the best ways to overcome anxiety as in-person learning starts


illustration by amy dudek

As a new school year begins, it is easy to let yourself get caught up in the storm of school related anxieties. Questions like “What should I wear? Where do I park? How early should I get to class? How do I ask the friends I haven’t seen in a year to hangout again?” are all likely to cross your mind at some point. If they do, you’re not alone. As a student who has not been on campus since the fateful first few weeks of March 2020, all these questions and more have been heavy on my mind. However, I find the best way to deal with the anxiety of a new school year is to face it head on, and here’s how you can do that too.

Let’s start with the basic anxieties and stresses of school. The best way to prevent anxiety about things such as your schedule, commute, and homework is to get ahead of it. Prepping early is always best in my eyes, but even as we are a few weeks into the semester, prepping now is better than not prepping at all. If you haven’t found the best routes to your classes, or don’t feel that you have enough time in your schedule, now is a great time to work out some issues. Something that I’ve recently started doing that helps me keep track of my days and weeks is using an online calendar, like google calendar, as well as a physical planner to organize your tasks. I like using both because with the online calendar I can see my whole month at once. This allows me to see if I am overbooked, and also reminds me of what’s happening within the next week. I use my planner for assignments or events that are happening within that week, so I don’t have to continuously flip through pages to find something. Remember to never wait until the last  minute for something, because nothing is worse than reading the directions of a big assignment and realizing you should have started sooner.

Besides the stress of actual school work, anxiety surrounding the social aspect of college can be overwhelming to a whole new level. What clubs should I join? Will I be too busy with school or work to find time for friends? If I join this club and don’t join that one will my friends still like me? These are all valid causes of anxiety, but shouldn’t be the reason you hold yourself back. When I get anxious over something, especially over putting myself out in a new social situation, I hear the little voice in my head asking “what is there to lose?” Although being in new social settings with new people can be nerve-wracking, the best thing to do is just fake it till you make it with your confidence, until you aren’t faking it anymore. If you want to join a new club or ask someone to hang out for the first time, just go for it! The likelihood of someone being in your shoes is high, so be the one who breaks out of their shell and “makes the first move.” And never be afraid to look at yourself in the mirror and give a little pep talk. 

An aspect of anxiety that I find pretty prevalent in my life is the need to recharge. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending all weekend with my friends, but afterwards, I need some alone time. Of course you can watch your favorite show, read or just shut yourself in your room to get  this much needed time, but don’t be afraid to pick yourself up and do something alone. One of my favorite things to do on campus is get myself some coffee and sit with a book for a while. I’m not hiding myself away, but at the same time I can recharge my social battery while still being in the world. I know doing things solo isn’t easy for everyone, but once you’ve practiced it a little, you’ll really enjoy taking yourself out every once in a while. Practice by taking a walk by yourself, doing homework on campus alone or get ballsy and take yourself out to dinner. The most important thing to remember while doing this is that no one’s looking at you. Honestly. That’s the secret to the whole thing; no one cares about what you’re doing (I say this in the nicest way possible). So get out of the house every once in a while and practice being alone.

As I wrap this up, I’d like to remind everyone that while these practices may work for me, they might not work for you. What you do to help your anxiety might be different from me and might be different from your friends, and that’s OK! Remember to check in with your mind and body, and try not to let your anxiety get the best of you. 

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