I just graduated from college and I can tell you that it’s not easy. The pressure to do well, the constant stress of deadlines, and the fear of failure all play a big role in how your days are spent. But if you know what to do, anxiety can be your superpower!
Despite their debilitating effects, anxiety and stress can also be motivating. They can provide you with the necessary motivation to better your performance and achieve your goals. And as a college student, this is particularly true because of the unique challenges inherent in university life.
Why is college so stressful?
When parents and guardians send their teenagers to college, they give the same speech they gave on their first day to school or their first school trip:
“There’s nothing to be afraid of…”
Anxiety often stems from the fear of the unknown. Not knowing where you are going and what will happen gives a playing field to the human mind. Dreams and hopes and fears rush in to fill this gap. College is overwhelming to so many students and makes them anxious because the campus life is quite different from the life experiences students have gone through till then. It’s new. It’s different.
Five types of anxieties college students often go through are:
- Anticipatory anxiety
- Separation anxiety
- Social anxiety
- Test anxiety
- Anxiety over peer pressure
Weeks before going to college, some students experience crippling, debilitating anxiety. They do not want to prepare for school or even consider not joining it at all.
Homesickness can be a very serious problem in some students. While it is normal to feel separation anxiety on the first night of the college hostel or even in the first week of staying away from the family, some college students feel severe anxiety thinking about the prospect of staying away from home for years and years.
New lifestyle, new roommates, new friends, and exposure to new cultures and alternative ways of thinking might be too much for them. Students get separated from familiar people and environments that are a big part of their identities – and hence, they feel disoriented and lose their sense of self.
As an extension of separation anxiety, social anxiety is a big problem in college students. At the ages of 18-22, students are often more critical of themselves. They also become self-aware. Even those who could make friends easily before start feeling shy or awkward while interacting with new people. And then self-degrading phrases like ‘People will laugh at me as I am fat’, ‘They will think of me as a loser’, ‘No one likes me’ start playing in their minds in an endless loop.
While college students are used to taking tests, college exams are more challenging and demanding. They hear rumors about how tough some exams are or how strict some teachers are and imagine that they would never do well on these tests. They worry about flunking classes and losing scholarships. All these anxieties snowball to a point where students give in to procrastination, poor study habits, and even get too scared to study at all.
Anxiety over Peer Pressure
Young adults face peer pressure in high school but as they move away from their families and start living independently, it ramps up considerably. Petty thefts, romance, sexual contact, underage drinking, illegal drugs, and vandalism come along with all the wonderful academic opportunities in college. Going against the rules is what college students love. When ‘everybody does it’, it becomes difficult for the wise students to say ‘no’ to what makes them uncomfortable. This internal struggle of being a part of a group or choosing the right thing to do and being lonely makes many students anxious.
Why do we say Anxiety is a Superpower?
While anxiety disorder or panic disorder certainly needs to be treated, a little anxiety or stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Scientists even have a term for it ‘Eustress’ which means good stress. They say eustress keeps you motivated and adds excitement to one’s life. Let’s see how anxiety serves you when you learn how to control it:
As a Warning Sign
Anxiety makes you more aware. It warns you about the necessary changes you need to make in your life. If you worry frequently and feel nervous all the time, it indicates that you are off-track n some aspects of your life. Making appropriate adjustments is warranted in such a case.
For example, if your relationship is not working, the real reason for your tiff is your work-related stress. If you not being able to sleep due to anxiety, the real issue might be the financial challenges you are facing.
If you analyze the real cause of your anxiety, you can find ways to cope with it and boost your self-growth.
Research shows that students and athletes who experience ‘some’ anxiety see improvement in their test performance or performance in competitive sports. Their anxiety motivates them to prepare better and push themselves.
If you have a good working memory as well as some degree of anxiety, the study shows that you might perform better in cognitive tests. So, when you feel anxious, use it as an indication to put in extra effort, go that extra mile, and make a good impression. Using your anxiety to inspire you virtually makes you indomitable in any field you want.
As a Guardian Angel
Anxiety is not all bad. It is an instinct that you have that sparks a fight-or-flight response in people to protect them from oncoming dangers. When you are in a dangerous situation or facing an emergency, this anxiety is a symptom that manifests you need to either attack or face the situation (the fight response) or step back and flee (the flight response) from an oncoming danger that’s out of your control.
In a sense, it’s like your sixth sense. One that tells you to quickly react to avoid an accident while driving a car, or prevents you from a place that’s not safe. A UK study found that adolescents, and even adults, suffering from anxiety disorders are likely to have fewer accidents.
So, if you learn to tame this instinctual anxiety, you can avoid many things that can go wrong for you in the short run or the long run, such as giving in to peer pressure, illegal drug use, cheating, plagiarism, etc.
Good for Friendships and Relationships
It has been seen that people who feel anxiety to some extent try to be more helpful, understanding, and empathetic to those around them – whether they are their friends, family members, or loved ones. Due to their experiences with dealing with personal challenges, they realize how important it is that for everyone to have more accepting, loving, and sensitive people around them to support them when they are down.
If you feel no one understands your anxiety, try to be that person for someone else. You will find that your anxiety ebbs too. By helping out others, you learn how to face your inner demons too.
Makes You a Good Leader
It is seen that people with high leadership qualities struggle with anxiety all the time. But they use it to be more cautious, to think about what can go wrong, make decisions carefully, deliberate over different possibilities and different outcomes of all the decisions they make, and find solutions to roadblocks and problems they come across.
If you are in a leadership role, turn your anxiety into food for thought. Think about different aspects of a problem, consider it from different perspectives, and try to solve it bit by bit.
What causes anxiety in Ph.D. scholars and how to deal with it?
In the Ph.D., people have to study a large number of subjects, so they need to spend a lot of time reading and researching. In addition, students also need to do experiments in the lab, write reports and thesis pages after pages, so many scholars feel very tired. In fact, it is said that they don’t even have time to eat.
- Stick to a strict schedule. Do not be lazy when doing your research.
- When you are tired, relax your mind by playing sports or watching TV shows after dinner.
- Don’t worry about writing thesis pages after pages. Instead, try to get help from your professor or online experts at Transtutors.
- When you are tired of reading, take a break instead of pushing yourself too hard.
- Don’t sit in front of the computer for too long; get up and stretch every 30 minutes or so!
In the Ph.D., students have to do a lot of experiments in the lab, so many scholars feel stress and tired when it comes time to analyze their data.
- Do your best when doing your statistics analysis; don’t give up halfway!
- When you are tired, relax for some time. Take a power nap. And then, start working with a fresh mind.
- Try to get help from your professor or data analysis experts at Transtutors when you feel too tired to analyze data.
- When you are tired of doing experiments in the lab, take a break instead of pushing yourself too hard!
Ph.D. students have to write a thesis, so they are always under pressure because it is difficult to finish writing one page after another. Many scholars feel extremely nervous about this.
- Don’t think too much when writing a thesis. Just do it!
- When you feel tired, take a break and relax.
- Play sports or go for a walk after dinner every day.
- Make a timetable, break down your thesis into several small parts, complete one part at a time, then put all parts together to make your final thesis!
- Ask Transtutors experts to help you come up with an ideal plan to complete your research paper on time.
Many Ph.D. scholars feel extremely nervous about their thesis defense. They feel like they will make many mistakes during the process, so they are always worried that someone will find their research wrong or plagiarized.
- Try your best to prepare your thesis defense; do not leave anything to chance!
- Relax your mind by watching tv shows or playing sports after dinner every day.
- When you are nervous, don’t think too much about it; just take one step at a time!
- Hire subject experts to review your research paper or thesis or dissertation. They can help you edit any mistakes in time and feel more confident.
My paper was rejected by the journal and the editor wrote “Not of sufficient interest for our readers”.
- Take the help of a professional editor. We offer online editing and proofreading services at Transtutors as well as paper reviewing services that guide you on how to improve your paper.
- Your life has just begun. Try to find another journal with more enlightened editors. There are many such journals on the World Wide Web. Find them and submit your paper or article to them.
I am drowning in my work as a dissertation advisor.
- Some students make a career out of this. But it can help you make ends meet when you are tight on budget.
- Think about how you are helping students and what you are earning for it.
I am supposed to present my work in front of an audience with many scholars in my field. What if someone asks me questions about my work? How can I answer them?
- Know your research paper and field of study well.
- Practice some questions that might be asked and prepare answers beforehand.
- Keep your notes ready for reference.
- Work with online subject experts at Transtutors to get a potential list of questions you might be asked and what answers you can give to them.
How to use anxiety to enhance focus and concentration?
One of our experienced writers at Transtutors shares:
Stress is a tool, not a solution. It is a tool that we can use to increase focus and concentration on whatever we want to achieve; however, by doing this we must also understand the consequences of using such a tool.
You must learn to use stress in a way that benefits you and does not harm you.
You need to realize that anxiety/stress is caused by what you are avoiding. You cannot avoid distractions and stress at the same time. A distraction will cause some form of anxiety, which in turn causes us to want to do something else! Once we accept this fact then our next problem is to figure out how to get rid of the distraction without actually eliminating it.
This is done by focusing on what you can control, which means that when the stress kicks in then you must turn your attention to something that you are absolutely capable of doing. For example, if I have a list of things to do and there is one thing on this list that causes me anxiety or distracts me, I will focus my attention on the next item rather than allow myself to become distracted. This is how I turn stress into success; I use this tool where it works and not where it doesn’t work.
How to use anxiety to increase our motivation?
Why is it that when we’re busy, we’re more motivated and proactive with our goals but when we have too much free time, we procrastinate?
The answer to this question can be found in the brain’s cognitive processing system. The brain uses a process called “arousal regulation” to maintain different states of mind. Arousal regulation is like a gas tank that our brain uses to stay in certain states of mind. The “arousal regulation gas” can be spent quickly or slowly, depending on what we do with the thoughts and feelings associated with them.
When we’re busy (meaning that there are many things to process) our brains naturally use up much more of the arousal gas and we stay in a high state of arousal. We may even reach a state of nervousness or panic because we’re spending so much energy processing what needs to get done. This drives us to take action and be more productive.
When we’re not busy, our brains naturally use less of the arousal gas because there is less to process. This causes a low state of arousal where we become lethargic and unmotivated to do much of anything.
Anxiety has been shown to be a powerful form, if not the most powerful form, of arousal regulation. In other words, anxiety creates feelings that cause us to use up more energy as it stirs up the brain’s cognitive processing system.
The question is how to consciously regulate our arousal system and get it back on track by creating more energy (increasing cognition/productivity). We can do this by promoting more activity in our cognitive and behavioral parts.
For example, you’re running on a treadmill at 2mph with no incline and you want to get off. You know there’s an emergency button that can get you off right away, but instead of using the emergency button, you decide to run faster on the treadmill by increasing your speed.
This increases energy usage in the same way as pushing the emergency button but the difference is that you’re not cutting your workout short. You can still go back to how long you want on the treadmill after you get off, but with the emergency button, your workout will be cut short because it uses up so much energy.
This means that if you’re feeling anxious, then pushing the “increase effort” button is the right option. But what if you’re relaxed but need to feel motivated? Then, you’ll need to change your feeling of relaxation into a feeling of anxiety!
How to use anxiety to improve our productivity?
In the past, anxiety has been thought of as a purely negative emotion. Even today, when we think about anxiety in modern society, many of us probably picture someone who is incredibly stressed out and unable to cope with his or her daily life. We might even think that if this person were less anxious, he or she would be more successful and productive. Surprisingly, the research seems to suggest otherwise: it turns out that anxiety can actually help people achieve higher productivity if they know how to harness its benefits.
In a study published in the journal Science, researchers found that increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) made subjects better at making complex decisions and solving problems under pressure – their scores improved by 50%. This is because stress helps people to focus on the task at hand by blocking out any distractions that might get in the way.
Stress also increases adrenaline, which boosts energy levels and enables people to work more quickly. The anxiety of being watched or judged can motivate us to try even harder than we would do otherwise. So it’s hardly surprising that, in a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, people who took an exam under pressure did better than others who were allowed to complete it at their own pace and return for extra tests if they wanted to.
A downside of stress is that adrenaline can also cause physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea – and these can be the biggest distraction of all. However, by developing coping mechanisms and practicing relaxation techniques, people can become better at blocking out this type of anxiety.
Stress levels are not set in stone: they go up or down depending on our perception of danger – so it’s possible to learn to perceive otherwise benign situations as ‘threatening’ to boost our motivation.
At the same time, other emotions can also affect productivity. For instance, people who are more emotionally unstable tend to have lower performance at work. This is because negative emotions have a particularly strong effect on cognitive processes such as attention and memory – so employees are less able to complete their tasks successfully when they are upset.
The lesson is that if you want to be as productive as possible, it’s important to find a way of coping with stress and negative emotions. This will help you make the most of the benefits of anxiety – without experiencing its downsides.
Some More Tips to Control Your Anxiety
- Practice relaxation techniques: Clear your mind and practice deep breathing, meditation, or stretching to reduce the effects of anxiety. If you find that certain activities relax you naturally, then make time to do them as often as possible leading up to the examination day. Even if you only have five minutes between classes, go outside for some fresh air and spend those minutes completely focused on your breathing.
- Focus on nutrition: Fueling your body right is as important as getting enough sleep before a meet or game. Avoid sugar and caffeine, which can increase anxiety and energy highs and lows, and stick to whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and olive oil. If you’re not sure about what to eat, bring a pre-portioned meal from home that includes all three macronutrients.
- Know your limits: When it comes to mental stress and anxiety, everyone has a limit at which they’ve reached their breaking point and can no longer think rationally. For some this might be physical feelings like elevated heart rate and nausea; for others, its mental symptoms like panic, worry, and confusion. Know these limits and stay within them – if something feels off, take the rest of the day off or do less studies or work than usual.
- Know your competition: Watch your competitors and study their characteristics to learn what makes them successful. Look at the way they take notes, research, and revise; what activities they do; whom they meet; and what conferences or meets they participate in. Also, observe how they mentally prepare for their events and what kind of music they listen to. This can help you learn what works best for you to achieve similar success in your field.
- Visualize your success: Take a few minutes before your study session or test to close your eyes and picture yourself performing well. See yourself writing praiseworthy assignments, getting A+ on your essays, giving great speeches – whatever you need to do. The more detailed you can make this mental image, the better.
- Talk to someone: Sometimes when students are tense, they don’t want to seem weak in front of their peers. But keeping everything inside only makes it worse. Whether you have a professor, mentor, family member, or friend that you can trust to listen, talking about your anxiety and how to control it is always the first step toward getting better. We, at Transtutors, have some of the friendliest academic support providers who can offer sound advice and practical suggestions to improve your performance.
- Look at the big picture: Don’t let one bad performance define how good of a student you are. Everyone has bad days – this is especially true in academics – and it’s important to give yourself credit for all of your accomplishments. Remind yourself that you’ve never failed at anything because you gave up; remember that each competition has a winner and a loser and that tomorrow will be a new day and new opportunities for success.
- Know when to step away: If you’ve tried relaxation techniques and getting enough rest, but your anxiety just won’t go away no matter what you do, it could be time to take a break from your studies. As a student, you should never feel forced to keep going when your mental health is at stake; everyone needs a break sometimes.
- Positivity matters: Having a positive attitude will not only help you perform with more confidence but also increase your chances of achieving high goals. This is especially true when it comes to group tasks. If your study group members are in a good mood and having fun, they’ll be better study mates.
Anxiety is a Superpower. Use it wisely to overcome your challenges and fuel your success!