It seems like the words ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ is repeated a lot these days by many people without an actual diagnosis. Add that to our already existing cultural stigma about mental health issues, it’s hard to have a serious and constructive conversation about said issues.
These factors, for years, have created a vicious cycle of dismissing the actual mental health problems of young adults as attention-seeking behavior or simply as something not serious at all. BUT THERE ARE SERIOUS ISSUES!
According to the ‘National Mental Health Survey, Bangladesh 2018-19’, 17% of adults suffer from mental problems. Among them, 6.7% have a depressive disorder and 4.5% and of them suffer from anxiety. Those are not small numbers by any means!
So how is your university life relevant to all of this? A lot actually. University can be one of the most vulnerable periods of a person’s life. It’s the period when we’ve just stepped into adulthood but have no actual framework on how to deal with adult issues. We moved away from our parents even though we haven’t become quite emotionally independent yet. We are more susceptible to fall into despair during this time than we would like to acknowledge.
Although anxiety can be triggered by a myriad of reasons and every person has unique experiences that determine their triggers, there are a few usual suspects when it comes to anxiety in uni life. Obviously, the first and foremost action to take when feeling any level of anxiety is to seek professional help. But knowing about the triggers can certainly help you in avoiding them if you’re in a situation where help is not readily available.
The Notification of Dread
It’s hard to imagine today’s university life without social media. Or even just life in general. From being notified of our classes to sharing homework, social media is undoubtedly a powerful and necessary tool. But just like any other powerful tool, it is also dangerous.
Spreading negativity and hate is so easy with social media that in recent years there have been rising cases of ‘cyberbullying’. This is prevalent more so in young adult university students. There is something about the anonymity and detachment of the online world that makes people capable of being tremendously cruel.
The Curriculum of Doom
Academic pressure is something we deal with all throughout our student life. But it’s particularly taxing in university. Especially when we’re fed the oh so blissful lie that university is the place of eternal chill (!), where we don’t have to study much at all (!). It is only after we get into the university and have wasted a significant amount of time, we realize this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Constant assignments, midterms, projects, group works are bound to cause burnout and put a strain on students’ mental health. This intense academic schedule can also be the trigger of anxiety for many people.
The Romanticism from Hell
The colored lenses through which we see the world when we first become university students is often the real culprit for the downfall of our mental state. The sudden freedom to pursue someone, the freedom to act on our feelings unprohibited keeps us from realizing that we might be going in too deep. And the societal stigma that comes from not being in a relationship in university also doesn’t help our case either. So we rush into things, try to make commitments that we can’t keep or just pursue the wrong people in general. All of which come with devastating results.
The scars from our misguided romanticism often induce in us social anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and a lack of confidence.
These three factors, whether we like to admit it or not, are the most common triggers of our anxiety. The step before starting the fight against anxiety is to identify which factor is responsible for our distress. Only after that we are truly ready.
1. Approach, Don’t Avoid: Once you’ve identified the factor that is the source of your anxiety, the next step to NOT ignore it. So many people go through their lives knowing the cause of their anxiety but not approaching it because they think it’s something that can’t be fixed. Avoidance only makes it worse.
2. Practice Self Care: During times of anxiety many students tend to forget that self caring behavior is what keeps a person together. Eating well, maintaining good hygiene, getting the proper amount of sleep is crucial in the process of dealing with anxiety.
I realize that telling someone suffering from anxiety to take care of themselves is far easier than them actually finding the mindset and energy of doing so. But that’s why self caring behavior should be woven into your daily routine. So that even in times of distress they come naturally.
3. Find Resources on Campus: Even if it doesn’t feel like it, there are many resources that you can find to deal with your anxiety. Seek academic counseling, find a mentor who will guide and support you, open up to a friend you trust. Dealing with anxiety doesn’t have to be a lonely battle unless you choose to make it so.
4. Seek Professional Help: If self care and your campus resources can’t help, immediately seek a professional for help. Never underestimate the grasp of anxiety. Many times you just can’t deal with it without a certified psychologist and that’s completely okay. There is nothing shameful about seeking help for mental disorders. Don’t let social stigma dictate how you deal with your health.
Most of the time we dismiss anxiety as something mundane when it is something we should be focusing on first. Because acceptance is always the first step towards the solution to any problem. Once you’ve done that, only then you’re ready to break the grasp of anxiety on your life.
Author: Touseef Salam | Studying at Mawlana Bhashani Science & Technology University, Bangladesh.