Surviving Anxiety During College

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Surviving Anxiety During College

photo courtesy Suraj Nunkoo

photo courtesy Suraj Nunkoo

Suraj Nunkoo

photo courtesy Suraj Nunkoo

Suraj Nunkoo

Suraj Nunkoo

photo courtesy Suraj Nunkoo

Joseph Sheridan, Centurion Staff

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Wake up, get ready, go to school, go to work, panic about life, maybe eat dinner, go to bed, repeat. For many college students, this is a normal day in their lives. Society has somehow evolved into an ongoing competition to prove how much work one can handle while still remaining on top of everything.
Higher education can be an especially stressful experience for students because learning new and sometimes complex material while juggling part-time jobs and an attempted social life is often times too overwhelming. These stressors can adversely affect the psychological well-being of students and negatively influence their productivity in school, their work, and personal lives.
According to a poll taken by the American Psychological Association the three leading concerns of college students are anxiety, depression, and relationship problems. Prescription drug abuse is also alarming problem on the rise in college students, with as much as 10 percent of college students abusing.
Of note is the fact that the cost of therapy in the Bucks County area (and essentially nationwide) ranges from $55.00 to just about $300.00 per session, and most therapist charge for an initial consultation on top of the first session making the total closer to $125.00. With most students only being able to work jobs that don’t require degrees or low-paying internships, therapy is often times not an option. Prescriptions often become the alternative.
What other alternatives are there?
To start off, Sarah Wilson, author of “I Quit Sugar” and “First, We Make the Beast Beautiful”, shares “Studies show any movement, but particularly walking, will ease anxiety when we’re in the middle of a stress hormone surge. The studies show that a mere 20–30 minute walk five times a week will make people less anxious, as effectively as antidepressants. Even better, the effect is immediate; serotonin, dopamine and endorphins all increase as soon as you start moving.”
“I was diagnosed with childhood anxiety and insomnia at twelve, then bulimia in my late teens, then obsessive-compulsive disorder shortly thereafter, then depression and hypomania and then, in my early twenties, manic depression, or bipolar disorder as it’s now called.” Wilson said.
She’s spoken with and interviewed countless mental health experts and spiritual gurus in the hopes of helping herself and others cope with their anxiety and depression.
She recommends hiking and references a University of Michigan study that found that because our senses evolved in nature, by getting back to it we connect more honestly with our sensory reactions. She also adds that a 2010 report in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology states that even getting out into nature for five minutes at a stretch is enough to give your self-esteem a substantial upgrade. Walking near water seemed to have the biggest effect.
Exercise has countless physical health benefits such as strengthening your heart, lowering blood pressure, reducing body fat, and improving strength. Exercise has also been shown to have numerous mental health benefits including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. College students can also benefit from the impact that exercise has on the brain including improved memory and thinking skills.
“I advise against hardcore exercise if you’re anxious. Gentle and slow stuff is best” Wilson says.
Getting out and getting active is a great start to decreasing the feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. Another inexpensive alternative is meditation.
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” she explains. “They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”
“When you’re an anxious type, meditation is non-negotiable.” Wilson states. “…meditation has steered me to most of the good things that have happened in the past seven years.”
Anxiety and depression affect about one out of every five adults and about twice as many college students. Unfortunately, as of right now, there is not one be all, end all cure for these disorders. There are things you can do to lessen their grasp on your life though.
Exercise and meditation are two key factors in getting past episodes of anxiety and depression. There are plenty of other options such as yoga, better eating habits, and making sure to spend time outside, but all these have one thing in common; a conscious effort.
Barbara Meza, a holistic health practitioner at Conscius Vita in Yardley, PA, says “Be present in your actions, the more conscious you can be the easier the stress will ripple out of you. Take yoga classes, meditation, and any of the free health services offered to you on campus.”
Bucks offers yoga in the library on Mondays and in the Orangery on Thursdays. Also offered are various health and wellness activities such as aerobics, chair massages, meditation, and a cooking and wellness series run by registered dietitian Felicia Porrazza.
Lesya Donets, a counselor at Bucks whom has her Master’s in Social Work from Temple University, shares “Students should eat well balanced meals and try not to skip any meals. They should also limit the amount of caffeine they take in.”
Donets continues “Every student needs to know nothing will ever be perfect. Make sure to get your work done to the best of your ability and avoid procrastinating. Time management is crucial, when things pile up you increase your stress and often times end up losing sleep. Everyone should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep if they want to be and feel their best.”
“Walking in nature really helps as well, even if just for a little. And, maybe most importantly, students need friends and they need to remember to spend time with them and socialize. If necessary, take time off work and school to focus on yourself for a bit.” Donets said.
Amanda Kirk, a 20 year old Early Education major from Warminster says “I like to go on walks when I feel overwhelmed. I love Tyler [State Park]. I go there all the time between classes and either walk or sit by the water. It helps me calm down and forget about everything I think I have going on.”
Everyone struggles from time to time, but it’s not often that two peoples struggle will look the same. It’s very important to learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? If you find it difficult to pinpoint the problem(s) try writing in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious and look for a pattern.

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