The newfound stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic and being introduced to college life can take a toll on students’ mental health. It is important to ease anxieties and fears so one can take care of oneself during these challenging times. At UW-Platteville, the University Counseling Services have been offering meetings called Drop-in Anxiety Skills Groups that began Sept. 9. These groups occur every Wednesday at 4 p.m. via Zoom, led by Mandy Wood, and can be found on the PioneerLink website.
Some of the skills that have been covered are developing a routine, challenging unhelpful thoughts, sleeping, identifying the origins of anxiety and journaling. The journaling prompt was to “describe a peaceful setting” to create a positive atmosphere and place oneself into it to calm down.
Similarly, a few ideas that are suggested by the Mental Health Foundation UK to overcome anxiety are exercising, relaxing, participating in help groups, eating more fruits and vegetables and surrounding oneself with positive help networks. These ideas are all things one can do on their own and in their own way.
The coordinator of the group, Mandy Wood, has been in an Associate Counselor’s position here at UW-Platteville since January. She described the group as strictly skills-based to manage anxiety, meaning you do not have to share any personal information and can just drop in and take home new ideas.
“Students are so stressed, like in our previous surveys and studies we’ve done, like 84% of students at UW-Platt are saying stress is really significantly affecting their education. Small things they can take away that maybe reduce stress a little bit so that they can focus on academics or whatever else is important to them,” said Wood.
When students were asked if they had attended any events, Devan Schulte said, “I’ve gone to some and they were honestly more fun and engaging than I was expecting.”
“I have seen flyers around campus but I’m not quite sure that I’d enjoy doing them over Zoom,” said sophomore Nick Kohn.
Jordan Rawson has attended some virtual meetings and said, “I have had positive experiences with a lot of the events I have been to. They allowed me to meet new people on campus safely and still get to enjoy some things that Platteville offers.”
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults ages 18 and up. A few students replied that they were a little nervous about returning to school with the COVID-19 pandemic being as widespread in Wisconsin as it has been over the recent months, as seen in data shown by the Wisconsin Public Health Services.
The Mayo Clinic’s website says that participating in a group provides an opportunity to be with people who are likely to have a common purpose and understand one another. “Benefits of participating in a support group may include feeling less lonely, isolated, or judged [and] reducing distress, depression, anxiety and fatigue,” according to the site. It has not been decided yet if these meetings will continue in the spring semester.