BYU–Hawaii Counseling Services put on a workshop called “Be Kind to Your Mind” to help students learn how to deal with anxiety or depression. These strategies at the workshop can also help students when they are feeling stressed. According to Campuslabs, “Counseling Services assists students in resolving personal and emotional problems that impede graduation.”
In line with their purpose, they put on the “4-Week Workshop” to teach students how “to cope with anxiety and depression.” Elizabeth Rago, a therapist at Counseling Services who deals with helping those with anxiety or depression, led the workshop’s second event.
One of Rago’s patients, Sara Danielle Nelson, a junior from Utah majoring in peacebuilding, has come out as an advocate for counseling. She said, “If you think, even for a moment, ‘Should I go to counseling?’ The answer is yes. Give it a try. Therapy does not mean you are weak.
“Going to therapy doesn’t always have to be because of the result of trauma, it can just be bad friends, miscommunication, or a crazy standard of perfection and success. Everyone is entitled to the right to go to seek help when they are feeling off. That might mean you.
“And that’s okay. Counselors should have chosen [their] profession because they want to help you heal. Because you deserve it.” Nelson encouraged students to seek counseling, if they need help. She said if students don’t feel ready for counseling, they can seek help where they can, such as these workshops.
The Cognitive Model
Rago opened up the workshop with a review on the cognitive model. She said the model has three events: a situation, a thought, and a reaction or emotion. “It’s the very basic cognitive model or kindergarten part of how depression and anxiety can start. A situation will happen, we have a thought about the situation, and we react on that thought.”
Students from the audience voluntarily opened up about how they experienced the cognitive model in the past week. Workshop presenters spoke about different problems with fellow students, misunderstandings about the culture around BYUH, and other day-to-day problems that made them emotional.
Four Square Breathing
Rago reintroduced another skill helping with anxiety and depression, calling it Four Square Breathing. According to her, this breathing skill helps one calm down. She said, “Being mindful helps you be right in the moment and to feel okay. Rago demonstrated the four steps and then had the audience follow along.
- First rate your anxiety or/and depression from 1 to 10.
- Breathe in for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Breathe out for 4 seconds.
- Rate your anxiety or/and depression again.
- Repeat the breathing technique until your anxiety or/and depression ratings have lowered.
Rago spoke about having a wise mind. She said that a wise mind is when “a person can most effectively manage their emotions and their lives [by] balancing the logical and the emotional” parts of the mind. She brought up the example of Harry Potter who has his friend Hermione, who is more logical, and his friend Ron who is more emotional. Harry Potter then takes advice from his two friends to make a balanced decision more based on humanity.
The wise mind is an effective way to balance our lives because people who are always very emotional are overwhelming and people who are very logical are underwhelming. “Having a logical mind is staying in the moment and in the present.”
She said, “Sometimes if we act on our emotions, sometimes we make the situation worse. If we make the situation worse then, we feel worse, and if we feel worse then, we sometimes make the situation worse. So, the purpose of a wise mind is to step back, feel your emotions, but also realize to be rational in the moment.”
Emotions are like Tides
“Emotions are temporary,” said Rago. According to her, sometimes people need to go into treatment to go over the skills which will help them in hard moments of their lives.
She said emotions are good because people can feel empathy and sadness. This is good because it helps us understand the other side of it. Sadness can give us insight, fear keeps us safe (most of the time).
“A healthy amount of fear would be 2 (out of 10) at any given day, if it spurs into action because a giant boulder is chasing us then fear is good. There are emotions that help us function.
“We talked about how we don’t want to feel bad, we want to feel positive things, but is that realistic? Emotions are temporary, an analogy for emotions are tides, they ebb and flow, and come and go, just like our emotions.”
Rago then talked about how we can see our emotions and redirect it into something good. She spoke about how the Hulk has rage but he ends up using that rage as a superhero. She introduced that the grounding technique helps us redirect our energy. The four steps are:
1 - Identify an object
2 - Identify a color
3 - Say an emotion you feel right now
4 - Rate your anxiety
She presented this in front of the class. She looked around the room. “Brown piano. Nervous. Red paper. Nervous. Grey desk. Nervous.” She then rated her anxiety. She then had the attendees do the same.