Students today are tasked with a large number of responsibilities, from coordinating long term projects to studying for exams. Balancing school with our personal lives can be difficult, and it’s not uncommon for students to get overwhelmed. It’s completely normal to feel nervous with a big exam or assignment looming in the near future, especially if it deals with a subject you feel is challenging. Rather than let your worries get the better of you, here are some strategies to help manage your anxiety!
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that anxiety comes in many forms, and the intensity of anxious feelings will vary between individuals. We discussed anxiety management on our Learning@Home podcast with host, Gil Cadiz, who has a personal history with the topic.
“There are those of us that experience anxiety in small doses,” explains Gilbert. “And on the other hand, there are those of us who are deeply affected by anxiety every day.” When trying to manage your own anxiety, try not to compare yourself to others. Everybody is different, and what triggers anxiety for one person may not cause issues in someone else. What’s important is to remember that feelings of anxiety are normal, and we should approach these feelings from a place of understanding. This is especially true when trying to help someone else in a position of stress.
So, what exactly is anxiety? To put it into words, anxiety is essentially when a person experiences “fight or flight” feelings in a situation that shouldn’t warrant such a reaction. A fight or flight response is supposed to happen in moments of extreme life-threatening stress or danger – being approached by a dangerous wild animal, for example. Hypervigilance, sweaty palms, increased breathing and heart rate – these are all typical reactions to scary situations. Anxiety, however, is when these reactions occur in response to normal stressors throughout daily life.
An important part of managing your anxiety is to be cognitively aware of what situations cause it. By analyzing ourselves and trying to uncover the root of these feelings, we can begin to gain a deeper understanding of why they happen to begin with.
“Aim to understand the inner workings of your anxiety, and you’ll understand how to tackle it,” Gil explains. “The goal is to understand what’s going on with your body, and understand what’s going on with your emotions.” Stress and anxiety often comes from a place of irrational fear and intrusive thoughts. As Gil recommends, giving ourselves a cognitive reminder of what we are feeling and why can help us begin to tackle these emotions.
Keeping some sort of log can also be a valuable tool to combat anxiety. If you experience yourself having feelings of stress or nervousness, write them down. Note the situation at hand, the emotions you’re sensing, and any physical symptoms you’re experiencing (heart is racing, face is flush, etc). Doing exercises like this will help you to gain a deeper insight on the causes of your anxiety by identifying the situations that trigger those feelings.
“It’s basically labelling your thoughts and emotions to recognize your patterns,” continues Gil. “So by understanding this and breaking it down piece by piece, it puts it into a perspective where it isn’t overwhelming and becomes manageable.” Being able to identify potentially stressful situations can be a great help for individuals struggling to cope with unexpected anxiety.
Interested in learning more techniques for dealing with anxiety? Much of anxiety management involves the practice of positive behaviors. Meditation, physical fitness, mindful thinking, and breathing exercises – just to name a few! To hear more great suggestions from Gil Cadiz, check out our podcast below:
Learning@Home Podcast: Learning How to Cope with Anxiety