The world is asking a lot of you now.
On top of college admissions, you’ve been thrust into Social Distancing, which is something unprecedented. You’ve never done this before. Your parents haven’t experienced anything like this. Odds are even your grandparents haven’t gone through a pandemic like this.
It’s so much to handle, and you’re a human being with thoughts and feelings and hopes and fears. After years talking to teens on Reddit, I’ve encountered countless amazing individuals who have wrestled with their challenges and come out much stronger. I often think about how your generation — the amazing Gen Z — are absolutely equipped for this ordeal. You are resilient. You are experienced with handling your stress and many of you have been proactive in learning the mechanisms for dealing with stress and anxiety on a regular level. Nevertheless, this stress is — no doubt — leveling up.
You know that life can feel like it’s falling apart and that you will survive it. You know that we need a little wind in our lives to make us stronger. You know, that just like those baby trees, housed in the biosphere, that fell down when they didn’t have anything pushing on them — we need some stress in our lives. If you aren’t familiar with my take on the trees in the biosphere, you can read it here.
But let’s be real — there’s stress and then there’s stress. So, I want you to be especially careful with yourselves now. It’s one thing to go through the college admissions decisions drama while in school, surrounded by classmates, teachers, and friends. It’s a whole other thing to go through it alone. But, as Brene Brown, one of my personal heroes said last week (look her up if you aren’t familiar with her), “Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social disconnection.” We can be alone in all this together, but we’re going to be much better off if we try to find our zen in the meantime.
But First and Most Important, If You’re Feeling at All Suicidal, Please Get Help.
Right now. Today. Don’t wait. If this pertains to you, I want you to call a suicide hotline right now. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1–800–273–8255. Talk to your parents. Today. Tell them what you’re going through. Ask for a counselor or therapist. Reach out to your school counselor. If necessary, ask someone you trust to take you to the emergency room. It’s essential that you get help fast.
I’m not a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I’m just a mom, teacher, and educational consultant who has never gone through the specific pain you are experiencing. But I’ve learned that when you feel like life is beating you down, your brain actually makes physical changes and doesn’t work properly. You can’t trust it to make wise decisions. It’s as if someone was heaping heavy weight after heavy weight on your brain — eventually, it’s going to collapse.
I want you to promise that you will seek help before you do anything to hurt yourself.
Find Your Zen
- Recognize that you can only do what you can do.
- You can’t control what the colleges decide and how they evaluate your application. all you can control is your response to their decisions.
- Understand that you’ll have these moments of stress but that they will pass because they’re only feelings. Feelings will pass.
- Work on letting go of the idea of a dream school. Instead, focus on the schools that you feel are a good fit for you. At a college admissions conference, I heard one speaker who put it this way — be a sock, not a shoe. While a shoe is rigid and firm, a sock can fit on a whole array of schools.
- Make sure you have lots of options on your list that you are excited about and that might reasonably accept you, including a Sure-Fire SAfety School.
- Be mindful enough to not ignore the admissions stress monster. Simply acknowledging your stress is a challenging and essential step that can help relieve anxiety on its own.
- Breathe again.
How Do I Actually Do That?
My advice might seem way easier said than done. If you’re thinking that, you’re not exactly wrong. That’s why I’ve got some actionable stress management tactics you can start on today.
- When you start to feel overwhelmed, take a minute, find stillness, and just allow yourself to breathe. Ground yourself in the present moment by listing 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
- Talk to a counselor or a therapist. This article has some really good advice for finding affordable therapy right now.
- Read a book about mindful meditation. I love 10% Happier by Dan Harris. I also highly recommend The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha. I have a lot more book recommendations here.
- Make a list of five gratitudes every day. studies show that if we can train our brains to focus on three to five things we are thankful for every day, we’ll be happier. Taking a minute to recognize the simple stuff, like air conditioning or the texture of peanut butter on your tongue, can actually help relieve your stress.
- Do five nice things for other people every day. Even just small things. Do the dishes before your parents even ask. Text someone unprompted with an uplifting quote. Thank the cashier at the grocery store for working in the middle of a pandemic.
- Get moving. Turn up the music and sing along, dance along. Go outside if you can. Walk around. Take in the fresh air.
- Do three-minute meditations. Sit and focus on your breathing. Don’t worry if you have other thoughts that are bothering you. Acknowledge them and go back to your breathing. Here are two apps for help with mindfulness and meditation: a) Breathe by Dr. Jud (Google Play and The App Store, for FREE) and b) Koru Free Un-Class and App ($3.99 charge for the app).
- Practice yoga. I recommend some online yoga classes as a way to grow comfortable with connecting your body and brain while you have some extra time on your hands in the next few weeks.
- Eat all the healthy foods you can. Veggies and fruits are your friends.
- Take breaks. Let those brain batteries recharge. Your brain requires regular resets to do its best work.
Yes, this is a time of new turmoil. Yes, you face a considerable challenge. Yes, you have the tools — your resilience and resourcefulness — to make it through. I’m here to help.
If you want to learn more about how to manage your college admissions stress during this outbreak, or if you need other advice, find me on r/ApplyingToCollege, drop into the comments, or reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram.
You can also head over to Amazon and pick up a copy of my book, Hey AdmissionsMom: Real Talk from Reddit.
Good luck and stay awesome and healthy and well!