Anxiety: It’s more common than you think


Anxiety is a rising issue faced by college students, according to the BYU counseling center.

Genevieve Gantt mulls over the parts of her life that stress her out. BYU offers free resources to help combat stress levels.
Genevieve Gantt mulls over the parts of her life that stress her out. BYU offers free resources to help combat stress levels (Photo by: Elliott Miller)

For students at BYU, it’s not uncommon to find that during this time in life is when anxious feelings can start to take over.

When Lauren Johansson, senior at BYU, starts to feel overwhelmed, stressed, unsuccessful and inadequate, she has learned to recognize that it’s just her anxiety talking. Johansson is just one of the many students at BYU who suffer from feelings of anxiety.

Johansson was diagnosed with anxiety while she was on her mission in Chile.

“I was on my mission, and I just realized that I didn’t speak the language,” Johansson said. “I didn’t know what was going on, and everything was out of my control. I didn’t feel successful, so that brought more anxiety in trying to live up to the standard, and it kind of just spiraled down to the point where I just couldn’t do anything.”

Dr. Jon Cox, a psychologist at BYU in the Counseling and Career Center, said anxiety is one of the most common reasons people come into the counseling center.

Anxiety is a prevalent issue for a number of reasons.

“Humans are built for anxiety. We have a sympathetic nervous system which responds to any perceived danger with the symptoms of anxiety,” Cox said. “Threats to our self-esteem, threats to our relationships, threats to our goals for the future — all of those things can be interpreted by our brains to be a danger, and then that triggers the sympathetic nervous system which causes the fight or flight response, which we interpret to be anxiety.”

Anxiety can be triggered by anything and everything. For Johansson, anxiety attacks come on when she has a lot going on or when there are aspects of her life that are out of her control. For Shelby Ravsten, a sophomore at BYU, big life decisions and school add to her anxiety levels.

Both students have found ways to cope with their anxiety and to avoid giving into it. Johansson has found yoga and meditation to be a great stress reliever. Ravsten takes a different approach. “Trying to de-stress really helps me to stop worrying about everything,” she said. “I like to go out on runs. Sometimes work helps me to relax, so I can focus on what I’m doing then and there.”

BYU offers several resources to help students get back on track and combat anxiety.

Elise Teerlink, a BYU grad student who works at Stress Management and Biofeedback Services, said the lab is open to BYU students and offers help by both appointment and walk-in services.

At the lab, students can identify their stress issues and learn relaxation skills to cope with them.

Some of the skills include diaphragmatic breathing, mediation, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, performance rehearsal, self hypnosis and body scanning. After the relaxation activities, students can receive feedback from their bodies.

“Even if you aren’t stressed out, it’s a great way to develop good relaxation habits and to prevent stress overload,” Teerlink said.

Teerlink finds joy in seeing students come back to Stress Management and Biofeedback Services to report that they overcame their anxiety.

BYU’s lab and counseling services offer great ways for students struggling with anxiety to find an outlet and learn how to combat it. The counseling center is located in room 1500 of the Wilkinson Student Center.

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