Many college students can attest to the surreal sensation of dread course through their bodies the day before the beginning of the semester.
Here comes another 15 weeks of a nonexistent sleep schedule and missing mom’s home-cooked meals. While college is a time to find your place in life, it can be the most challenging period of a young adult’s life.
In fact, anxiety and depression rank as the top challenges American college students face each year.
According to American Psychology Association in 2013, out of 4,763,517 college students in the country, 41.6 percent were diagnosed with anxiety and 36.4 percent were diagnosed with depression. These staggering statistics only continue to grow each year.
The question remains: How can we stop this cycle? How can students defeat this overwhelming time and get the most out of their education?
Studies have shown that positive reinforcement is proven to trick one’s brain into being happy. Social psychologist and professor of Harvard Business School, Amy Cuddy, stapled the concept of “fake it ‘til you make it.”
Through research in non-verbal expressions, she discovered the magical effects walking more purposefully or standing straighter will have on the body. When a person demonstrates body movements that feel powerful, hormones such as testosterone are released to make them feel more confident and in control of their life, she said.
Students can use this method to cope with anxiety, depression or simply when life becomes overwhelming. Practicing positive reinforcement offers a new perspective on their abilities and combat the relentless negative thoughts that often taunt their minds. Simply forcing a smile is an easy way to begin the process of positive reinforcement.
SU graduate students Trevor Donovan and Robyn Swayne both work on campus at the counseling center and have given students tips on how to conquer this semester.
They suggested students take time out of their schedules to spend time by themselves. Doing things such as coloring, spending time with family or reaching out to friends are great outlets to bring about positive energy.
But above all, just remember to breathe.
A big topic circulating within the mental health field is practicing mindfulness.
According to Donovan, mindfulness is about being in the moment, as opposed to worrying about the past or future.
It is a time to breathe deeply and slowly focus on each bodily sensation. This starts from the very tips of one’s fingers to the deepest crevice of their core and then stretching the sensations to their surrounding environment.
Acceptance is the next held step. Accept your sensations. Accept your thoughts. Accept yourself.
“Mindfulness allows you to observe the stress, rather than be in the stress,” Donovan said. “It doesn’t change the stress, but it changes how you are able to handle it.”
Mindfulness has been proven to help with medical conditions, trouble sleeping, improving test scores, reducing stress hormones and boosting the immune system.
Swayne began practicing mindfulness in 2011 to help manage depression and anxiety in her life.
“Since starting mindfulness practice I’m able to live a much healthier and more fulfilling life,” she said.
Furthermore, students can also fight overwhelming feelings this semester by taking advantage of all the services the counseling center offers.
The counseling center welcomes everyone to Mindfulness Meditation in the Spiritual Center’s meditation room every Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m.
Students can further learn how to manage their stress and anxiety in the four-week Cultivating Calm workshop beginning Feb. 27.
Donovan and Swayne also encourage students without a significant other not to fret as Valentine’s Day approaches.
“Don’t forget it’s a Hallmark holiday,” Swayne said. “Buy yourself chocolate. Make it a day of self-care, because even if you’re single, you are definitely a worthy person to take care of.”