About two years ago my oldest daughter was about to embark on her college life experience and I wanted to find a way to prepare her. I asked her if she would be willing for me to talk to her for 15 minutes each about six topics before she left. She agreed. We had these discussions the summer before she left for school and I believe she benefitted some from the experience; I know I did. By the way, I did stick to the fifteen minute time limit. I thought maybe others would benefit from these talks so I will be blogging about all six topics over the next six weeks. However, I will be combining one topic (alcohol and drugs) and adding the topic of stress.
Today I’ll start with stress, since many college students experience stress, depression, homesickness, and anxiety their freshman year and some beyond their first year. Going away to college is a huge adjustment and challenging for almost everyone since there is greater responsibility, time management issues, academic challenges, and possibly financial strain. Although being independent can be exciting, you may also be forced out of your comfort zone. A study cited by Washington University in St. Louis found that 70 percent of students gained significant weight in college possibly due to stress. The first step to stress reduction is knowing which aspect of college life will likely cause the most stress. Will it be studying, emotional transitioning, managing time, managing your health including sleep, or partying too much?
Next, identify ways to manage stress and the resources available to help. Ways to reduce stress include any form of exercise, finding a support group, positive friendships, taking good care of yourself, and maintaining balance in your schedule. Joining a club sports team can serve both the physical and social areas. Getting a good night sleep can also be a big help. A study in the Journal of American College Health found that only 11 percent of college students in a sample of 191 undergrads had good quality sleep. There are multiple services and resources available to college students, such as resident assistants in the dorms, college pastors, outreach programs, and the university’s counseling center.
Lastly, we as parents need to stay connected to our children via phone calls, texting, emails, and/or Skype. It also helps to send occasional care packages, encouraging notes/cards, and occasional visits when possible. Everyone deals with change and stress differently, but knowing that you’re not alone helps.