Hi, I’m Gabrielle. I’m a staff writer for Psych2Go, a fifth-year college student, and a sufferer of anxiety. Since starting college, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my emotional needs, though I may have had more to learn from and adapt to than most students. Anyone can, and will, become stressed by school at some point in time, but those with anxiety may have a harder time overcoming the hurdles of a busy worried mind. Symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, and obsessive thinking can make school more challenging, but with some effort and a little bit of time, anyone can adapt their education to work in their favor. Here are 7 thoughts that college students with anxiety have throughout the day.
1. Am I In The Right Room?
One of my biggest (irrational?) fears is walking into the wrong classroom, having every student stop to stare at me as I realize my mistake, and then having to explain to the professor why I accidentally interrupted their award-winning lecture. I check my class schedule every day before I walk into a room, just to triple check that I’m in the right place at the right time on the right day of the week. I have it saved in the photos on my phone for easy access, and I’ve heard of other students setting their schedule as their wallpaper background to make it an even quicker check. I know it’s overkill to check so often, but anxiety can leave me confused in even routine situations, so I really can’t be too careful!
2. Please Don’t Call On Me
Between speaking aloud, being put on the spot, and having all attention on me, being called on in class can be anxiety-inducing on several levels; but I was pleasantly surprised to learn how accommodating many schools and professors are when it comes to mental illness. I’ve had great luck with meeting my professor for office hours to explain my challenges and come up with a plan for succeeding through the rest of the semester. Speaking out loud in class isn’t the only way to participate, so instead of being hard on myself for not raising my hand, I try to give myself credit for going to class, doing well on assignments and showing my professors (and myself!) that I value my education.
3. There Are Too Many People Here
Especially for students on larger campuses, crowds can be a regular frustration. Simply walking to class can become a challenge thanks to one visiting high school tour group or one lecture that got out late. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid or predict where the crowds will gather, but having backup plans, such as alternate routes to get to class, might help keep you calm and collected when things don’t go to plan. I may not be able to avoid people while out and about on campus, but I have a secret strategy for when I’m in class: I’ll sit in the front of the room so I don’t have to see the other students, and I’ll try to sit closer to the aisle so I know I can leave easily if I need to.
4. It’s So Hard To Focus
Anxiety can include racing thoughts, restlessness, mood swings, and constant worry among countless other mental and physical symptoms–it’s no wonder it can be hard to focus! Anxiety of any kind takes a toll on the body and mind, so try not to be hard on yourself if you find yourself struggling to stay present in the classroom (or anywhere else). Some people find that fidgeting with an object can help with concentration, while others focus best with as little stimulation as possible. It will take some trial and error to find what works for you, so don’t give up just yet!
5. I Don’t Have Time
College by itself is incredibly time-consuming, especially if you’re a full-time student. Every student gets pressed for time every now and then, but anxiety may make this pressure feel constant. For me personally, how I spend my time is a big source of worry. I try to put every appointment and task in a calendar to keep myself organized because I tend to get confused and overwhelmed when I’m anxious. Having my schedule, my to-do list, and my calendar in one place makes it easy to get myself back on track when I’m unsure of what to do.
6. Did I Forget Anything?
I constantly worry that I’ve forgotten an assignment or notebook at home when in reality I nearly never forget. I know how vigilant I am yet I don’t trust my own habits to keep me in check. It can be so easy to overlook something when my mind is racing at a mile a minute, but the fear of being unprepared tends to overpower the brain fog. My best advice is to write out a list of whatever you need to remember and then to make it a regular habit to read it over (every morning before leaving home, every few hours while packing for a trip, etc). My thoughts may not be coordinated as I run through my mental checklist before leaving for class each morning, but this simple habit brings me peace because I know I’m making a conscious effort to be organized.
7. Can I Work Alone?
There are few things I dread with more intensity than group work. I honestly barely trust myself with my grades sometimes, but I’m not about to hand over my transcript to a bunch of classmates I’ve never met before either. As someone with anxiety, I am usually the one who ends up doing most of the work and putting in more effort for the sake of the grade, so it can be hard not to assume each new group project will end the same way. Whenever students are allowed to choose their own groups, I try my best to stay in the smallest group possible to keep communication less complicated. Anything helps