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Column: Navigating the storm: Battling anxiety as a college student

Photo via Henry Levy

As I approach the end of my career as a college student, I find myself reflecting on a journey that has been both exhilarating and challenging. Amidst the sea of new experiences and opportunities, there exists an undercurrent that has been a constant companion — my struggle with anxiety.

College life, while having a promise of independence and self-discovery, brings a unique set of challenges that can be overwhelming for even the most resilient individuals. The pressure to excel academically, build a social network and lay the groundwork for a successful future can be daunting. For me, this pressure manifested as anxiety, a silent but powerful force that lurked in the shadows of my daily life.

The academic transition was one of the most significant challenges I faced. The syllabus, once a neatly organized document, transformed into a labyrinth of expectations and deadlines. The fear of failure, of not meeting the impossibly high standards set by myself and society, became a constant presence. 

Each assignment felt like a battle, and the weight of exams seemed to intensify with each passing week. Anxiety would often brew in the quiet moments like a storm, casting a shadow over my ability to concentrate and perform.

The social landscape of college, too, presented another set of hurdles. The quest to find like-minded individuals to form meaningful connections with seemed like an endless uphill climb. The fear of judgment and desire to fit in created a breeding ground for social anxiety. 

Every social interaction became a minefield of self-doubt and overthinking. Parties, once a symbol of celebration, morphed into anxiety-inducing events where the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing loomed overhead.

I didn’t initially realize that I was not alone in this struggle. The facade of perfection that many students put on often conceals a myriad of internal battles. 

As I opened up to my peers, I discovered a shared experience with anxiety that transcended backgrounds and majors. This revelation was comforting and eye-opening. It emphasized the importance of fostering a supportive community where individuals can share their struggles without fear of judgment.

Navigating the mental health landscape in college can be a complex journey. Seeking help is often stigmatized, or seen as a sign of weakness rather than one of strength. It took me months to gather the courage to open up to someone.

When I finally did, it marked a turning point in my battle against anxiety. Counseling provided a safe space for me to explore the roots of my anxiety and equipped me with coping mechanisms tailored to my needs. The stigma attached to mental health issues slowly began to fade as I realized that seeking help was a courageous step towards self-improvement.

In addition to professional support, I discovered the power of self-care. Simple practices, such as dressing better than I normally would to improve my confidence and regular exercise to help clear my mind became invaluable tools in my arsenal against anxiety. 

Establishing a routine that prioritized both academic and personal well-being allowed me to regain a sense of control amidst the chaos. While the storm of anxiety still occasionally rages, these practices act as anchors, grounding me and helping me weather the turbulence.

As I near the end of my college career, I acknowledge that my battle with anxiety is ongoing. However, it has also been a transformative journey of self-discovery that taught me how to be resilient. 

The struggles have not defined me; rather, they have become threads in the intricate tapestry of my college experience. I have learned that vulnerability is not a weakness; rather, it is a source of strength, and that seeking help is a step towards a healthier, more balanced life.

To my fellow college students navigating similar battles, know that you are not alone. Reach out, seek support and embrace the journey of self-discovery. The college experience is only a chapter in a much larger story. 

While anxiety may be a persistent character, it does not have to be the protagonist. With each passing day, we learn to rewrite our narrative, turning the page towards a brighter, more resilient future.

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