How to Help Students Navigate Stress in Recovery
19 January 2020,
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Everyone deals with stress on a regular basis. They cope with it in their own ways, but in recovery, those coping mechanisms have to shift. Even when someone has been in recovery for a while, stress can be a huge trigger for relapse. Although college is an exciting time, it is also one filled with freedom, opportunity, and chances to do new things. Without the right support network, a person will not be able to support the stress and anxiety that comes from dealing with school, work, and life. Depending on how long a student has been in school, they may have a long road ahead of them in college. Learning to manage stress well can put them into a better position to handle life after college. 

Set Realistic Goals

Students often have to carry a heavy course load to graduate in four years. Some students have to graduate, then continue students for law or medicine and may choose graduate school. While all these are great opportunities, setting realistic goals is the key to supporting a person through the challenges of this new life. College students often report feeling lonely, anxious or stressed at times, but it can become a mental health challenge if students are also in recovery and feel further isolated from their past life. Some ways to set realistic goals in college:

  • Don’t overshoot how many classes to take. Step back from unnecessary courses if stress is piling up
  • Objectively look at grades and decide if it is worth getting “all A’s” to feel this way or if it is okay to get some “Bs” if it means having more self-care time
  • Don’t feel overly critiqued by feedback. Professors and teachers will give feedback as much as any future boss. It helps to be open to criticism, use it constructively, and reset goals based on those conversations

Know the Signs

The signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety can pile up before a person realizes it has happened. Temporary feelings of stress and anxiety are common for many students. When the symptoms persist and impact the ability to function, it will be necessary to get out of the room, attend class, and complete assignments. The signs of stress and anxiety will build until a person becomes more susceptible to replace. Here are some key things that may be signs of built-up stress:

  • Procrastinating on necessary things
  • Changes to sleep habits
  • Not eating enough or eating too much
  • Physically feeling ill or not well
  • Socially isolated or pulling away from friends
  • Not doing anything fun or able to feel fun
  • Unhealthy coping behaviors

Find Support

Aside from seeking out treatment for mental health and addiction, students may not know where to seek help. They may not recognize the signs they are struggling enough to seek help. College counseling centers often provide good entry door resources to finding help. Services are short term and maybe good to assess where a student’s level of anxiety and stress are at that moment. There may be waitlists for a counselor, so community resources are often a great place to go, seek a mentor, or ask a loved one for help. If all else fails, a person can call an anonymous hotline and they will provide help and resources.

Self Care and Coping

Learning how to navigate self-care practices is crucial to success for students in recovery. Everyone has to deal with stressors and anxiety in a healthier way. While coping may not result in the elimination of stress, they help a person feel more able to tolerate and move beyond the challenges and stresses. Some healthy coping skills can include:

  • Meditation
  • Embracing challenges
  • Noting success in a gratitude journal
  • Combatting negative self-talk
  • Checking in with support networks regularly

Developing a self-care practice is going to help a college student feel more connected to their studies, their friends, and themselves. Going deeper within themselves is important for the development of a person’s character and recovery. Recovery is difficult because so much feels like it was lost, but there is a lot to gain in recovery, as well. Self-care helps people see that even if they seek help for mental health issues or addiction, they are not alone and there is hope.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental illness, now is the time to reach out for help.  Burning Tree West is a place to find healing and hope in the midst of life’s challenges. Being a college student is difficult, but there is hope to find healing in recovery from stress, learning to manage mental health better, and accessing resources for addiction. For more information, call us now at 855-997-1376

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