6 Things for Parents To Remember This Summer When Stress is High - How to help your student be confident, prepared, and campus-ready
It is almost that time and you can cut the emotions in your house with a knife. The sooner campus drop-off is, the more emotional chaos your entire family feels - excitement one minute, fear the next; yelling battles and tears along with high levels of anticipation. The whole family feels the stress of this highly planned-for life transition.
While some students seem ready to exercise that long sought independence, others are experiencing a major emotional imbalance this summer with feeling unsure and scared, and sensing a lack confidence about leaving home. This space in-between high school and college is filled with uncertainty, and it is a magnet for new emotions. It is not easy balancing emotions of nostalgia, eagerness, and excitement, along with the angst, anger, sadness, and apprehension of leaving the family for college.
Although every student responds differently to transitioning from high school to college, the fact remains that all kinds of emotions will be floating in your household the summer. How will you and your family keep the peace these next few weeks?
These 6 non-practical yet solid true- to- life reminders will help you and your student navigate life these next few weeks so everyone can remain calm and carry on.
1. Age is not a factor is how much your student needs you. Support is just that…support. Although this support looks different for each family, be mindful that eighteen-year-olds are just beginning to figure out how they fit into this world. Change is scary. Self-doubt and insecurities are heightened. Anxiety and stress can be the norm while moving to a different life placement. Eighteen-year-olds need you now more than ever.
2. Define success with your student before he or she leaves home. Success in high school is not always a determinant of success in college. This can be brought up in a discussion about what success looks and feels like. Is success in your student’s eyes maintaining a GPA of 3.9? Is it graduating with honors? Is success about a happy balance in life for the next four years? Have your student create a visual of what success looks like. This will serve the same purpose as a life roadmap.
3. Preparing for campus drop-off this summer can become more about comforters and bed toppers than togetherness. Make your focus on connecting and being-together instead of decorating the dorm because this is when important and meaningful conversations occur. Outfitting your student with the modern-day conveniences of college life is simply that parental instinct to have your student feel at home away from home. It eases your anxiety to know they will be comfortable on campus. Take a minute to acknowledge that this is your way of making your student feel loved. Combine your energies and make the experience of college shopping mean more than the things.
4. Help your student create a stress management plan now, so that the midnight panic-stricken phone calls are at a minimum. Parents are not experts in stress management; however, it is crucial to talk with your student this summer about what real stress looks like and feels like. At this point in life, for most students, stress has not amplified like it has the propensity of doing in college. Everyone’s stress is different. Some students have full blown anxiety and panic attacks, some work through stress with exercise and proper wellness practices. Others take substances to numb tough feelings. Every student should know healthy, effective, and applicable stress management techniques before they arrive on campus. In addition, discuss campus resources with your students and be aware that outside virtual services are available specifically for college students.
5. Slow down and have fun. With anxiety and depression being the number one and two mental health issues for which college students seek help, we can deduce that pressures, demands, and how well students manage stress all contribute to mental and emotional well-being. Students forget to have fun. Every minute of every day thoughts are “what do I have to do now?”. Laughter is medicine and being social releases endorphins, which in turn releases stress and muscle tension. Allow yourself to just BE – to do nothing. This is crucial for students to maintain a healthy life balance while on campus.
6. Every day, prioritize these 4 main wellness practices: sleep, nutrition, body movement, and stress management. There is no “back burner” when it comes to your overall health. Attending to your overall well-being is as important, if not more, than academics. While neither of these is more important than the other, just being aware and consistently practicing healthy habits will positively impact and sustain your mental, physical, and emotional states. All four of these wellness components hinge upon the other and will make the difference between thriving and surviving in college.
Anxiety, Depression Reached Record Levels among College Students Last Fall (umich.edu)
Laughter releases 'feel good hormones' to promote social bonding (medicalnewstoday.com)
Development Milestones for your 18-Year-Old Child (verywellfamily.com)
Are You Emotionally Prepared for College Drop-Off? | Collegiate Parent
A mom said to me recently, "I'm just afraid ___ is not ready for college. She even says she might not want to go now. What if we pay all of this money for her to decide ___ university is not the right school for her? I don't know what else to do."
From a coach's perspective, there is a lot of anxiety and fear built in to these statements. If the mom is feeling this frustrated and stressed, I can only imagine how anxious the student is.
As a professional stress and anxiety coach for students, here are some thoughts of how the daughter and I might approach this situation of transitioning to college in the first two coaching sessions.
#1 Assess fear in its origination
"Fear is a part of human experience. It is not good or bad; a little fear can motivate us to make change, while a lot of fear can create a reaction that leaves us paralyzed, panicked, or feeling overwhelmed."
Elisha Goldstein, PhD
When we start exploring fears, it is always mind-blowing where the fear originates. It usually is from a past similar situation or life experience that is being transferred to the current situation. As we unravel the reality of fear, nine times out of ten, the haze of the current situation lifts because we identify truths, data, and the reality of the present situation as we (in parallel) acknowledge the fear from the past that is blurring the present. This awareness helps relieve the pain in fear, hesitancy, overwhelm, stress, and panic. Once the student can separate themselves from their emotional responses to situations, they begin to see beyond the blur and become open to different approaches and perspectives. We call this, "creating space" between thoughts and emotions so that responses can be adjusted.
#2 Acknowledge that responses to emotions can be modified with practice and intention
"The only way to deal with fear is to face it. Avoiding our fears only prevents us from moving forward—it makes us anxious."
University of Minnesota - Taking charge of your health and wellbeing
Once the student learns to take their brain off of the autopilot mode of responding to fear, they begin to explore other organically healthy ways to manage the anxiety: talk about it, express it through exercise or writing, breath through it, allow it to pass, have a plan of coping with it while it is active. It becomes a choice of how to move through fear.
I tell this story for two reasons. First, the parent can begin to understand that when their student stresses, they stress and when they stress, their students stresses more intensely. Secondly, helping guide students beyond their "stuckness" not only normalizes life situations for them, it frees them to confidently move forward. THIS is powerful beyond words when a student realizes so much of their emotional energy and time was being harnessed in a way that constricted their ability to thrive.
THIS is the glory of working with a coach who is trained in mindset and mental health. We uncover, explore, accept, acknowledge, plan, expand, and act. We move through the fear into the clear.
While there are still a few days and weeks left in semester break 2020-2021, some college students are feeling the repercussions of fall semester in terms of stress and the management of stress. They are searching for a mental and emotional boost as they prepare for second semester.
Having had to adjust to on-line school, move home unexpectedly, and experience living is an environment that is full of disruptions, has affected students in ways they are just now uncovering. Some students even describe last semester as traumatic. The initial (seeming) disorganization of college courses and expectations, the lack of communication between professors and students, and the lack of visual and auditory cues from regular peer and professor conversations caused some students to really struggle emotionally, mentally, and academically. This winter break, however, has served a purpose in that students are decompressing from the total impact of last semester.
During this decompression, students also are preparing for yet another challenging semester. Although every person’s tolerance for change and resilience is different, students going back for spring semester 2021 could benefit from an emotional and mental boost that will arm them with the tools they need to manage life and thrive in chaos. What is a “boost” and how will it help?
A boost is a foundationally strong, healthy, and confident mental health. It is built by designing, adopting, and practicing effective coping strategies that are critical for overall personal life balance. Essentially, a boost is toolkit of supportive approaches to use in times of overwhelm.
Again, each student’s toolkit will look different.
As a professional life coach for students, I consider there to be four key tools necessary to thrive through stress when in college, with or without a pandemic. These four areas of personal introspections, when established and strengthened, not only build the “boost”, but provide and sustain a solid mental and emotional health the rest of your life.
Self-esteem: When a student needs help navigating emotional and mental chaos, one of the first things we look at is a scaled self-esteem measurement. Ultimately you should average the good, bad, and ugly aspects of your self-perception and use this moderation as cushion when motivation and strength are needed. Handling overwhelm and navigating discomfort are easier when you feel capable and confident.
Emotional regulation: We assess your reaction to unwanted, unforeseen, and uncomfortable emotions. When you feel uncapable, unmotivated, hurt, lonely, or scared, how do you react? What is your go-to response? Is it to deny, hide, give up, or attack the very thing that will be your agent of change or do you respond with an action plan, with grace, and by asking for help.
Core sense of self: When a student partners with a professional life coach, we form a collaboration and begin to explore and discover who you are at your core. We assess the things you value the most in life, what makes you feel the most complete. What are the guiding compasses for your total mental health?
Some of my student clients have never thought about this and once we connect them to the things in life (family, friends, exercise, acts of kindness, volunteerism, creativity, time alone) that make them feel their best, and they begin to incorporate these into their daily routine, we see the shift in how students manage stress and overwhelm, how confident they feel in doing so, and how capable and masterful they become with managing life.
Wellness habits: Much of this discovery is also about finding and adopting activities that bring joy, exercise self-expression, and that help with the overall mind/body connection. Being “well” is the opposite of being “sick” – stressed, depressed, weak, scared, hopeless, helpless, distressed.
Think about a boost for next semester. Build a foundation of emotional, mental, spiritual and wellness strategies on which to win against stress. Begin this boost by looking at you.
At Students Stress Less Coaching LLC we discover the best design for you to thrive in college. We boost you emotionally, mentally, soulfully, and physically.
Although you can enjoy and explore with 4 self-paced BOOST modules (visit MENU in this site or at http://www.studentsstressless.com), you can also hire a professional stress coach for the whole semester or just to get you started. For more information on how to do this, please reach out - email@example.com.
I have been doing a great deal of motivation (or lack of) work in coaching sessions with students over the last two months. Some seek professional coaching because of the stress of not knowing what to do with unstructured time (home-based learning). Some feel the overwhelm of not knowing how to juggle the technology-styled learning. And some are struggling with "seeing the light at the end of the tunnel".
As we know it, motivation is the desire to get something done. We can fancy the definition all we want, but when it comes down to it, we get things accomplished based on our motivation and effort. Our levels of motivation fluctuate from day to day and hour to hour. This is natural and to be expected. It is when motivation remains low and begins to effect output that students begin to panic and fall behind.
Some of the things that effect our level of motivation are mood, health, mindset, anxiety and depression, and perspective. Some of us are driven by internal desires and needs to "get on the ball", and some of us are driven by external thoughts and rewards. Any way we butter the bread, our desired outcome depends on our intentions and our efforts - motivation.
These are some of the mentally challenging questions we explore in professional coaching when motivation is low, and energy is elusive. Sometimes frustration rises because there is no answer; no vision; no clarity; no desire. What the student comes to realize is that the simple act of exploring these questions is actually a motivator!
If you are a student experiencing low motivation and cannot visualize finishing the semester (right now), what thought patterns can you shift? How can you rethink and reframe thoughts paralyzing your actions? Is it realistic to remain in your non-motivated state any longer? What emotional and mental snowball effect will your lack of movement create? How will being in this state of being affect you? How can you access positive thinking and forward motion? How will you "raise your frequency?"
To some students, intentionally adjusting your level of motivation may look like:
Of course, obstacles will trip you up; make you question your efforts. The human brain is designed to be negative, so you might doubt every effort you make to move the dial on motivation. It is critical to remind yourself that as you connect and work on increasing your desires to accomplish and succeed, be extremely specific in what this look like for YOU. As Steve Jobs stated, "Let the vision pull you.".
What does it look like to "be done"?
What does it look like to "hit that submit button with confidence"?
What does it feel like to enjoy your break knowing you did the best you could?
What does it feel like to move that "C" to a "B"?
Enjoy these mantras as additional mental motivators (internet sourced):
“The Best Way to Get Started Is to Quit Talking and Begin Doing.” – Walt Disney
“Discipline is doing what needs to be done, even if you do not want to.”
“We Generate Fears While We Sit. We Overcome Them by Action.”
“The harder you work for something, the greater you'll feel when you achieve it.”
Planning Backwards is exactly what it sound like. This technique was first introduced as an efficiency tool and military strategy as a means to pursue desired goals. Think backwards to plan forward is the gist. Stephen Covey lists Planning Backwards as "Habit #2" in his famous book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
"To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you're going so that you better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction."
Basically, starting with your end goal or date and working your way to present day time is the plan of action and necessary steps toward the stated goal. This effective technique for students to use is also called reverse planning or "forward in reverse".
As a stress reduction strategy, student clients and I will try this technique for long term projects. When the student knows exactly what to work on each day as a part of their plan, procrastination is minimized, forward thinking is activated, and the project is completed on time.
Planning Backwards is just one strategy both college and high school students can use to help lessen the stress caused by academics.