Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by college.
They say college is the best four years of your life, but what they don’t tell you is that it can also be the most anxiety-inducing. Trying to balance school, work, extracurriculars and a social life while also attempting to figure out your entire life at 20 years old is enough to make anyone lose their mind. I think that we all go into college with our expectations set high — all the movies we’ve seen, the books we’ve read, the stories we’ve heard have allowed us all to paint this picture in our heads about what our time in university should look like. That’s not to say that this idea of college that we’ve cultivated in our minds is entirely false; a lot of it is reality. This is the time to have fun and let loose, to explore your interests, to surround yourself with people with whom you can make amazing memories that will last you so much longer than the four years you spent creating them. It’s the time to become, well…you. And while that’s exciting, it can also be totally overwhelming, and that is completely okay. I want to make that very clear: just because your college experience isn’t exactly what you expected, that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. The stress and anxiety that go along with being a student is completely normal.
I feel as though this isn’t talked about nearly enough, and is something that needs to be addressed. In those instances in which the stress seems to take over, it can feel like you’re alone in your experience. It’s so easy to fall into yourself, questioning why everyone around you seems like they’re having the time of their lives while you’re struggling. A lot of this, I feel, is perpetuated by social media. Each of us is leading our own lives, and is the star of our very own show. However, social media presents us with the opportunity to get a glance into the lives of our friends and peers, which can have some consequences for our mental wellbeing.
Each time we scroll through Instagram, or tap through Snapchat stories, we see only what our followers want us to see: their highlights. We see them living their best lives, as is advertised to us via photos of a crazy vacation or videos of someone at a tailgate, surrounded by friends and dancing wildly alongside their classmates. It’s important to remember that nobody wants to present a negative image of themselves online. No one is going to post photos of themselves while overwhelmed, drowning in homework and stressing about declaring a major. Nobody will broadcast the hardships that go along with being a college student, but that doesn’t make these difficulties any less real. It just makes them significantly less public. Our personal lives and our online presence are completely different, and comparing your situation to that of those you follow on social media will get you nowhere.
College isn’t easy for anybody, and believe me when I say you are not alone in your struggles. Just because people aren’t posting about it, doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling it. Find comfort in the fact that we’ve all been there, and we’re all going through it together. Preparing for the future is never a simple thing, and the feelings of anxiety that go along with it are natural. But with every day that passes, you are learning, and you are slowly growing into the person whose strength and tenacity will shake the world. It might take a couple of mental breakdowns to get there, but you’re well on your way. I promise.
When I find myself getting overwhelmed, I always try to give myself a little happiness boost throughout the day to help combat any stress I might be feeling. With finals coming up, I know we’re all kicking it into high gear. Here are a few little tips to get you through the rough times, and help you finish the semester out strong:
Treat yourself! Buy yourself a coffee or a smoothie, or indulge on your favorite food. It’s important to give yourself a little pick-me-up to help you power through a tough day.
Switch up the scenery! Take a little trip down to PB or Sunset Cliffs and let yourself relax. The views are amazing, and being near the ocean helps to calm me down when I start to feel anxious. Both places are only about 15 minutes away from campus, so grab some friends or head down solo and just unwind.
Self care! After a long day, it’s important to let yourself rest and breathe easy. Change into sweatpants, light a candle, paint your nails, do a face mask, and binge your favorite Netflix show to end the night. You deserve it.