According to Canadian Virtual Hospice, anxiety is defined as an “…emotional and physical state that includes some combination of fear, uneasiness and worry.” While many definitions of what constitute anxiety exist, it is important to know that anxiety is different for everyone. For some, anxiety results in strong emotional symptoms such as paranoia or irritability. For others, anxiety can manifest itself into more physical symptoms such as muscle tension or insomnia.
University students are more susceptible to anxiety due to a change in academic setting, financial strains, and changes in sleep patterns. In 2016, the National College Health Assessment reported 33.1 per cent of students in the last 12 months found anxiety to have a negative impact on their academic performance. Additionally, 65.4 per cent of surveyed students reported having overwhelming anxiety in the last 12 months. 18.3 per cent of surveyed students were also professionally diagnosed with anxiety or professionally treated in the past 12 months. These statistics speak volumes about anxiety amongst university students.
At UTM, the Health and Counselling Centre in the Davis building offers personal counselling to any student for a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety. The HCC offers one-on-one or group counselling. A great way to destress and help ease anxiety, especially during exam times, would be to participate in mindfulness or mindful meditation.
Mindfulness involves being present in the moment, and being aware of your surroundings. The main goal of being mindful is to not dwell over the past or the future, which is what drives anxious thoughts. Practicing mindful meditation improves physical and mental health. In one study, those who practiced mindfulness for eight weeks improved their focus and could tune out distractions much better, compared to those who did not practice mindful meditation. In turn, practicing mindfulness could improve academic performance.
Good2Talk offers counselling and information on resources near you, and is available 24 hours in English and French. Spectra Helpline is another service that has staff who can speak additional languages, such as Portuguese and Hindi.
All Ontario universities, including the University of Toronto, are increasing their budget by $6 million for mental health services, but changes in services and access to them will take some time to implement.
While these resources are readily available to UTM students, it’s also important to foster an accepting and understanding environment on campus. As students, it’s important to lend support to someone if you see them in distress or notice changes in their behaviour. If you can’t offer someone help or don’t know how to, refer them to an appropriate resource.