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How to Manage Back to College Anxiety

With the fall comes the back to school season, which can be stressful, especially for  those of us starting or going back to college. Whether it’s your first year or fourth year at your university, anxiety can still arise. Going back to school means facing academic pressures, social standards, and distance from your loved ones at home. Confronting these changes all at once can feel overwhelming. Here are a few ways to mitigate your anxiety so you don’t wind up feeling overwhelmed and inundated by too many stressors all at once. 


Reach out to friends or make new friends 

Having a support system while being away from home is important because your friends at college are those you will be around the most during the school year. Finding even just one friend who you feel comfortable opening up to if you’re feeling stressed will make a big difference. Confiding in someone you trust while at school will allow you to get things off your chest and talk about why you’re feeling stressed. If you are feeling like you are in over your head, a friend may be able to help you through it by providing a listening ear or giving you guidance or advice. If it is your first year at college, making friends can be intimidating. It can help to remind yourself that other first year students are in the same boat as you, and are likely feeling both excited and nervous as well. Being honest and open may feel scary, but being yourself will help you make connections with your peers that are authentic and meaningful. 


Join clubs and organizations you’re passionate about

One way to get integrated into the college community and make friends is to join a club or an organization. The best ones to join are the ones you are most passionate about. That way you’ll connect with those who share similar interests with you. Having a standing weekly or monthly group meeting will help you define a schedule and have something to look forward to on a regular basis. Being part of a club will also allow you to pursue something that’s interesting and fun outside of classes. Joining clubs and organizations not only gives you a hobby, it can also provide you with new friendships, a sense of responsibility, and reduce your stress. 


Practice self-care

Self-care looks different for everyone. The things you do for self-care might also be different at college compared to when you’re at home. For example, while at college you might look for healthy and tasty options at the dining hall, stay in some nights on the weekend to relax and rest, check out the campus gym, or even ask for assistance from a faculty member on a difficult assignment. Self-care is about looking out for yourself and recharging in a way that’s useful to you. Taking care of your mind and body is the most basic piece of self-care and there are many avenues you can explore to ensure you’re prioritizing your well-being.


Keep in touch with those back home

It can be easy to get caught up in the ebb and flow of college life, but it is always important to stay connected to your loved ones back home. Whether it’s your parents, a friend, or a community member, talking to those back home will allow you to work through stress and anxiety with the ones who know you best. Your loved ones might provide helpful insights or tips that can give you new perspectives on what is making you anxious, and how you can overcome it or cope better. Staying in touch with your support system back home keeps you grounded and connected to a source of love. Having a standing schedule for when you call, Facetime, or text those back home will help you carve out a time to decompress and talk through problems you’re having at school. Regular communication will also keep you from harboring negative emotions for too long, and will give you a dependable outlet to talk about them. Getting guidance from friends, family, and others at home will help remind you that you are not alone and that there is another world outside of the college environment. 


Set short term goals and celebrate small victories

Many young adults go into college with a lot of expectations based on what their siblings, friends, or even movies have told them college is like. In reality, college looks different for everyone and it might not be exactly as you pictured it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own meaningful and rewarding experience. Setting achievable, short-term goals is a great way to keep yourself and your anxiety in check. Examine your goals at the start of college to ensure they aren’t too lofty or set too far in the future. This will help you take things day-by-day instead of worrying too much about what’s to come. Setting these goals will help you take things a bit slower and will allow you to cultivate more realistic expectations about what you can accomplish in a short period of time. Having short-term goals also creates a structure where you can reinforce yourself for your accomplishments on a frequent basis. Reinforcing yourself for meeting short-term goals is a simple way to help you feel effective and successful about your efforts in college, which can, in turn, reduce your stress and increase your confidence.  Allow yourself to celebrate the small victories at school. You’ve made it this far and while you may have months or years left before graduation, you are achieving more than you might have ever thought every single day.

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