anxiety and stress can be so overwhelming that they consume you and keep you from going about your day. Even in those scary situations, you have a number of tools in your toolbox to help calm your mind:

  1. Take a break. Drop everything and do something you know relaxes you. Read a few pages of a book, listen to a few minutes of a podcast, practice yoga or meditation, or simply lay down on the floor with your pet. If you are overwhelmed with stress, trying to complete whatever task is at hand will be even less productive than just letting yourself take a moment to do nothing. 
  2. Breathe deeply. Notice your inhales and exhales and make a conscious effort to lengthen them. This can clear your mind and slow your heart rate. Anxiety is a physical reaction, so checking in with your body can be one of the best ways to cope.
  3. Count to ten slowly. Occupying your brain with a non-stressful task can help refocus your thoughts.
  4. Check in with your senses. Bring yourself back away from your spiraling thoughts to the present moment by naming one thing you can see, one thing you can smell, one thing you can hear, one thing you can taste, and one thing you can touch. 
  5. Move your body. Movement is healthy for your body and mind and distract your mind from its stressors in the worst moments.

Habitual Coping Methods

While there are numerous ways to handle a particularly stressful moment, it is also necessary to develop habits that can decrease your overall stress levels and reduce your risk of becoming overwhelmed by anxiety:

  1. Eat three meals a day (we know it’s hard!). Getting enough nutrients to sustain yourself and maintain your energy throughout the day can help with your mental health in all areas.
  2. Don’t drink (coffee). While it can give you artificial energy, it can leave you feeling even more anxious than you would normally feel in a given situation. It’s a good idea to limit your caffeine intake in order to ensure that your energy levels remain balanced throughout the day and do not send you into unnecessary bouts of anxiety.
  3. Fix your sleep schedule. The assumption here is that, because you are a college student, your sleep schedule is going to get messed up sometimes. It is necessary that you get consistent and quality sleep in order to support your mental health and manage anxiety and stress. 
  4. Relinquish control. Feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities can bring you to an emotional place where you feel like everything is coming down around you. Sometimes, it is helpful to acknowledge that you do not have control of everything in order to give yourself some grace.
  5. Build a support system. There is someone in your life who cares about you and wants to help you. Feeling alone can exacerbate anxiety and stress. Find people who make you feel supported and let them in so that you know you have someone to turn to in overwhelming moments.

While these tips are by no means the end-all be-all of managing anxiety and stress, they can help you along your journey to better understanding and managing your overall mental health. If you feel that anxiety or other mental health issues are disrupting your day-to-day life, there are numerous resources within and outside of ASU to support you:

  • ASU Counseling Services
  • EMPACT’s 24-hour ASU-dedicated crisis hotline: 480-921-1006
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. By dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the call is routed to the nearest crisis center in our national network of more than 150 crisis centers. The Lifeline’s national network of local crisis centers provides crisis counseling and mental health referrals day and night. 
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime, about any type of crisis. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds, all from a secure online platform. Find out more about how it works at crisistextline.org.
  • Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ Youth through the Trevor Project:
    • The Trevor Lifeline is a 24/7 suicide hotline: 866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386)
    • TrevorChat: Online instant messaging available 7 days a week, 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. ET (12 p.m. — 7 pm PT)
    • TrevorText: Confidential and secure resource that provides live help for LGBTQ youth with a trained specialist, over text messages. Text TREVOR to 1-202-304-1200 (available 7 days a week, 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. ET, 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. PT)
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)