Anxious? Try Sleeping

Reported by Emma Bach

On Thursday, an open discussion on anxiety was held in Canyon Commons at George Fox University (GFU). Dr. Bill Buhrow, dean of Student Services, director of Health and Counseling Services and licensed psychologist, and Dr. Luann Foster, licensed psychologist, led the conversation with an informative presentation.

They spoke to a number of points, from how anxiety works to methods to decrease or take control of it. A collaboration between Student Life and Health and Counseling Services, the discussion is part of a series called “Real Conversations.”

Anxiety is an important and growing problem among college students. Whether it stems from exams or relationships or family, anxiety has become problematic for many. The results from last spring’s National College Health Assessment revealed that 80 percent of students were dealing with an amount of stress, higher than average.

Foster explained the mechanics behind anxiety and how it relates to our mind — more specifically, how it relates to our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

“We experience self-defeating thoughts that cause self-defeating emotions, [which leads] to self-defeating actions,” Foster said. “It’s a downward spiral, and our mind begins spinning out of control until we break the cycle.”

If not addressed, anxiety can have a negative impact on students. A few symptoms include restlessness, irritability, feeling tense, and difficulty sleeping. Academics and relationships can be impacted, causing stress. This leads to the question: how does one avoid the downward spiral?

Buhrow answered by delving into the lifestyle choices one should make in order to lessen stress and anxiety. Eating healthy, exercising, and reducing caffeine and sugar intake were a few listed ways of helping the body better prepare for incoming stress. However, the point he emphasized the most was sleep.

Students often come into counseling with sleep problems, and when asked what they were doing when not sleeping, the top answer was that they were on a screen of some kind.

This is an apparent issue, one of which Buhrow explained had a direct connection to sleep loss: “Screens today are so bright, with computers and telephones, that they fake your brain into thinking it’s daylight. So your brain doesn’t start to shut down and help you go to sleep the way it normally would.”

In order to avoid deceiving the brain into daylight mode, one must cut down their screen time.

“One of the things we’ll tell people to do is to stop their screen time earlier in the evening,” Buhrow said. “Then their brain will naturally cascade into sleep.”

Anxiety is more common than one may think. It’s a significant problem not only on an university scale, but a nationwide one: Buhrow and Foster’s presentation revealed that 23 million Americans suffer from anxiety at a clinical level.

Increasing awareness, addressing the issue and discussing solutions allows progress to be made towards overcoming stress and anxiety. GFU’s Health and Counseling Services is an excellent resource to take advantage of if stress or anxiety ever grow out of hand. They are open Monday through Friday — all you have to do is make an appointment.

Jessica DaughertyComment