We hear a lot about anxiety these days. But do we know its true impacts?
I’ve experienced anxiety for the last five years, off and on – mostly on because there is no off switch. Anxiety is a general term, but it’s a nervous disorder that develops from stress and is identified by excessive uneasiness and worry, typically with compulsive behaviour or panic attacks.
Anxiety is becoming alarmingly common among post-secondary students – 90% of Alberta students reported feeling overwhelmed according to 2016 National College Health Assessment survey.
One of my biggest struggles is trying to focus in class or on an exam, when the mind is constantly racing. When you’re having difficulty concentrating because you’re feeling so stressed, it’s important to address it and work to resolve it.
The thing about an anxiety disorder is how quickly it intensifies. Suddenly something as small as your iPod dying or missing the bus can seem like a big problem. It keeps growing in your head, flooding your chest and trying to escape from under your skin.
How to overcome anxiety
When it comes to ways to overcome anxiety, I turned to NAIT counsellor Komal Kumar to help shed some light. Several of the things she mentioned hit close to home for me.
“A sign of anxiety can be avoidant behavior, so if you’re feeling stressed or anxious you don’t even want to be around people,” Kumar says.
Distancing myself from people became my number-one escape. It feels like no one understands what’s going on in your head, so just deal with it on your own, right? Wrong.
Talk to someone
“The biggest thing I would say is talk to someone. Whether it’s family, your friends or a counsellor. Social supports are really important in overcoming stress and anxiety,” Kumar says.
"Social supports are really important in overcoming stress and anxiety.”
Get some sleep
“I know it’s hard for students, but if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not going to be able to process information that you learn in class,” Kumar says.
According to the Mayo Clinic, stress and anxiety impacts our physical health in ways we don’t even realize. All of the emotions trigger chemical reactions in our bodies which can lead to a weakened immune system.
Speaking from personal experience, when I get seven to eight hours of sleep, I feel incredibly recharged and alert, making the anxiety a lot more manageable.
Diet and exercise
Kumar stresses the importance of a balanced diet and a regular exercise routine, even if it’s just going for a walk on your lunch break.
Exercise endorphins are miracle workers!
For me, sometimes it’s as easy as a run through the park with my music blasted. Exercise endorphins are miracle workers! Working up a sweat helps me feel like I released any bad or anxious energy I was holding onto. Any negative toxins or thoughts I had weighing me down disappear because I’m so focused on my breathing and achieving my fitness goals.
“Relaxation techniques are really important with anxiety," says Kumar. "You could do a muscle relaxation exercise right before a presentation, because your body literally can’t be stressed and relaxed at the same time.”
When it’s all said and done, we’re always going to have those anxiety filled days. Sometimes we just need to hear someone tell us, “It’s OK to be like this.”
After wrestling anxiety for years, I find these techniques are the most valuable for me. But it’s an ongoing battle. The most important thing is to recognize anxiety and find a way to cope that works best for you.
Chelsea Hudema is a second-year Radio and Television student and NAIT communications intern.