by Dylan Bole
You are presenting today in your public speaking class. Your hands and legs begin to shake, sweat begins to run down your arms and legs, and your throat seems filled with gunk. Fear and anxiety have overtaken your body.
However, you are not alone; 40 million U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder and 75 percent of them experience their first anxiety episode before the age of 22, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
College presents many opportunities for young adults to become anxious.
“I have felt anxious more in college than in high school due to the amount of stress involved,” said Logan Mong, a sophomore Christian Ministry major.
With the following five tips from two licensed therapists Laurie Shamamy, LMSW, and Joni Lipson, LLP, you can learn how to stop anxiety from being overpowering and freezing you in your tracks.
When experiencing anxiety, stop what you are doing and become aware of your feelings. “Stop, take a step back, notice exactly what you are reacting too,” Shamamy said.
2. Take a deep breath
Taking a deep breath is a natural action that can calm your body down. When releasing oxygen, your heart rate slows down and muscles relax, bringing calmness over your entire body. “I felt relieved after taking a deep breath,” said Rebecca Allen, a senior Mass Communication major.
3. Figure out crisis in the moment
Once you have stopped what you are doing, take time to pinpoint what is triggering your anxiety. “If it truly is a crisis, or anxiety is just calling it a crisis,” Shamamy said. This time to reflect on your feelings can be described as mindfulness. “Mindfulness is active attention and awareness in the here and now,” Lipson said.
4. Check the facts
Giving yourself time to reflect upon the triggers of your anxiety allows you to determine if the threat is serious or only in your imagination. “Notice if your mind is making interpretations or if there is truly danger,” Shamamy said.
Also by accepting your feelings, your mood and mindset may improve. “Accepting and therefore not judging our feelings, which reduces any negative impact on self-esteem helps a person feel empowered and not victimized by anxiety,” Lipson said.
If you don’t accept your anxiety and the feelings that come along with it, there will be suffering. “Non-acceptance of pain leads to suffering,” Shamamay said. Thus, to ease anxiety, you must accept the feelings you are having.
5. Get through this one moment
Taking time to accept and label your feelings lets the current moment become reality instead of the false assumptions running through your mind. “The mind is like a chattering monkey; the mind is not your friend, not your enemy, a separate entity offering thoughts and judgments,” Shamamy said.
A good metaphorical challenge to demonstrate the ability to accept and be aware of your feelings is to “be the board.” Your thoughts, memories and urges are pieces on the chess board and these emotions can pull you into a mind battle. Yet, by challenging yourself to just be aware of these thoughts and feelings, you can become the chess board. “Your aware of all thoughts and feelings, but they can’t hurt you,” Shamamy said.
Also, don’t forget that you have experienced anxious moments before and successfully gone through with the next event. “You’ve been through difficult times before that eventually didn’t seem like a big deal and this too shall pass,” Shamamy said.
Anxiety does not need to hold you back from living your life. “We don’t have to overcome anxiety in order to do things. We can do things with anxiety, “Shamamy said.