If you’re a student, no one needs to tell you that college life (the rat race for grades, standing out at a competitive university, like Northwestern University, etc.) is stressful and causes a ton of anxiety. But, just for fun, take a look at what researchers say. The American College Health Association reported these findings from their 2018 assessment:
63 percent of college students in the United States reported overwhelming anxiety, and 23 percent reported receiving a diagnosis or being treated by a mental health professional for anxiety.
But, anxiety doesn’t have to rule your college years. You can learn to cope with it to feel better, enjoy this time and make it some of your most fun years. Our Evanston therapists are here to help you identify if you’re feeling anxiety and how to successfully manage the symptoms. We will show you how to exit the grade rat race and feel more confident, whether you are a student at Northwestern University, Loyola, Depaul, or one of the other local colleges nearby.
What is Anxiety?
Take a look at how you have been feeling lately. Have you been bothered by any of the following:
- A sense of impending danger or doom
- Sweating and trembling
- Inability to maintain focus
- Uncontrollable worry
At Evanston Counseling, we agree with the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health’s definition of generalized anxiety disorder:
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by feelings of restlessness, fatigue, and difficulty maintaining focus.
You may feel that you should just be able to manage it all. Yet, think of what you are juggling…heavy course loads, perhaps hours at your full or part-time job, many new relationships, extracurricular activities, the stress of performing well, major life transitions. No shame here; college life can be a beast and enough to send you into an anxiety spiral.
In our therapy practice in Evanston, we want students to know that they are not alone. You can feel good and find some harmony despite the challenges of college life.
Helpful Tips to Ease the College Rat Race Stress and Anxiety
You don’t have to be a physics or philosophy major to see how these high-octane tips will help in letting go of stress and anxiety. This article on healthline.com offers hacks for a more stress-free college life.
Evanston Therapy Tip # 1 – Realize you’re not alone
What you are feeling is entirely normal. The stress and anxiety are real. Upsetting, of course, but entirely normal. It may be helpful just to take a sigh of relief. You’re not the only one who feels this way. Even the person bragging about their 1600 SAT score, 800 GMAT, or 528 MCAT score feels it. No lie!
Evanston Therapy Tip # 2 – Find your fam
Find those people who share your interests and core values. As you get to know one another better, this person may become the one to have your back when life gets rough. Stay away from the haters and drop the bullies. Get to know all kinds of people. You never know who has the potential to become your new best friend.
Once you begin to make connections, it will help you to feel less alone. You will have a support system that will help you ride the waves of stress. Hanging out with your fam will make the anxiety seem less daunting.
Evanston Therapy Tip # 3 – Don’t forget your parents’ phone number; check-in with old friends
So perhaps you went away to college to put a little distance between yourself and your parents. But, this study found that hearing reassurance from a parent or someone in a parent-like role aided students in reducing their depression and loneliness. At the same time, this communication boosted happiness.
FaceTime with the fam might be just what you need to ease your stress. Laughing with friends from home might be the best way to lift your mood.
Evanston Therapy Tip # 4 – Re-evaluate your course load
You are not a stranger to working hard and having a jam-packed schedule. You took a long list of AP courses that prove that. Yet, your college coursework is a different animal.
Would dropping a course and easing your load help you to feel less overwhelmed and remove some of the panic about grades? Though you may not feel like it now, there is enough time to take the courses you need most.
Talk to a trusted advisor or prof on campus to get some insight. They should be able to offer you wisdom about which courses you really need now and which ones can wait.
Evanston Therapy Tip # 5 – Slide some self-care into your schedule
You know that line about “all work and no play?” It’s true. You need some downtime to recharge.
Shoot some hoops, take a jog, or get Zen with a yoga class. There is lots to do here in Evanston. Hang out at the beach, take a class at the Evanston Arts Center or go for a coffee at Brothers K, one of our fave hangout places in Evanston.
The experts will tell you that you need to make sure you are getting good sleep. You may be thinking, “Who has time?” At Evanston Counseling, we suggest you get as much sleep as your busy schedule allows. You will function and feel better. Just think of it as your way of kicking anxiety to the curb.
When should you reach out for therapy?
It’s normal to be concerned about how you will organize your time to prepare for all of your final exams and papers. Picking a major or choosing a topic for your thesis may occupy your brain space incessantly. Since a certain amount of worry, stress, and strain are part of college life, how do you know when to reach out for therapy?
Often students will only seek help when they find themselves in a mental health crisis, requiring more urgent resources,” Lipson says. “But how can we create systems to foster wellness before they reach that point?
Our therapists at Evanston Counseling recommend that you check in with one of our counselors before a crisis sets in. We are happy to do a free, 15-minute phone consultation to determine if meeting more formally might benefit you.
If any of the above anxiety symptoms are weighing on you so heavily that you remain inside your dorm room or apartment or avoid contact with almost everyone, it may be time to seek therapy.
Unchecked anxiety may cause depression to set in. The Center for Collegiate Mental Health 2017 Annual Report from Penn State University finds that anxiety and depression are the two main reasons students seek mental health counseling. With depression, you may have
- Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Angry outbursts
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- A sense of worthlessness
You will want to find an Evanston therapist to help you walk through the challenges. The anxiety can have far-reaching consequences in the future or may prevent you from reaching the goal of completing your studies.
If you’re feeling anxious, call us at (773) 983-8444 for a free, 15-minute phone consultation. We would be happy to hear about what is happening and help direct you to the right person. Or you can schedule your consult here.
Are you looking for therapy for school stress, anxiety, life transitions, or relationships? You can read more about how our therapists can help here. We look forward to chatting with you!