Recent school shootings at Virginia Tech University and Sandy Hook Elementary School underscore the importance of ensuring today’s adolescents and young adults have adequate access to mental health services. The above shootings are clearly extreme illustrations of the repercussions facing untreated mental health problems, but chronic stress and low access to mental health services can have troubling ripples in a young person’s life.
The New Normal?
According to a recent USA Today article, over 1/3rd of college students reported feeling so depressed or wracked with anxiety that it impaired their daily functioning. The USA Today also found that the vast majority of college counseling directors feel as though the frequency of college students with severe psychological disturbances is on the rise. There’s a great need for informative resources to help college students suffering from perhaps the most common psychosomatic problem in existence, anxiety.
Anxiety is both physiological and psychological in nature; anxiety often negatively impacts the emotional and cognitive well-being of competitive college students. In the most general sense, anxiety is the internal feeling of angst or worry about an impending event. Mental health counselors on college campuses recognize the potential severity of anxiety and disseminate information to counteract the prevalence of anxiety in college students. One such resource is a website called TotallyStressedOut.com.
Totally Stressed Out?
TotallyStressedOut.com features information and tips to help college students alleviate their anxiety. The website’s advice is essentially rooted in cognitive-behavioral therapy in its attempt to bridge the power of positive thinking with an awareness of the somatic roots of anxiety. The website features student testimonials and an outline of factors that could be heightening anxiety for college students. One subsection, laconically titled “relaxing,” is steeped in Pavlovian systematic desensitization. Students are instructed how to relax by breathing deeply such that they may feel less trapped in their heads and more attuned to their feelings. The second component of systematic desensitization is learning to visualize a more harmonious outcome that the one anxiety is predicting; the website’s subsection entitled “visualization” is dedicated to such an end.
One of the internet’s most popular psychopathology and counseling resources is PsychCentral.com. The “community” section features direct access to counseling services, but the articles are almost equally helpful to anxiety-ridden teens and young adults. One such article, “The Stressed Out College Student,” is expertly written by psychologist and writer, Rita Landino. The article takes a somewhat controversial stance by positing that stress and anxiety, in moderate doses, can be helpful for performance and focus. This taps into the early 20th century finding known as the Yerkes-Dodson law of arousal. Yerkes-Dodson law is an empirical finding that too much or too little arousal hurts performance, but an average level of arousal leads to best results. With the Yerkes-Dodson law in mind, Rita Landino discusses ways to achieve this ideal level of arousal, namely through consistent sleep patterns and nutritious, well-spaced meals throughout the day.
The University of Florida’s Counseling and Wellness Center website is one of the more competent online stops for counseling information on anxiety. Although many universities offer complimentary counseling services to students, the University of Florida’s Counseling and Wellness Center website is an excellent preliminary place to get information about anxiety in young adults. The Counseling and Wellness Center’s website discusses the four roots of anxiety: environment, social stressors, thoughts, and physiology. This is aligned with modern research in cognitive-behavioral therapy; the latter portions of the webpage also hark back to the sleep and nutritional advice for combating anxiety in the Psych Central piece.
Psychopathology in the Dorms
Although college mental health counselors warn about the escalating rates of depression and anxiety in young people, there are measures students can take to combat common mental health maladies. Achieving adequate sleep and eating well can severely reduce anxiety flareups. Moreover, inquiring about your university’s mental health services may assist in extreme cases.
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Walt Brinkman is a career counselor and guest author at Super Scholar, where he has contributed to the guide to the Top Schools For Online Counseling Degrees.