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Remain in control: Helpful tools to help you manage symptoms of anxiety and depression

Today there are millions of Americans living and functioning with a mental health illness, even college students. If you are someone who is living with a mental illness, then at times it may seem like you are not in control, but having a plan can help you cope and manage your daily life.

Learning healthy ways to cope with your mental disorder can help you manage your anxious or depressive thoughts before they get too overbearing.  Anxiety is a major disorder that affects millions of Americans today. According to a study in 2022, over 77% of college students reported have moderate to severe psychological distress. In which 35% of students reported experiencing anxiousness. Common symptoms of anxiety include, obsessive thinking, nervousness, a sense of panic, and hyperventilation (Kabrick, 2021).

An action plan, similar to safety plans, is a comprised list of coping skills or resources to help you decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and various other mental health disorders. There are specific skills and techniques aimed to reduce any anxiousness or depressive indications you might be experiencing, and have been proven to work for an array of people. Below are a few coping skills you can add to your plan, to help you kickstart your journey to managing and staying in control of your mental well-being.

Coping skills for anxiety

1. Journaling

Research shows that journaling is an effective coping technique that can help with almost every mental health illness. Writing down your thoughts or feelings is always a good way to destress and can also help with controlling obsessive thoughts. Keeping a journal can help create a distraction, while also providing an outlet to express yourself.

2. Ground yourself

Using grounding exercises is another great way to reduce feelings of anxiousness. A popular grounding exercise you could try is the 5-4-3-2-1 model. With this technique, you identify 5 physical things around you. Whether it’s a pen or pillow, etc. Next, is to find 4 things you can touch. This could be a door, a book, etc. Third is to find three external things you can hear. Examples could be, people talking in the distance, sounds from a fan, etc. This step can especially help with drowning out your inner thoughts, while allowing you to focus on sounds around you. Next is to acknowledge two things you can smell. This could be a faint perfume aroma, or even the smell of soap. Lastly, you are to identify one thing you can currently taste. This could be gum in your mouth, the taste from your last meal, or toothpaste (Smith, 2018).

Apart from anxiety, depression is another major mental health disorder that millions of Americans have or have experienced at some point in their life. As 35% of students reported experiencing anxiousness, 27% reported depressive symptoms. Common symptoms of depression include, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, loss of interest in hobbies, and fatigue. Although depression can effect your feelings and physical activity, it can also cause a shift in emotion which can include, increased anger, and becoming withdrawn or increased negativity. Just like for anxiety, journaling can be a useful skill to use for depression as well. Below are a few other coping skills you can use to help reduce depressive symptoms.

Coping Skills for depression

1. Self Care

Most people with depression find it hard to follow a daily routine. From showering, brushing your teeth, or even eating a balanced meal can be hard. Self care is a tool many people use for an array of reasons. Whether its to destress from a long day of work, or to boost ones confidence and self esteem. Try pushing yourself to complete one self care or daily routine action a day, and increase the number of actions you complete daily or weekly. This can help you stay on track and can shift your mood.

2. Engage in laughter

Research has shown that laughter can boost mood and even reduce stress. Here are a few ways you can bring humor back into your life:

  • Watch a funny show or video

  •  Reading something funny

  • Look at funny memes (we all love them!)

  • Surround yourself with laughter from friends and or family

Besides the ones mentioned, there are many other coping skills you can use for anxiety and depression. Push yourself to continue researching and reading about what will best work for you. Managing life at college with a mental health disorder is not easy, but it is doable. Additionally, if you find that coping skills are not enough, many campuses are equipped with resources to help students with their mental health. Whether its talking to a professional, or attending support groups, there are many opportunities that can help with whatever you are going through. Developing a plan to tackle your issues before they spiral out of control is the first step to a healthier mind.


Barrios, B., & Shigetomi, C. (2006, June 14). Coping-skills training for the management of anxiety: A critical review. Behavior Therapy.

Hochberg, M., Berman, R., Kalet, A., Zabar, S., Gillespie, C., & Pachter, L. (2012, December 13). The stress of residency: Recognizing the signs of depression and suicide in you and your fellow residents. The American Journal of Surgery.

Ivey, A., & Gomez, I. (2022). The 10 most effective coping skills for depression. GoodRx.

Kabrick, S. (2023, July 13). 11 tips for coping with an anxiety disorder. Mayo Clinic Health System.

Smith, S. (2018). 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique for anxiety. BHP Blog - Behavioral Health Partners (BHP) - University of Rochester Medical Center.

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