treble hook. | Anxiety: How to Fight It.

November 29, 2022

Keley Smith-Keller, Ed.D., LPC, Director of Student Counseling Services

About 40,000 years ago or so, anxiety made some sense for humans. Large predators were plentiful and it was critical for early humans to be able to respond quickly to threat. Our bodies developed hormonal reactions – that fight or flight response – that sped up our hearts, increased blood flow to our muscles, caused hyperventilation (to get more oxygen for quick reaction), and made us more likely to respond quickly to a predator by searching for it, hiding, running away, or for the courageous, throwing a stick and then running away.

Life has changed for many of us over the past several millennia, but fight-or-flight signals and associated jumpiness are the leftover residues from the ancient world. What made sense for our livelihood at one time can wreak havoc with our wellbeing today. 

Anxiety, simply defined, is our body’s reaction to stress – both real and perceived. Hypervigilance and accompanying anxiety can be a good thing if you happen to be walking home alone at night on an unfamiliar street. But, anxiety that stays with you day-to-day, and doesn’t go away, can affect your health and wellbeing.

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How do you know when anxiety is too much? Here are a few clues:

  • You are experiencing nervousness or unease.
  • You are unable to maintain focus in class or sports.
  • You experience uncontrollable worry.
  • You have sleep disturbances or insomnia.
  • You're missing classes or assignments.
  • You isolate yourself from family, friends, and classmates.
  • You notice changes in eating habits.
  • You go through cycles of negative thoughts.

Before we dive into techniques that can help you manage anxiety, let’s look a little deeper into the typical types of anxiety that college students experience.

  • Anticipatory Anxiety: Anticipatory anxiety is characterized by increased anxiety and panic about events that are expected to happen in the future, such as an upcoming exam or meeting with a professor.
  • Separation Anxiety: Separation anxiety can leave you feeling lonely or isolated, missing familiar connections. It can stunt the social growth and development of the community experience in college. When students are not open to engaging in activities on campus with their peers, they become more isolated and therefore feel an even greater impact of the separation.
  • Test Anxiety: Test anxiety can have both physical and mental manifestations such as racing heart and inability to concentrate, often resulting in a heightened sense of panic or excessive fear, even when the individual is adequately prepared for the exam.
  • Social Anxiety: Social anxiety is an intense fear or anxiety of social situations. During the college years, there are added pressures to engage in social situations related to educational coursework and outside of academia. Peer pressure is heightened during this time and presents added pressures related to drugs, alcohol, sexual situations, and academic dishonesty.

So, how do you cope, as a college student? Here are some tips:

  • Keep a journal to help identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.
  • Do a body scan to identify physical symptoms of stress and anxiety in your body like headaches or body pain.
  • Download an app that provides relaxation or mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing or visualization.
  • Exercise, eat healthy, avoid caffeine, and stick to a sleep routine.
  • And reach out to your friends or family members who can help you cope in a positive way.



If you're still struggling, it may be time to speak with a mental health professional.  Mount Marty’s Student Counseling Services are free to enrolled students. To get connected to on-campus counseling, contact Keley Smith-Keller, Director of Student Counseling Services at, or Tanya Suarez, Graduate Student Counseling Intern at



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