By Magnus Dalier, Summer Intern, Tulane University
(Reviewed by Dr. Maria Zimmitti)
During a time of unprecedented adjustments in the digital age, college students and rising college freshmen may face unique and unrecognized challenges. Yes, these challenges exist in light of the good fortune students have to attend college. And yes, uncertainty is common at this developmental stage. However, college students face enormous uncertainty about the future in a time when the world has no clear answer, and when college students are expected to acclimate to adult reality. All this uncertainty, coupled with the abrupt change in their independent lifestyle, can create and worsen anxiety and other mental health issues, especially when given ample time to ruminate.
Though the whole world faces challenges during this pandemic, many struggles are unique to college kids who may see a world of uncertainty, unfairness, and more seriously, tragedy. College students faced a sudden and now prolonged separation from their close friends. They’ve lost a newfound sense of freedom and comradery. They may be returning to family dynamics that challenge them emotionally and they have no reprise. They might not air their irritation out of guilt in knowing they should be grateful to be safe at home. Moreover, living alone is particularly trying for college kids at this time. Beyond the home, online education can undermine learning and induce anxiety, especially when it comes to tests. And with concerningly ambiguous economic transformations on the horizon, college students readying to join the workforce – particularly those anticipating student debt – may be stricken, having no sense of a possible future.
These uncertainties paired with isolation can be depressing at an age where existential dread should be minimal, but there are many ways college students can ease their anxiety about the future and find meaning and happiness in the face of this pandemic. First, only lift the stones you can carry. The ability to identify those challenges within one’s control is the key to finding opportunities instead of obstacles. Take an hour to love each day. Whether you make a list of things you appreciate, you Facetime a friend or family member, or you spend an hour with your pet, set aside time for love and gratitude and you may be at the very least, a little bit happier.
The future is unwritten and the life trajectories we knew intimately may crumble in the days to come. Making flexible plans on the path towards a meaningful life and career can help college students develop a sense of security and adaptability to grapple with life’s larger issues. Finally, be honest with yourself and tell others your thoughts and feelings. There’s too much time for rumination in quarantine. Though processing emotions is important, it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts when you never express them, so trust in someone to help you. Despite the challenges college students currently face, there are many silver linings (to be mentioned in an upcoming blog) that can guide your planning for your future and improve your mental health. To everyone enduring this, you deserve praise. So, reward yourself today because learning to flourish in the face of this crisis is what lays the groundwork for resilience and a promising future.
If you find yourself struggling, it may help to get an outside perspective. Contact Georgetown Psychology for Online Therapy or another mental health provider in your state should you need any help.