Reactions to stress vary from fatigue to frenzy. Some may be frozen in a state of inaction, unable to be motivated. Others may find themselves so agitated they can’t concentrate. Either way, things don’t get done or done poorly. This may be disastrous for the college-bound loaded with an extra long college prep to-do list.
Keeping up with increasingly difficult classes, studying for college admission tests, researching colleges and filling out applications are happening as students are preparing for their driver’s license and getting ready for the prom. They are assuming more independence and responsibility and are faced with a host of new issues. Choosing a college may mean living far from home. Paying for college may mean acquiring debt through student loans. These changes affect every family member.
Stress breeds stress
Parents and their children may respond differently to anxiety. As the pressure mounts, reactions grow stronger. Worse, family members may feed off each other’s emotions. Instead of having each other’s back as a college prep parent/student team, parents and students may find themselves at odds, harboring frustration and anger towards each other.
The best way to handle stress is to recognize how you deal with it. Learn your response and before it drags you down, start communicating. Get the team back together and on the same page. Perhaps a time management plan would make things easier to meet deadlines. Maybe better organization would speed up efficiency.
Use good stress
Not all stress is bad. Good stress from positive and exciting experiences may help motivate and inspire. Getting the lead in a play, making the team or becoming a club officer may generate joy for the accomplishment. It may also lead to concern about performance.
Students may focus on the great opportunity and the fun of anticipation to fuel enthusiasm and determination. Proud parents may offer congratulations and then take a step back. They should be careful not to add to the pressure of meeting high expectations their child may be feeling.
Take a stress break
Suzanne Shaffer and I have talked about some aspects of college prep stress before. Some of the tips in Wednesday’s Parent: 7 holiday stress-busters and Wednesday’s Parent: SOS over application stress may apply now.
Overall, I’ve found the most effective way to interrupt the stress cycle is with laughter and fun. Try and find the humor in the absurdity and perspective in the freakout. College prep is the first step children take as they prepare for adulthood. Make it work for you not against you and give yourself a break!
Find expert help
On Twitter chat #CampusChat Wednesday, April 23 at 9pm ET/6pm PT, hosted by Wednesday’s Parent, guest Fern Weis of YOUR FAMILY MATTERS, LLC provides her tips and suggestions for dealing with stress during the college process. Later, check out Smart College Visit for a recap of the chat.
Read this to learn how to join the chat and participate in the conversation with your questions and comments.
Read Suzanne’s blog for typical scenarios to deal with Stress During College Prep.