Negative Nellies

No More Negative Nellies

We’ve all been there-that dark place where things just seem to keep going wrong. That time where one thing after another happens to you and it feels as if the world has turned against you and nothing seems to be going right; it’s happened to all of us, so don’t feel alone.

The beginning of a new year, as well as the beginning of a new semester both bring about feelings of renewal, change, and fear of staying in the same place you were the year or the semester before, but 2017 is the year to change all of that!

It is easier said than done, but, Dr. Andrew J. Lee, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, shares recommendations on how to combat these negative thought patterns: “Often, negative thinking patterns result from unrealistic expectations that people place on themselves, such as ‘I’m a failure if I don’t get all A’s’ or ‘I am not good enough if I am not at the top of my class in every subject.’” Dr. Lee says.

“Once an individual notices and understands the negative thoughts, it is very helpful to be able to challenge one’s negative thinking using more objective and realistic metrics, and to stop placing so much pressure on themselves. For example, instead of calling oneself a failure for not getting straight A’s, it can be helpful to appreciate the amount of work they put in and to know that they are not a failure if they don’t achieve this unrealistic goal. Striving for excellence, as opposed to perfection, can help students decrease the pressure they place on themselves, and may consequently, decrease their levels of anxiety,” Lee continues.

One way we can do this is to make sure we keep organized in all aspects of our lives: using a planner, keeping up with homework, readings, and papers, and overall simply trying our best to succeed.

It’s simple to get lost in the midst of new year resolutions and being overwhelmed with a ton of work doesn’t exactly aid the situation. “Anxiety is the number one reported problem by students who seek services at Monmouth University’s Counseling and Psychological Services,” Dr. Lee reports.

 “Almost 80% of students who sought services in the Fall 2016 semester endorsed anxiety as a pressing issue. The prevalence of anxiety is not only an issue for Monmouth University students. Nationally, anxiety is the most common presenting issue for students seeking services at college counseling centers.” says Dr. Lee.

Coral Cooper, a senior English and creative writing student, doesn’t seem taken aback by this news. “That makes sense to me considering the amount of mental and emotional energy students exhaust in school work. It’s unsettling that something such as knowledge, that should empower and progress our lives is causing students such distress,” she states.

Dr. Lee recognizes this stress as he believes that “It appears that people place a great deal of pressure on themselves and expect all aspects of their lives to be ‘perfect.’ From this base, it is easy for individuals to create these negative thinking patterns.”

Stephanie Vela, a junior social work, and Spanish student, agrees with this stance: “College students have so much on their plates between classes, work, internships, extracurriculars, etc. It is sometimes difficult for students to balance all of this especially because they want to be perfect at it all causing them more stress and anxiety.”

Overall, negative thought patterns have been on the uprise, what with the advancement of technology/social media platforms creating extra spaces for negativity to occur, society has made it utterly simple to grasp onto pessimistic and unfavorable thoughts for dear life.

 Dr. Lee also made it a point to mention the effects of social media: “I do believe that this negative self-evaluation is adversely affected by social media and the false facades that are created on various social media platforms. Almost always, the picture that is presented on social media is a positively exaggerated version of reality. However, although we know this intellectually, emotionally, it is very easy to get caught up in this negative comparison game. This breeds insecurity, negative evaluations and ultimately, negative thinking and self-talk.”

Cooper is right alongside Dr. Lee in this argument. She states,  “As a society, we need to offer different ways for people to cope with negative thinking. If healthy ways of dealing with anxiety are introduced during early childhood, adults and college students would have an easier time combating negative thinking. The idea of positivity and healthy stress relievers, like exercise, music, and communication, need to be practiced at younger ages so the issue of anxiety does not need to be treated later in life as it develops into an overwhelming entity for many people.”

Vela adds that as a society, there are little things we can do like “working together to de-stigmatize stress and anxiety, this way students may be more comfortable talking about it.”

As a whole, the Monmouth community, as well as society in general, are able to do little things here and there, but as said by Dr. Lee, “Ultimately, it is up to the students themselves to deal with their own negative thinking and manage their own lives. If students are having difficulty with this, they can always come to Counseling and Psychological Services to talk with one of our trained and experienced counselors about these issues. We are here to help. Let’s talk about it.”

You can visit the Counseling and Psychological Services Department on the third floor of the Student Center.

PHOTO TAKEN by Amanda Gangidino