According to the New York Times, College Freshman are under more emotional stress than ever before.
The survey, “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010,” involved more than 200,000 incoming full-time students at four-year colleges, and cited that the percentage of students rating themselves as “below average” in emotional health rose exponentially from previous years. Also, every year young women have had a less positive view of their emotional health than young men, and that gap has widened.
In my practice at Innovative Counseling Services, I see students from nearby colleges, such as Gettysburg College, McDaniel’s College, Penn State, and York College. I also see students when they are home from break from out-of-state colleges. They come home for break, exhausted, depressed, and emotionally distraught. This is an opportunity to see the student and their family, which is very helpful in bringing about realistic expectations and lowering overall anxiety and depression. Parents usually call me with concerns about their child’s low self esteem, anxiety or withdrawal, and depression.
Often, their primary care physician has many times referred them to a psychologist after seeing their school counselor. Some of the students that I have seen over the past twenty years have evidence of stress, depression, and may have even be under psychiatric care before they even went to college.
According to the New York Times, “the economy has added to the stress, not just because of financial pressures on their parents but also because the students are worried about their own college debt and job prospects when they graduate.”
The article goes on to share that, “more students are arriving on campus with problems, needing support, and today’s economic factors are putting a lot of extra stress on college students, as they look at their loans and wonder if there will be a career waiting for them on the other side.
And, “that to some extent, students’ decline in emotional health may result from pressures they put on themselves either consciously or unconsciously.”
I use a mind body approach with students and their families, starting with the basics: helping them to get adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise. When a commitment is made and followed the results are life-changing. Recent genetic research indicates that the brain needs time to rest and rejuvenate, to build immunity produce growth hormones, and to build neural connections. Dreams help relieve the system of stress. This is done during sleep. Adequate nutrition fuels the body and brain to work effectively. Exercise (preferably during an enjoyable activity) stimulates the brain to create new neural networks, which can lead to clearer thinking and improved mood. When this is achieved, we move onto daily stressors, triggers, and identify negative beliefs, because a change in your thoughts correlates with a change in your mood. When this habit is broken there is more great relief seen.
If necessary, however, I work on deeper conflicts with EMDR therapy, which is very powerful and effective in reprocessing and resolving earlier conflicts that cause current stress and unrealistic expectations that often trigger much of the college student’s mental health problems. There is hope and real success in addressing students with a Mind Body Approach. I help them to develop a healthy lifestyle change during our time together.
"What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us." - Henry David Thoreau