Words of Wellness: Is change good?


Tripping With Marty

The question is: Good or bad?

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 and for others it may be feeling unsettling, daunting or like a huge adjustment to have 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, whether a first or another of many times. Even juniors and seniors sometimes struggle for a bit with the big adjustment of returning to campus after the summer break and settling back into the rhythm of campus life. One cool thing about it though, is it can be a time to make it different or better than last time… we do learn from experience!
It’s easy to take the obvious for granted.  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, 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 in-between. “Non-traditional” students are typically  living off campus, dealing with  that plus juggling the commute, jobs and families.  Getting a handle on time management is a major piece of making this go well.
In the beginning of the semester there are lots of social and community building activities offered and to make good connections at JSC or any community that you are new in, 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 and that loneliness in a crowd feeling may be there but usually, if you keep showing up, regardless of whether you feel like it or not, you’ll make some connections and feel more a part of the community. 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 stand around trying 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 play time 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. Make sure you have and give consent if you’re having sex. If you are drinking or high you may not be able to give or get clear consent and that can lead to later feelings of violation and consequences like charges of sexual assault. Confusion about sexual relationships can be a huge stressor.
Know  and be true to yourself. Let your partners know what you do and don’t want in general and in the moment.
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 our nurse practitioner at the Health & Counseling Center. They will work with you to get yourself healthy and maintain your well being and can coordinate with your primary care provider back home while you are here on campus.
The Health Center has free condoms in the restrooms and waiting room, just stop in and help yourself.
You can also get birth control, Plan B, STD & HIV check-ups and can get your sexual health questions answered for real. To make an appointment, just walk in or call to schedule and have your health insurance info with you.
If you are a first year student and have never had to take care of your own business matters before, that may be feeling 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, 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’re 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/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 your semester, partner, friends and your family is going to be pissed because you squandered this opportunity at great expense to them and yourself.
Thriving: 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.  M
ihaly 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 specific coping strategies that work and caring folks to help you get there, or just need someone to talk to, please feel free to explore the services at the Counseling Center. There is no additional fee for counseling or consultations. Unlike insurance-based counseling in the community, you don’t have to have or get any diagnosis here.
We look at our work with you as an opportunity to support you in your growth and strength as an adult, independent person. We encourage walking in to schedule to minimize phone tag and to give you the option of doing the intake paperwork prior to your session so we can fit you with the best counselor for your needs and schedule.
We’d be glad to be part of your journey here, whether for one visit or 120.
We want all of our students to have the means to thrive, not just survive.