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4 Ways My Daughter (Secretly) Fights Her Anxiety at College

When Devin left for college, I feared that her battle with anxiety would grow more severe. Instead, my daughter has learned to rein in her anxiety with help from these four strategies — and the occasional phone call home to Mom.

Young ADHD girl heads off to college ready to ace her first semester.

Anxiety is a real, daily game-changer, even when we think we have it under control.

In high school, my daughter Devin learned how to manage her daily stress – without a major anxiety flare-up. But every so often, it would hit her from left field when the paralyzing pressure of school and grades suddenly became too much. We’d work together to take baby steps back to normal.

Now that she’s is away at school, I feel like she relies on me more than ever. It’s different than when she lived at home — and not just because of the distance. Today, support may come in the form of a quick text message or email; often, she only needs a little reassurance that she’s heading down the right path toward advocating for herself and eventual independence.

[Self-Test: Is it Generalized Anxiety Disorder?]

Before Devin left for college, we discussed the tools that helped in high school when her anxiety escalated. Truthfully, I wasn’t that confident she’d be able to continue using them on her own. I’m so happy I was wrong!

When Devin needs to reach into that toolbox, she tends to pull out the tools that are most unobtrusive and keep her anxiety hidden from others. Luckily, a few of them are socially acceptable – and even popular – on campus, which makes it easier to use them without feeling embarrassed.

These are the four she uses the most:

  • Deep Breathing: Short, shallow breaths are signs of anxiety or a panic attack creeping up. Conscious, deep breathing helps Devin push back that feeling.
  • Meditation has been a tremendous gift in Devin’s life. She learned the techniques last year and continues them at school. A cool perk is that her college offers sessions for students to come together to meditate and she’s met some great people this way.
  • Planning for the day ahead. Although this isn’t the easiest technique for Devin, it’s one of the most effective. Each night she tries to reflect on the previous day and map out the following day’s activities, so she knows what’s coming. Most of this requires organizational skills, which are not her forte, but Devin’s learning that being prepared helps alleviate anxiety-provoking situations. She will even go as far as figuring out what she will wear the night before.
  • Devin packed her diffusor and calming essential oils and luckily has a roommate that loves the scents, too. The right combination can reduce tension and increase clarity. Most girls on her floor think they are “cool” without needing to know the real purpose they serve.

[Treatment for the Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders]

Anxiety is a tricky thing. Devin never knows when it’s going to creep up and take hold. Sometimes she can be proactive and try to alleviate some of the symptoms before they get too severe. Other times it takes her over.

She’s just human, after all. And she’s doing great.