Mind racing. A constant wave of negative thoughts. Insecurities and doubts overtake my brain.
I remember my first anxiety attack vividly. I could tell you exactly where I was, who I was with and the reason that sparked the attack. That happened years ago. But since then, I have been in a constant downhill battle against my own brain.
One might wonder what exactly those thoughts are that swirl around in my mind, banging louder and louder until they are heard. They are my worst fears. They are random scenarios that my brain decides to make up and then convinces me will happen. They are sad and lonely voices.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with generalized anxiety display excessive worry about a number of things such as relationships, athletics, school and everyday life. Some anxiety symptoms include restlessness, insomnia, irritability, and difficulty focusing.
Although feelings of worry and occasional anxiety are completely normal to most people, an overwhelming number of individuals suffer from more than an occasional nervousness.
Anxiety is prominent in all ages and genders. However, anxiety within a college campus reigns high. In the fall of 2018, the National College Health Assessment surveyed college students from around the United States and reported 63% of individuals having experienced an overwhelming amount of anxiety. It was also stated that 23% reported seeking treatment from a mental health professional.
However, 2018 was pre-pandemic, and the added stress of virtual learning, social distance and masks had not been dealt with yet. A small survey was done on Texas A&M students in May of 2020 discussing added stress and anxiety due to COVID-19. Out of a survey of 195 students, 138 of them reported extreme anxiety as a result of the pandemic — 71% of students began experiencing anxiety.
Anxiety is a serious mental illness that fails to be acknowledged most days. If an individual or friend reports feeling anxious or worried, the many people respond, “Hey don’t stress everything will be okay.” If someone suffers a severe cut and arrives at the emergency room ready for stitches, a doctor replying, “Hey stop stressing about it, it’ll be alright,” would not suffice.
Although anxiety is not a visible illness, it should be taken just as seriously as an open gash on a leg. Pain should not be overlooked regardless of whether it is mental or physical. So instead of repressing the matter, the focus should be on directing individuals towards the appropriate help they need.
The best advice that helped me manage, maintain and grow with my anxiety is talking about my feelings. Whether that involves a friend, family member or counselor. The more bottled up emotions become, the harder they are to let go of and to move on from. If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety the most helpful thing to do is to support them by being available to talk and listen.
However, when more serious actions are needed, consult an authoritative figure. Every college campus has counselors waiting to help at any moment. Resources regarding counseling can come from professors but can also be found online.
Living with anxiety is challenging, but you are never alone. Millions of others are fighting the same battle every day, and countless resources are available to help. Mental illness is not something that should be ignored. Do not be afraid to seek help.