Dear Anxiety // Self-Care Tips for Dealing with Mental Illnesses in College

Over Christmas break, I decided to start a series about mental health called “Dear Anxiety,” and I published my first two posts (A Letter to My Mental Illness and Things to Remember about Mental Illnesses During the Holiday Season) with a regular plan set in motion. A week after the second post was published, my plan crumbled under the pressure of anxiety–a bit ironic, yes? However, after nearly six weeks, the series is back on track with a collaboration that’s been far too long in the making….
Honeycomb (7)
Without further ado, here is some fantastic (and in my case, much needed) advice about how to deal with mental illnesses while also trying to deal with the inevitable stress of college-life.

Ellen from My Uncommon Everyday

I deal with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) at one of the most competitive schools in the U.S. The first time I recall a doctor suggesting that I might have GAD, I walked out of the room, dismissed every symptom on the handout he gave me as “normal”, and refused to think about it for about two years. But then I went to UChicago and realized that being unable to focus or fall asleep because my heart was beating so hard it felt like it might leave my chest and regularly worrying about what will happen next month, next year, or ten years from now… isn’t actually that normal. It is, however, manageable. When I feel myself spiraling into a panic, I am usually alone, so the first thing I do is change that. Whether it means calling my mom or walking to a friend’s room, I need to have someone around to tell me that I am okay even though I don’t feel okay. Talking to someone else, whether it’s about my own anxieties or something entirely different, is generally enough to distract my mind and bring me from my racing mind back to reality.


Olivia from Liv for Style

While dealing with anxiety, depression, eating issues, and self-esteem trouble, I learned that life is not always easy. However, instead of ignoring my issues, I have confronted them and learned ways to deal with those negative feelings. I wish I had all the answers, but everyday I discover different ways to cope. Recently, I try to dedicate an hour a day or more if I have time, to abandon my long to-do list, clear my mind, and color. Nothing is better than opening up one of my favorite coloring books featuring different mosaic patterns and using my variety of colorful markers to fill in the lines. When I am coloring, I feel at ease, just focusing on the image and the colors. Most importantly, I let my creativity run wild while I am coloring. After spending time just coloring I feel more peaceful and motivated to return to my obligations. Who knew that one of my favorite childhood activities would be one of my favorite coping skills as an adult.


Heidi from The Sparkling Darling 

Through all of high school and most of college I suffered from an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, and self harm. I am recovered now, but I still remember how hard studying was with a mental illness. I truly hope my tips will help you getting easier and better through your education. I know they helped me. Without further ado here comes my tips: 1. Tell it – tell it to someone you trust at your college and tell it to your college (an advisor, teacher etc.) so they know you are struggling. 2.Get help– I know getting help is hard but it’s the best gift you can give to yourself. You can’t fight a mental illness on your own and you don’t have to. getting help was what helped me the most. 3. Be kind to yourself – stop beating yourself up all the time. Give yourself a break, and tell yourself you are good enough. 4. Take a break – I went on a three months sick leave, and it made school so much easier afterwards. So if you need a little time off: take it! Whether it be three months or three days. 5. Give it time – recovery is hard and it takes time. And living with a mental illness is hard. But in time you will feel better. Just give it time.


Kristine from Eloquated Secrets

As someone who deals with both depression and anxiety on pretty high levels, I always want to share tips that I’ve learned along the way. One of the main things to remember when you’re dealing with a mental illness while going to school, is that it’s okay to step back and take a break from school. If you’re going to school because you feel the pressure of having to go, there’s a high chance of you failing a class, which results in feeling really guilty, and that never helps. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about anxiety, is that you should always listen to your mind and body. There’s only so much you can take, don’t study for nine hours straight and then barely get any sleep. You’re going to take an exam feeling restless and you’ll be on edge, and instead of concentrating on the test you’ll be concentrating on how you should’ve caught a few more Z’s. And my last, but most important tip: please don’t force yourself to do things because you think it’s what you have to do or it’s because it’s expected of you–when you listen to yourself and your body and what’s right for you, then good things will happen.


Hannah from The Hannah Gold

Whenever I am worried that I am “too much to handle” or that I am a burden on those around me, I think of this quote from Game of Thrones: “Some people will always need help. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth helping.” When I look around, most of the people I know don’t need to be treated like a child the way I often need when I am suffering the most. I may need more at times than someone who is mentally healthy, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve the help I need. Hearing this sentiment for the first time at 20 years old was revolutionary, and it encouraged me to continue to ask for the help necessary to keeping me alive and (mostly) well. Asking for help, even when I felt uncomfortable doing so or worried that I was going to be a burden, is one of the most important parts of my treatment plan. Sometimes, it’s as little as asking my roommate to bring me a snack; sometimes, it’s as big as asking my mom to fly to Seattle to help me get out of a toxic living situation. Even if they aren’t able to give you what you need, at least you’ve taken a step, and you can continue on with another solution to your problem.


Natalie Pessoa from XOXO MAKE
While dealing with anxiety in college, I learned that it’s OKAY to leave class early if you are panicking. However, it’s also important to be honest with yourself and discern when the panic is truly strong and impairing to when it’s just an excuse. Easier isn’t always best; and, although we’d rather not be there, it’s important to fight our constant fleeing instincts. You’ll feel rewarded later. Just make sure you sit or stay somewhere comfortable when dealing an actual panic episode, because you don’t want to feel over-exposed. I always sit quietly and use my phone–it distracts me and separates me from everything else.
What is your best self-care step for college students?

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