The Post-pandemic Return to Classroom and Life
The secondary and post secondary academic process can be a challenging and stressful experience for many as the dwindling pandemic facilitates the return to campus or the lecture hall. Some may feel relief as they transition into the normative practices of routine; however, this can impact the mental health of many students, and has the tendency to provoke feelings of anxiety. Mismanaged feelings of anxiety can lead to the dysregulation of emotions or thoughts, compounding the decline of mental health. This can severely impact an individual’s ability to function and maintain productive relationships and sense of self.
Psychological distress can make it feel unsafe for students to carry out their daily tasks and can have a severe impact on their academic efforts and social engagements. Anxiety and declining mental health can also manifest physically, making it difficult for young adults to connect with their bodies. It is very challenging for us to heal at a cellular level when we are operating from a place of anxiety or instability which was, for many of us, instigated by the multiple uncertainties arising from pandemic. Young adults who are experiencing high levels of anxiety may not be aware of the resources available or, due to stigma, will refrain from reaching out further exacerbating their experience.
Psychoeducation Surrounding Anxiety
Both physiological and psychological interventions are necessitated in response to the interacting components of anxiety (Kennerley et al., 2017). In a condition such as anxiety, the physiological responses are heavily rooted in survival and evolution as a method of self-preservation (Bateson et al., 2011). During an anxious episode, we notice physiological responses such as heavy breathing and a quickened pulse. This, at one point in our evolution, helped us manage threats or perceived threats in our environment. The management of physiological responses assists in managing anxiety however, it can prove to be an overwhelming experience that evokes difficult emotions and stress on the body. Managing these effects is a skill that can be learned through relaxation, controlled breathing techniques, physical movement (if there are no contraindications) and applied tension mechanisms as well as elements of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
The Role of Intervention in the Realm of Anxiety
CBT is an empirically studied therapeutic orientation that emphasizes both cognitive and behavioral aspects which strive to identify and challenge unhealthy behaviours and cognitions. The intention is to implement strategies that promote functional and adaptive thoughts and actions. CBT is multidimensional in the way that it supports the deconstruction of unhelpful patterns to help to process problematic emotions (Kinnerley et al., 2017). Sometimes feelings and thoughts can be confused, and this presents issues in identifying cognitive/thought patterns. Feelings are usually at the forefront of description and imagery, and thought/cognition can be explored through this (Kinnerley et al., 2017). CBT aims to reveal an individual’s thoughts/cognitions, emotions, and environmental interactions while identifying and challenging cognitive distortions with the goal of improving daily operations through compartmentalization and reframing (Kinnerley et al., 2017). Typically structured within an allotted time frame, sessions may be increasingly sporadic as treatment progresses (Kinnerley at al., 2017). There must be an element of willingness and engagement on the part of the individual participating in the treatment.
Empirically Founded Efficacy of CBT in Regard to Classroom Reinstatement.
Online learning presented realistic academic and social challenges; however, many students are now having to make the not so agile pivot to in-class structures. The taxing effect that this transition has on the mental health of academic youth suggests the requirement to implement accessible services. This transition is a necessary component to ensuring the health and wellbeing of students as they navigate their academic career. A plethora of studies have indicated the benefits of in-person or video conference CBT. Teletherapy can address the increased need for mental health assistance by allowing practitioner availability, and flexibility in scheduling, not to mention reduced wait times (Halladay et al., 2019). CBT offers multi dynamic and flexible components that include worksheets, therapist-guided growth and development, increased awareness, and symptom reduction. Theoretically, the greater energetic investment in CBT allows for optimal opportunities for reflection, attitudinal change, and skill implementation (Huang et al., 2018). Overall, CBT and interventions that include mindfulness based strategies are deemed efficacious in the sustainability and outcome of adverse mental health effects.
The Role of Mindfulness Within the CBT Realm.
Emotional or psychological distress amongst post-secondary students can encompass a variety of barriers to accessing services. Evidence-based orientations such as mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are suggested to be an effective form of assistance that impacts the health of students at the post-secondary or post-grad levels (Peynenburg et al., 2020). Research suggests that MBI’s which last at least two weeks in duration, appear to be an efficacious and beneficial intervention for students experiencing symptoms of perceived stress and anxiety (Peynenburg et al., 2020). Mindfulness approaches to anxiety incorporate the cultivation of skills to teach individuals to consciously pay attention to their thoughts and feelings without placing judgement. Mindfulness is used as a preventative measure to combat disruptive emotion and is an effective strategy to extinguish maladaptive reaction to emotion using distancing or decentralization to create space from dysfunctional cognitions (Kennerley, et al., 2017). Furthermore, mindfulness is an empirically supported therapeutic modality that allows for the “scanning” of the mind and body to become more aware of triggers and reactions and it therefore assists in effective coping skills and mechanisms of change (Witkiewitz et al., 2005).
What to expect when enrolling in CBT
CBT encompasses cost-effective and accessible techniques to facilitate growth and development based on symptom reduction interventions. As an intern at Calming Minds Therapy and Wellness, I am devoted to providing a confidential and non-judgmental space for you to be able to show up as your most authentic self. Through the continuous monitoring of self, together we will be able to articulate therapeutic goals and plans to identify and discuss areas growth. I offer flexible and accessible appointments at a reduced intern rate to ensure that your requirements are being met from a holistic perspective.
Bateson, M., Brilot, B., & Nettle, D. (2011). Anxiety: an evolutionary approach. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 56(12), 707-715.
Halladay, J. E., Dawdy, J. L., McNamara, I. F., Chen, A. J., Vitoroulis, I., McInnes, N., & Munn, C. (2019). Mindfulness for the mental health and well-being of post-secondary students: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 10(3), 397-414.
Huang, J., Nigatu, Y. T., Smail-Crevier, R., Zhang, X., & Wang, J. (2018). Interventions for common mental health problems among university and college students: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of psychiatric research, 107, 1-10.
Kennerley, H., Kirk, J., & Westbrook, D. (2017). An introduction to cognitive behaviour therapy - Skills and applications (3rd ed.). Sage Publications.
Peynenburg, V. A., Mehta, S., & Hadjistavropoulos, H. D. (2020). Postsecondary student perceptions and preferences for the treatment of depression and anxiety: Comparison of internet-delivered cognitive behaviour therapy to face-to-face cognitive behaviour therapy and medication. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 52(3), 220.
Witkiewitz, K., Marlatt, G. A., & Walker, D. (2005). Mindfulness-based relapse prevention for alcohol and substance use disorders. Journal of cognitive psychotherapy, 19(3), 211-228.