The beginning of a new college semester can be stressful for anyone, but with chronic anxiety, it can start to feel like you’re not prepared at all. The best way to ensure that you have a successful semester is to utilize every resource that may become beneficial to you. College brings different challenges and responsibilities depending on whether you live away from home or if you commute. Regardless, prepare yourself for these challenges by setting up a support system, finding healthy outlets for stress, and adding some additional items to your packing list.
When I was in high school, I was told by every teacher I had that colleges will not offer assistance in helping me succeed. This is absolutely false. Although you will need to take the initiative to let people know that you’re struggling, there are plenty of ways that your university can help you out. Arguably, the most important way to prepare yourself is to remind yourself that the faculty at your college want you to succeed. Colleges report statistics on how many of their students graduate from their school (instead of dropping out or transferring). It’s to a university’s benefit to allow students to receive assistance in graduating. If they didn’t care, it would be reflected in their graduation rates. With that being said, here are some resources to look into at your school:
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- Student Disability Services – Your school’s department for students with disabilities might be able to accommodate students with documented mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders and depression. Acceptable documentation varies by school, but it typically includes a letter from a current treatment provider confirming your diagnosis and explaining how disability services can be beneficial for your success. Through my former school’s disability department, I was able to receive extended time on exams, permission to take exams in a quiet room, and a note-taker. You might not even need to utilize any of the services you’re given, but it’s great to know that they are available if you need them. Registering for services never hurts!
- Peer Tutoring – Your school might have a peer tutoring program in which students can assist you in understanding your coursework for a particular class. At my former school, tutors were available for every lower-level class and most mid-level classes. If you can’t find a tutor through a school-run program (or if such a program doesn’t exist), reach out to your professors to see if they can connect you to a student who may be able to help you. Speaking of talking to your professors…
- Office Hours – Your professors should have time slots set up where they will be available to answer questions outside of class. Some professors are even willing to review your papers before you submit them. Establish relationships with your professors. They can not only offer personalized advice and coursework assistance, but attending their office hours will show that you are determined to do well in their class. That might improve your grade!
- LGBTQ+ Resources – Hopefully, your school has programs in place that are geared towards the LGBTQ+ community. If you are a member of the community, these programs can help you network with other LGBTQ+ students and offer assistance in navigating college life in relation to your gender and sexual identity.
- Counseling Center – If you have anxiety, you should be looking for a school that has mental health services for students. This might be a standalone service, or it might be a joint effort with their health and wellness programs. College counseling centers can provide short-term therapy, referrals to therapists in the surrounding town, group therapy sessions, and events geared towards educating students on mental and physical wellness. Although I saw a therapist in town when I was at my former college, my school’s counseling center had a group for women with anxiety- it was perfect for me!
In addition to utilizing pre-established services that are geared towards helping students, you’ll need to locate places on campus that you can go to if you need to focus or if you need to take a break. Consider the following:
- Where can you focus on schoolwork? Do you study best in your dorm room, outside, or in the library? Make sure you know where to go when you need to get down to business. It’s extremely stressful when you want to get work done, but can’t seem to focus on it.
- Where can you go to cool off? Is there a track that you can go for a walk on? Is there an area on campus with beautiful scenery? Where’s the gym? It’s important to know what your options are when you need to take a step back and clear your head. Make sure that you are going about this in a safe manner (if it’s not safe to walk around town at night, consider a safer option).
If you have a mental healthcare team while you’re not in school, make sure you have one while you’re in school. If you’re living at home, stick with what you have now. If you’re going away, think about who you may need to book appointments with:
- Therapist – Since college counseling centers don’t always offer long-term care, it’s important to have a therapist that you can see consistently. It’s also important to have a resource off-campus so that your college doesn’t take actions against you for reaching out for help. Probably for liability reasons, schools may have an adverse reaction to hearing about things such as self-harm, eating disorders, and drug/alcohol abuse. Take these issues up with a therapist that is not affiliated with your school in order to protect yourself.
- Psychiatrist – If you take medications for your anxiety, make sure you have a psychiatrist near your school. If you need a medication adjustment, you won’t have to wait until you can go home to handle it.
Don’t forget to pack the following items to ensure that you remain stable at school, and to help you calm down:
- Any medications that you currently take – Additionally, any prescriptions that you’re going to need for refills.
- Extra sets of headphones/earbuds – In case the ones you have break. You’ll always want to be able to listen to music that puts you in a better mood.
- Items with calming scents – Body lotions, essential oils, ect. However, incense is usually prohibited in the dorms due to being a fire hazard.
- Calming activities – Adult coloring books (this is the one I use), puzzles, word searches, ect.
- Verification of any diagnoses – This will be necessary for trying to get disability services, and will help a new therapist get to know you better.
- Insurance cards – You never know when you might need them.
- Business cards of your healthcare providers at home – In case you need to connect with them.
If you have a smartphone, you have access to a ton of free apps that will aid you in getting through school successfully. Here are my top suggestions:
- Flashcard apps – Store flashcards on one of these apps to help you study wherever you are! Bonus: it decreases used desk space and eliminates messiness.
- Maven– (I get compensated for anyone who uses my code) This is an app that allows women to talk to real medical professionals about health issues in a convenient, timely manner. Although it’s not a replacement for in-person healthcare, it’s certainly a supplement. There are mental health practitioners, general nurse practitioners (for colds, skin issues, flu, ect.), sexual health providers and some practitioners can even give you prescriptions! Want to try it for free? Use my code, BRIANNABVIP to receive a $25 credit that can be used for your first appointment on the app (enter it before booking by going to Account Settings -> Referrals & Promotions)
- A bill-splitting app: There are apps that allow you to to organize who you owe money to, and vice versa. The Splitwise app has good reviews, but I’ve never tried it. These would be beneficial if you live in an off-campus apartment.
I hope this list of resources and ideas will be helpful to you as you begin a new semester at school!