Going to School with PTSD: Online Education and Anxiety

By James Hinton

I was an older student with an anxiety issue. After spending time in the Army, including several combat tours, I had been diagnosed with PTSD. Being around large numbers of strangers worried me. Noisy settings where I was not completely in control gave me the need to run for it. I would even feel a touch agoraphobic if I was not close to something I could bunker up within.

When I made the decision to obtain a college degree after getting out, these all presented me with significant problems. While some of the university classes I participated in had relatively small class sizes that enabled me to learn faces fairly quickly and find a certain degree of comfort with, large classes were a daily struggle. I would have to position myself close to doors so I could bolt outside for relief if needed. More boisterous classes could result in frequent, embarrassing episodes where I just plain had to get out.

Eventually I made it through and obtained my Bachelors, but it was not a particularly easy or enjoyable process. My struggles had frequently led to my considering quitting, which had only caused the depression that comes with PTSD to get worse. Preparing for class had been an anxiety inducing process that involved my wondering whether I’d make it through to the end, or have to make a dash for the door yet again.

I still wonder sometimes how I made it to graduation.

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What Type of Learner Are You? How to Find Your Learning Style

Editor’s Note: The concept of learning styles is controversial.  The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of this website.

By Cindy Boesel

A clash of learning styles can be one of the biggest setbacks in the learning process. That’s why it is important to discover the learning style that suits you the most. People are different, and every one of us requires a different kind of support, special attention to certain things or some alone time to acquire maximum information. The sooner you discover your natural learning predispositions, the better chance you have to successfully change your learning techniques. Let’s take a closer look at different learning styles and methods to recognize your preferences.

Learning styles

We distinguish seven major learning styles. Keep on reading to find out how to differentiate between them.

What's your preferred learning style?

What’s your preferred learning style?

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Tips for Reducing Academic Anxiety

By Anne Davies

Study and exam-related stress is a problem for many students, whether or not they’re focused on achieving academic excellence, and it’s something that can affect students of any age. Nobody is immune to academic stress, but there are plenty of things you can do to reduce anxiety that centers on studying and exams.

Meditation can help you do better on exams. (Photo courtesy of Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta via Flickr.)

Meditation can help you do better on exams. (Photo courtesy of Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta via Flickr.)

Preparation and Organization

There are several key skills that go a long way towards reducing anxiety, just because they form a solid base of preparation and organization that help you stay focused and stay on top of your workload. Having a comprehensive study system is crucial, and it’s also important that whatever system you develop is one that works for you.

For example, having a good note-taking system is essential for college lectures, but the same system won’t necessarily work for everyone. Some people prefer to write notes by hand, others prefer to use a laptop, and some like to take audio recordings of lectures and write up notes at their leisure. It’s just a matter of trying different methods to find out what works best for you. It’s also useful to determine what your learning style is; some people learn best by listening, some by doing, some by reading or writing, and if you’re trying to force yourself into a style that isn’t optimal, studying instantly becomes less effective and more stressful.

One of the most important skills to have is that of time management: being able to organize your time and use it effectively, prioritizing tasks based on how urgent they are, and sticking to whatever schedule you create for yourself. Without good time management, you’re likely to end up completing assignments at the last minute, losing sleep studying the night before exams, putting yourself through a considerable amount of unnecessary stress, and impairing your academic performance. Study and exam anxiety is often related to lack of preparation, so the key way to reduce that anxiety is simply to create a study schedule and stick with it.

And finally, take advantage of the wealth of apps and programs that have been created for time management and study organization. There are some incredibly useful tools available—many of which are free—that can help you improve your study habits and manage your time more effectively.

Of course, for some people, no amount of preparation can help reduce academic anxiety to a manageable level, so it’s also useful to consider other methods of coping with study-related stress.

Relaxation Techniques

The second aspect is learning how to relax and control your anxiety; and while to some this might seem like the easy part, it’s very difficult for many people. It’s especially difficult when study anxiety isn’t rooted in tangible problems like lack of organization, because when anxiety develops for no apparent reason, it’s harder to manage because there are no concrete ways to solve the root cause. Regardless of the cause of the anxiety, however, there are some techniques that can definitely help reduce anxiety and stress, and all of the problems and symptoms they cause. One of these is meditation—a technique that has become widely used all over the world by all kinds of people, is easy to start, and when practiced regularly, is very effective. There’s more than one kind of meditation, however; for example, there’s mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, Taoist Qi gong, and transcendental meditation. While none are specifically aimed at managing stress, the general consensus is that mindfulness meditation, or Vipassana, is the most effective in this regard. Recent studies show that this kind of meditation can improve cognitive function as well as reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, so it’s perfect for students.

Meditation isn’t going to be possible during a test situation, of course, but there are some related techniques that are perfect for reducing anxiety when it hits. Simply spending thirty seconds or a minute engaging in deep breathing—long, slow breaths in and out—can be very calming. Another useful technique is “mindfulness moments,” in which you take a few seconds to engage with your surroundings by taking note of what you can see, hear, smell, and feel. Engaging your senses helps you feel more grounded, and helps you link back to the calming sensations you feel during mindfulness meditation exercises.


For more tips on relaxation and other study skills, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Are High-Achieving Students More Likely to Have Eating Disorders?

By Anne Davies

Eating disorders are a major problem in our society – one which is growing all the time. Many blame the unrealistic portrayal of physical ‘perfection’ in the media for the rise, and there certainly seems to be little doubt that a sense of personal physical inadequacy and a need for ‘perfection’ are contributory factors in eating disorder development. Other theorized triggers for the development of an eating disorder include a history of being bullied, a poor social and/or home life, and genetic factors. However, what surprises many is the demographics of those who tend to suffer from eating disorders. Far from being a problem restricted to superficial teenage girls, the eating disorder spectrum encompasses a vast and growing range of people from all walks of life – and high-achieving students are particularly at risk.

students eating

Photo courtesy of Penn State via Flickr

Poor Stereotypes

Eating disorders are, unfairly, considered to be a disease suffered exclusively by teenage girls who are obsessed with their appearance above all else. Indeed, such girls are considered something of a cultural joke – the trope of superficial teenage cheerleaders heading merrily to the bathroom to throw up has been played for laughs many times. This is wrong on the one level – bulimia is a serious illness requiring extensive and intensive recovery. It should not be treated as a joke, no matter who is suffering from it. So ingrained is this stereotypical perception of eating disorder sufferers that many keep the fact that they are struggling with such conditions silent, so as not to be considered superficial. The former Deputy Prime Minister of Britain, John Prescott, revealed in 2008 that he had battled bulimia for ten years without breaking silence, as he was ‘ashamed’ of being high profile, high achieving, and male while suffering from the illness. More worryingly, the public’s reaction to the news proved him somewhat right – while many were sympathetic, others responded with incredulity and ridicule. This is deeply unfair. Not only is it cruel and unnecessary to mock someone with a serious illness, there is considerable evidence to suggest that high-profile high achievers like Prescott (and, on a lesser scale, valedictorians) are more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than many other groups.

Perfectionism

It’s all to do with perfectionism. Perfectionism is either a blessing or a curse, depending upon which aspect of your life you apply it to. Many valedictorians will recognize the urge to get things absolutely right 100% of the time. Being used to being good at academic matters, valedictorians sometimes find it hard to deal when they are bad at something – they aren’t used to it, and therefore haven’t built up the emotional software necessary to take the knocks and build from them. This is great when it comes to achieving in many areas of life – valedictorians are made from the kind of stuff that won’t back down from a challenge, and will persevere at something until they get it absolutely right. However, when one lets that perfectionism leak over into other life areas, things can go wrong – particularly when combined with the tendency to over-analyse which comes as part of the package for many high-achievers. Research is increasingly finding that obsessive perfectionism and over-analysis present a major risk for the development of eating disorders. If you can’t switch off and just let certain aspects of your life ‘be’, then you’ll start overanalyzing and trying to control every little thing, which can quickly lead to one becoming obsessively controlling about what they eat – particularly when combined with internal perfectionist pressure to look a certain way.

(Editor’s Note: Check out an article I wrote about students and perfectionism here.)

Control

High achievers often feel an intense amount of pressure – and it is well known that stress can manifest as disordered eating. When one feels pressured, one often feels that aspects of one’s life are spiralling out of control. An easy way to reassert control over one area at least of one’s life is through controlling one’s diet. One eating disorder which high-achievers are increasingly beginning to suffer from is a condition known as ‘orthorexia nervosa’. This manifests when a person becomes so absolutely obsessed with controlling the ‘purity’ of what they eat that their health (ironically) begins to suffer as a result. The degree of control required to sustain an orthorexic diet is phenomenal to the point of obsession, and ensures that the sufferer’s self-esteem quickly becomes dependent upon their diet. It’s frequently a slippery slope from orthorexia to anorexia or bulimia so, while it is of course very good indeed to watch what you eat and ensure that your food is healthy, if your diet starts controlling your life, take a step back and focus on more important things.

Self-Recognition

Perhaps the worst thing about developing an eating disorder is the impact which it has on the rest of your life. Remember, an eating disorder is primarily psychological – and it leaves little brain space for anything else. As such, your studies will naturally suffer while you battle the condition. It is vital, therefore, that you develop the self-knowledge necessary to recognize if and when your eating habits are becoming problematic. If you catch the tendencies early, and seek help as soon as possible, it will be much easier to break the condition and get your life back on track. Speaking out is the most important thing – no matter what sitcoms like Family Guy may claim, eating disorders are not a joke, and no medical professional or person who cares will laugh at you for having one. Help is available – just remember that your health is more important than your appearance!

How to Develop Good Reading Skills in the Internet Age

By Samantha Levine. 

It’s no laughing matter how dependent our society is on the use of technology and the Internet. The great thing about it is that we are exposed to so much information, but this can also be very overwhelming. As we learn to read from screen to screen (laptop, cell phone, tablet), we have readjusted the way we receive information, which is causing our attention span to be much shorter.

When skimming through an article, you may not realize how much information you can actually miss. A great tip to increase retention is to read the headlines of a topic and ask questions about what you think it will be about. While reading, see if you are able to answer your own questions, and then make note of it. This helps you to read quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

man on iphone

Can you read on this tiny little screen?

I’ve noticed that the faster I receive information from the web, the faster I move on to read something else; and more often than not, I’m distracted by an ad to the right and left of the story I’m reading. However, thanks to my very awesome grade school teachers who taught me to love reading, I learned a few tips that can keep you on track:

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Facebook Depression: Is It A Real Diagnosis? (Guest Post)

Tara Heath is a journalist who lives in California. She loves to write about health and wellness and parenting. She knows there are many dangers that come with social media and wants to help share her tips and thoughts on staying healthy and safe.

Almost everybody with access to a computer knows about the social media site Facebook. If you’re a parent, chances are your children use it, and more than likely, you use it yourself.

While social media sites are basically part of the culture for anybody under the age of 40, they tend to have more of an impact on high school and college-age teens. They are the ones most likely to be regularly active on Facebook, and they’re also the ones most likely to visit the site more than 10 times per day according to a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Unfortunately, this relatively new technology may be taking a toll on some teens and young adults in the form of something controversially known as Facebook depression.

signs

What is Facebook Depression?

Facebook depression is a relatively new term designed specifically to reference feelings of depression and anxiety that many teens feel due to social media sites, much like the depression teens experience on the playground when they aren’t accepted by their peers. Only, in the digital age, Facebook depression relates more to friend requests and friends unfollowing them on the web than face to face interaction.

In some cases, teens may do things that could be considered risky in order to feel accepted, and then brag about their activities. This has led some researchers to believe that kids who don’t feel accepted on social media sites may be more likely to engage in risk-taking activities like doing drugs or having unsafe sex. Some teens even engage in self-destructive behavior like posting pornographic images of themselves or sending them to others at their school in a misguided attempt to be accepted.

Is Facebook Depression Real?

Facebook depression might sound like a strange term to some parents who may not understand the role social media really has in their child’s life. However, 22-percent of teens check their Facebook profile and information 10 times or more per day and 77-percent have cellular devices capable of giving them this access no matter where they are.

That’s why Facebook depression is a real thing. However, it may not really be any different than the feelings commonly associated with not being accepted by peers – the same feelings children had on the playground long before tools like social media sites were available.

depression

With social media becoming more and more a part of the culture each day, it’s important that parents realize how it can negatively affect their children. The internet can be an excellent tool for children to learn and grow emotionally, but it can also be problematic if parents ignore its growing role.

As a general rule, you should be monitoring your child’s Facebook account until they are older teens – children under 13 likely shouldn’t have their own Facebook account at all. By being vigilant as a parent you can make sure your children stay safe and don’t experience any of the depression that can come with sites like Facebook.


Give your child the gift of great grades.  Order a copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

 

Building Healthy Lifestyle Habits in College (Guest Post)

By Dorothy Richardson
Parent, wellness coach, DIY guru

The college experience is formative not just in terms of education, but also in terms of lifestyle. As students move away from their childhood homes for the first time, they have complete control over every facet of their day. What they eat, when they sleep, how much they party, when (or if) they do their homework is all up to them. While this can be a great learning experience for young adults, it also presents potential downfalls if poor lifestyle habits are adopted. Those habits can carry on into adulthood and have negative effects on short and long-term health. With that in mind, college students should make a concerted effort to build healthy lifestyle habits while still in school. Here are four ways to preserve physical and mental health, both now and in the future.

Healthy Lifestyle Seamless Pattern

Establish a Regular Sleep Routine

A regular sleep schedule has numerous positive effects on a college student’s health. According to Scholarships.com, students who get 7 to 9 hours of sleep on a regular basis experience improved concentration and reduced fatigue. Those students may also experience a reduced appetite, which can help combat college weight gain. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note, the ill-effects of poor sleep can be severe; teenagers and young adults may suffer from poor academic performances, depression and increased social difficulties.

Unchain Yourself and Get Active

College students can spend long stretches of time sitting in class and studying at their desk. But prolonged sitting can come with consequences. Sitting for long periods with poor posture can place excessive stress on the back, leading to muscular pain and even conditions like spinal stenosis. Students should take breaks throughout their study sessions to get up and get active. Students should also be mindful of how heavy backpacks, poor diets, excessive screen time and other variables can affect their back health, according to Laser Spine Wellness. For tips and features on back health, check out online videos and resources offered by Laser Spine Institute on their Youtube channel.

Avoid Excessive Drinking

Drinking is a common pastime among college students, but it can have damaging consequences both while in college and years into the future. For one, excessive binge drinking can cause damage to the liver and other organs. Heavy drinkers face an increased risk of alcoholism, and it increases the risk of both alcohol poisoning and sexually transmitted diseases and other problems compounded by poor decision making, according to the CDC. And new research coming out of Harvard University suggests excessive drinking during the college years can actually increase an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life, while moderate drinking (up to 3 drinks nightly) can reduce this risk.

When Stress and Sadness Overwhelm, Seek Professional Help

Maintaining mental health can be a serious challenge for many college students. High stress, fluctuating moods, homesickness and depression can all create challenging obstacles to overcome. Fortunately, many colleges and universities offer free or low-cost mental health services to students in need. Students should take advantage of these services to mitigate the negative affects of their mental health conditions. By seeking out professional help, students can develop coping skills that will help them manage their current problems and even give them the tools to handle similar situations in the future.


Learn how to get great grades and stay healthy with The Secrets of Top Students.  Order your copy today!