Photo By: Mackenzie Gerry

Stress is not always a bad thing. There’s a reason humans evolved to feel stress and anxiety. It is a survival instinct and sometimes it can allow you to focus on acing an exam or finishing an assignment right before the deadline. But other times it can make the world feel overwhelming and stop you in your tracks.

University is super exciting, but like anything new, it can also be stressful. Being able to manage stress is hard but it is not impossible. With all of that said, here are some strategies for coping with university anxiety.

Planning out your schedule to find a balance between socializing, schoolwork, and self-care is one of the best ways to get ahead of stress. Planning healthy meals, making time for exercise and self-care are a great place to start. A really underrated part of self-care is a regular sleep schedule.

“Making lists, even if you don’t always follow through, helps,” said Holly Hebert, a Brock alumna.

Taking the things that are causing you to worry and writing them down will make them feel more manageable. You can break down all your assignments for the week into smaller tasks and schedule time when you can get them done. This makes it easier to find time to take care of yourself and to have fun.

If you have trouble sleeping, try to cut out caffeine late in the day, limit your consumption of drugs and alcohol during the week and try incorporating some exercise into your daily routine, even if it’s just twenty minutes of yoga to wind down before bed. If these don’t work, try to avoid screens for an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Instead, try reading, meditating, or journaling before bed. Different kinds of self-care work for different people, it’s all about finding the balance that works for you. 

The most important thing is to not avoid something when it is stressful. It feels scary to face the things that make us anxious, but Poppy Jamie, author of Happy Not Perfect: Upgrade Your Mind, Challenge Your Thoughts, and Free Yourself from Anxiety, has come up with an effective way of thinking about and tackling anxiety.

Jamey states that one of the best ways to tackle anxiety is to think of your brain as having two radio stations: ‘Relaxed FM’ and ‘Stressed FM’. Being able to notice when you’re in ‘Stressed FM’ and don’t need to be, is a great step towards learning to relax when you need to. 

The best way to make that change is to focus on your breathing and remind yourself that you are not in danger even if your anxious brain is telling you that you are. Once you notice where your anxiety is being held in your body you can start to let go of that tension. It is much easier to make rational decisions and tackle obstacles when you are calm; this skill really comes in handy when you feel overwhelmed or paralyzed.

Once you have deactivated the ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response usually triggered by anxiety, you can start to face the stressor. Start small, break it down into steps that will feel more manageable. From there you can take it one small thing at a time.

The unfortunate thing about stress and anxiety is that these tools don’t always work. If you do become overwhelmed and are unable to overcome it, investigate resources on campus, reach out to friends and family for help, and talk openly to your professors about upcoming deadlines that may be adding to your stress. Having a support system to turn to in times of stress can really help, especially if you are feeling isolated in a new place.

The counselling team at Brock can provide tools specific to you for managing anxiety. Reaching out to your support system is a good way to signal to your nervous system that you are not in danger. Taking action to change the things that are causing your stress is the best way to manage that paralyzing feeling. So take a deep breath, and take care of yourself.