Anxiety can affect anyone at any time.

For me, anxiety and panic attacks occur most days – I can be frustrated, tired or excited… Basically, when I am experiencing any emotional overdrive, anxiety comes knocking at my door. It impacts on my sleep, productivity and how I feel physically, but it can be managed. I want to share my tips and tricks on handling the unpleasant beast.

Be open

Now, this does not mean that you have to tell all of your secrets to a stranger. Letting a few souls know about this mysterious part of you can help with acceptance. I know that disguising a “weakness” is like a reflex to some of us, but it works as a shield and wards off people who you want in your life. Accepting ANY issue is the first step. Recognise it, research it and learn to live with it. Don’t you think that being anxious about your anxiety because you don’t want others to know about it defeats the purpose of hiding it? Inhale and exhale, the person in front of you might have dealt with a panic attack or two!

Step out of your comfort zone

Nobody is flexible without stretching (and if you are, then I am jealous). It’s hard to become more confident if you reject the opportunities that let you out of your comfort zone. I would not raise my hand during classes, but in my undergraduate years, I was fortunate enough to find a course mate who I decided to trust. I always told her my thoughts and arguments about our study topics and one day, she expressed them in a lecture. When the lecturer agreed with her, my friend said, “It was her idea!”. This brought me so much more confidence (see how being open helps?).

I think that what we are all afraid of is being rejected and then carrying the weight of everyone staring at us. Now, I prepare answers for the seminar questions beforehand and work up my courage to express them during the seminar.  If I manage to voice my opinion – great! If I am too anxious – at least I tried! It is an excellent exercise and, honestly, it helps me to understand my course better! You can never go wrong with trying, and it will help to tear those barriers down.

Take care of yourself

Personally, I can ONLY function with 8+ hours of sleep, nutritious food, working out every day and relaxing. This not only helps your body to be active and prevent panic attacks but also occupies your mind with healthy thoughts. Whilst I can understand if going to the gym or joining a class scares you, it’s no excuse to spend more time on Netflix. I worked out at home throughout my undergraduate studies. I tried three gyms in total and finally found one where I felt comfortable, and did not experience anxiety. Take advantage of free trials or guest passes if you want to try something new – most places offer their first class for free. Similarly, I have noticed that maintaining a healthy body makes me calmer and more confident. You can’t go wrong with this tip even if you don’t suffer from anxiety.

Don’t let it pile up

I don’t think I can stress this enough to all my anxious fellows! You mustn’t let it pile up. If you do, you’re handing anxiety the reins and letting itpurposefully ride you through all the bumps on the road. Take yourself out for a walk, go for a run, treat yourself, reveal your issues to a friend, cry, scream, read, play a video game, watch a movie, write, sing… Anything that helps you sort out your emotions will boost the confidence you have in yourself. YOU ARE THE LEADER, SO LEAD YOURSELF! Learn to exploit anxiety to your advantage.

Manage your time

This last point strongly relies on my previous tip. University work or unfinished chores that keep attracting anxious feelings towards your mind is another reason you may feel uneasy. Therefore, managing your time is essential when constructing your plans. If all is left until the last possible minute, the calmest human you know will feel unease settle in the depths of their stomachs. A vital point is that you must manage your time to incorporate your diet, gym time and hobbies (for me, this is reading) in your daily routine. I use to-do lists and a planner (on my phone and a physical one) which keep me in check. A mood-boosting tip is not to delete the finished points, but to cross them out, and at the end of the day you can appreciate the finished chores as your accomplishments. Well done me, now I get a cookie!

Some days are much harder than others and taking those days off is the best solution. This doesn’t mean that you crawl into your bed for a week, or transform your dorm room into a cave. Instead, go to the swimming pool, cook your favourite meal, clean your surroundings and have a glass of wine. Recharge. And NEVER feel ashamed for taking the time for yourself.

However, I do want to note that I am not an expert and if you are experiencing unfriendly thoughts, then please reach out to professionals. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and if you have a physical illness/difficulty – you treat it. The same applies to your mental health. If it’s not manageable, look for help from a professional. A friendly heads up to the students of Birmingham: If you are suffering through a powerful wave of anxiety of any kind, you are all welcome to contact Nightline – the confidential listening service.

All You Need Is Love - Melisa by the John Lennon Wall in Prague
“All you need is love”… for yourself