Why anxiety and stress is targeting young adults today

Schondra Aytch, Reporter

The “Today” show recently aired a series titled “The Secret Lives of Teens,” where they discussed problems that teenagers battle with, but often hide. Anxiety was one of the topics discussed. With its prevalence and severity clear in today’s society, many researchers and professionals are exploring the various sources of which anxiety is a result. SUNY Buffalo State psychology professor Michael MacLean gave his insight on the topic.

“Its not unique to college students that anxiety and depression levels are higher than they were before,” MacLean said. He suggests that anxiety is common today because of the heavy demands on students. “New demands wasn’t prevalent for previous generation of college students.”

Social media, jobs and attending school full-time are common factors that often influence high stress levels, but MacLean shares a practical theory that will possibly help balance the life of the common student.

“Stress is experienced when we receive demands that lack our coping abilities,” he said. “Cut back demands and decide what’s most important to you.” MacLean advocates the practice of prioritizing, and he also mentions that time management is important though everyone struggles with it, including himself. “I don’t get to do everything I want either. I still wrestle with time management.”

Though there are ways to subside or fight back against stress and anxiety, some forms are in dire need of medical attention according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. With one in eight children having an anxiety disorder, and at least 10 percent of teens having such a form of anxiety that it disrupts their lives, programs like the “Today” show are possibly presenting a comfortable way to be vocal on the issue. During the episode, special anchor Maria Shriver talked to five high school students who have been put in a rehabilitation center because of their stress. One of the students, named Annamarie, had such anxiety that it was hard for her to breathe. Another felt troubled by her anxiety because she didn’t see her peers experiencing it at all, so she felt as if something was wrong with her. It seems that the most common problem with anxiety is that it is dealt privately which again, is not effective.

Timothy Allen and Briand Timothy are two students who have experienced anxiety and stress. Allen is a 20-year-old general studies major at Erie Community College.

“School gives me stress because there are just so many assignments in a day,” he said. Allen also mentioned that the most stressful part of the day is waking up in the morning and realizing all the tasks that need to be accomplished. Yet his perspective is unique when it comes to the pressures of social media and working.

“Social media doesn’t bother me, I find it humorous,” Allen said. Unlike the high school students on “Today,” Allen made it clear that his peers do suffer a heavier anxiety than him, because of “personal issues.”

Briand Timothy, a 21-year-old theatre major at Buffalo State, shares that having anxiety is nothing new to her and it often bothers many parts of her life.

“If I don’t find a way to control my anxiety it eats at my thoughts and I am unable to eat, sleep, and function normally,” she said. She also mentions that her anxiety comes at a certain time during the school year. “I feel the most anxiety in the middle of the semester because that is when I try to lock in my good grades and work on my poor ones.”

Some students with mild to severe anxiety may have to attend counseling or rehabilitation like the ones on “Today.” Lucy Andrus, Buffalo State art professor and therapist, counsels troubled youth in her free time.

“As an art therapist and teacher educator, I am increasingly aware of how much chronic feelings of anxiety have increased among students, even to the point of many being diagnosed with anxiety disorder,” she said. “In today’s fast-paced technologically driven society, and with so many world crises occurring at home and around the world, it is easy to become overwhelmed as students are bombarded 24/7 with images and information that they must process, sort and makes sense of.”

Andrus also considers the fact that college students have to juggle work with school.

“Add to this the responsibility that so many students have of working 20 to 30 or more hours a week at outside jobs while trying to attend college full-time, and you have a recipe for anxiety and stress that may become hard to manage for many,” Andrus said.

Both Professor MacLean and Professor Andrus agreed that quiet time with yourself or with one other person is beneficial for reducing the levels of stress in a day.

“I tell my students that no matter how hectic their days are, they must find even a short amount of time to decompress each day,” Andrus said. “I call it ‘Take Five.’  Even five minutes of meditation, stretching, walking, doodling, going outside and breathing in sights and sounds of the season can help to restore some balance until there is greater time off.”

MacLean suggests that rather than putting effort into social media, it would be better to have a conversation with a friend.

“Genuine social interactions is a natural stress reliever,” he said.

The Buffalo State Counseling Center provides information on how to approach mental health, including a screening test, a ‘Concern Care Team’ made of Buffalo State faculty to interview students who may present the potential to harm themselves or others and counseling services. The counseling center also has a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline and provides Crisis Services along with the University Police.

Email: [email protected]