Acknowledge and Fight the Stigma – A recent NPR interview with Author and Professor Dr. Anthony Rostain discusses the burgeoning mental health epidemic on college campuses. A record number of students are feeling anxious and find it difficult to get help even though they know it is available. In some cases students might even be adamantly against it. Why? Well the reasons vary but one stands out - denial or procrastination. Only 1 in 4 students get the counseling.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we need to shine a light. We live in an anxious world, and it's becoming increasingly so. Economic insecurities, tragedies (personal or constant bombardment by the news), and general feeling of lack of control over the future. Here are some ways to help.
Normal Worry vs Anxiety
Maybe you are feeling insecure about finances, an unstable relationship, the political landscape, climate change, or any sudden change… It’s normal to feel discomfort and worry, and it sends stress hormones though our bodies which can manifest in a physical way. When we don’t appropriately deal with specific stress triggers, worry can get out of control, lose a "focus" and generalized anxiety can set in.
It is normal to worry before an event such as an interview or test as opposed to a constant anxiety which can be like a feeling of always waiting for the other shoe to drop, impending doom, or at times like you’re plugged into an electrical socket – (severity of course can range from mild discomfort to complete debilitation). It's important to make a distinction – don’t label yourself an "anxious person,"you are a person experiencing a bout of anxiety.
In have a whole chapter devoted to anxiety in Emotional Advantage. Today we’re talking about 5 ways to deal with anxiety.
1. Ask yourself reframing questions when you are experiencing anxiety:
• Am I safe right now?
• Am I safe enough to address the issue? What is a first step?
• Do I trust myself to work through this, either on my own or with my help network?
2. Be a detective:
• Try to recognize the symptoms early (spark instead of a flame).
• Physical: rapid heart beat, shortness of breath, dizziness, upset stomach.
• Mental: mental paralysis, rumination – stuck in a negative thought loop, feeling helplessness or trapped.
• What thoughts trigger your mental or physical reactions this and how does it show up in your body?
3. Get out of your head and into your body
• Feel your feet on the ground, seat in the chair, wind on your face – you are here, right now.
• go for a walk - cortisol is running through your system, exercise helps balance you.
• Listen to uplifting music
• Take one small step at a time....brush your teeth, get dressed, do one task.
• CONGRATULATE yourself for doing that! Write down the tasks on a list (no matter how mundane) and cross them off! Be kind to yourself.
• Being present with what you are feeling instead of stuffing it away.
• Return to the breath, realize you are here, you are OK
• Visualize the feelings lessen, then dissipate
• When practiced over time this leads to greater resilience and less anxiety!
5. Practice Gratitude
• I’m grateful that I have shelter, food, my phone, friends and family...What Author Chade-Meng Tan calls “little slices of joy.”
• Intentionally focus on what is working, rather than succumbing to the negativity bias and obsessing on what is not meeting your expectations.
• Gratitude as a regular practice results in more inner peace and greater life satisfaction.
6. Get involved in with your community
• We all need each other
• Reach out to someone, whether a trusted friend a therapist
If anxiety is getting in the way of daily life, reach out - there is help, especially to work with specific circumstances. It’s not just you – this is an anxious culture – we need to talk about it more – together we rise!
Note: Anxiety this is a real thing and can be disruptive. If it is prolonged and affecting your ability to live your life, consider making some serious life adjustments or get some help!