College is a time of great growth for a young adult. Sometimes, you completely lose sight of who you are. Negative thoughts and emotions can flood your mind, making it almost impossible to concentrate on anything truly important. I know first hand how difficult and lost anxiety can make you feel. It can debilitate you to a point where you wake up in the middle of the night shaking and short of breath. I battled anxiety my sophomore year of college and am proud to say that I am now happier than ever. I lost sight of what I wanted out of life. I was not focused on school because I could not get my mind away from the negative thinking. You feel like it will never go away. It was the lowest I have ever felt, but by practicing the following tips, I have reached where I am today. A strong, confidant woman, ready to take on the future. Know you have the strength to get through anything and take it one day at a time.
Get outside. Throw yourself into nature. Go for hikes, runs, walks, bike rides; anything that will get you out in the fresh air. We, as humans come from nature, so the worst thing you can do is coop yourself up in your dorm room. We thrive outdoors. Even though it can feel impossible to pull yourself from your bed in the morning, find the little strength you have to put some sneakers on and marvel at the beauty nature has to offer. In nature, you will find yourself and your mind will be at ease, the way it always intended to be; out among the beautiful earth.
Smile. This is an incredible trick that works. By smiling, you can actually trick your brain to think you are happy. If you believe you are happy, truly happy, you will feel enlightened. Surround yourself with positive energy and people who will only ever put a smile on your face.
Breathe. When you feel a negative thought coming on, sit down and take a few deep breaths. I would sit on a tree stump in the woods, and just breath. I would listen to my breath and feel it fill up my lungs. Engage all your senses. Breathing helped me think clearly and recognize that it was just a thought, and not real. I realized I did not need to dwell on it, for it is just my imagination, my thoughts couldn’t hurt me. I was stronger than them.
When a negative thought pops into your head, replace it with something positive. As soon as the thought enters your head, replace it with the thought of a breathtaking summer sunset, or a memory from your childhood that you loved. I personally always pictured a beautiful bouquet of roses anytime my anxieties creeped into my mind. If the thought enters your head and you cannot get rid of it, picture yourself putting the thought on a cloud, and watch it float away. Visualizing the thought disappearing can make it seem as though the thought has in fact disappeared.
Eat well and be happy. Its long been known that you are what you eat. Instead of the fried foods that you crave when you’re feeling upset, focus on eating more fruits and vegetables. Fried, fatty foods are just comfort foods. Think before you grab the pizza and opt for a salad. Know that by trying the salad, you are helping your mind. It is also proven that dark chocolate will boost your mood by releasing endorphins. These are the same things released when you are in love. I ate dark chocolate everyday and I can tell you that I did in fact feel happier after indulging in it.
Focus on others, rather than yourself. Instead of feeling and focusing on my anxiety, I would focus on making another person’s day by doing simple acts of kindness. Smile at someone who looks like they’re having a bad day. They might have it worse and you could change their life. Leave an extra quarter in the tip jar at a coffee shop; hold the door open for other people. Preach what you need to learn. Do it all with a smile. If you put good out into the world, you will receive it back.
Above all, know that you are not alone. Every person you pass is fighting his or her own battle. I would wonder, why “can’t I be happy? Why can’t I be like that person, without a care in the world.” Ignorance is bliss as they always say and maybe their battle in this life isn’t to battle anxiety and depression. But they are dealing with something else that you have no idea about, or maybe could not even fathom. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. You are not the alone in this and even though you might feel embarrassed reaching out, you might be reaching out to someone who needs you just as much as you need them. For more tips on dealing with anxiety, check out the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. To talk to someone, contact the UNH Counseling Center or reach out to a fellow peer, like myself, or a family member.