We all suffer from anxiety at some time or other, indeed it is a primitive response designed to be helpful at times when you need to focus and perform … yet more and more people are suffering from increased levels of anxiety, which, untreated can lead to stress, depression and other mental health issues. One group of people amongst whom this is becoming more prevalent is young people, specifically between 16 – 25; I have some personal experience of this, with one teenager studying for A levels and one at University. I have witnessed first hand the pressure upon them from a young age to ‘achieve’ – yet without strengthening their resilience if they ‘fail’; the constant pressure from social media to be ‘doing things’ and communicating all the time, yet without building real relationships and helping to create a certain amount of ‘social anxiety’ – a fear of being pushed out of their comfort zone and actually talking to people even when they need to, e.g. doctors, dentists and bank managers!
One of my children (the one at University) has a lovely group of sensible friends that are high achieving, and rarely overdo it with the alcohol (in fact some don’t drink at all). Most made it to the University of their choice, and all come from stable homes… yet around half of them, including my own, have been prescribed with anti-depressant or anti- anxiety tablets (and those are only the ones I know of). In the first term, one of her circle of friends came home with severe debilitating anxiety, and another came home and spiralled so quickly into depression that she tried take her own life, and very nearly succeeded. I’m not going to try to analyse why; as parents, we can always wonder if we could have made them more resilient.
So how can we help them?
It’s very difficult from a distance, I’ve realised that. Most Universities have good Student welfare departments, with plenty of resources including appointments with a Welfare officer; however the young person has to recognise they need help, be confident enough to go to make contact, and actually go to the meetings. One of the proven routes to relieving anxiety /stress from studying / loneliness is to exercise, however if this is not their natural tendency, how can you get them to do this? It’s not like when they’re at home and you can turf them out of bed to walk the dog, with a threat to turn the Wifi off if they don’t! My daughter had said she would like to go to the gym to train, but didn’t have the confidence to go on her own (it made her anxious).
You will be pleased to know I have found a possible answer… a personal trainer. Before you think “that sounds like an expensive option”, read on.
I researched the University’s Sports Centre and found the profiles of their PTs; I picked one that seemed perfect for the job. She mentioned things like ‘building confidence’ and ‘mental health is as important as physical health’, but then I asked my daughter to pick one from the list herself – she picked the same person. I asked the PT to make the initial contact, and before I knew it a consultation was arranged. My daughter couldn’t get out of it, as thankfully, letting people down makes her anxious… anyway, the text I received following the first session was perhaps the most enthusiastic text I’ve ever received! After a few sessions she is now happy to visit the gym on her own several times a week, and schedules a visit particularly during times of stress, eg. heavy bouts of revision. She sees the the PT once a week and receives encouragement, nutritional advice (which she would never take from me) and a new routine so she doesn’t get bored.
So far so good… I consider it money well spent @ £25 per session. I’m hoping it’s going to be cheaper and a lot less painful than any potential ongoing treatment for mental health issues in the long run. I know it’s not the only thing contributing to her improved mental health, but it’s certainly seems to have had the most impact.
Big up personal trainers everywhere, and keep up the good work with young people!