Bubbles floated around the room as Counselor Carolyn Braswell talked through the process of calming breaths.
“Just enjoy the moment of blowing bubbles,” Braswell said. “You can’t blow a bubble without breathing and the technique for bubble blowing is the very technique for breathing.”
Braswell told the classroom of about 15 students to blow out their anxiety, their fear and any panic they might feel before an anxiety-inducing situation.
“I want you to breath in calm,” she said. “I want you to breath in confidence.”
The exercise, performed with individual bubble wands provided by the counseling center, was meant to reinforce one of the relaxation tips in “Relax Your Normal,” one of several emotional wellness seminars put on every semester by Collin College Counseling and Career Services. The free seminars are outreach tools for the counseling office and are meant to offer students a chance to learn helpful information for personal growth and to remind them about the other counseling services available at the college.
“Relax Your Normal” focused on reducing anxiety by both examining its causes and actions you can take in the midst of an episode. Braswell explained that most people feel anxiety when they feel like they are being judged or evaluated, before tests or sometimes in social situations. It is perfectly normal, she said, to experience some anxiety.
Too much, though, can be debilitating and lead to other problems. While most people report feeling anxious about 55 minutes a day, people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can spend upwards of 310 minutes a day in a state of worry.
For those people, it is important to examine the causes of their anxiety and to take steps to help lessen its impact. In some cases, that might include medication, but there are other ways to reduce anxiety as well. They include:
• Evaluating your lifestyle choices and interpersonal relationships. If you can remove yourself from a bad situation or limit your exposure to it, you can improve your outlook and reduce stress, which is a trigger for anxiety.
• Limit stimulants like caffeine and sugar, because the “energy” they give you can turn into anxiety in the long term.
• Avoid alcohol and nicotine, because they can create more anxiety when not in use and can undo the effects of any medication you may be on.
When faced with anxiety in a situation, there are steps you can take to relax. They include:
• Calming breaths, which deliver more oxygen to the body and focus your thinking on a simple task, reducing the anxiety. Think “blowing a bubble.”
• Guided imagery or visualizing a calm setting can remove you from the anxiety-producing situation long enough for you to gain control of any runaway emotions.
• Aromatherapy may be helpful as well, since people attach meanings to specific scents. If you can find a calming scent, you can use that to focus.
Professional support can also be a useful tool for combatting anxiety, both before and during an episode. Each of Collin College’s main campuses has counselors offering free services to students.
Upcoming student wellness seminars include:
“Willpower: The Science of Self Control” from 5:30-6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 4 in Spring Creek Campus Room G211.
“Manage Your Stress” from noon-1 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 12 in Preston Ridge Campus Founders 141.
“Mental Makeover: A Cognitive Approach to Happiness” from noon-1 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 17 in Spring Creek Campus Room G211.
“Study Smarter” from noon-1 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 17 in Preston Ridge Campus Founders 141. “The Upside of Stress” from noon-1 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 2 in Spring Creek Campus Room D104.
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the counseling office at 972-881-5126.