Students in their first year of post secondary education report experiencing a great deal of stress and a heightened level of anxiety prior to or during their first year of university. On the stress scale such a period of change in anyone’s life ranks quite high. Stress scales identify items that contribute to stress (e.g. weddings, death, promotion, moving, separation, new job etc.) and it is usually recommended that you don’t take on too many at one time. Oftentimes there is not a choice when young adults are leaving home and heading out on their own for the first time.
Even young people who were extremely successful and confident in high school can find themselves struggling with their new reality. It is not unusual for them to state that they feel terrified by the new level of expectation and workload.
Consider the many changes that occur during this time:
• Moving to a new community,
• Being away from one’s support network,
• Starting a new academic program or job,
• Living independently for the first time,
• Making decisions about one’s long-term future,
• Taking on substantial debt.
Each of these items on their own can trigger high levels of stress and when many are combined together it can be quite overwhelming. It is not unusual for debilitating emotional distress to result.
What can one do to minimize the effects of stress? The first line of defense lies within. Taking care of oneself by eating healthy foods, getting exercise and getting adequate sleep are all steps that can be taken today to better protect oneself from the effects of stress. We recommend that students avoid coping with stress in ways that compound the problem such as smoking, drugs and alcohol consumption. Students should realize that they are not alone and their reaction is not an indication of weakness or failure. Reaching out to others who have had similar experiences can be extremely helpful. Students should seek out resources at the Student Services Office or Hire a Coach!
Coaching can be very effective in assisting transitioning students as they build emotional and behavioural strategies to successfully face their new challenges. If you are interested in other ways to help a student manage stress, contact us. Keep in mind that coaching can be conducted via phone or Skype, easily bridging distances.