Simon Fraser University is pictured in Burnaby, B.C., Tuesday, Apr 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Some practical tips to manage anxiety and stress in post-secondary education

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to coping with mental illness and soaring stress levels

Universities are working to bolster the mental-health services they offer but students often have to take the first steps themselves. Here are a few expert tips on how to manage high stress levels and anxiety:

Figure out what’s available before a crisis

It’s a mistake to wait until you’re in the midst of a mental health emergency to figure out what supports are available, said Andrea Howard, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University.

“Figure out what resources are there for you and figure out who you can go to if you are experiencing some kind of distress,” she said. “Sometimes that’s really just reminding yourself to check in with a trusted family member or friend, and not keeping it to yourself.”

Consider multiple options

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to coping with mental illness and soaring stress levels, said Kevin Friese, assistant dean of students for health and wellness at the University of Alberta.

“What works for one person may not necessarily be the right fit for another,” he said, noting that it’s important for students to have access to a variety of services so they can figure out what works best.

Psychotherapy not doing the trick for you? Try cognitive behavioural therapy. If that doesn’t work, check out peer support groups or guided meditation.

Build resilience

Some people have the natural ability to persevere through difficult times, but others need to build the muscle up, Howard said, and it’s crucial to realize that resilience doesn’t mean suffering in silence.

“I worry that some students are trying to struggle along because maybe they’re embarrassed to admit they’re having difficulty, or they feel they maybe don’t have the full support of people in their network,” she said.

Resilience means identifying who can help you get through the difficult times, Howard said.

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