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Student Life Counseling and Treatment

Student Life Counseling and Treatment

We all live with challenges and struggles, the stress and anxiety we experience with a new difficult situation. Students are also no different than anyone else. They also experience anxiety, stress, burnout, peer pressure, etc. They are constantly experiencing new challenges and difficulties that seem insurmountable and the outcome seems to be uncertain. They may or may not have a full understanding of what they are going through but their self-esteem, confidence, and well-being are impacted by the challenges and problems of the student life.

But, if you are a student and experiencing stress, anxiety, or anything in between, please know it is a normal part of the student life and secondly, it is always okay to ask for help and support.

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What Can Cause Anxiety or Stress Through Student Living?

As per the researchers of Penn State University, anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health challenges that students experience and seek mental health services. There are other mental illnesses that they experience but anxiety and depression are the two mental health conditions that show an increase year over year.

There are many reasons that cause anxiety and stress through student living but the most common ones are as follows:

  1. Fear of Failure & Uncertainty of the Future You feel anxious when you are in no control of a situation i.e. dealing with the unknown. Student life is no different. It is unpredictable and unknown as they experience so much uncertainty. They do not know if they will get good grades in the exam or not, whether they will pass or fail, whether they will land a job, whether they will be able to make it to next semester and so many other things. Some feel unsettled, some feel lost, some feel they are not following their calling, and many other thoughts that feed their fear of failure and uncertainty of the future.

  2. New Challenges
    Student life is filled with new challenges. Every day they experience a new environment and a new challenge that they need to overcome. They are constantly experiencing changes and moving to new environments, adapting to new processes and schemes. It is overwhelming, frustrating, and draining.

  3. Lack of Sleep Student life is filled with all-nighters, caffeine intakes, deadlines pressure, peer pressures, and many other things impact the quality of sleep. It becomes difficult to achieve healthy sleeping habits and adds to the stress and anxiety they experience.

  4. Lack of Support System Usually, students need to leave home to go to a new town, city, or country for their studies. It means they leave their usual support system (family, parents, friends, siblings, partners) and enter a completely new environment where they do not know anyone. They are all on their own and have to make their own choices and decisions. It is overwhelming and stressful for students. Without their usual support system, they start feeling lonely and homesick which makes it difficult to adjust to their new school or college life and increases the risk of anxiety or depression.

Students appear to be more stressed and anxious than before. And when it is not acknowledged, addressed, or treated, it becomes hard for them to stay focused and determined to achieve their goals and academic success.

Managing A Successful and Positive Experience

To have a successful and positive experience in student life, here are a few steps you can take while being on the campus or off-campus.

  1. Define Your Clear Goals
    To have a successful campus life, it is more important to know that it is all about you than it is about the school or college you are in. So the most important question you need to ask yourself is what actually matters to you, why are you here, and what you expect to get out of it. Even if you are aware of it, it is good to reaffirm and remind yourself about your goals. When you have long-term life and career goals defined, then it allows you to stay focused and motivated to achieve your goal and you start seeing student life as a stepping stone towards the success you decided to have.

  2. Practice Problem-Solution Perspective
    Campus life is filled with problems, challenges, difficulties, and struggles. It affects how you perceive or approach anything or everything. It feels a lot to take. But when you approach these problems with a problem-solution perspective, it allows you to stay focused and motivated to face and solve the problem rather than feel intimidated by them.

  3. Set High Standards but Do Not Expect Perfection
    One of the most important steps you can take is to take care and be gentle to your self-esteem. Achieving goals, big or small, boosts self-esteem and makes you feel confident. But when you set unrealistic expectations, it sets you up for failure, self-doubt, and stress.

  4. Slow down
    Student life is fast-paced and it can be stressful in itself. Dealing with a lot of work, content to process, peer pressure, and all do not give a moment to breathe. It feels like a never-ending cycle. That is why you need to slow down now and then. Take short breaks, practice breathing, mindfulness exercises, allocate your time in small blocks, etc. to ensure you get all time to breathe, think and reflect on your goals, your experiences, and everything in between. It helps you achieve clarity and motivate you to get one step closer to your goals.

  5. Seek out professional help
    Sometimes the anxiety and stress experienced by a student can be a lot for them to handle and can be disruptive. The regular support systems may or may not have the resources to deal with such kinds of challenges and this is the time when one needs expert help and guidance more than anything else. It is okay to seek help. Reach out to mental health professionals or a therapist to talk about your challenges and experiences, so that they can guide and support you through this phase.

Mental Health: Tricks and Tips To De-stress

Stress and anxiety can trigger many mental health or physical health challenges. But, there are things you can do to de-stress and manage your anxiety, worry, or stress.

Going for a walk, journaling, listening to soothing music, spending time in nature, connecting with friends or support system, setting firm boundaries like learning to say “No”, having pets, mindfulness and meditation, breathing, serving, and helping others, are few tips that you can use to deal with your stress.

By practicing all or some of them help you feel much better than before.

Overcoming Negative Pressure and Lack of Acceptance

Some people have a hard time overcoming negative pressure and accepting situations because they feel like accepting it would mean they are in agreement with what is happening. But it is not. But, whatever the reasons are for lack of acceptance, know that it is okay to have such feelings because many have felt the same way. Acceptance is not the same as quitting or passivity. You can still continue to push forward and take steps in order to make things better. A few things that you can do to overcome negative pressure and lack of acceptance.

  1. Talk and Share Reaching out and talking helps. Sometimes all you need is to vent and share how you are feeling in order to gain clarity to your thoughts and emotions. It allows you to see what you might be missing out on and what you may need to handle. You may talk to your family, friends. But due to some reasons, you are not comfortable opening up with them, you can check out various online resources like online support groups, nearby counseling centers, participate in various educational programs, wellness workshops, etc.

  2. Practice Gratitude and Kindness
    Sometimes we are so much focused on challenges, pressures, and struggles that we do not think about anything else. We stop thinking about things we have, things we achieved, pains that we endured. But, taking a moment to be grateful for everything you may have allowed you to see how as an individual or person you evolved. Also, practice kindness to yourself. At times we blame ourselves for everything that happens. But it may not be the case. You did what you could in the given situation.

  3. Learn Coping Skills
    At one or another point, you may experience unexpected events and situations. Sometimes it gives us a hard time dealing with such problems. So, part of the acceptance process is learning and developing new coping skills that help you get through these tough times.

  4. Stop Over-Worrying Over-worrying never helped to come up with better solutions. Rather it increases anxiety, stress and drains your energy. The only way to deal with it is to let go of our fears and worries and think positively and optimally and believe that we are doing the right thing. And, you can reach out to therapists for individual counseling or learn coping skills to worry less.

Dealing with Student Living Through Therapy

Your mental health should be treated like your physical health. Reaching out to a therapist, a counselor or any mental health professional allows you to get professional help and treatment. Like anyone can catch a cold, cough, or flu, similarly, anyone can suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD, Trauma, etc. They are similar to physical health challenges. And all you can do is to reach out for help in order to take care of your health.

A trained mental health professional (therapists, counselors, or psychologists) can help and support you by helping you identify the source of stress and anxiety in your student life and what you could do to manage or improve them, help you learn coping strategies, social skills, and mindfulness and relaxation techniques as well. Also, they can offer you support and encouragement in the tough times and guide you to replace your challenging thoughts with well-balanced ones. An online therapist would help you provide the right framework or treatment plan to deal with it. They would be able to diagnose the unique factors that cause you to feel anxious. And constantly work with you to plan correct steps and strategies to cope up with it.

Whether it is for a school going student, undergraduate or graduate, or above, everyone experiences the challenges of student living. It affects student’s lives, relationships, opportunities, study-life balance, daily activities, etc. However, one can progress and grow while they handle and deal with the stress and anxiety. It is all about small steps and knowing every information you need to know in order to deal with different stress areas and concerns. You are not alone in this journey.

Featured Contributors

Kathy Wenzel

Kathy is the editor of a leading regional publication in Michigan with personal experience with and a passion for mental health issues.

Laura Berger, PCC, CEBC

Member and columnist at the Forbes Coaches Council, Psychology Today, Huffington Post and bestselling author of "Radical Sabbatical," Laura Berger, PCC, CEBC coaches exceptional leaders.

Cynthia Stocker, LCSW

Cynthia is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in animal-assisted therapy.

Rory Boutilier, RPC

Rory is a Registered Professional Counsellor and registered with the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association.