Let’s face it, it’s hard to avoid stress in college. We have all been bundled up under a heavy blanket while consuming half a roll of cookie dough, binge-watching TV and shutting the world out. Freaking out about money, health, relationships, work and school is normal. Whether you struggle with stress occasionally or daily, it is without fail, a crushing feeling that everyone wishes they could control.
Write Yourself A Permission Slip
Write yourself a permission slip every morning with the format, “Today I give myself permission to…” A permission slip is the most effective way to allow you to be a human, to make mistakes, to be freaked out. An example of a permission slip is, “Today I give myself permission to be here.” This example could help with someone who feels like they should be in two places at one time or stuck in traffic.
Every morning write your permission slip on a small piece of paper or a sticky note. Then fold it up and put it in your pocket. If anxiety starts to become evident throughout the day all you have to do is reach into your pocket to touch your permission slip as a reminder.
Set a time of the day to be stressed
This is the one time of day where you actually allow yourself to be anxious. The rest of the day is an anxious-free zone. Set a time that can work every day but not too close to bedtime. During your day when anxieties start to creep up on you, write them down on a notepad to come back to during your set time to be anxious. This time period allows you to not dwell during the day. When it is your anxious time of the day, grab that roll of cookie dough, but this time only for about twenty minutes. The anxieties that you don’t get to in this time frame means that you might be able to check them off your list.
Spend less time with people who make you anxious
Your friends really do make an impact on what you think, feel and do. If you have a friend that is constantly laying worry after worry on you, you will eventually take on his or her problems too. This can be a problem because once you are emotionally attached you will feel the need to fix your friend’s problems with the same ounce of worry as your own problems. If you cannot avoid spending time with your anxious ridden friend then try to schedule in a good time to meet with them. Maybe during a time when you know that you will be less anxious so that you avoid sitting with your friend in a puddle of anxiety provoked tears. Also, remember to not meet with your friend too close to bedtime.
Distract your brain with mental exercises
If you need a brain break then try out mental exercises that keeps your brain away from anxieties. Draw a map from memory, pick up an instrument, take a cooking class, learn a new language, and test your recall. What really exercises your brain is the rehearsal of hand-eye abilities such as knitting, drawing, painting, etc. Mental exercises keep your brain healthy and lead to better lifestyle behaviors. (i.e. learning to bake cookies rather than eating the cookie dough.)
Keep your home clean and bright
I cannot say this enough: a clean home is a clean life. Create an environment that is quiet, not distracting and one that smells nice. A candle and a bouquet of flowers can change a room’s whole aroma. You will instantly feel more on top of whatever is bearing you down and less anxious about what you need to fix. Don’t keep something as simple as being organized on your anxiety list.
Stay tuned to cognitive distortions
Do you overgeneralize? Maybe you practice overbearing joy? Diminish positive events? Jump to conclusions? Are you into labeling? All these questions are connected to cognitive distortions that add to anxiety. For example, if you tend to jump to conclusions a normal thought for you may be “I can tell he already hates me!” Cognitive distortions are ways that our mind convinces us that something isn’t true. Understand how your brain can reinforce negative thinking or emotions before you turn into a bundle of unnecessary anxieties.
Trick yourself with affirmations
A self-mantra is one of the best and oldest tricks in the book. Find a mantra that suits yourself and what you are particularly anxious about at the time. Self-mantras can change year by year but they are always beneficial to make yourself feel better and stronger. A few examples are as followed: “my anxiety won’t control me,” “You’ve got this sweet girl,” and “I have a great life and I look forward to tomorrow.”
Live for today
Living for today is a simple solution with a big impact. Imagine not thinking about tomorrow or the struggles you will face way ahead. If you give all your energy to only one day you can experience what it is like to live without the great weight of anxiety. So many of the struggles you are bracing against way ahead will actually never become a real problem. Many things change over the course of time and many of your current anxieties are not required today or in the future. So tune into what you need to accomplish today rather than tomorrow.
Make a sleep schedule and stick to it
Okay I get it, this is a harder task than studying for a final. For so many young adults and college students sleep is pushed to the far back of our priority list especially when under a time crunch. But the truth is that lack of sleep elevates our anxiety. Sleep is vital to performing well and being well. In order to stop sacrificing sleep you should keep a sleep schedule. The key is to go to sleep at the same time every night in order to sync an internal clock. The best way to stick to a sleep schedule is to construct a pre-sleep routine. This could be: reading a chapter of your current book before bed or drinking sleepy-time tea. Separate your routine from the hustle of the day.
Make a wake-up routine and stick to it
This is the just like the idea of constructing a pre-sleep routine but for the morning. If you have a daily task, like making your bed, complete it before the day actually starts. This way you have already completed something in the day. No matter what mountains are ahead of you, you will be proud of the tasks (no matter how small) that you already accomplished.
Image via Celina Timmerman