It hits me in waves.

One moment I’m relaxed and the next I’m gasping for air. I can never pinpoint the cause to one thought but to a cluster of mind-racing questions and comments. I’m buried deep inside my own head. I try to bring myself back up but the physical effects surface and my anxiety worsens.

Cluttered thoughts take the form of a blotchy chest and flushed red cheeks.
Sweaty palms.
Think. Think. Think.
Just stop thinking.

I pay too much attention to my inner voice and can’t bring myself back to the present.
I’m stuck. Overthinking and panic has been a consistency in my life, and after the start of my freshman year of college, my anxiety increased.

College is a foreign environment, an unrecognizable collection of faces and starting from scratch. I wanted something new but I found myself lost. Not only did my anxiety worsen from the unknown that the year had to bring, but my best friends that have never shown signs of anxiety found themselves in a similar place.

My best friend Victoria is a sophomore and had four panic attacks in her first semester of college. This summer, I saw her falling into a panic attack because of stomach pains. She describes her pain like her chest is concaving into her lungs, her breathing ascends into gasps as the pain takes her full attention. At its worst, her muscles cease to do their job and she struggles to walk 20 feet down the hall to get help. Medication prescribed “Take as needed” steadies her nerves back to equilibrium.

My roommate, Bry, recently bought natural pills to subside her feelings of panic. Uneasiness washes over her, her breath quickens and she cannot sit still. Lectures full of students, hours of coursework, finals; the pressure sends her brain into overdrive.

“I’m constantly under stress at school. It’s different because in high school you know your classmates, there’s more familiar faces and here, you see different people every time you turn around.”

New situations and public speaking are my two main anxiety triggers. While freshman year was full of excitement and really great adventures, I had to constantly remind myself that every second I spent worried was just a moment in time that would eventually pass. If I didn’t, I let my attacks win.

Don’t let getting the answer wrong ruin your day.
Stay out of your head and stay engaged in conversation.
Eating alone isn’t embarrassing.

Okay? Okay.

I didn’t want anxiety to run my life, but it did. When it started to affect the way I interacted with people and how I handled my studies, I changed different parts of my day. I forced myself outside of my comfort zone. I made friends with people I usually wouldn’t, and I went to events around campus. I love making others laugh so I made situations lighter, and it distracted everything else. I started practicing mindfulness, the state of being conscious of your thoughts, and it helped make me aware of the present moment so I could better ignore the negativity.

I could finally sit back in my head, recognize my false paranoia and breathe. Anxiety can’t be eliminated overnight. For most of us it is something that we live with every day, but changing the way you process your thoughts and focusing on the good is a start to overcoming the voices inside your head.