Times of transition can be so challenging. It’s uncomfortable to be in a new stage of life, especially one that entails packing up your belongings and moving to a new city. The move from being under your parents’ roof to being out on your own is… well, terrifying at times.
Everything you’ve known, from what kind of milk you drink, to which scent of laundry detergent you buy, to even how to load the dishwasher, has been decided for you by your parents. And not necessarily because your parents were inflexible, but likely because you have never had to make these decisions for yourself before. Now that you’re on your own, you have choices! You can go with mom’s usual preferences, or find out what works for you.
Transitioning to Young Adulthood
These seemingly insignificant decisions are indicative of the new freedoms you have as an adult. And while this new freedom is exciting and empowering, it can be pretty overwhelming, too. Whether you have previously struggled with anxiety, or it’s something that’s coming up for you now, big life changes can certainly exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
The whole experience of moving and adjusting to a new way of life can be really uncomfortable. And this makes sense, as there are no certainties anymore. The unknown is scary. But in my experience as an anxiety therapist, I have seen clients grow from the unknown.
In fact, I’ve developed a few tips if you’re experiencing college student anxiety. Some common tendencies of folks who struggle with anxiety are self-isolation, indecisiveness, and trouble staying present in the moment. So, I’ve got some tips for you to consider when anxiety about this time of transition arises.
Anxiety Can Cause Self-Isolation
For those who struggle with anxiety, it’s common to self-isolate. The adjustment to being responsible for small tasks like keeping your home clean, scheduling meals, and keeping up with laundry adds up and can be overwhelming. This is especially true when you’re also adjusting to a new school schedule and workload.
I’ve found that many of my clients struggling with anxiety during this time of transition are just exhausted. Even when you try to take a break, your brain won’t turn off. “That paper, that assignment, that exam in two weeks…” runs on a loop through your mind. So when it gets to the weekend, spending time with friends may be the last thing you want to do. The energy it takes to socialize when you can’t stop your thoughts is much more than if you just stayed in and watched Netflix by yourself. So you stay in and try to get some rest, only to have your energy zapped day after day by anxious thoughts.
Maybe you’re hesitant to share how you’re feeling with friends or family at home. You don’t want it to seem as if you don’t like college or aren’t excited about this new chapter. Everyone claims “college is the best years of your life,” and you don’t want to be the one who that’s not true for. Plus, when you’ve succeeded in nearly everything you’ve done so far, sharing your struggle can be really uncomfortable.
In fact, many people who struggle with anxiety in college and young adulthood excelled in school and extracurriculars in high school. So, it’s tough to understand what’s going on when you get to college and things aren’t the same. Instead of shutting people out and not letting them know what’s going on with you, I suggest reaching out.
Yes, everyone has their own stuff they deal with. Your parents are overwhelmed with work and your siblings. And your best friend from home is loving their new college campus. But you deserve to feel supported. And your support system wants to be just that for you. Reach out to someone in your support system and try to stay connected. Yes, self-isolating is so much more comfortable. But sometimes, we have to be uncomfortable to grow.
Anxiety Can Lead to Indecisiveness
Often, people with anxiety struggle with indecisiveness. The fear of making the wrong choice can deter you from making a decision at all. Before you lived on your own, someone else made lots of decisions for you, from groceries to curfews and everything in between. So trying to navigate small things like which bread to buy, to bigger things like going to a party or not, can seem overwhelming. And you don’t want to let anyone down, especially yourself. Perfectionism tells you that you CANNOT make a mistake, which can feel paralyzing when it comes to making decisions.
I encourage you to seek out new experiences. Go on that coffee date with a new friend. Try that funky new restaurant, even if you don’t know how to pronounce anything on the menu. Spend the extra $10 on the Uber downtown if it means trying something new. The only choice you will regret is not challenging yourself.
Anxiety can hold you back from lots of things. But don’t let it hold you back from having new experiences because you never know, you just might fall in love with something you’ve never even heard of! Dismissing something new because you’re avoiding regret will hinder you from enjoying the process of growth.
Anxiety Can Create Trouble Staying Present
When change is happening in our lives, it’s hard to have room in our minds for joy. Stressful deadlines and to-do lists cloud our brain space, making it hard to appreciate the special moments. You like to plan and have all the details hammered out before you go somewhere. And while this is helpful, it can make your experience more draining than it is enjoyable. While you’re in your head ruminating on what could go wrong or what you “should” be doing right now, you’re missing out on laughs and memories.
You know this because you’ve been through it. Being in the present moment is challenging when you have anxiety. Everything has to be perfect, and when it’s not, it can feel like the end of the world. In social situations, you want everyone to be having a good time. So while you’re worrying about everything being the right way, you’re missing out on connection. This could be connection with others in a social setting, or connection with yourself while you’re just going about your day.
Yes, you have an intense workload that needs your attention. But what about your happiness? When was the last time you shared a belly laugh with a friend? What about the last time you felt connected to someone? These experiences are just as important to your college and young adult experience as getting good grades. Find things that fill you up and bring you joy. Look for the surprising aspects of experiences.
How does it feel to have complete control over your schedule? Do you actually like mornings now that you can spend them quietly planning your day? Maybe cooking your own meals is a newfound sense of comfort. Pay attention to the activities and situations that make you feel good. Then, incorporate them into your life.
Anxiety Treatment in Nashville, TN Can Help
Over the years, I’ve helped hundreds of college students in Tennessee navigate the weird time of life that young adulthood is. I’ve noticed that many of the clients I work with have fears about things that actually have ended up benefitting them. The things that once made them most uncomfortable about living on their own actually empowered them. And when they did make a mistake or do something out of their comfort zone, they were able to laugh about it and have a new memory. The growth that happens during this stage of life can be used to your benefit for years to come.
But when you’re dealing with anxiety, it can be hard to be hopeful about the future. At my online therapy practice in Tennessee, I provide anxiety treatment to college students in Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, and all throughout the state. In anxiety treatment, I will help you plan proactively for the things you’re worried about to manage anxiety and stress. And we’ll retrain your brain so that anxious, alarming thoughts are not the first thing you turn to any longer. When you try new things and test your comfort levels, you are actually showing your brain that you can handle new, anxiety-inducing events.
Anxiety treatment has proven to be helpful for many young adults moving into a new place of their own for the first time and starting college. You deserve support, whether that looks like reaching out to your support system or speaking with an anxiety therapist like myself. If you are interested in giving online anxiety treatment a try, please contact me to get started.