According to preliminary results in a forthcoming study conducted by UC Berkeley, the number of 18-to-26-year-old students who report suffering from anxiety disorder has doubled since 2008 from 10% to 20%. Anxiety in young adults is becoming an epidemic. Although rates of anxiety are increasing, so are young adults’ rates of health behaviors. The majority of emerging adults (87%) believe that mental health and physical health are equally important for their own health and 60% believe seeing a mental health professional is a sign of strength compared to 35% of older adults. Their generation may be more aware of their anxiety and the importance of mental well-being, but normalizing anxiety as a cultural phenomenon takes away from the impact it has on their self-esteem, relationships, and future orientation.

Vicious Cycle of Anxiety

Anxiety is a cyclical disorder, where negative thoughts feed off of fears of failure, social rejection, and inadequacy. Although some anxiety may be based on valid fears or can be associated with greater self-awareness, it can become destructive when you become trapped in the cycle of protecting your anxiety by avoiding situations that trigger fear, exaggerating the threat of your fear to validate it, or ignoring your fear altogether.

Signs of Anxiety:

  • Overwhelming feelings of panic or fear
  • General uneasiness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Avoiding activities or things that trigger anxiety
  • Overanalyzes situations
  • Increased heart rate, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or nausea
  • Not being able to move on from the thing you are worrying about
  • Catastrophizing and thinking things are much worse than they are
  • High or unrealistic expectations and sensitivity to criticism
  • Cynical outlook on life
  • Worrying about the future
  • Low self esteem

Steps Towards Overcoming Anxiety

Sit with it. Anxiety is perpetuated by the obsessive desire to change how we feel by becoming more helpless to it. Instead of trying to deny anxious thoughts, identify them and what might have triggered them.

Question if it’s true. Decide if it’s a valid concern or judgment. Cognitive restructuring involves analyzing your internal dialogue and challenging negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety.

Focus on the Positive. Recognize and embrace victories over the cycle of anxiety, no matter how small they may feel. This may involve adjusting personal expectations and looking at the details of the bigger picture.

Get out of your comfort zone. Adventure therapy encourages students to try new activities that improve their teamwork and problem-solving abilities. Through fun activities such as backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, yoga and more, students explore how their fears, passions, and dreams have been getting in the way of them choosing their own adventures. These activities have been proved to lower levels of stress and build self-esteem, which empower students to break the cycle of anxiety, bad habits, and failure to launch.

BlueFire PulsaR is a coeducational wilderness therapy program for young adults ages 18-28 struggling with anxiety and the transition to adulthood. Adventure therapy, wilderness ventures, equine therapy, academic opportunities and “family spark” are used to help students find power in vulnerability and reflect on how the cycle of anxiety has affected their lives. From there they are able to experience growth and adopt healthy self-management skills. This program is dedicated to helping students regain a better sense of the world around them while addressing their emotions and needs head on.

For more information about how we help young adult struggling with anxiety, call 208-269-7407!

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