Surviving the Quad: A Guide for Students with Anxiety

By Alisa Pierce
Blog Content Contributor

The number of students that have anxiety or nervous disorders is a lot higher than most people think. In a study conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, they found that forty million U.S. adults suffer from anxiety disorders, and 75 percent of them experience their first anxiety attack or episode by the time they’re 22. This means that the majority of those with anxiety start experiencing the effects of their disorder before they graduate from college.

With that being said, the new school year has started and all of the organizations on campus are looking for new members. Every club is trying to recruit in any way that they can and, unfortunately, their methods are occasionally abrasive. For the average student, walking through the quad while these groups are recruiting can be a little annoying. For students struggling with anxiety, however, walking through the quad can mean trying to suppress panic attacks or breakdowns.

Some people would say for these students to simply avoid the quad, but evading that part of campus isn’t always easy. The quad is in the central part of campus, so many students have classes near or in that area. For students with anxiety or other nervous disorders that aren’t able to avoid the quad, here are some tips on how to stay sane:

Exercise and meditation

Students and teachers rush past organization members. Photo by Alisa Pierce.
Students and teachers rush past organization members. Photo by Alisa Pierce.

Before walking through the quad, try attending a yoga class or going for a run. This always work for me, but don’t be afraid to try other workouts to find what works for you. Exercise offers physical benefits, but for those of you looking for something more spiritual to handle your anxiety I suggest mediation. Finding quiet time or relaxing in the morning before my classes has really helped me remain calm throughout the day. Your experience as you travel from class to class might be easier if you lower your anxiety through these methods.

Relaxation strategies

Two relaxation strategies that are really popular are visualization and muscle relaxation. Visualization involves imagining yourself and your five senses in a more relaxed place. By transferring yourself to a calmer location mentally, you’re able to calm your mind and body enough to sufficiently distract yourself. Muscle relaxation involves you focusing on slowly tensing and then relaxing your muscles. Through this, you become more aware of your physical sensations and hopefully are able to control them. These strategies were made to help you handle your anxiety by giving you an opportunity to be calmer, so that you have a chance to re-learn how to cope with stress naturally.

Panic attack management

Sometimes the techniques listed above won’t work fast enough or the situation you’re in will be too much, and a panic attack or breakdown will occur. I suggest having an emergency plan in place so that you have a course of action to help you through your episode. Some options that are common in these plans include calling a friend that understands your condition to provide a mental distraction, drinking water and walking around to keep yourself moving, and jogging if possible. These emergency plans won’t necessarily stop the panic attack, but it should decrease its strength.

These aren’t perfect strategies, but they will help. Thankfully, the quad won’t always be this chaotic as the year goes by. While it is, using these techniques as you walk through the quad might be just what you need to stay sane while you’re on campus.

Holly Henrichsen

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