Planning for college can ruffle even the most unflappable person.
Planning for college can ruffle even the most unflappable person. Between the stress of deadlines and the uncertainty of the future, many students experience anxiety. Here are six tips rounded up from Seattle counselors on how to handle this high-pressure time in your life.
Work closely with a school counselor. Seek out your high school counselor if you’re feeling overwhelmed. They can help you ensure you have all your materials in order to apply and build your confidence. “Much of the anxiety with applications is related to [lack of] confidence,” says Rosie Moore, mental health counselor at the Garfield/Nova Teen Health Center. “Doubts like ‘can I really get in?’ and ‘am I capable enough?’ can hamper your confidence and be anxiety-producing,” she says. Working with a school counselor can help you manage this.
Look for community support. As increasing numbers of students are the first in their families to apply for college, community resources have become more important than ever, says Moore. “First, look for the resources offered by your school such as College Access Now,” she advises. Supplement those with support from your local community center and connect with alumni from your high school to help answer questions.
Invest in self-care. Taking care of yourself is key to managing anxiety. “Eating well and sleep are important to keep students engaged in school and during the college application process,” says Moore. “Self-care is about really finding what works for you to make you feel good,” says Jennifer Kantor, a Kaiser Permanente licensed social worker and school-based counselor at Rainier Beach High School. “Everyone is different and everyone’s body is different.” For extroverts, self-care may mean reaching out to a close friends or someone who makes you laugh, while for introverts, self-care could mean “staying in the bath longer and not overdoing it socially,” she says. “Find what works for you.”
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Talk to a trusted adult. Talking to parents may not be the best way to manage college-related anxiety as “sometimes the stresses of the parents may get transferred to their kids,” says Kantor. College applications can be stress-causing for parents too, especially as it relates to finances and whether their children will get into college. In these situations, Kantor recommends finding a trusted adult — apart from a parent — with whom to share your burdens. “One young person who came to me listed a whole bunch of stress factors that were more than just the application process, although that was certainly a big part of his worries,” she says. Being able to speak with a trusted adult helped him immediately, she says.
Unplug. “Social media ramps up anxiety,” Kantor says. “If you’re in the process of waiting to hear back, then see online that three friends got into their dream college, it can feel terrible.” Instead, focus on your own goals by unplugging, Kantor counsels. “Especially, don’t look at your phone at night.” Ideally, a few days away from social media are restorative, but if you can’t do a whole day, she recommends staying away for an afternoon every few days.
Find creative ways to exercise. Before prescribing antidepressants, most doctors try to encourage managing anxiety with sleep and exercise, says Kantor. “Particularly, the lack of Vitamin D in Seattle can contribute to anxiety and depression,” she says. Counter anxiety with exercise and time outdoors. She recommends being creative with exercise routines if that’s not your favorite thing to do, including looking for short meditation and yoga videos on YouTube for very busy days. “If you can manage getting enough exercise and sleep, everything will feel better,” says Kantor.