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Five tips for eliminating back to school anxiety and stress

A walk around the lovely grounds at St. Kate's is a great way to relax.
A walk around the lovely grounds at St. Kate's is a great way to relax.
Catherine Tsen '11

Whether you are heading back to class as a returning student or arriving on campus for the first time, anxiety and stress can often play havoc with your sense of well-being. Here are some simple practices that can help ease tensions so you can successfully navigate college life:

1. Name your fears.

If you can name your fears, they will be less likely to ambush you. What is it that you are afraid of? That you will be overwhelmed by homework? End up alone on a Friday night? Have no time to do all the things you need or want to do? By identifying your concerns, you can make conscious choices that will help you avoid these worst-case scenarios.

If you are overwhelmed by homework, for example, you could create a weekly agenda where you schedule in your study periods and upcoming assignments, By taking steps to become organized and plan ahead, you can avoid rushing through assignments and staying up all night, and you will feel more confident and successful.

2. Make self-care a priority.

Self-care is perhaps the number one piece of advice I can give you. When you exercise, you oxygenate your body, and your brain will function better. When you fuel your body with nourishing foods, like fruits, vegetables and lean protein instead of chips, pop, and fast food, you will be healthier and more able to meet all the demands in your life. By getting enough sleep on a regular basis, you will feel more energetic and alert. If you put into practice just these three things (exercise, eating nourishing foods and getting adequate sleep) you will find yourself happier, healthier and less stressed.

3. Spend time in nature.

If you find yourself tense and anxious, sometimes the best thing you can do is get outside and take a walk. The lovely grounds at St. Kate’s offer many beautiful places to visit. Go to a setting that makes you happy and feeds your soul. Soak up the sunshine, breathe in the fresh air and allow yourself to relax. When I was a student at St. Kate’s, I often sat on a bench by the flowers and watched the squirrels scamper around the trees. Other times I walked down by the pond. Find a special spot that you love and go there often.

4. Create nourishing friendships.

Consider who you spend time with carefully. Are they uplifting and positive, or negative and pessimistic? The people that you surround yourself with will rub off on you. Sometimes you need to distance yourself from those who leave you feeling drained and unappreciated. Instead, reach out to other students who are helpful, friendly and encouraging. Create a circle of support that you can reach out to when you are feeling stressed or anxious.

5. Banish self-doubt.

Surprisingly, even top students worry that they aren’t smart enough. We all succumb to doubt occasionally. However, if you find that negative emotions are draining your energy, there are several practices that can help. You could begin journaling to gain self-knowledge about what triggers your self-doubt.

Is it certain group situations or academic subjects? By knowing this, you will have more awareness about your own strengths and weaknesses. You could develop affirmations to say when doubt or fear grip you, such as, “I go forward with confidence and courage.” Sounds simple, but it works to counteract the negative thoughts whirling through your brain.

And, of course, reaching out to a counselor or trusted friend may help pull you up when you are feeling down. Know that you have what it takes to be successful at St. Kate’s. Stay focused, work hard, and commit to your path. You can do it!

Julie Gohman MAED'09, Ph.D. is an adjunct professor at St. Cloud State University where she teaches Psychology of Women to undergraduate students. Her first book, 10 Sacred Questions for Every Woman, will be published this fall. Her blog, Sacred Inquiry for Women tackles the essential questions of our lives.

Aug. 27, 2014 by Julie Gohman MAED'09

See also: Alumnae/i, Healthcare, Students