Rowan at Home: New to Anxiety? I’m Not.

Girl stares into the distance as we see the back of her head and ponytail.

Welcome to Rowan at Home, our new series to give you a glimpse into Rowan University, our campus culture, and the lives of our students, while we’re practicing social distancing to protect society from the spread of COVID-19. Today’s story is from a student who would prefer to stay anonymous, given the personal nature of their blog post. 

So, you’re new to anxiety. Or, maybe you don’t even know the name of that feeling that you’re feeling yet. It’s unfamiliar to you. You’re struggling. You’re sleeping too much. Or not enough. You’re snapping at people. You’re fine, it’s just that they are so annoying – all. the. time. You just can’t stop reading the news about COVID-19. You haven’t showered in 2 days … OK 4 days. You’re eating like garbage. And you just don’t care. Your chest is tight, but only sometimes. Are you having a heart attack? Sometimes that feeling in your heart goes up to your jaw and your bottom teeth feel funny.  You feel like if you just had willpower, if you weren’t so lazy, all of this would go away. 

Welcome to my world. 

It’s not your fault. It’s not a lack of willpower. It’s not laziness. It’s anxiety. 

I’ve lived with this on and off since puberty, which is the typical age when anxiety or depression starts to kick in. Today I’ll share with you a few tricks that work for me. Try them. If they don’t work for you, or if your anxiety gets worse, please call your family doctor for an appointment. If you are in immediate danger, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. 

Here are 5 things that work for me:

  1. No caffeine. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Ditch it. Caffeine is horrible for anxiety and can kick off anxiety attacks. Switch to decaf. Beware of hidden caffeine, like green tea and eating too much chocolate. 
  2. Keep a routine. Find a schedule and stick to it, even when you’re stuck inside like we are now. Wake up at the same time every day and go to sleep at the same time every day. Yeah, it sucks to not binge Netflix until 4 a.m., but – trust me – it’s better for your mental health if you don’t. 
  3. Reach out to people. Confide in friends and family – but, honestly? Only the ones you know who will support you. Nobody who has a “you have nothing to be depressed about, snap out of it” sort of attitude. 
  4. Exercise. Get off the couch. Find something that works for you. Exercise keeps the anxiety demons at bay. Start a Couch to 5K training program, follow a Zumba program online. Do something. 
  5. Sunshine and outside time. This is a must. Sunshine increases serotonin levels, which helps to reduce anxiety. Walk your dog. Sit outside, even if it’s to scroll Instagram on your phone. 

Most of the time, when I actually follow my own advice, these tips help me to manage my anxiety. Listen to your own body and its alarm bells. If anxiety is new for you, call your doctor for guidance. If you follow the advice above and it helps you, too, great! But if it doesn’t, it may be time for therapy or medicine — and there’s no shame in that, either. 

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