Anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations. But it can also be overwhelming.
For young people starting out their lives, getting through school, and going on job interviews, it can even be debilitating. But a program running through the YMCA and the Chilliwack Youth Health Centre has been guiding young adults through coping strategies, helping them lead a rich and meaningful life, says the program’s facilitator Rachel Bullock.
It’s called YMind Mindfulness Group for Anxiety, and is open to people ages 18 to 30. It’s a free, low-barrier, eight-week group program. And it’s already helping people in the community. Ashley, a drama student at the University of the Fraser Valley, attended the first program held last fall, and has enrolled again. The techniques she’s learned have helped her get through her studies, and her life in general.
“I’ve learned to analyze the situation,” she says. “I’ve learned in the moment of anxiety or panic, to remind myself that I’m not going to be harmed. And that’s the key of what triggers anxiety, as a natural response to stress. But oftentimes, anxiety can arise over daily, non-life threatening situations — like public speaking, answering tough questions, driving over bridges or on highways, or being in certain settings.
With the training she’s received in YMind Mindfulness, she’s finding that coping skills are becoming more natural. She has known she’s had anxiety issues since middle school, and worked on spreading mental health awareness when she was in high school. Now that she’s in theatre, Ashley’s also finding the arts a good outlet.
“Without this, I think I would still be struggling a lot more,” she says.
Bullock is hoping to reach out to more young adults for the program, which focuses on mindfulness and acceptance skills that have been proven to lower anxiety and stress.
The YMind program is part of a province-wide effort by the YMCA, funded by the BC Government, to support youth who struggle with anxiety.
“YMind had its flagship program in Chilliwack in the Fall of 2018, and it was a big success,” Bullock says. “All of our participants felt that the program helped them to reduce stress and anxiety. Using pre- and post- program testing, we saw vast reductions in anxiety symptoms.”
Anxiety is a serious problem that creates real barriers, Bullock adds, and 12 per cent of Canadians are currently dealing with anxiety. Up to 25 per cent will experience an anxiety disorder within their lifetime.
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