Stress – it should be a four letter word. We all have it, hate it, and all deal with it. It’s the reason we devour pounds of chocolate. Through the years we have learned ways of handling stress that work best for us.
Our college student is a bit different though. They have been shielded somewhat from the stress of what we will call “real life.” As they grew up, yes, they knew some stress: the stress to make good grades, succeeding at their chosen extracurricular activity, and the stress to fit in with a whole new crowd of people.
But we as family members handled that stress. When they were stressing over being tired, we would make them go to bed. When they stressed over filling out college applications, we helped them. When they are stressed because they were not feeling well, we kept them out of school and nursed them back to health. That was our job as family members.
But that job has changed. We’ve gone from caretaker to coach. They are dealing with meeting with new friends, demanding classes, living on their own, financial issues, campus jobs, changing values, research papers and much more. We aren’t with them every day and we don’t have that control to immediately de-stress them. As much as we might want to, we have to let them learn the best practices for dealing with the stress they are facing.
How can we help them?
First and foremost, let them know you are there for them. You’re a good listener. You don’t mind talking through issues with them. Keep in mind that there will be times when your student will call you and tell you that life is awful, they hate their school, their friends, etc. They are down in the dumps. After you hang up, you continue to worry and wonder if you should be calling someone.
They, on the other hand, had a friend knock on the door and they’ve gone out to dinner and forgotten what they were upset about. They are okay. Offer encouraging bits of knowledge they can easily incorporate in their lives.
- Suggest they select healthier foods and never skip breakfast –Breakfast can improve energy levels, help maintain focus in the classroom and increase the overall quality of a student’s diet. Students should choose leaner protein options, make half their grains whole grains and consume plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Suggest they stay physically active –Encourage them to utilize the Foster Rec Center, or as we typically call it, Campus Rec. Campus Rec offers numerous ways students can be physically active at all hours of the day. They can take a tour of the fitness center, try a BearFit class or take advantage of outdoor adventure trips. Physical activity is a great way to manage their stress and meet new people.
- Encourage them to recharge with sleep – It is recommended that 7-9 hours of sleep is crucial for optimum performance inside and outside of the classroom.
- Remind them to take advantage of the Magers Health and Wellness. They can get their flu shot, take part in student wellness classes, go for an appointment when they are sick and much more.
- Address signs of stress early – Forgetfulness, moodiness and fatigue can all be early signs of stress. Our students need to make stress management a part of their everyday college life.
- Express confidence in your student’s abilities.
- Refer your student to the resources in your Bear Family Handbook.
- Remind your student of a time he or she managed a stressful situation with a positive outcome.
- Create a care plan – If emotional concerns of mood, anxiety or substance use have been a part of your student’s past, ensure you have a plan for how these emotional care needs will be met. The Counseling Center here on campus can help your student navigate the best treatment options.
Your student is facing a new world in college. Let them know you understand that and you will always love and support them. That, for college students, is so very important to know.