Living With Anxiety
By Kristin D. Kushmider, PhDAug 19, 2022
I know all too well what anxiety feels like; my heart beats faster, my jaw tightens, my breathing becomes more rapid, I get nauseous, and I just feel panicked that something dreadful is going to happen. Dreadful to me might be something as simple as running late. For a long time, I thought everyone felt anxiety the way I did, then I found myself surrounded by friends who showed me my perception was false. Sure, there are times we all feel anxious, especially if we’re going through a major life event. For someone who has anxiety, those events may feel like a magnitude 10 earthquake. People who don’t struggle with anxiety may feel uncomfortable for a short time until the event passes, then the anxiety goes away.
I grew up in a home where my parents had exceedingly high expectations of me. To meet those expectations, I developed a mindset that was fraught with constant worry. I worried about getting into trouble, not performing well academically, and often feared making any mistake that would disappoint my parents. I carried this fear and worry into adulthood. Recently, I began to recognize and understand that this constant state of fear and worry is a symptom of anxiety. Most days, my mind races from the moment I wake up in the morning until I go to bed at night, it can certainly impact my sleep too! When I start worrying, I lose the ability to focus on anything other than the thing I am worried about, until it is resolved. I can be irritable, impatient, and on-edge a lot of the time. The more I worry, the more anxious I get.
- To manage my racing mind, I’ve taken up meditation and it has been a tremendous help. If you are interested in meditation, check out the Headspace App, or the Chopra App, or my favorite Insight Timer.
- Did you know that habits, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, reduce anxiety symptoms? I love yoga, it calms my body and mind. You can join a yoga class at the Wellness Center.
- Breathwork also reduces symptoms of anxiety, and you can easily practice this on your own.
- There are supplements you can take, or for individuals with more severe anxiety, there are helpful medications. Any supplements or medications should be discussed in consultation with your health care provider.
- Talk therapy is very beneficial and counseling therapy is available to all students at the Student and Community Counseling Center for free, or for a small fee, students can access the Psychology Training Clinic.
I share this very personal experience with you because May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I want to draw attention to the fact that 1 in 5 Americans struggle with mental health challenges. My challenge is anxiety; perhaps yours is depression, addiction, bipolar disorder, or other diagnosable mental illness. Perhaps you’re just fatigued, tired, withdrawn, irritable, and sad as a result of the pandemic. Maybe you don’t have a mental health challenge of your own, but you have a friend or family member who does. No matter what your mental health challenge is, we as a campus need to talk about mental health, acknowledge it, and create a supportive and caring community for those living with mental health challenges. The stigma around mental health is real and it prevents people from accessing the help and care they need.I’m grateful for the work that we do in the Health & Wellness area on campus. I am particularly thankful to be in a role on campus where I can strongly advocate for mental health education, treatment, and resources to support the mental well-being of our students. I want to lead with authenticity, and I hope that by sharing my personal experience with anxiety that
anyone struggling with a mental health challenge does not feel alone, ashamed, or less than in any way. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
To learn more about mental health and how to help someone in need, check out our free courses:
- You Can Help A Friend (for students)
- You Can Help A Student (for faculty)
- Mental Health First Aid (for all CU Denver students, faculty and staff)