Mental health has been dubbed a university “crisis”, with the problem impacting many students across campuses worldwide. According to reports, anxiety is among the most prevalent problems reported by students, impairing their quality of life and academic performance.
A 2016 YouGov report notes that in the UK, one in four students suffer from mental health problems, adding that depression and anxiety are the most commonly reported mental health ailments.
University student creates first aid kit for mental health https://t.co/dsqr3VmHcC
— Alison Toner (@alison_toner3) April 22, 2019
In the US, Penn State’s Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) notes in their 2018 report that “anxiety and depression continue to be the most common concerns of students and the most common overall concerns. As a top-most concern, anxiety did not increase in prevalence for the first time in four years whereas depression continued to increase.”
Preliminary findings from UC Berkeley researchers found that the number of 18- to 26-year-old students who report suffering from anxiety disorder has doubled since 2008, suggesting that this is a result of rising financial stress and increased time spent on digital devices.
With anxiety being a dominant concern among college students, how can students overcome anxiety? Here are four science-backed things that could help:
If you’re an anxious person who drinks coffee, you may want to put your steaming cup down! According to experts, high caffeine intake can make problems such as anxiety worse.
Speaking to Health, Susan Bowling, a psychologist at the Women’s Health Center at the Wooster Branch of Cleveland Clinic, recommends anxious individuals keep a journal of the impact of caffeine for a week, before eliminating it from their diet for the next.
“For people who have anxiety, they often notice an improvement in their anxiety levels,” she explained.
In speaking about quitting coffee to cure her anxiety, Jennifer Garam wrote on Psychology Today that while it didn’t completely cure her anxiety, she has noticed a small improvement in her ability to keep calm, which is a good enough payoff to keep her away from caffeine.
You may have heard about meditation, but it’s so much more than a passing trend. Studies suggest that it may help individuals with anxiety and ease mental stress.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) notes that “moderate evidence suggests that meditation is useful for symptoms of anxiety and depression in adults”. Meanwhile, other research suggests that mindfulness meditation – where you focus on your breathing and bring your mind’s attention to the present – “can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain”.
Consider allocating 10-20 minutes each day to meditate.
Therapy could really help students with access to this service.
Speaking to Readers Digest, psychologist Dr Jennifer Brickman said: “Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) teaches us to become aware of the thoughts and body sensations that make up our anxious experience.”
She notes that CBT encourages individuals to experiment with letting go of some behaviours that keep the anxiety going, such as worrying.
“We worry for many reasons, convinced that worry prepares us for the worst, but it just serves to fuel the anxiety as we agonise over all the possible ‘what ifs.’ One well used CBT technique to help us let worry go, is to notice worry but delay engaging with it until a permitted ‘worry hour’ later in the day,” she said.
Yoga has grown in popularity over the years but according to reviews, yoga practices may help “reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression”. This can be appealing for students looking to better manage their anxiety.