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College students experience a lot of changes in their lives during the first months of their studies. They move out of their homes, lose their schedule, and have no access to the support system of family and friends, which causes them to feel anxiety. Anxiety is an emotional state of an individual when they experience worry or fear (Drissi et al., 2020). This condition can have a depreciating effect on the wellbeing of a person. College students can manage anxiety by recognizing that they experience it, using self-management, and limiting the use of smartphones.
Most students feel anxiety during their years at school or college. Drissi et al. (2020) define college anxiety as a “common emotion that people often feel in certain situations,” which prompts people to feel fear or be worried (p. 104243). Statistically, the University of Ottawa states that 60.6% of students rate their level of stress as above average (“Awareness: Did you know? ” n.d.). Moreover, 64.5% admit to feeling overwhelming anxiety within the last twelve months (“Awareness: Did you know? ” n.d.). Overwhelming anxiety may cause a feeling of hopelessness, inability to complete everyday activities, or even cause depression. Considering the large proportion of Canadian students who experience anxiety during their studies, universities should offer support and help their students manage anxiety.
First and foremost, managing anxiety begins with recognizing this problem, its symptoms, and the situations that trigger it. Stack (2018) argues that one issue with school anxiety is that it can resemble other issues, including ADHD or shyness. Due to this, educators and students may ignore the symptoms, making anxiety an underrecognized problem in Canada. Moreover, 46% of Canadiens perceive “mental health problems” as an excuse for bad behavior or laziness (“Awareness: Did you know? ” n.d.). As a result, students do not recognize that their mental health state is a result of the anxiety they feel because of the drastic changes that happened in their life and their stress continues to progress.
Effective Strategies for Anxiety Management
The first and most crucial step that college students can take to deal with anxiety is to acknowledge how they feel. LeBlank and Marques (2019) argue that avoidant behavior is often the cause of anxiety that is not recognized and addressed. For example, a student may skip classes, fail to study, or submit assignments as a result of avoidance caused by anxiety. However, this behavior will worsen the long-term symptoms since this individual will have more obligations to complete (LeBlank & Marques, 2019). Hence, to overcome anxiety, a student should recognize how they feel and what causes this state.
One way to manage anxiety is to have a healing environment and learn to self-manage the symptoms. Pelletier et al. (2017) argue that self-management is among the most effective ways of dealing with stress. This can include setting a schedule, exercising, getting enough sleep, as some examples of self-management. Kid et al. (2017) also report that self-management is effective when dealing with anxiety or even depression. Thus, college students should use self-management practices, such as techniques to calm themselves or do things that are generally known as relaxing. Apart from strategies tailored explicitly towards college students, some commonly used approaches to managing anxiety should be used. For example, it is common knowledge that long walks can help reduce stress. A similar effect on relieving stress can be achieved when creating a pleasant study environment. All of these factors are small steps that college students can incorporate into their routines to help them deal with the anxiety they experience upon transitioning to college.
College anxiety is linked to the rapid transition from living at home and having a support system of family and friends to living in dormitories and dealing with issues without support. LeBlank and Marques (2019) state that increases in anxiety levels is associated with the initial transition from home to college life. Hence, by helping students adjust and making this transition less stressful, colleges can relieve some of this anxiety from their students. Students can try to maintain their connection with friends and family to retain the support systems they had before college.
Modern-day students have higher levels of anxiety, and the prevalence rates are also more common when compared to previous generations. According to Cooper et al. (2018), “the prevalence of anxiety has increased among college-aged students,” while LeBanc and Marques (2019) argue that this may be linked with the communication technologies, such as smartphones (p. 23). One possible reason is that students are absorbed in their smartphones and the use of social media, which does not allow them to spend time coping with their new environment. Hence, one piece of advice is to limit the time students spend with their smartphones and instead try to adjust to the new schedule and find a sound support system.
Universities and colleges should encourage students to recognize their anxiety symptoms and teach simple self-management strategies. As was mentioned, anxiety is an under-recognized problem, and there is still a social stigma surrounding this problem (Stack, 2018). Consequently, although the proposed self-management strategies are easy to implement, students may not be aware of the problem and therefore not recognize the need to do something that would relieve their anxiety. Thus, colleges should encourage students to pay more attention to their mental health, especially during the first year when the anxiety levels are exceptionally high.
To counter the idea that students suffer from anxiety and should take measures to relieve it, one may claim that these feelings are a part of the college experience. It is necessary to go through the college years feeling anxious due to deadlines or assignments to be prepared for the real-world tasks one will face at work. However, anxiety is a serious problem that results in constant stress. The latter affects a person’s mental and physical health and can result in symptoms.
Another counterargument is that the mental health of an individual should be their responsibility, and if a student feels overwhelming anxiety, that should reach out to a professional or their supervisor. However, as was discussed, college students and Canadians, in general, do not perceive mental health problems as serious and worthy of attention (“Awareness: Did you know? ” n.d.). Hence, it is essential to raise awareness about college anxiety to help them overcome it instead of assuming that these students can manage it by themselves.
Overall, college students feel a lot of pressure during their studies, which results in anxiety. Mental health struggles of students are underrecognized, despite the fact that 60% of this population reports feeling severe anxiety within the last 12 months, approximately half of the Canadian population views mental health struggles as an excuse (“Awareness: Did you know? ” n.d.). Hence, college anxiety affects the majority of students, making it an issue that requires more attention. LeBalnk and Marques (2019) recommend limiting time spend on smartphones, while Pelletier et al. (2017) suggest learning self-management techniques. Through exercise, limited use of technology, and schedule, college students can overcome the feeling of anxiety.
Awareness: Did you know? (n.d). 2021, Web.
Cooper, K.M., Downing, V.R. & Brownell, S.E. (2018). The influence of active learning practices on student anxiety in large-enrollment college science classrooms. IJ STEM Education, 5, 23. Web.
Drissi, N., Ouhbi, S., Janati Idrissi, M., & Ghogho, M. (2020). An analysis on self-management and treatment-related functionality and characteristics of highly rated anxiety apps. International Journal Of Medical Informatics, 141, 104243. Web.
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LeBlanc, M. & Marques, L. (2019). Anxiety in college: What we know and how to cope. Harvard Health Blog. Web.
Pelletier, L., Shamila, S., Scott B., P., & Demers, A. (2017). Self-management of mood and/or anxiety disorders through physical activity/exercise. Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada: Research, Policy and Practice, 37(5), 27–32.
Stack, D. E. (2018). Managing anxiety in the classroom. Mental Health America. Web.