Advice from Mom Regarding College Anxiety

Posted September 15th, 2009 by collegemomindebt and filed in Anxiety, Parent to Parent

girl in collegeWhen my daughters call or Skype me to ask for advice on how to deal with anxiety in college (whether it be handling separation anxiety or overcoming test anxiety), the first thing I say is that it is possible to be calm even in a storm.  I remind them that it is normal to be somewhat stressed when they are away from home and to be anxious before exams, but that being overly anxious is not a necessary evil.

I ask them for the details of what is stressing them and often find that there are multiple issues going on all at once including homesickness, unresolved relationship issues, lack of sleep, unhealthy diet and a lack of normal routines.

I ask a series of questions such as do you have the comforter I made you?  Who can you talk to there about this?  What are you doing for exercise?  How much sleep are you getting?  Is there any opportunity to take a short nap?  How often, how much, when and what are you eating?

As I get responses, I say things like, Okay, wrap yourself up in the comforter so you can feel yourself hugged while we talk…  I think you should run that by your friend (or mentor) to get more feedback before you make a decision…  Make time to take a run at least three times a week, you know how you feel better when you are running regularly.  Find a church or small group that will help you stay on track with your faith…  I’m serious about getting at least 8 hours of sleep a day and getting into a regular schedule, you’ll be amazed how a lot of these issues will get better when you can simply tackle them with a clear and rested mind… Is there something you can take into the room when you take your test?  I know I always feel better when I have a fist full of sharpened pencils in my hand…  Stop eating all the sugar and caffeine, you know you feel better when you eat healthy…  Do the simple things like make your bed and empty the garbage can, you’ll find that you and your roommate are happier when you do… Rather than talk to one friend about another friend, have you tried talking directly to the one who is bothering  you?  It’s better to keep things simple and involve as few people as possible when you are having a disagreement.

While this may sound like a lot of nagging, it’s the basic stuff that my daughters want to hear from me.  And when the simple stuff is not enough, it’s my job to help refer them to other resources that can go deeper.  There are a lot of great resources available.  There are people on campus that can be sought out such as the residency advisor, school counselor, school chaplain or dean of students.  Plus there is a medical clinic on campus and free crisis phone lines.  There are also online resources such as with its 10 affirmations to calm college student stress.

And when these resources don’t go deep enough or feel confidential enough, there also is the Student Assistance Plan that provides confidential professional support by telephone 24/7.  This plan provides mental health, relationship, legal and financial counseling to my daughters for less cost than the medical plan I have for our dog.  It gives my daughters and me peace of mind to know that they are each equipped to respond to minor and major sources of stress even when far from home.  And when their stress is reduced, so is mine.  Funny how it works that way even when they’re not at home.