Almost all of us experience “butterflies” in our stomachs before an event we may be excited or nervous about (like a first date, a big game, a recital), or we have worry about meeting a deadline, or a sense of overwhelm when faced with multiple demands. Worry about major events or practical, day to day life tasks is “normal” and it is a natural, adaptive response to help us deal with such events. Anxiety becomes problematic when the response we have to an event or belief is out of proportion to the situation; when the worry, fear, or intrusive thoughts are extreme, unrealistic, or exaggerated and interfere with functioning. People with anxiety disorders may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat. If you feel you experience anxiety that is more problematic, you are not alone! Anxiety related problems are one of the top presenting concerns for MSU students seeking services at CPS.
Ways to Reduce Anxiety
The physical symptoms of anxiety (racing heart, tense muscles) can be reduced by using techniques that relax your body. Deep breathing and relaxing those places in your body where you hold tension can help you immediately feel less anxious. Practicing strategies that help you relax, daily, even when you are not feeling stressed or anxious, can help improve your overall functioning. Try these strategies to help relax.
Exercising regularly can help provide relief from many of the symptoms of anxiety, panic, and stress. Pair your exercise with getting outside and you’ll also receive the calming effects that being in nature can provide. Simply put, get up and move! Check out the fitness classes, intramural sports, outdoor programs, and the pool and gym schedules at www.montana.edu/getfit/.
Do you often think that the worst-case scenario will happen? Do you make negative assumptions about how you will do (on a test, at a social event, etc.)? Often times how we perceive or predict events in our lives influences how we feel. If we are always assuming the worst will happen or negatively evaluating our behaviors, we will feel more depressed or anxious. Check in with yourself to see how you are interpreting things and ask yourself if such statements are true (e.g., are you really going to fail that exam? Are people really going to think you’re stupid for saying that?).
Anxiety can make us want to avoid those situations that make us anxious. While doing so may provide us with immediate relief, avoiding only feeds into the cycle of anxiety, making those things we’re avoiding even more anxiety provoking.
Notice when you feel the urge to procrastinate or avoid, and then do the opposite! Face what is making you anxious—talk to your professor, go to the party, attend class—and do your best to hang in there. Over time, it will get easier and your anxiety will subside.
Anxiety is one of the top presenting concerns for students seeking services at CPS. The majority of our clients report that their symptoms improve over the course of treatment. Please know you are not alone and that counseling can be very helpful. To schedule an intake call: 994-4531.
At your intake appointment, you may be referred to one of our groups. Group counseling can be just as effective, if not more effective, than individual counseling, especially for social anxiety. Check out our interpersonal groups and our mindfulness skills groups here.