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WPSU's Mental Health Q&A: Anxiety and burnout and how to cope

 Illustration of woman's thoughts affecting their quality of mental health.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Young adulthood is a time when many mental health issues first surface, and college can be a stressful time. WPSU asked Penn State students their questions about mental health. Then we got experts to answer them for our Mental Health Q&A series this month.

Dr. Jessica Henry is an associate professor at Penn State. She’s also a licensed mental health counselor and certified rehab counselor. She answered a question from Penn State student Kore Williams.

Kore Williams:
I graduate next semester and I’ve been suffering with severe burnout and anxiety. What advice can you give me to help deal with it and to stay motivated and grounded?

Dr. Jessica Henry:
So I don't like to give advice, because I am a mental health counselor.

So, recommendations, I can say that, first and foremost, severe anxiety is an actual real condition. It's not something that you can just "yoga away" all the time. But one of the things, if they are not already doing, is to get in and see a counselor, a therapist where they can talk through some of the things that are causing the anxiety for it to be at the level of "severe." And, actually, maybe consider some medications that can help with that process as well.

And, after that, I can say that things like exercise do work in increasing endorphins. We know that.

And also being mindful of situations that actually cause triggers for the student. So if the student is being triggered by academic performance, or feelings of perfectionism, kind of being mindful of those things in those moments and doing some practices like square breathing.

But not to just say, “Oh, it's something I can just... So, step 1-2-3 process.” That's not how it works, it has to be a practice, and it has to be something that the student is committed to actually responding to.

Listen here to all of WPSU's Mental Health Q&As.