School, Stress and Self-Care
Tips For Battling Anxiety
Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes.
There are no simple symptoms to check off a list, or a magic pill to make it all go away by tomorrow. Anxiety is a mental battle that one faces every day, and it can be caused by a variety of triggers.
A study conducted in 2016 by the Canadian Association of College and University Students Services surveyed 43,000 students from 41 Canadian institutions regarding their overall health, including their experiences with anxiety.
The results are astonishing—65 per cent of students said they felt overwhelmed with anxiety at some point during the school year, mainly due to academic pressures. Additionally, 18 per cent of respondents had been officially diagnosed with anxiety and could actually pinpoint their symptoms.
Having been diagnosed roughly a year ago, my anxiety initially began due to the stress of law school applications. Scratch that—it began at the first thought of even going through the rigorous application process.
The competitive pressures students face today surpasses all previous years. Law schools now expect you to have impressive work and volunteer experience, community and extra-curricular involvement, and an above-average GPA. Such a detailed and diversified profile calls for years of early planning and nonstop stress.
It’s now March and I’m stuck in the “waiting game” phase—I am dying to hear back from various schools. The entire application process up to now has been an emotional rollercoaster. From the moment you set your mind to achieve a goal—ostentatious or not—anxiety can draw power from that determination and bleed into other aspects of your life.
Before diagnosis, my symptoms reflected those of a seriously bad case of stomach flu. Severe nausea and loss of appetite made me want to stay in bed . Fortunately for me, my schedule would never allow that. I forced myself to get up early every morning and get in a good workout; go to class, study, volunteer and do whatever needed doing. My assignments always got done and my grades were never affected; yet just the thought of school became increasingly overwhelming.
By the time finals came around I was having panic attacks on a daily basis. A final was no longer just an exam—it was the potential to earn the difference between a 3.4 GPA or a 3.7 GPA in the class. It was the difference between an acceptance and a refusal. Anxiety seeped into all aspects of my life as I tried to build the profile of a top law school candidate.
Everybody experiences anxiety differently. Nausea, nervousness, irritability, shortness of breath, or even surges of energy can be signs that your anxiety is acting up. Due to the varying symptoms, anxiety is often overlooked and left undiagnosed.
As seen in the survey conducted by the CACUSS, 65 per cent of Canadian students experience anxiety resulting from such intense external academic and professional pressures. This goes to show that the bar is simply set too high these days—and it’s affected the mental health of more than half of all Canadian students.
For those of you who are lucky enough to have been diagnosed with anxiety, there are resources like prescription medicine, therapy, or even medical marijuana. For those of you who may be feeling anxious or even just a little too nervous, there’s different coping mechanisms that may help.
First, it’s important to identify your symptoms. Don’t lazily attribute an upset stomach to last night’s burrito—your body may be trying to tell you something. Speak to your doctor about any symptoms you’re experiencing to try to find a solution that works for you.
Practicing yoga has also proven very helpful for me. By focusing on your breathing you can naturally calm your body down. Practicing full deep breaths and calming your heart rate are both impeccable remedies for an ultra-stressful moment.
Always try your best to get a good night’s sleep. If you are low on sleep, your body has a hard time trying to function. Irritability and sensitivity are heightened when you’re exhausted, so it’s the perfect opportunity for your anxiety to take over.
While there is no magic pill or standard prescription, there definitely are tons of remedies readily available to overpower anxiety. This form of mental illness is in part a chemical imbalance and is never something to be ashamed of.
Concordia offers a variety of resources such as Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Applied Psychology Centre.
My advice to other students is to trust yourself and listen to your body. Know what makes you anxious and isolate that anxiety as much as possible, because after all, that’s the ultimate battle—but it is one that you can win.
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