Freshman, sophomore, junior, senior—the feeling of being overwhelmed can hit you at any level in your college career. Most often the unwelcome sensation strikes at the beginning or end of a semester, but it can also appear during midterms, when it becomes clear that you’re just not prepared for your exams.
If the feeling of being overwhelmed by college surfaces near the beginning of the semester, you can take strong positive action to stop it before it monopolizes your mind. Here are five suggestions to face the “monster” and get your life back again:
1: Talk to a friend, teacher, or parent
Don’t suffer these feelings in silence, dear student. It’s not a sign of weakness or inferiority to feel overwhelmed by college, especially if you’re new to the experience. And even if you’re not new, just sharing your fears—“I don’t think I can handle that economics class,” or, “I don’t think I’m cut out to be an R.A.”—can relieve your stress considerably. Confide in your roommate, talk to your favorite teacher, or call your parents. Often these people can come up with a suggestion that will put your world back together again: “Economics is offered during the summer—why don’t you take it then, since you’re planning to go to summer school anyhow?” Plus, just sharing your concerns with another person will have the effect of lessening the feeling of being overwhelmed. (After all, everyone has problems.)
2: Get some exercise
At home, you were probably used to being active. Maybe you went swimming regularly, or worked out, or jogged. But this semester you don’t have gym, and you’ve got so much to do your only exercise, it seems, is getting from class to class. Make time to take a daily walk around campus, or go lift some weights at night. Find the track and run some laps, if that’s what you’re used to, or go bowling. Getting out of your head and into your body will do much for relieving the stifling feeling of being overwhelmed.
3: Take the time to treat yourself well
Just as important as making room in your schedule for physical exercise is taking time to do something nice for yourself every day, or at least once a week. Your mind is so full of “should do’ and “must do” that you’ve completely forgotten the “want to do”—and that’s means you’ve forgotten you. So go to the college bookstore and buy something totally frivolous and not class-related: a pillow or a magazine. Find a pretty spot on campus and sit there for 20 minutes, just day-dreaming. Go to a movie or watch football on TV (by yourself is fine), or wander through the Art Department’s picture gallery. (And yes, you can buy yourself a hot fudge sundae occasionally, as long as you don’t consume too many of them.)
4: Go home for a few days
Sometimes leaving campus for a short while can go a long way toward clearing your head. The feeling of being overwhelmed often occurs because of tunnel vision—you block out everything except the anxiety-producing class or activity or situation you’re in. Getting away from that situation even for a day or two can do a lot toward restoring your perspective as well as giving you fresh ideas on how to handle it. College is supposed to be fun (as well as a learning experience), and if you’re not having any fun you need to make some changes—either in your schedule, your activities, or your surroundings.
5: See a counselor
If the feeling of being overwhelmed persists, and you’ve tried the above suggestions without success, you might want to talk to a counselor. Most colleges have counselors available to help students with their problems at no charge. Look in the campus directory, or ask the telephone operator at the switchboard of the college’s main phone number. You can be sure that whatever you tell the counselor will be kept confidential. A counselor is trained to help students with this very problem—feeling overwhelmed—and he/she will probably be able to make some suggestions that you haven’t thought of yet.
Dear student, don’t go through a semester or even part of a semester feeling overwhelmed by college. Take action to combat that feeling, so that you can enjoy your college experience.