April Morris, LCSW, provides outpatient therapy for adolescents and adults ages 16 and over. She uses a multi-faceted trauma-informed therapy approach including a variety of therapy techniques. She enjoys working with clients from all walks of life and is honored to join them on their mental health journey and help them build skills to adapt to life challenges.
Host Tim Unsinn:
Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic, located in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and wellbeing, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to mind your mind.
Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind. Our guest is April Morris. April is an outpatient therapist in Fargo and provides therapy for those over 14, primarily adults. April it's great to have you on Mind Your Mind. Our topic is college stress and anxiety. However, before we get to the topic, there's a question I ask all guests of Mind Your Mind, and that is why do you do what you do? Or why is this work important to you?
I love this type of work, as far as getting to be part of people's journeys and challenges and getting to support them. It's just a feel-good experience for me as well. Very humbling to get to be a part of it. And there's nothing better.
Topic, college stress and anxiety. These are, you know, you think of those two and they definitely go together, do they not? Well, stress versus anxiety? What are the differences?
Yeah, the symptoms can be really parallel, but the idea is a stressor or stress by itself is typically caused by an external event or stressor situation, if you will. Where anxiety is more persistent, excessive worry; doesn't always have to be attached to a particular stressor. It can be a perceived stressor. So there is a little bit of a difference there. And then I also like to mention, you know, stress can be broken up into acute and chronic stress, right? Acute stress is something that I could be stressed out about something happening this week. And then that's gonna resolve. Chronic stress might be a medical condition that I'm gonna have lifelong. That would be a chronic stressor.
So what does anxiety look like? Some of the, some of the symptoms?
Yes. So stress can lead to distress and distress can lead to anxiety. So we wanna be aware. Stress again is gonna list symptoms the same, but with anxiety, we are looking at that prolonged, nervous, anxious, feeling on edge worry that is difficult to control or stop. [It can be] about lots of different things, not just one particular thing. Fatigue, often headaches, stomach aches, difficulty relaxing and sitting still, feeling just restless. And the worry, just that something bad is gonna happen, right. If I don't do this, something bad's gonna happen. And just kind of that, that dread, that can sit over people and it has to occur most days of the week, over a six month period of time to truly be a significant anxiety disorder.
So it changes from stress if it's a short term versus anxiety, which is long term.
Yes. And it can be hard to decipher when we were talking about chronic stress. And is that turning into anxiety? The other thing I should mention just besides the duration is intensity and impacts to your life. So we look at how does it impact your functioning? Is it impacting going to work or your work performance? Is it impacting school, relationships, health, and our ability to complete task of daily living?
So now stress management, that's one that we're talking about that and coping with anxiety. So stress different than anxiety. Stress could turn into anxiety. So how do we cope with that?
Yeah, I think when people have good stress management skills, they really can protect their mental health. With that being said, hopefully it's not confusing to say a lot of the strategies can be the same. If you already have anxiety or you are looking at stress management, I always try to tell people to look at problem solving first. Can we eliminate the stressor or decrease the stressor itself? Is it something that we can impact? You know, for college it might be, did I take too much? Should I drop a class? Am I in too many activities? Can I look at my commitments? Have I taken on too much? So I just think that problem-solving piece can be important to look at first.
Yeah. And I think of college, the stress of picking classes is that class gonna be full? Is there gonna be room for me and am I gonna get there in time? And how will those grades, all those things.
Yeah. And that, what if, and down the rabbit hole, if we're doing that right more days than not, we might be dealing with some anxiety. If we have some constant worries like that. Changing your expectations of yourself. Sometimes it's a matter of do we have really high expectations of ourself that will lead to a lot of stress. If our goal is perfection, nobody meets it and we're always disappointed. So we gotta readjust that. Perfection can't be the goal. Reframing your thinking is something that we do a lot in therapy, but can we look at the connection and correlation between how we think and feel about things, which in turn makes a difference in how we act. If I can look at a situation in a little more neutral light, it'll make a difference on how I feel and what I do about it.
Then there's the usual typical that you're gonna hear, right. Get good sleep, be cognizant of your nutrition. What are we putting in our body? Meditation would be a lot of the deep breathing, relaxation breathing, guided imagery is always nice. You can find a lot of those things out on various social media platforms. Just muscle relaxation, getting enough activity on the flip side of that too. We need physical activity for our mental health. Sunlight, being out in nature has been proven to be really good for our mental health and our stress. And engaging in things that we like pleasurable activities, staying engaged in hobbies and relationships can help keep our stress level low.
A lot of good, good, helpful tips there on the stress management side of it. So we've been talking about college stress and anxiety, and I think of that, it really sticks in my mind is the stress when it goes from stress to anxiety. That seems like, for me, a time to seek some help, because if it's gone from what is manageable with some self-help to anxiety, which is really a call, you need some help.
Exactly. And sometimes there can even be chronic stress, right? That people feel like they're not able to get their stress down with those coping mechanisms. I'd still encourage them to reach out, but therapy is definitely a helpful tool to look at. What are we doing for coping that's healthy and what are we doing for unhealthy coping? The reality is in college, too, we might be leaning towards unhealthy. Too much caffeine or alcohol. And those things are gonna be counterproductive to manage stress and can actually increase anxiety.
And those are some signs to reach out for help.
What are some other signs that would indicate that we need to, or what are signs as we're looking at someone else that we may need to approach them and say, you know, you may need to seek some help.
You might notice that it's impacting their functioning, right? So their relationship with you, maybe they're canceling plans or they're not making it to school, or they're so anxious and overwhelmed. It's just impacting all those areas that I mentioned, work, school, relationships, their health, maybe they're complaining about headaches, stomach aches all the time. They're not taking care of themselves, their daily tasks, not cleaning up their apartment. They're just too overwhelmed. Those would all be things that you might notice of a friend or yourself.
All right. And don't hesitate to, you're not being a know it all when you talk with them. You care about them.
And is that important to communicate when you're talking with them?
Absolutely. I think just as a friend, I'd say, "Hey, I noticed this, these things are changing. Is everything okay? Can I support you in some way? I care about you." And with college, I like to specifically mention, depending on the campus you're on, you could check to see if you guys have a counseling center within your campus. Often it's free if you go to that school. Otherwise just your local community resources and here in North Dakota, calling 211 to figure out what those resources are is good to get connected.
That's a great point because most universities and colleges over the past 5, 10, 15 years have really stepped it up in that area specifically, just to help kids manage, young adults manage the stress and all those things that go into college. Because I mean, over time you learn.
Yes, absolutely. And then everything with the pandemic too, has really added in the amount of stress and anxiety that people are reporting in this age group is pretty significant. And so definitely know that you're not alone in reaching out for some advice. And even just to tweak your coping mechanisms and look at that is a really healthy thing to consider.
Well, our guest on Mind Your Mind is April Morris. April, any final thoughts before we wrap up on college stress and anxiety?
I think we covered it.
All right. Well, before we do wrap up, I have that final question for you. And that is what do you do personally, to mind your mind?
I do like to guard my alone time, as a mom with little kids. So it might just be a shower or a bath on my own, a car drive to the grocery store if I tie it into an errand, but just getting that alone time. I like to listen to the radio really loud in my car. If the weather's nice enough, of course, I like to be outside, take a walk and spend time at the lake.
That's fantastic. Alone time. How important is that? Well, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate your time and your talent, and thank you for sharing those with us.
Thank you for joining us for Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to mind your mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more go to dakotafamilyservices.org.
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