Written By: Alicia Gallagher
Disclaimer: My viewpoints on anxiety do not reflect how others experience their anxiety and what works to deal with it. This is just one perspective on the matter.
I don’t think we talk about anxiety. I think we all just hide it and pretend like it doesn’t exist. Either that or we don’t talk about it enough. Did you know that [insert some random statistic about college students with anxiety that literally does nothing to help anyone feel better about it], I sure didn’t. I’ve heard that anxiety among college students has a lot to do with stress.
I have learned recently that laying it all out on the table and being open about my anxiety helps me to let it go, even just a little bit. I mean, at this point, anything helps. I’ve got so much anxiety that the word itself gives me anxiety, writing this article gives me anxiety, but hey, you have to do what you have to do, and this is how I beat it.
Did you know animals get anxiety too? Dogs show signs of fear and anxiety, most commonly suffering from separation anxiety. Things that seem to help comfort dogs are special jackets, special treats made specifically for anxiety and even medication. I don’t know about you, but when I see a dog, oh man, I forget what I’m saying, doing, thinking, and I go straight for that dog and pet it because it helps.
Anyway, back to the point [insert link to the point website here because that joke was on point (Badda-bing)]. Anxiety doesn’t just take one form; it has many different hats. Sometimes one thing will trigger you pretty continuously throughout the day and the next it’s something completely out of the blue. It is sometimes something that you don’t expect; that’s where I think people lack understanding. People understand that others have anxiety, but don’t realize that literally anything can cause it, even something seemingly small or insignificant. Some people have pretty consistent triggers, but there are others who don’t always know when something will cause an attack. Anxiety is a very person-centered disorder; all aspects vary from person to person. Everyone reacts differently to certain situations; everyone has different experiences in their life, and therefore, everyone has various things that you wouldn’t think they would get anxiety about.
This is the article I’ve wanted to write the entire spring semester, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, until time started to run out, and I had to finally face it. I guess my hope for this article is to reach all audiences, to either relate to what someone else is going through or to educate (in a very, very informal way) about what anxiety is and can do to someone who has it. And I guess I want to provide what few tips I have acquired over the years about controlling anxiety (not that I control it well, I mean my life is still a mess).
If you’re having one of those days where you are just constantly anxious, hell, even if you’re just having a really shitty day, then I recommend finding a Netflix account and watching a 30-minute comedy show. There are some really funny and ridiculous shows like Parks and Recreation, The Office, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Bob’s Burgers, Brooklyn 99, etc. that you can watch for a short period of time, and it really helps to take your mind off of everything for a hot minute. Why do you ask? Because watching something with a short run time doesn’t hinder you from your responsibilities or obligations. It’s just taking a 20-minute break (plus side of Netflix: no commercials) where you can just take your mind off of everything. Laughing is basically a cure-all and is scientifically proven to reduce stress, which is one of the biggest triggers of anxiety, I might add.
If people are the ones giving you anxiety, leave the situation and take a walk or a drive by yourself or with someone who isn’t the source of your anxiety for a while. Exercise is also a great anxiety reliever and decreases your stress level (the only problem I have with this suggestion is that you have actually to go to the gym consistently to feel a change, so I really wouldn’t know if it helps considering I go to the gym a solid once a week, if that).
What I have learned to do when I feel an anxiety or panic attack coming on, is to try to control my breathing and count 1,2,3,4 on the inhale and 4,3,2,1 on the exhale. I do that until I feel like I can breathe again. It does two things, I think. One: reassures me that I am still breathing. Two: gets a sufficient amount of oxygen to my brain because, you know, hyperventilating doesn’t help anyone. Doing this gives me something to focus on besides whatever is causing the attack. If the breathing thing doesn’t work, then I’ve found that focusing on something that is familiar or calming. What helps is when you start to describe the object in simple details. Example: that kid is wearing a green backpack, he looks like a turtle, it is neon so you will not lose him at night, the bag is huge, it is probably really heavy and killing that kid’s back, etc. Doing something along those lines has really proven to take my mind away from the oncoming feelings of an anxiety or panic attack. At the very least, doing this has made it easier to deal with what is going on, so I think it’s worth a try.
Having anxiety has always just been something that I’ve dealt with. I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t have it, and it’s really hard to pinpoint a time in recent history when I haven’t felt it at least once throughout the day. Whether it be r social anxiety, test anxiety, or any other form of anxiety, it’s important to deal with it and manage it. If you have made it to this point in the article then: CONGRATULATIONS (to me because I was able to hold your attention with my beautiful writing skills, SCORE). If you want to get in control of your anxiety, then please try these grounding techniques out, look into receiving professional help, or talk to your doctor about medication options to control your anxiety. Fitchburg State provides Counseling Services at no cost to students. Professionals are available to talk to and work with you up on the third floor of Hammond in room 317. Their phone number is (978) 665-3152. Anxiety is not something to be ashamed of; it is something to work with and overcome.