Anxiety is experienced by many teens, and is often brushed off as "being part of growing up". However, with mental health and anxiety are as great of a concern as they’ve ever been, perhaps there's something more that we should be paying attention to. When I found myself experiencing anxiety this school year, I changed my lifestyle to battle my anxiety instead of turning to doctors and medication for help, and here's why.

Life as a college student is undeniably tough. We're thrown into a new atmosphere, surrounded by people we've never met, and we don't have mommy or daddy watching over us anymore. We're on our own out here, trying to fend for ourselves.

Looking back on the past three years has made me realize that we all kind of stumble our way through college, hoping to find our footing before our four years is up. For me, it took me until junior year to find that footing. I found myself genuinely enjoying my studies, I was making time to hang out with friends as often as I could, and I made sure to take a break and just breathe once in a while.

This year I found myself experiencing anxiety that seemed to be independent of stress. What puzzled me most about this anxiety was that I couldn't identify a cause for it. I was on top of my schoolwork — getting the grades that I had worked my ass off to get. Life was pretty good. But all of a sudden, I was hit with waves of anxiety like never before. 

I felt like I was out of breath and couldn't keep my thoughts together. I would lie in bed curled up in a ball, feeling like I couldn’t move. When I'd get up and go for a walk to get some fresh air and clear my head, I would feel dozey and almost intoxicated. Even after trying to describe it, words don’t accurately convey what I’m feeling.

Instead of turning to on-campus resources and doctors who would equate my anxiety to stress, I decided to take matters into my own hands and changed my lifestyle to battle my anxiety by making healthier lifestyle choices that would reduce my exposure to things that may be triggering my anxiety.

No More Caffeine

jam, oil, tea
Jocelyn Hsu

The first thing I cut out was caffeine. Caffeine messes with your sleep schedule and your mood, both of which are problem areas for those experiencing anxiety. This was definitely the toughest thing for me to give up. I was used to drinking three or four cups of coffee a day, despite all the warnings that my mom gave me.

Instead of coffee, I forced myself to drink tea. My personal favourites are peppermint tea, green-mint blend, and black tea — all decaf, of course. I would have a cup of tea throughout the day, whenever I craved it. Plus, going to get a tea from Starbucks or somewhere on campus served as a much needed break from my work. 


This part sounds cheesy, but I find it really works. Every night before I go to bed, I take 10 minutes to practice guided meditation and mindfulness. My favourite app for this is Headspace. I find the narrator’s voice to be incredibly calming. Many nights I end up falling asleep before the 10 minutes is even up. 


Whenever I feel anxious, I take a break from work by going to the gym. I find that focusing my thoughts and energy on my fitness makes it even more rewarding than usual. Spending an hour or so away from my work and in the gym allows me to center myself, calm down, and sweat it out.

Anxiety has notable effects on your body, in addition to the negative effects on your mind and your mood. My eating habits were way out of wack and my sleep schedule was all over the place, which made fulfilling my academic responsibilities even more difficult than they already were.

Take Aways

Let me tell you, this was not an easy experience. When I first decided to cut out coffee and sugar, I thought it wouldn't last. However, I found that if I just didn't think about consuming either of them, I didn't find myself craving them. My mind was my biggest obstacle—once I accepted the choices I made, I didn't find myself wanting to go back to my old ways. I’ll admit that I have given in to some sweets and an occasional coffee, but I do so in moderation, because that’s what’s healthy for both my body and my mind. I changed my lifestyle to battle my anxiety, and I think you should too.

tea, beer
Jessie Durand

Anxiety and mental health issues are different for everyone, and as such, everyone copes differently. I learned that medication isn't the only option, and may not be right for some people. My experiences with anxiety definitely are not over, however, I now know how to better manage my anxiety.

Feel free to reach out to me to discuss your experiences. There are tons of resources out there designed to help mitigate the effects of anxiety and mental illness. It's difficult being young! We gotta stick together.