Supporting yourself through college
Supporting yourself through college
Wednesday, 15 November 2023
The initial thrill of starting college may have worn off, you might feel stressed as coursework starts to build up. Other things, like keeping up with friends and dealing with money pressures can also make you feel stressed.
These feelings are normal. Learning to deal with difficult situations is all part of breaking out and becoming your own person.
It is a good idea to remind yourself of the positive people and things that are and still will be in your life as you move forward.
Lean on your existing supports
Change is a constant throughout our lives but, when you have moved from school to third-level education, there is usually a significant amount of change all at once. You might be moving to a new town or perhaps even a new country with a different language and culture. You might be taking on responsibilities such as paying rent and bills for the very first time. Your subjects, schedule and social circle will likely look very different than before. It is easy to let our minds get caught up in the countless changes that lie ahead, but this isn’t always helpful. Instead, it is a good idea to remind yourself of the positive people and things that are and still will be in your life as you move forward.
Look towards your existing support network and lean into it. Sharing your thoughts and concerns with a person you trust can help to make times of change easier, whether that is a friend, family member, peer or professional.
Are there any activities that you particularly enjoy? If so, now is a good time to really embrace them. Whether you enjoy reading or running, playing music or simply going for short walks, engaging in your favourite hobbies can help you to ground yourself during a turbulent time.
Shift your attention to the positives
When considering the future, it is very easy to get caught up in the “what ifs”. You might have thoughts such as “What if I can’t make any friends?” or “What if I can’t keep up with my coursework?” Anticipating the future can serve a vital purpose. It can help us to plan ahead and make decisions in life. However, other times, these thoughts can spiral and lead us to worry about imagined scenarios that may not ever happen.
If you notice yourself imagining the worst-case scenario, try to gently nudge your attention towards the positive things in your life. It might be difficult to notice them at first, and you may even feel some resistance when trying to do this exercise. That’s ok. Be gentle with yourself and start with one simple thing – a good friendship, a sunny morning, your pet. The more often you seek to find the good things in your life, the more noticeable these positives will become.
Take some moments every day to tune in to what you are saying about yourself and the road ahead.
Pay attention to your self-talk
The conversations we have with ourselves in our minds are as important as the ones we have with friends and family. However, while we may be very considerate of how we speak to others, our own internal narratives can often go unchecked.
During this time of transition, take some moments every day to tune in to what you are saying about yourself and the road ahead. If you find that your self-talk is negative, remember, your thoughts are not facts. It is also important to remember that you can change the way you think which will, in time, change the way you feel about yourself and your situation.
As you work to change that inner monologue, imagine what you would say to a friend going through the same transition as you are. Would you criticise them and place fear and doubt in their mind? Of course not! You would speak to them in a supportive way and remind them of all of the things that you appreciate about them. Try to take this same approach with yourself. It can take time to really embrace this new way of self-talk but keep on persevering. It can be helpful to speak aloud, or with a friend who can help to reaffirm these positive statements.
Anchor yourself in the present
You’ve got through the first few weeks at college and feel ready for whatever challenges will come your way. However, as you walk into the new lecture hall, you feel the anxiety return. This is completely normal. Thankfully, there are some simple practices you can do in real-time to help you to bring this anxiety down to a more manageable level.
The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique is a short but effective practice that you can do in any place at any time, without anybody else realising. It invites you to first notice five things that you can see and stay present with them for a few breaths. After this, you can turn your attention to four things you can hear, followed by three things you can smell, two things you can touch and one thing you can taste. Take your time with each segment of the exercise and try to breathe deeply as you move through it. This technique encourages you to engage fully with all five senses and this can help you to ground yourself in the present moment.
Connecting and sharing with those who are going through similar things can help to reduce any feelings of isolation and worry you may have.
Know you are not alone
It is important to remember that every year, thousands of people make the transition from school to college and experience feelings just like the ones you are experiencing now. This college year is no exception. You might consider joining a college club or society that will give you the chance to meet like-minded people who are also grappling with a great deal of change. Connecting and sharing with those who are going through similar things can help to reduce any feelings of isolation and worry you may have.
Remember that support is available
Whatever you’re feeling, know that there are many supports out there. Many colleges offer a free, confidential and non-judgmental counselling service that can support students through challenging times. Your students’ union will also be able to offer you guidance on a number of issues, from navigating the college campus and meeting new people to overcoming any difficulties you are facing with your course.
If you wish to speak with somebody outside of your college environment, there are a number of free online and in-person supports available to you through Jigsaw. Through the Live Chat service, you can access anonymous, 1:1 live, text-based chats with a clinician. Additionally, every Wednesday, the Jigsaw Live Group Chat service can give you the opportunity to share what you are going through with your peers. This is a safe and anonymous space. If you wish to speak with a clinician face-to-face, check to see if you have a Jigsaw service in your area. Those who do not may be able to avail of this support over video or phone call.
Realising that you can get through hard things can help you to build resilience over time.
Reflect along the way
As you settle into college life and overcome the initial challenges, it can be easy to forget that you ever worried about it at all! It can be good to reflect on your journey. Remind yourself of the difficulties that you faced and be proud of yourself for getting through. Realising that you can get through hard things can help you to build resilience over time.