As a brand new college student, you may have already heard plenty of stories about how college is supposed to be the best time of your life. Story lines include epic parties, love, studying abroad and ultimately earning a degree. The journey may not be easy but no matter how you look at it, you’re learning and it’s a matter of making college all that you want it to be. Now the question is… how do you adjust to college life so that you can start enjoying it?
There are multiple factors that impact how we adjust to college. The toughest part about college may not be academic stress as expected; instead it’s the transition into a world that is completely unfamiliar. College for you may mean living apart from your family and friends for the first time, living with roommates and possibly moving to a new city or state. Other factors such as campus size or demographics can also make an impact. Even maintaining the day to day can be challenging in having to attend classes, designate homework time and have a social life. It’s when these factors aren’t managed well that college feels less enjoyable.
The effects of having difficulty transitioning into college life can be seen physically and emotionally. Physically, you may you have less energy to do things you used to enjoy or your appetite may be affected. You may notice difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Emotionally you may experience common symptoms such as sadness, irritability or anxiety. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, here are a few tips on what could be helpful to get back on track and successfully transition to college.
Helpful tips include:
1. Keeping in touch with those that support you like friends and family from back home by texting, calling, video chatting and emailing.
2. Enjoying physical activities in or around your new campus such as yoga, boxing classes, hiking and bike riding.
3. Getting involved on campus by joining student clubs or off-campus volunteering.
4. Utilizing a planner to help schedule in academic responsibilities as well as social gatherings and self-care time.
5. Listening to music, attending concerts and even looking around a music store to help elevate your mood.
6. Seeking support on and off campus from a resource office or a counselor may help develop tools and provide a safe space to talk things through.
In closing, embarking on this next chapter in your life is exciting and these tips can help make the transition less challenging. College not only provides a platform for academic learning but also personal growth and independence. Learning and utilizing tools to help cope, problem solve and communicate alongside a strong support group can ensure you’re successful.
Marriage and Family Therapist
Many children experience anxiety, but there are times when it can seem overwhelming. Parents often ask us, “How do I know if my child needs professional help?” The simple answer: If your child’s anxiety is consistently getting in the way of your family’s functioning, it may be time to seek outside counsel. This can mean that your child consistently refuses to attend birthday parties, visit friends’ houses for play dates, or go to bed in his/her own room. It could mean that you find yourself adjusting your work schedule, changing vacation plans, or allowing your child to stay home from school because of the panic that separation or a new environment might trigger. You may have stopped suggesting outings, promised to stay by his/her side at parties, and even punished your child for failing to do the “normal” things of childhood. A chronically anxious child can leave parents feeling tired, worried, and manipulated. You want a better life for you and your child. What can you do?
Parents: Do your best to manage your own anxiety
The first and most important step of helping your child with his anxiety is to manage your own. For most parents, watching your child suffer is distressing and the strain can make it difficult to maintain calm. As your child’s most important role model, your reaction will likely be the most influential factor in how your child learns to respond to these difficult feelings. For many children, the anxiety has become so difficult and persistent, that the child begins to fear the onset of the anxiety itself as much as the original object of their fear. One child client reported to me, “I am not even sure what I am afraid of. Right now I am mostly afraid that I will become scared again”. A child who is scared of anxiety will be much better off with a parent who exudes calm and quiet confidence.
If you are parenting your child with a partner or spouse, you may be experiencing an additional challenge: parental disagreement on how to address your child’s anxiety. According to Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety: A Guide for Caregivers, “Many couples experience tension because one parent is attempting to demand more independent functioning from the child and feels that the other is being overly protective or is ‘giving in to the anxiety’”. In such cases, one parent is concerned that the other is too hard on the anxious child, while the other thinks the “soft” parent is not doing enough to force the child outside their rather small comfort zone. Both parents believe that the other is causing or perpetuating the anxiety. This often starts a process in which both parents attempt to overcompensate for the other’s “mistakes”: The harder the one parent becomes, the softer the other gets, and vice versa. This feeds into a blame game that can create marital tension, which is counterproductive and can increase the overall anxiety level of the family. Rather than getting through his/her anxiety, the child can be left feeling guilty and worried about increasing family tension.
Find the “Middle Way”
The good news is that both parents are right! The “soft” and “hard” parental approaches each have important advantages. However, if not coordinated in a consistent way, the differences can increase tension and create more anxiety. In the softer model, the child feels heard and understands that his/her parent is responding to their needs. In a harder approach, the child’s anxious behavior is not accommodated and, therefore, does not have room to grow and expand its influence upon the child and the behavior. In fact, this firmer style can be containing for an anxious child. Both principles are essential in empowering your child to overcome their anxiety. Children can thrive with parents who simultaneously communicate sympathy for their child’s struggle and model confidence in their child’s ability to manage, and eventually conquer, their fears. At Claremont Counseling and Support, we can work with you to find and maintain this “middle way” through parent training, action plans, and psychoeducation. While working with parents is an important part of the process, we also have therapists who can work directly with your child to introduce the anxiety coping skills that can help him/her take steps toward a more independent future. For further information on how we can support your family, please call (909) 624-1997 and visit our website at www.claremontcounseling.com.
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Coping with Grief and Loss
Grief and loss affect all of us. Whether it is the loss of a loved one through death, or the loss you are experiencing through divorce or other major life transitions, with time and the help of a good therapist, you can cope. In the initial stages, you may be overwhelmed by sadness, anger, or shock, or you may feel “numb.” Accept that everyone copes in different ways, reach out to professionals who can help you, and talk about what you are experiencing. The following list contains some suggestions that many people have found helpful for dealing with grief and loss.
Practice good self-care. Self-care means different things to different people. For some, it will be important to remember to get enough rest. For others, self-care means getting exercise and making sure to eat regular, healthful meals. Your health matters, and it is important to remember to take care of yourself.
Consider postponing that major life change that you were about to make. You might wish to postpone major decisions like leaving a job, moving, or planning a major event until after you have had an opportunity to work through the grieving process. Too many life changes at once may be too overwhelming.
Use your creativity. Some people find it helpful to write poetry, paint, draw, or write a song about the loss. Using our creative energy in this way can help us process the grief. If you are grieving over the death of a loved one, a creative project can help you celebrate that person’s life and the importance of your relationship. If you are coping with a break-up or some other loss, your creativity can help you find a way to identify and express your feelings.
Reach out for social support. Some of your friends may call and offer you their support. Some may not know what to say to you and might not call right away. If and when you are able to talk to them, return phone calls, go out, and talk about your loss if you feel comfortable doing so. It is important not to isolate yourself. Consider meeting with other people who have experienced similar losses.
Talk to a therapist. A therapist can help you talk about your grief and can help you identify and express your feelings. If you would like to meet with a therapist, call Dr. Marcelle Holmes at Claremont Counseling and Support Center. Dr. Holmes is a licensed Clinical Psychologist with experience with people just like you who are coping with feelings of grief and loss. She can be reached at the following number: (909) 624-1997.
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Scheduled to take a major exam for a class? Is it the LSAT’s? Or, maybe you are nervous about taking another exam, necessary for advancement in your career. Some people enjoy the challenge of preparing for exams. Other people dread it.
Here are four tips for dealing with test anxiety and beginning the process of becoming a more relaxed test-taker.
Learn some relaxation techniques. A little bit of excitement is normal and can actually be helpful as you gear up for an exam. Sometimes, though, anxiety can be so overwhelming that it prevents us from focusing. Sometimes, learning how to take some deep breaths while you are taking the test can help you calm down and could lead to more creative problem-solving. If you can, you may find it helpful to close your eyes and take several deep slow breaths while studying or during the exam.
Talk yourself into it. While you are studying, you might want to record some of the thoughts that you are having. Do you tell yourself that you can never do well? Do you tell yourself that this test is impossible? What evidence do you have that any of these things are true? Have you passed tests before? If so, remind yourself that it is possible to do well and that you have done well in the past. Or, you can tell yourself that other people with similar training and preparation to you have done well in the past. Try to silence the negative self-talk that can sabotage you. When you feel better about yourself and your chances of success, you can be a more confident test-taker.
Think about whether your status as a minority might affect you. Some people are vulnerable to a term called “stereotype threat” coined by a researcher named Claude Steele. If you are a woman taking a math exam, for example, you might be thinking about all of the negative stereotypes about women and math, and your preoccupation with these stereotypes may be diverting attention away from the test itself. Talking about the effect of these stereotypes with a therapist might be helpful.
Consider therapy. Call Dr. Holmes at Claremont Counseling and Support Center. Dr. Holmes, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, has worked with many individuals with test anxiety and may be able to help you reduce the anxiety so that you can function and perform at your maximum potential.
You can reach Dr. Holmes at the following number: (909) 624-1997.
Listening is something most of us take for granted. You talk, I respond. Simple as that. Listening is a skill that most of us only assume we are doing properly. However, as marriage and family therapists the most common theme that comes up during counseling is that one of the family members is not listening, or being listened to.
Effective listening is an art that most people need to be taught how to do. It is more than just hearing the words that are spoken.
It is letting the person speaking know that you truly understand what they are saying and that you are hearing what they have to say without judging them or having a hidden agenda of your won. This is called ‘active listening’.
Active listening let’s the other person know that we understand what they are feeling. It let’s our children know that they can discuss things with us and be accepted, not judged for opening up their feelings. It also opens the door for future communication between parent and child.
It is important to listen to our children’s feelings when they try to communicate with us. Listening for feelings is a special skill called ‘reflective listening’. Reflective listening begins with the words ‘you feel’ before the feeling and ‘because’ before the reason you are hearing from your child. We, as parents, are like a mirror reflecting back our children’s feelings. This lets them know they have been truly heard. It is also important to remember that children do not always have the right ‘words’ to describe the way they feel. Children often do not have the vocabulary to express feelings we as adults take for granted.
It can be important for children to have words to describe their emotions, and know that they are safe expressing them. Words for happy feelings can include appreciated, excited, proud and comfortable. Words for upset feelings can include angry, confused, frustrated and hurt.
By using these simple techniques we help our children learn it is ok to open up and share their feelings. We help them gain insight and awareness of their own feelings, attitudes and values. Truly listening to our children promotes a healthier, more intimate parent child relationship.
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