Congratulations, you're a college student!
For the first time you have free will to spread your wings and lead the life you want... even though you're probably not sure all that entails or exactly what's headed your way.
It's both an empowering and stressful experience.
On the one hand you are on your own... an adult. That doesn't mean you have control over everything or that there isn't a safety net. You haven't been abandoned by family and friends. You're simply at a new stage (of which there will be many) in your life.
Decisions that in the past were made for you are now ones where you are the decider!
While it's incredibly liberating to experience the ability to be your own person, it can also be worrisome and cause stress.
It's perfectly normal to be apprehensive. You're entering a phase in which the ramifications of choices and decisions made circle back to you. And you're faced with so many options it probably feels very unsettling!
That's OK. In fact it's awesome, even if it seems overwhelming. It's all a matter of how you let circumstances in your life affect you.
You have the freedom and ability to chart healthy responses to all that comes your way.
Make the choice that stress and worry won't be your primary reaction over decisions that need to be made, relationships, grades, finances, work and all the minutiae facing you on a daily basis.
Adopt the philosophy that whatever life throws at you is an opportunity. We learn by doing. All our choices don't bring the desired result. Many do. When a negative outcome is encountered take the necessary action and move on. Learn from the experience but don't look back.
College provides your first exposure to major decision-making. As the years go by you'll have even more situations where clear, worry-free thinking will allow you to make informed choices.
There's a reason I've written this article. It's because most students have no idea how nervous, stressed and worried their peers are. Too often they think it's just them. You have no idea how many students (and adults too) think they are the only person experiencing these feelings. You are not alone... believe me.
In fact, I can virtually guarantee you that any worry you have is shared by lots of other people. Unfortunately we live in a society where there's a strong hesitancy to share feelings of stress and concern.
For many, college feels totally overwhelming. Those lucky enough to have a great relationship with a parent have the opportunity to discuss things with them. Yet it's very common (no matter how great the rapport) to feel uncomfortable to share all that's on your mind with a parent.
It's great when you have a best friend to talk to, but many students don't and often the advice of friends isn't always the wisest or most helpful. And I'm certain you've been lectured ad nauseam about giving in to peer pressure. Of course I wouldn't be responsible if I didn't agree with that last statement. After all, I'm old enough to be your father.
Unfortunately many students resort to alcohol and drugs to ease the stress. Sure you may receive short term relief... but if you're totally honest with yourself you know they don't help in the long run.
What does help is what I mentioned earlier. Determine that you won't react to potentially stressful experiences by excessive worrying and rumination. You're joining the rank of Stress Busters!
What would happen if you looked at negative experiences as positive opportunities? Sound a bit fuddy-duddy... it's not.
Here's a Mind Acrobatics exercise you might find helpful.
Exercise: "Sour Milk and Sweet Cream"
Materials: Pen, a notebook or two pieces of paper, a ruler and your favorite tunes
Time Needed: 20 minutes (or whatever works best for you)
Location: Anyplace you feel comfortable and won't be disturbed
Exercise Part 1:
- Take seven slow, deep breaths.
- Play your favorite music.
- Begin writing in stream of consciousness (this means whatever comes to mind) about the best things being a college student offers you.
- After completing this write your biggest concerns and fears. Don't self-censor, put down whatever comes to mind.
- Stop, pens down, turn your papers over... (just kidding, the only thing I hated worse than giving students standardized tests was taking them.)
- Stop after you've finished your writing.
"Exercise" Part 2:
- Take five slow deep breaths.
- Read over all the positives you wrote about college life. Enjoy them!
- Pull out your second sheet of paper and divide it into thirds vertically.
- On the top left put the word "Negative."
- In the middle column put the phrase "The Worst That Can Happen."
- At the top of the third section put "How I'll Handle It!"
- Now take all the concerns you wrote on the first sheet and make a list of them running down the left hand side of the paper under the "Negative" column.
- Put the "Worst" consequence that might result from each of these under the middle column.
- Here's the fun part: write how you will deal with the worst challenges under the "How I'll "Handle It column." Be positive and creative. If you find you don't have an answer for a couple of the items leave them blank. It doesn't matter.
If you found you didn't have a few answers to anticipated worries in the third column... no sweat. You've begun the process of engaging in the "Power of Positive Thinking."
You know that lots of great opportunities are coming your way. They will... more than you even think! Most of the anticipated negatives will never materialize. However if they should, you're crafting a lifestyle and way of mindful processing that will let you look at them simply as challenges.
All challenges have solutions. You'll be prepared and even might find solving them enjoyable.
Also, it's important to remember that you do have resources to whom you may turn. So whether it's a parent, therapist, life coach, college counselor, religious leader or help center never hesitate to seek out assistance. We all need it at times in our life. It's a sign of strength!
The takeaway from this article: Embrace the positive, don't stress or worry about negatives... deal with them from a position of strength... and know that life keeps getting better and better.
I welcome any and all questions and comments!
Contact Dave Kanegis at: firstname.lastname@example.org