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Depression and Anxiety

How common is anxiety among college students? I feel like no one else feels the way I do before exams. How can I decrease my anxiety?

According to the American College Health Association’s 2011 Executive Summary, 47.5% of BSU students surveyed had felt overwhelming anxiety in the last 12 months. According to psychiatrist Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. from the Mayo Clinic test anxiety can affect anyone.

Here are some things that may help reduce your test anxiety:

  • Learn how to study efficiently. You’ll feel more relaxed if you systematically study and practice the material that will be on your test. Talk to your professor or academic advisor for classes offered by Boise State to help learn study skills.
  • Learn relaxation techniques. There are a number of things you can do right before and during the test to help you stay calm and confident, such as deep breathing, relaxing your muscles one at a time, or closing your eyes and imagining a positive outcome.
  • Don’t forget to eat and drink. Just like muscles in your body, your brain needs fuel to function. Eat the day of the test so that you’re not running on empty when test time arrives. Also, drink plenty of water. Avoid sugary drinks such as soda pop, which can cause your blood sugar to peak and then drop, or caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks or coffee, which can increase anxiety.
  • Get some exercise. Regular aerobic exercise and exercising on exam day can release tension. Visit the recreation center on campus to release your pre-exam tension.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is directly related to academic performance. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep is important for your brain to process and store the information you learn.
  • Talk to your professor. Make sure you understand what’s going to be on each test and know exactly how to prepare. In addition, let your teacher know that you feel anxious when you take tests. He or she may have suggestions to help you succeed.
  • Establish a consistent pre-test routine. Learn what works for you, and follow the same steps each time you’re preparing for a test. This will ease your stress level and help assure you that you’re well prepared. Examples include eating a healthy meal, resting, or exercising before your exam.

Why do college students need 7-9 hours of sleep per night?

Sleep deprivation significantly lowers your GPA because while you are sleeping your brain consolidates newly-learned information. Sleep also affects your concentration, memory, creativity and the ability to learn. Lack of sleep can affect your physical health by weakening your immune system. It makes you more prone to catching colds and the flu. For male students, sleep deprivation will lower testosterone levels which will have negative effects on sexual behavior, reproduction, strength, muscle mass and bone density. Not getting enough sleep will make you less attractive, because it has negative effects on your skin and weight. It will increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and obesity. Not getting enough sleep also seriously impairs your ability to drive. It can affect your mental health by resulting in tension, irritability, depression, confusion, anxiety and generally lower life satisfaction.

How can I improve my spiritual health?

It’s necessary to identify your spirituality. If you are being treated for an illness, it’s important for your doctor to know how your spirituality might affect your feelings and thoughts about your medical situation. If you think your spiritual beliefs are affecting your health care decisions or your ability to follow your doctor’s recommendations, tell your doctor.

If you want to improve your spiritual health, you may want to try the following ideas. However, remember that everyone is different, so what works for others may not work for you. Do what is comfortable for you.

  • Identify the things in your life that give you a sense of inner peace, comfort, strength, love and connection.
  • Set aside time every day to do the things that help you spiritually. These may include doing community service or volunteer work, praying, meditating, singing devotional songs, reading inspirational books, taking nature walks, having quiet time for thinking, doing yoga, playing a sport or attending religious services.

How does exercise help depression and anxiety?

Exercise helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:
  • Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
  • Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
  • Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects

Exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits too. It can help you:

  • Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
  • Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
  • Get more social interaction. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
  • Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.

How does nutrition affect my depression?

Poor nutrition can make a person feel worse. Also, poor nutrition can promote weight gain which can affect the way a person views themselves. In this case,the depressed individual does not feel any better about themselves or their situation. People tend to eat poorly when they are depressed.

Will exercise help to get rid of my depression?

No, it will not help get rid of it completely, but it will better a person’s depression by releasing endorphins into the body. These natural chemicals send messages to the brain that everything is okay.

How can I help myself if I have depression?

If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless and hopeless. But it is important to realize that these feelings are part of the illness. To help yourself feel better:
  • Try to see a professional as soon as possible. Research shows that getting treatment sooner rather than later can relieve symptoms quicker and reduce the length of time treatment is needed.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, and do what you can as you can. Try not to do too many things at once.
  • Spend time with other people and talk to a friend or relative about your feelings.
  • Do not make important decisions until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others whom you trust and who know you well.