The Experience Of Anxiety In The College Students

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The topic of anxiety is very prevalent in current day society. The APA (American Psychiatric association) ran a survey on 1,000 U.S adults about their levels of anxiety and the root cauase of it with 18 percent of Americans being affected and almost 40 percent feeling more anxious than they were just a year before. (Stewart, 2008). A concern relevant is that 19% of directors report the psychiatric services available on campus to be lacking the quality and/ or quantity required for enough usage. With almost 20% of those college students in need of more adequate resources it is no wonder why the percentage of anxiety within these students is so high. College students have a high rate of contributing factors that either lead or heighten anxiety. The highest increase in anxiety occurs during the initial transition into college, suggesting the first year of college is the highest risk for the onset or the heightening of one’s anxiety. Due to all the stress, cramming and being busy all the time, college students are at disadvantage with 41.6 percent of students being affected, 24.5 percent of students taking medication for it and 63 percent feeling more anxious than the year before. (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/06/college-students). A poor diet with high levels of saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and processed food products are all linked to poor mental health (Yurtoğlu, 2018). Many students struggle to maintain healthy eating habits due to the constant hurry they are in, whether it’s getting to class/work on time, cramming in any homework, projects and essays alongside any other obligations they have going on. Due to all this rushing and focus on school, students tend to ignore their eating habits and what the body needs causing lack of nutrition. If your body isn’t getting the daily nutrients it needs to function completely than you are not at your true potential.

Although research does not clearly state exactly why college students today have shown such a decrease in psychological well-being over the past several years, the trend provides significant research of the association between electronic communication and the reduction of one’s well-being. This interference with electronic communication and one’s adjustment to college may be due to the replacement of healthy coping behaviors like exercising, studying, and face to face interactions.

Many students struggle to maintain healthy eating habits. Programs at the college setting that focus on training a student to create, maintain and practice self-care routines will benefit sleep, grades, mental organization, and ultimately anxiety. Self-care behaviors are crucial for regulating mood, anxiety and stress. These programs will talk about the effects of caffeine and how one should limit its intake in the evening, and the effects of alcohol and drugs as both interfere with sleep and one’s mental health status. It is known that certain food and beverages affect anxiety for multiple reasons. For example, caffeine, is a well-known and frequently used stimulant and psychoactive drug. Caffeine has a strong reputation for triggering the body’s fight or flight response, which is already active and triggered when those are experiencing anxiety.

Along with what not to eat and drink in order to reduce symptoms of anxiety, health programs would also prove nutritional strategies to ease anxiety among the college students. Complex carbohydrates are metabolized more slowly and may help maintain a more even blood sugar level which will then help create a calmer feeling. Diets rich in whole grain, fruits, and vegetables help provide the body with the nutrients it needs. The program will also speak about the effects of skipping meals and how that effects one’s anxiety levels.

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Skipping meals lead to a dramatic drop in blood sugar that will cause one to feel jittery and will worsen underlying anxiety. With a busy school schedule, students have a hard time getting in meals at the right time because they must be at the next place right away causing them to just skip meals entirely, sometimes not eating until dinner. The most important meal of the day, especially for students, is breakfast and yet it’s the most skipped meal by college students. People who eat breakfast consistently tend to eat heathier overall and are more likely to participate in physical activities. Skipping breakfast makes one feel tired, restless, or irritable. After not eating for 8 hours of sleeping the body needs to be refueled and by skipping meals a person mood and energy can drop by noon.

With students being so busy it leads to students relying on fast food and quick easy snacks from vending machines. Fast food contains high sodium, high sugar content, high trans-fat, and high saturated fats which are all factors that affect mental health. A study on rats showed that when given a diet like this they learned fear more rapidly, so instead of learning new things rats learned to fear objects/situations more rapidly. If a college student’s diet makes them learn to fear things faster, then they are more likely to experience levels of uncontrollable anxiety. Vending machines are no better. All around campus you see vending machines filled with junk food such as chips and candy. Since students are already skipping meals, being mainly breakfast, the first “meal” of the day for students sometimes is a snack from the vending machine. Most students are rushing in between classes to fit a snack and resort to the vending machine to fill them up. This is a major issue because if the only food a student is having to keep them focused and going in class is a bag of Doritos, they aren’t getting any nutritional value and are instead getting a lot of processed ingredients and that are affecting their health as a whole and making them feel worse. College students are more worried about convenience, time and price than what’s in it so changing what is being served in vending machines is crucial.

Often people with mood disorders have a poor diet containing high fat and sugar content but low in fruits and vegetables. In a rat test they exposed the rat to a high fat diet for 8 weeks and resulted in changes in regular behavior such as a decrease in rearing and increase in grooming, which are signs of anxiety in rats. Although they exposed the rat to the diet for 8 weeks, they were able to see the same results even after giving the same diet to the rat within 10 minutes and a short period food deprivation; after the 10 minutes the rat showed changes in hormonal levels, behavior and increased anxiety. Anxiety is correlated with a lowered antioxidant state, so too balance this off students should improve their diet by incorporating foods rich in antioxidants (Beans, fruits, berries, nuts, and vegetables) to help ease the pressures of anxiety. In mice it was proven that diets low in magnesium experience an increase in anxiety so on the contrary diets high in magnesium would help a person feel calmer. Examples of foods rich in magnesium is spinach, swiss chard, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Also, foods high in zinc can reduce anxiety such as egg yolks, liver, beef, oysters and cashews.

Lots of students just simply can’t afford to eat healthy. With all the studying and work that needs to be done, college students can’t work long hours. A study showed that 59% of college students at a university in Oregon are food insecure, that’s more than half the college students attending there. This means they couldn’t get ahold of any healthy or safe foods on a day to day basis. In 2012, a study by the USDA found that 14.5% of American households were food insecure which means the rate that college students are at is 4 times higher. Students were asked if they could buy nutritious and balanced meals and 62 percent had reported that they couldn’t. There are many factors as to why students are exposed to such food instability but because of rising tuition costs, living expenses (dorms, housing etc.) and no time do a lot of hours at work, students find themselves struggling to go out and buy healthier foods and instead settle for the quickest and cheapest foods they could find. Since most students aren’t eligible for food stamps, the possibility of getting the foods they need to be at their full potential is slim.

Although WCSU has a program for mental health for mind, body and spirit but none specifically targeting nutrition and it’s affects on anxiety. While using mind, body and spirit type remedies is crucial and extremely beneficial, if a student is on a bad diet even with these remedies, they aren’t tackling anxiety as a whole. Creating a program specifically based on nutrition habits in students to help decrease anxiety on campus would benefit a lot of students because a lot of them aren’t even aware that what they eat and put in their body can affect their mental health also. With this program, the goal would be to spread an awareness that the foods students are putting into their body are causing them to have worse anxiety and the steps needed to improve their diets. The program would find ways to engage students to learn more on what foods to avoid, foods that should be incorporated and how often they should eat throughout the day. Anxiety in college students is rising more and more every year and every year more kids are accepting anxiety as a norm, the time for action is now. 

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