How to stop college stress from sabotaging your future

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University life can be stressful as students try to juggle schoolwork, jobs, internships, extracurricular activities and their social life – all while living alone, often for the first time. And, while the pandemic has added an extra layer of stress to all of us, young adults have been hit harder than other generations.

“Even though older people may be the hardest hit by the real biological and physical issues that accompany Covid, young people are much harder hit by mental health issues from Covid,” said Dr Owens, deputy director of Covid. campus mental health and psychologist for Farmingdale State College.

In a 2021 American Psychological Association survey, 46% of Gen Z adults (aged 18 to 23) said their mental health had deteriorated during the pandemic, compared with 33% of Gen Xers, 31 % of millennials and 28% of baby boomers. .

Half of the students reported suffering from anxiety and / or depression in a recent study of nearly 33,000 students across the country conducted by researchers at Boston University. And 83% of students said their mental health had a negative impact on their academic performance.

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Students have struggled with attention, concentration and organization due to increased screen time resulting from hybrid and distance online learning during the pandemic, said psychiatrist Dr Ryan Patel of Ohio State University and president-elect of mental health for the American College Health Association.

Dealing with isolation is another problem for students that he describes as a “double factor”.

“There are students who are isolated because of the pandemic, then the opposite side of students who think they are on campus and surrounded by other people and who are anxious about social situations and things like that,” Patel said.

Dr Owens believes that the suppression of social activities, such as sororities, fraternities, sports, and even late-night dormitory conversations, has also negatively affected students.

“A lot of students have had the college experience they were promised – which their parents had talked about for many, many years – ripped from under them,” Dr. Owens said. “So they were asked to cope with a lot of things in a very short period of time.”

“I realized I was really upset when I couldn’t remember the last time I had really eaten a meal with my family, even though I came home,” said Taylor Potter, a student. graduated from the University of Georgia. “I am constantly doing schoolwork or internships for the multitude of internships and jobs that I have right now.”

Taylor Potter, graduate student at the University of Georgia, class of 2023

Source: Justin Harper

In addition to being a full-time student, Potter held five jobs during her undergraduate studies. Now, as a graduate student, she only has two.

Although Potter is grateful for having a job, she still struggles to work with a busy schedule.

“It becomes very isolating and overwhelming knowing that I have to constantly, always, work around the clock and not be able to socialize even with people who are a floor above me,” Potter said.

NYU sophomore Ryan Kawahara is also struggling with a heavy workload. He is a full-time student, works part-time off-campus, teaches private lessons, and works for the NYU newspaper.

“I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed because I like to take on projects and I like to do a lot of things and I feel like I’m more productive when I’m busy. But it’s really intimidating when I do. look at a list of things I need to do, ”Kawahara said. “And it’s only recently that I feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day.”

Ryan Kawahara, sophomore at New York University

Source: Kent Kawahara

It’s easy to get stuck in an endless loop of responsibilities, anxiety, and stress. But it can have an impact on your mental health, your physical health, and your academic performance. It is therefore important to try to manage your stress so that it does not get out of hand and affect your future.

An important first step is to recognize that you are stressed.

“A lot of times when people are overwhelmed, they don’t recognize it until it gets too much,” Dr. Patel said. “And so, we want to try to recognize it before there is too much, before the tide gets too high.”

“It was hard for me to admit that I needed a break because I’m the type of person who always thinks, ‘No, I can do it. I can do anything. Anything,” Potter said.

Like many students across the country, Potter faced the stressful effects Covid was having on his future. His plans to graduate early last year, study abroad, and attend the Cannes Film Festival fell due to the Covid shutdown from March 2020.

“I think I speak for a lot of students when we say that things got monumental more stressful, and they were monumental stressful already,” Potter said.

With his experience, Potter offers help to others in similar circumstances.

“So my advice is to take the situation by the reins,” Potter said. “You can’t necessarily control the situation, but you can control how you react to it – how you act out of order. It’s the only thing you really have under your own control, especially in a situation like a pandemic. world. “

Get organized

Patel advises students to physically write down all of their plans, so they don’t get confused in their heads.

And, while it might seem intimidating at first, Kawahara gave it a try and said it wasn’t that intimidating and that “the satisfaction of crossing things off the list is really nice.”

“My dad always told me this, ‘Get it out of your head because it’s a lot clearer on paper,” Kawahara said.

Potter stays on top of the job with the help of Google Calendar and his color-coordinated planner.

“Organization is absolutely essential in helping to alleviate the symptoms of stress and being overwhelmed,” Potter said.

Self-care is the key

Patel says self-care is an important part of managing your stress, including eating a healthy diet, getting good sleep, and exercising regularly.

“You know, we are not immune to the stressful events that occur in our lives. However, what we can do is manage the way our body and mind deal with this stress and the things that we do. can do to help decrease the stress response, ”said Dr. Patel. “And so personal care is an essential part of it.”

And Potter says she’s found it important to take time for yourself.

“You have to keep putting gas in your car to keep it going. And it’s a similar concept to personal care,” Potter said. “Every two hundred miles you have to slow down and basically refuel. “

Some of the ways that Potter incorporates self-care into his daily life involves eating three meals a day, watching his favorite TV shows, and taking breaks throughout the day. She also uses a reward system to celebrate her accomplishments.

“I also try to take a break whenever something positive or good happens at a benchmark,” Potter said.

Kawahara, from the San Francisco Bay Area in California, avidly runs the streets of New York City to relieve some of the stress. Although he still admits learning to make self-care a part of his life, he enjoys watching movies and shows, talking with friends, and exploring Manhattan.

Additionally, staying focused and doing “things one step at a time” helps Kawahara avoid unwanted stress. He structures the shopping around meals to motivate him to work more efficiently.

“Also at night I try to have a break. I try not to work beyond a certain time because I just know that my quality work is going to decline,” Kawahara said.

This is one of the American Psychological Association’s top tips for building resilience to stress – getting a good night’s sleep and sticking to a set bedtime.

Learn to say “no”

And, while it is not easy to say “no”, sometimes it has to be done.

“I guess you can avoid being overwhelmed by just being selective about how you choose to spend your time, and if it’s not something you really enjoy doing, then maybe you just don’t. not as much, ”Kawahara said.

Not only will saying ‘no’ help ease your workload, it will also give you a better sense of control, which is essential for dealing with stress.

“In fact, I had the opportunity to refuse something recently, which I think is a type of key wording here, because being able to refuse something is an opportunity that involves you having a choice”, Potter said.

Communicate with family and friends

Don’t try to go it alone.

The American Psychological Association says it’s important to maintain meaningful connections with family, culture, and community. You may have left home to go to college, or you may have left college to go home during the pandemic, but it’s important to stay in touch with family and friends.

And, when you’re not feeling well, it’s important to connect with friends, relatives, or loved ones. Let the people around you know that you are feeling the pressure. They can help support you.

Dr Patel said that type of conversation might look like, “You know when I’m stressed I can seem more irritable or negative or I can talk about my sleep, my anxiety or my physical problems. So if you notice that in me you might want to let me know that these are some of the signs that I am stressed out. “

Give yourself a break

Sometimes we get caught up in what we think our perfect life will look like, but the truth is, life is never perfect. Especially not in the event of a pandemic. So, keep striving to do great things, but remember to be good with yourself.

“If things don’t turn out the way you want them to when you’re overwhelmed, that’s okay. I think a lot of what we need to keep in mind right now is that a lot of us aren’t doing well and that’s right now, “Potter said. “Remember to make sure you take care of yourself, as you would be sure to take care of a friend or family member who needs your help.”

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