A University Student’s Perspective on Living with Anxiety

KPU student Laurina Jolicoeur provides a realistic account of having anxiety in school

(Jessica Limoanco)

The stress of being a student can be amplified by living with mental disorders such as anxiety. Typically, anxiety presents itself in the form of worried thoughts, an overall feeling of tension, or physical symptoms such as increased blood pressure or sweating. For post-secondary students, anxiety may be felt during high-stress activities like taking tests, meeting deadlines, or making presentations. It might feel like you’re alone in these moments, but research has proven otherwise. Studies have found that 2.5 per cent of Canadians will experience anxiety.

KPU student Laurina Jolicoeur, has experienced anxiety in class.

“I had this very frightening experience one semester,” she says, referencing technical difficulties she had with setting up the presentation.

“I’d never had something like this happen before and suddenly my mind was speeding up, my heart rate increased, I was on high alert, from zero to 60 in no time flat”.

With shaking hands, she plugged in the HDMI which was not an easy task, as anxiety can have physiological symptoms.

“Once everything was plugged in and after taking a second to just breathe deeply, I was able to rein my anxiety in and was able to continue with the presentation, but it felt like I was doing it through a fog,” she says.

It took the rest of class after the presentation for her to return to a calm state.

Even through this difficulty, she expressed gratitude for the experience and reflects on the presentation as one of her best. This is contrary to what you might see in the media.

The media’s portrayal of anxiety can differ from individuals’ experiences. Anxiety is a word too commonly used in the media to describe feelings of nervousness. By overusing anxiety as a way to describe nerves, the media is desensitizing us to the concept of anxiety, reducing it to a regular human emotion and making it appear less serious when in reality it can be severe.

On the other hand, the media also tends to dramatize the experiences of people with anxiety. They’re often described or depicted as shaking in fear, overly cautious, and unable to function like a “normal” person.

Jolicoeur is completely able to function, even in tricky situations. She explains that she works in  retail and can deal with the common “angry customer.” Anxiety sometimes gets the best of her, but she can succeed in her academic studies as well as professional pursuits.

“My anxiety is a part of my learning process, but it doesn’t hold me back,” she says.

Many students live with mental disorders and health issues, and efficient coping mechanisms and mindfulness techniques can be essential to their success. Many professionals suggest activities such as getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising as methods of stress management. Newer techniques such as mindfulness training and meditation have also been found to help anxiety. Other activities such as going for a walk, redirecting your mind to a new task, using a planner to keep track of due dates, and taking time to relax can help reduce anxiety and stress as well.

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