NEW HAVEN, Conn. — College can be a very stressful time in any young adult’s life. They face quite a workload between classes and a completely new social scene. It’s no surprise that the mental health of many young adults suffers during their time in college. Thankfully, a powerful tool to help college students to keep calm and carry on is free and always accessible. Researchers from Yale University say the best thing a stressed coed can do is literally take some deep breaths.
The research shows that programs which incorporate deep breathing techniquies and emotional intelligence strategies are the best for helping students manage stress and anxiety.
In recent years, some universities have included mindfulness or stress management courses into their curriculums. Yale says three of their own wellness training programs reveal of wide range of results among their students. Researchers recruited 135 undergraduate students to participate in the study, testing how the programs work compared to one control group.
Which deep breathing technique works best?
One group took the SKY Campus Happiness training program, developed by the Art of Living Foundation. This training relies on SKY’s special breathing meditation, yoga postures, social connection, and service activities.
A second group participated in the Foundations of Emotional Intelligence program, developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.
The final group took a mindfulness-based stress reduction course.
Students completed surveys before and after the eight-week programs so researchers could evaluate each course’s effectiveness. Their analysis shows that the SKY program is the most effective of the three. Students report improvements in six areas of wellbeing including depression, mindfulness, stress, mental health, positive affect, and social connectedness.
Participants in the Foundations of Emotional Intelligence program report improvements in mindfulness only. There were no improvements recorded from the mindfulness-based stress reduction group.
Defending against increasing amount of mental stress
The Yale report adds that it’s not just academic pressures that’s stressing students out, but the growing uncertainties in the world around them too.
“In addition to academic skills, we need to teach students how to live a balanced life,” says lead author Emma Seppälä in a university release. “Student mental health has been on the decline over the last 10 years, and with the pandemic and racial tensions, things have only gotten worse.”
In fact, scientists believe the pandemic will have a lasting effect on people’s mental health for years to come. Some researchers warn of a “mental health crisis” in the future, so it’s crucial to identify effective stress management strategies to prevent this.
Training college students to be more self-reliant
Study authors say the right course can help students deal with anxiety issues and keep from overwhelming campus counseling centers.
“Students learn tools they can use for the rest of their lives to continue to improve and maintain their mental health,” explains co-first author Christina Bradley from the University of Michigan.
Hopefully further research will parse out the most important components of each program so researchers can create the most effective stress management course.
The study is published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.