Take a Breath Everyone: Anxiety is a Common Malady, but it Can Be Foughtcsudhbulletin March 7, 2019 0 COMMENTS
By Lilliana Ulloa
Hey, I get nervous and anxious sometimes, I won’t lie about it. Just imagine being a single mother of two young children and working on finishing a college degree; it’s enough to give you anxiety, right?
Well, that’s my life.
But I always figured that anxiety is just something we all deal with, and the more responsibilities or pressure we feel, the more anxiety we feel. But after experiencing one of the weekly “Managing Your Anxiety” workshops on campus, I realized anxiety is a very big deal for millions of people.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population. To do its part to help CSUDH students better understand and battle their anxiety, Student Health & Psychological Services is offering workshops every Friday. This semester, the workshop is split into three four or five week-sessions from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. The second session began March 1 and the final one begins April 12.
I walked into one recently, and my attention was immediately focused on the woman with a single blue streak in her hair who silently greeted me and motioned for me to sign in and take a seat. I could feel my anxiety intensify as minutes went by in complete silence as other attendees colored printed pages of mandalas, but moments after I hesitantly grabbed one of the coloring sheets, I unconsciously fell into a state of serenity as the gel crayons slid with ease across the paper.
I soon found that art is a central part of the workshop. Art, self-regulation, and understanding the neuroscience behind anxiety, are all effective strategies
First: the brain. Herschenhorn said the workshops are meant, in large part, to help attendees understand the basic physiology of anxiety and how its signs and symptoms manifest in the body and mind.
According to Herschernhorn, anxiety occurs when the mind stops being in the “now,” and begins to fixate on either trauma of past events or in
“If you had a trauma early in your life, and that actually can go back to the womb when you’re in your mother’s stomach, “said Dr. Herschenhorn. “If she experienced trauma or stress, that actually gets transmitted to the fetus via hormones and neurotransmitters, and the brain which is developed enough to record from the end of the first trimester records all this, so you don’t have language for it, but it’s all recorded.”
So, in other words, if your mother experienced trauma before you were born, you have anxiety as an adult. Well, as a mother twice-over, I’ll lay it out for you: GIVING BIRTH IS TRAUMATIC!! So, we all experienced trauma before we were born and we all have anxiety and there’s no respite from this cage we’re all trapped in, right?
Wrong. For just like imagination, the brain can help us better understand anxiety, there is also something physical we can do to cope, something we all do countless times during the day, but rarely think about: breathing. By learning how to regulate our breathing in patterns that help to bring the heart rate down, anxiety can often help relieve anxiety and its consequences.
The point of breathing exercises, Herschenhorn said, is to learn how to regulate your breath in patterns that help bring down heart rate down.
“If you can regulate your breathing that will bring your body back to a normal state,” said Herschenhorn. “So, you can think more clearly and make better decisions.”
At first, these words may cause frustration to surface, as victims of anxiety are too much familiar with the words “Just breathe” when experiencing an anxiety attack. However, I found that focusing on the coolness of the air as I inhaled, as well as the warmth of it while exhaling, surprisingly led me into a meditative state that felt like I was taking a nap while also hearing everything around me.
As other attendees’ snoring echoed through the silent room, my initial skepticism that the exercises were e bogus flew out the window, and I began considering squeezing these exercises into my daily routine as a part of self-care.
Student Health and Psychological Services offer other workshops with the objective to help erase the stigma surrounding mental health. Mindful Based Stress Reduction workshops meet Mondays from 10 a.m.- 11 a.m., while drop-in mental health support groups meet every Tuesday from 1 p.m.- 2:45 p.m.
For information about other support groups and to sign up for an anxiety workshop session, call (310) 243-3818, as space for these groups are limited.