For many teens, the light of Freshman year and college life was the force guiding them through some brutal stressors during their senior year of high school. Now, as all are aware, things are looking quite different.
COVID-19 has robbed us of many different elements of life. And for this population, COVID has put a barrier between students and their desired freshman year of college experience.
So, while there is no way to ultimately ‘fix’ this issue until there is a cure, there are some tips that can help these students mourn their loss, and build an experience that is meaningful.
- Express your anger: prior to finding and utilizing coping strategies, it is important to express the feelings that rise when you are processing the event. Anger, sadness, disappointment, anxiety, you name it. There is no ‘ one size fits all’ emotion, however, the feeling is valid! Find a way in which you can safely, and comfortably express yourself.
- Envision your goals for the year, and how you imagined Freshman year would be : were you looking forward to joining a sorority or fraternity and making a group of friends? Were you excited to take courses in a lecture hall? Or even dreaming about studying late hours with friends in the library? Did you envision belonging to a club, or having a roommate and a bunk bed? While this can be upsetting to think about how some of these dreams might appear out of reach, it is a good reminder to examine what you value so you can find a way to incorporate the values into your experience!
- Tailor to fit the current situation: Now, you have your old vision… let’s tailor it to fit our current situation. Let’s say you were looking forward to joining a club, or fraternity/sorority. Is there anything available to network with other students virtually? Is there a way to connect to like-minded students with the same interests? Can you connect with other freshmen online and create a platform where you can get to know each other, and even create a group for people with the same interests?
Were you looking forward to a roommate, or even just moving away? Is it still possible to move? If not, are you able to redesign your current room to give it a different feel? Can you create that ‘college space’ in your current bedroom? Yes, these tweeks are not always ‘ideal’, but the attempt is to recognize the way in which you can still control some elements of your experience to help bridge the gap.
- The learning part: HOW can I create a ‘classroom feel’ over my computer? Our brains like to make connections which can make it challenging to feel in ‘the school zone’ while sitting in bed in our pajamas. Can you imagine a way that you can get in the mindset of learning? If we are sitting in bed and attempting to listen to our professor lecture, we are more likely to find ourselves feeling tired or distracted. This is because our bed is associated with sleep, or other calming activities. Is there a place that you can designate as your ‘learning environment’? This will be beneficial in making a learning association and bringing your brain to ‘school mode’ just as it automatically does when you enter classrooms.
- Mindfulness: Some days are easier than others. When we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations we often think about ‘how long will it take to get out of this position?’ This thought can be quite scary. Can you refocus your attention to the here-and-now? What am I doing at this moment? What do I value? And, What can I do now to help myself? It is challenging to stop these thoughts and therapy can be a great resource to help yourself learn these tools.