Anxiety Toolkit

April 7th, 2017

Written &  Compiled by Gilles Stromberg, M.A Candidate, Polina Apilado, Psy.D., & Barbara Thomas, Ph.D.

Woman looking down, animated scribbles on her head

Illustrated Gif by Jenny Chang*

Welcome! If you’ve come here, perhaps you’re navigating anxiety, or want to support a friend who is navigating anxiety.  Don’t know if you’re experiencing anxiety? Maybe this brief video will be helpful.

Studies by the National College Health Association indicate that anxiety has surpassed depression to become the dominant mental health Issue on college campuses 1. If you are experiencing anxiety, you are part of a larger community who shares similar feelings and barriers. By accessing this toolkit, you are one step closer to a better college experience.

We want to let you know that talking with a counselor at CAPS is a research-supported step in reducing anxiety; however, when you can’t be sitting in our office petting dogs, sipping tea & coffee, and listening to Spanish guitar - these are some great ways to take care of yourself outside of CAPS.

This Anxiety Toolkit was developed with special attention to historically marginalized communities. There is an annotated bibliography at the end for additional information.

10 Research-Based Strategies to Navigate Anxiety


Sad boy with bridge leading to a smiling/happy boy

Illustrated Gif by Chipper Designs*

  • Consider making an appointment at CAPS, which offers brief therapy.  If you feel like you can’t make the call, get in touch with a friend, advisor, or mentor who can make the appointment with you. Research has found that timely appointments and “nipping it in the bud” are helpful 12.

  • On-campus psychological services are designed to be short-term. Off-campus psychological medication and long-term therapy are avenues where you can receive specialized, consistent, and effective support 12.

  • Establish your relationship with CAPS early in the year, and early in your time at USF.  Studies have shown that being involved in counseling at the start of your college career improves your ability to deal with anxiety 7.

  • Expressive Art Therapy can help you feel less anxious, more confident, more positive and more active 8

USF Resources

General Resources



Person holding smart phone over plate of food

Illustrated Gif by Anna Salmi*

  • If you have a good relationship with your family, work with them to find small ways they can help support you  during your time at USF (sending inspirational little notes, stories of good times, or fun and memorable photos.) 3 4 10.

  • Research has found that family support is particularly helpful in building confidence, communication skills, critical thinking skills, and building relationships 2 5 8 9.

USF Resources

General Resources


Baopu #19



Person standing on rock looking towards gates

Illustrated by Jun Cen*

  • Connecting with your spirituality can ground you into prioritizing what is important, and to help in establishing purpose 2 3.

  • Finding a spiritual space that embraces all of your identities can be an empowering and instrumental factor in integrating into your new spiritual community 13.

USF Resources

General Resources


Little pieces of animated sushi interacting with each other

Illustrated Gif by Marcus Gestre*

  • Establish the importance and meaning of the relationships you’ve built or are building. Are you there for each other when you’re sad? Are you friends who go out and dance with each other? It’s okay and actually healthy to set boundaries with friends!  Know how and when to reach out to each other 4

  • THIS IS THE MOST RESEARCHED-BACKED PIECE OF THIS GUIDE: Connect yourself with support groups and study groups on campus. These are known to help students avoid academic anxiety. They can also reduce anxiety by decreasing alienation and stress. Support groups are also known to reduce stress that may result from being someone who holds a marginalized identity on campus 4 6 7 8 9 11 13 .

  • Imposter syndrome is not uncommon; comparing yourself to others can be misleading and not reflective of the nuances of strengths and skills that you have. You ARE enough 11 .

USF Resources

General Resources




A bigger pencil (as a teacher) leading a line of smaller pencils (as students)

Illustrated Gif by Google Doodles*

  • Academic Advisors and CASA coaches are great sources of knowledge regarding academic resources on campus! If you’re struggling academically, your CASA coach can assist 2 !

  • Professors want to help you be successful - when you’re successful, they’re successful!  Communicate with them if you are falling behind. If you’re honest about a sudden barrier, professors may be accommodating. If you’re having trouble in navigating accommodations, Student Disabilities Services may be helpful 2 5 8 9 .

  • USF offers a variety of creative classes - checking in with faculty/advisors  to see if you can audit the course may be a way you can carve out time in order to relieve some stress through art, dance, yoga, physical education, meditation 8 .

USF Resources

General Resources


Woman holding cup of tea looking at storm out of window

Illustrated Gif by Marie Spénale*

Identify your emotions.

What is upsetting  you? What are the things that make you sad? What are your major stressors?  Identify and name catalysts that cause distress. Research has suggested stressors may include the perceived scrutiny of professors and classmates, stereotyping/discrimination,  negative life events, negative thoughts, and perfectionism 6 7 .

Walk yourself through a simple exercise of Interpersonal Therapy. Ask yourself:

  • Am I dwelling on a recent conflict?

  • Have I had recent life changes that affect how I feel about myself and others?

  • Am I experiencing grief? 

  • Am I having difficulty in starting or keeping relationships going?”

If  you feel this is true for you, individual counseling may be the most appropriate option 12 . If you’re having a hard time naming what you’re feeling, there are counselors on and off-campus who are ready and waiting to help you through that process!

USF Resources

General Resources



Animation of man walking with head down, inner self jumps out and gives himself a gift

Illustrated Gif by Chris Phillips*

After  identifying your feelings, determine how you would like to feel.

  • Self-affirming statements (Examples: I am really good at petting dogs, I know a lot of cool facts, I’m always willing to try new foods) regarding what you like about yourself and your life can be helpful 6 12 .

  • Gain a sense of awareness of what you can and can’t control; know that for things you cannot control, you have a limited scope of influence and prioritize your energy from there 6 .

  • Learn to be assertive. Knowing how and when  to stand up for yourself and advocate for your wants and needs is important 14 .

USF Resources

General Resources



Man attempting to climb into projected image on wall

Illustrated Gif by Allee Manning*

  • Perhaps you feel like you’re not grasping class material as well as other students. Maybe you don’t know much about San Francisco.  Perhaps you’re an international student who isn’t confident using English just yet. Take a moment to identify someone who you feel has a greater grasp of what you’re trying to achieve, and ask if you can spend some time with them as they do the activity you’re nervous about. The more you demystify the activity you feel bad about, the more confidence you can have in approaching it. If what you’re nervous about in the first place is approaching people - look to mentors, old friends, and classmates you worked with and ask for help5.

  • This is something that people hate to hear, so I want you to get emotionally ready to hear it...
    ...exercise can help reduce anxiety. You don’t have to go to the gym everyday, or make an immediate/drastic change to your lifestyle. Exercise can mean doing something as simple as taking a walk outside and taking some deep breaths of air,  stretching after taking a nap, riding a bike, or taking a class at Koret. Remember - exercise means move your body!  2 .

  • If you’re someone who spends the majority of the time on the internet, find ways to limit your time. Studies have found that students who limited their internet use to 1 to 2 hours a day had lower depression and anxiety scores compared to those used the internet more frequently  2 .

  • A great coping strategy for anxiety is giving yourself other activities to fill your time. Cooking/baking, creating art,  or reading can be helpful deterrents to anxiety  2 8 .

USF Resources

General Resources


Doctor with various medical tools (syringe, band-aid, pills) around him

Illustrated Gif by Freepik*

  • If you’re feeling crappy (fatigue, restlessness, sweating, irritability, racing or unwanted thoughts, feeling of impending doom, insomnia, nausea, poor concentration, sensation of an abnormal heartbeat, or trembling) some of your symptoms may be the result of anxiety. You may want to  make an appointment with a physician and  consider visiting a therapist as well. Holistic health serves the whole person! 2

USF Resources

General Resources



Potted plant with snow that falls on top then flowers grow when melted

Illustrated Gif by Eden Weingart*

When you are in a new environment there is an an adjustment curve.  Over time, as you adjust, anxiety reduces. If you're new to USF, the Bay Area, a living situation, or friend group - time is a great healer 10 .

Videos/Interactive Websites:


1 Brown, J. (2016, October 2). Anxiety: The Most Common Mental Health Diagnosis in College Students | BU Today | Boston University. Retrieved March 31, 2017, from

2 Han, X., Han, X., Luo, Q., Jacobs, S., & Jean-Baptiste, M. (2013). Report of a Mental Health Survey among Chinese International Students at Yale University. Journal Of American College Health, 61(1), 1-8. From

3 Hinojos, B. (2013, July). Stressors and Coping Strategies of Undocumented Latinos in Therapy. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from    

4 Jarama Alvan S.L., Belgrave,F.Z., Zea M.C.(1996). Stress, social support, and college adjustment among Latino students. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from

5 Jing, H., & Junying, Z. (2016). A Study on Anxiety in Chinese EFL University Students. English Language Teaching, 9(9), 179-184. From

6 Johnson, A. B. (2006). Performance Anxiety Among African-American College Students. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 20(4), 31-38. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

7 Kirsch, A. C., Conley, C. S., & Riley, T. J. (2015). Comparing Psychosocial Adjustment across the College Transition in a Matched Heterosexual and Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Sample. Journal Of College Student Development, 56(2), 155-169.

8 Kuo, C., Lin, C. I., Kuo, B., Kuang, C., & Dai, L. (2016). Learning Experiences of Young Artists with ASD in a University Enrichment Program. Universal Journal Of Educational Research, 4(9), 2144-2162.

9 Lin, X. (2016). Barriers and Challenges of Female Adult Students Enrolled in Higher Education: A Literature Review. Higher Education Studies, 6(2), 119. Retrieved from

10 Potochnick, S. R., & Perreira, K. M. (2010, July 19). Depression and Anxiety among First-Generation Immigrant Latino Youth: Key Correlates and Implications for Future Research. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from

11 Reed, M. J., Kennett, D. J., Lewis, T., & Lund-Lucas, E. (2011). The Relative Benefits Found for Students with and without Learning Disabilities Taking a First-Year University Preparation Course. Active Learning In Higher Education, 12(2), 133-142.

12 Reisner, S., Katz-Wise, S., Gordon, A., Corliss, H., & Austin, S. (2016, August). Social Epidemiology of Depression and Anxiety by Gender Identity. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from

13 Walker, J. J., & Longmire-Avital, B. (2013). The Impact of Religious Faith and Internalized Homonegativity on Resiliency for Black Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Emerging Adults. Developmental Psychology, 49(9), 1723-1731.

14 Xie, D., & Leong, F. L. (2008). A Cross-Cultural Study of Anxiety among Chinese and Caucasian American University Students. Journal Of Multicultural Counseling And Development, 36(1), 52. From

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