Words of Wellness

Thriving During Transitions

These first few weeks on campus are sure to be interesting times. They might be the best ever or just OK or no big deal. Other weeks maybe unsettling, daunting or just feel like a big adjustment to deal with. All of which is normal. So we wanted to share some ideas and resources about making the best of this adjustment to college.

First of all, if you’re new here and live on campus, you’re adjusting to new roommates or floor- mates, the dining hall experience, finding your way around, getting to know your professors, or classmates, and the various staff you need to get things done.

Returning to academics after a summer break means either having a different schedule compared to working one or two jobs all summer or maybe having taken some time off inbetween. Getting a handle on time management is a major piece of making this go smoothly.

In the beginning of the semester there are lots of community building activities offered, and to make good connections at JSC or any community where you are new, it is important to say “Yes” and show up for stuff. It may be difficult if you are shy or not having the best day to feel confident enough to go, but usually it works out to be worthwhile.

It takes a while to get to know people and to let them get to know you. Having an activity to do with a group means not having to figure out what to say, which can make it much easier and take some of the pressure off. So go do stuff.

As the semester starts to get busy academically, there is usually a need to rein in some of the social time with friends and to manage activities and academics thoughtfully in order to be able to stay on top of class work and projects due. Some folks are good at this while others find this a very difficult thing to do, especially if you are finally having a great time with friends or new relationships compared to that rut you were in back home.

To manage your time, plug all your assignments into a visual calendar and plug in the prep time as well, not just the deadlines. An advisor told me back in the day, if you want an A, invest 3hrs/week outside of class on a 3 cr class, a B, 2 hrs or a C 1 hr/wk.

Using a formula like this you can decide what level of commitment meets your own personal expectations for a given class, and that can go a long way to managing stress. Laying it out in your calendar lets you visualize where each class goal leaves you so you can fit in the other priorities in life, like people, jobs, working out, athletics, arts, going to shows and just hanging out or whatever.

Make sure that you also put in some playtime and self-care time – so you can keep some balance. The First Year Experience and Academic Services folks can be of great help here. Stop in if you want some further help with sorting out time.

Make sure you eat real food and sleep regularly. You need energy and rest to think clearly and be at the top of your game as well as to be able to relax, have fun and, of course, cope with everyday stress. Get off your butt and out of bed if you need to, to raise your energy level naturally.

Sex: make sure you have your birth control and safe sex provisions at the ready. At the Health Center there are free condoms, you can get birth control, Plan B, STD & HIV checks and can get your sexual health questions answered for real. Make sure you have and give consent if you’re having sex. If you are too loaded or high you didn’t give or get clear consent and that can lead to feelings of violation and consequences like charges of sexual assault. Confusion about sexual relationships can be a huge stressor. Be clear about what you do and don’t want with your partners.

If you’re sick, or haven’t been feeling well for a while, are looking for a flu shot or have other health care needs, don’t prolong your suffering. Go see Lori, our nurse practitioner at the Health & Counseling Center. She will work to get your healthy and maintain your well being.

If you are a first year student and have never had to take care of your own business matters before, that may feel somewhat challenging. The who-to-go-to what-to-say stuff can be kind of overwhelming. It’s ok. Just remember that. It’s all ok.

You’ll learn how by going to do it, and if you talk to the wrong person – no biggie, just ask them who you should talk to next. It may take some practice to actually feel comfortable ordering your sandwich, making a health appointment, or speaking directly with your faculty or a staff person. The more you do it, the more you will start to see yourself as an adult who is able to manage your own life. This is a great place to practice because people here get that, so no worries.

Worst fears and stupid mistakes: You can minimize these by taking care of yourself, and not being too extreme about things. If you’ve been on a tight leash by your parents or an ex-partner, there can be a tendency to go off the deep end with new freedom. Keep yourself safe here. Keep an eye and an ear on yourself and your friends. Watch out for each other.

Experiment with a little rather than an insane amount of anything. This is damage control. Know your body. Know your values. Know your personal limits about things. If you don’t know those yet, err on the side of safety and expand the boundaries slowly so you don’t feel sucker punched in November when you’ve lost control of your semester, and your family is pissed because you squandered this opportunity at great expense to them and yourself.

The difference between surviving and thriving is the amount of skill you have in being in control of your own life and actions in a healthy, adaptive way rather than a counter- productive, self-sabotaging way.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” writes: “In trying to sort out what accounts for a person’s ability to cope with stress, it is useful to distinguish three different kinds of resources.  The first is the external support available, and especially the network of social supports. 

“The second bulwark against stress includes a person’s psychological resources, such as intelligence, education and relevant personality factors.  The third type of resource refers to the coping strategies that a person uses to confront the stress. 

“Of these three factors, the third one is both the most important factor in determining what effects stress will have and the most flexible resource, the one most under our personal control.”

There are a lot of supports on campus. Use them. You pay for them. If you’re looking for some coping strategies that work and caring folks to help you get there, please feel free to explore the services at the Health & Counseling Center. We’d be glad to be part of your journey here, whether for one visit or 120 and want all of our students to have the means to thrive, not just survive.


JSC Health & Counseling Center

Senator’s South

(lower level facing the road)

802-635-1265 – reception desk

Mon – Thurs 9-12 & 1-4, Fri 9-1