How to overcome anxiety in academic settings

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Tips on how to organize your time to avoid being stressed in an academic setting.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

By Chaez Miller

Many of you have experienced what it’s like to feel anxious. It could be the tightness in your stomach before a first date or the way your heart starts beating when you feel danger. Anxiety is often viewed as a coping mechanism to help energize you to achieve certain goals that you have created for yourself such as finishing a research paper.

But if you have social anxiety like me, ordinary healthy responses we face daily can often affect our personal lives and academic career.

Ever since I was young, certain events that involved interpersonal interactions made me feel uneasy. As a child, I was always told that having feelings of doubt, worry, and uncertainty were normal and came as part of growing up.

Throughout my life, I started to push these emotions to the back of my mind, not knowing that this disorder could alter some parts of how I interact socially with people. I hoped that at some point in my life these feelings would drift away.

Sometimes I tried to challenge myself by stepping out of my comfort zone and talking to people I wouldn’t normally talk to so I wouldn’t always feel awkward when I was in a room full of people my age.

After ignoring the early stages of my anxiety for a number of years, everything changed when I had my first panic attack during freshman year in high school. I was in biology class when the teacher assigned me to work with a group of students,that I didn’t know to help create a project that would be presented throughout the class period.

While sitting with my classmates, I started to become nervous, but I didn’t think that anything was wrong. As time came closer for my group to present, I suddenly felt everything slow down around me, making me feeling very uneasy to the point where my palms started to sweat.

Suddenly, I fainted. The next thing I remember was waking up in the nurse’s office with a headache. That day was one of the most embarrassing days in my life and it made me shut everything and everyone out.

I decided it was time to pay a visit to the doctor’s office to see what was wrong with me. That’s when I was told I was suffering from social anxiety, a disorder that “is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others affecting your performance at work, school, and other day to day activities,” According to National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

I have since learned there are many different types of anxiety and have learned how to cope with mine. Recently I attended a DCCC seminar called “How to cope with test anxiety,” which teaches individuals in college how to help minimize stress the average college student endures.

Presenters Jennifer Kalligonis and Ann Mitchell revealed tips on how to overcome anxiety when it comes to big exams and tests, such as learning how to achieve better study habits and becoming mentally prepared.

Nicole Richards, 23, a nursing major at the seminar, wondered how she could prevent doing poorly on tests. “I have gotten so nervous and even froze up, plus I don’t really have good study habits, so how do I improve in this area?” she asked.

Kalligonis responded, “In order to get better grades on tests you have to set high standards for yourself by studying the most important information first and building up your confidence to help take away your nervousness.”

During this time many other attendees added their opinions on how they dealth with stress in academics while sharing details on their struggle with anxiety.

Kalligonis concluded the workshop by saying, “Developing a good study habit and strategies can work wonders for students that have problems with procrastination, distractions, and laziness.”

Attendees at this workshop also practiced different relaxing techniques to mentally prepare the body before coming into contact with stress. Students were taught how to breath properly to help ease the mind and practice good posture while test taking so they could be relaxed and have a sense of awareness.

I’ve learned the hard way that suffering from social anxiety is not easy on my personal life as well as my academic career. As a result of always being insecure about how I would function in daily life, I was put on a medication that helps calm me down when I feel anxious giving me the strength to be able to socialize with my friends and not be nervous all the time.

Today, I am happy to say that I have overcome my anxiety with the help of my family and the DCCC academic staff. Looking back on my journey I have noticed that I have come out of my comfort zone and starting doing things that I haven’t done myself during in years, such as going to concerts without feeling like everybody is watching me and meeting new people daily due to my major in journalism.

At this stage in my life, I am grateful and optimistic that I will continue to improve while having social anxiety. I hope that one-day people like me will be able to branch out and live life to the fullest.

Contact Chaez Miller at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu