When Back to School Week Isn’t That Cute

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, August 02, 2017
By Gabriela Reyes, MFT
When we think ‘Back to School’ we often relate it to children shopping for school supplies and all dressed up in their school uniforms for the first day of class. We correlate ‘Back to School’ with big bows in their school’s colors and little Spiderman lunch boxes with a cute note from mom inside. Adorable! Right?!
What we don’t relate it to, and isn’t as adorable, is a 27-year-old woman whose anxiety level is at an all-time high because she has no idea what awaits her this semester.
[Hint: the 27-year-old woman is me.]
Breakouts, stress eating, insomnia, hair loss and a general sense of anxiety are just a few of the things I felt when the first day of a new semester was approaching. These were also reoccurring during midterms and finals. During my first two semesters of college, where I was both a full time worker and student, I gained about 50 pounds, constantly broke out all over my face and had a hives breakout… twice! I also slept far less than is considered healthy and felt depressed a majority of the time. It took me some time to realize that the reason for all of this was the stress I was feeling. I wasn’t alone in my suffering; a lot of my friends that worked and went to school full time were losing hair, gaining weight, dealing with digestive problems, all due to the pressure of needing to perform well at work and wanting to excel in their studies.
Dealing with this anxiety has been crucial to my general wellbeing. Getting organized, seeing a therapist and eventually working with a life and health coach (our very own Emy Fernandez), helped me get back on track.
I got together with a few friends who are in school and also work full time (some even have husbands and kids to care for), and put together a list of tips. We call it the ‘GET IT TOGETHER LIST’:
  • Preparation is KEY! Remember back to school shopping? Do it! Buy new notebooks, agendas, pens, etc. Stock up on everything you may need before the new semester.
  • After the first day of class, immediately order the books you will need. In theory, ordering them beforehand would be ideal. However, a lot of times professors will tell you honestly whether you need the newest version or you can save over $100 by buying the previous edition.
  • REMINDERS! There are really never too many reminders. As soon as you get the syllabus, add every assignment, quiz, test and extra credit to your agenda. Also add all of these to your smart phone calendar with two reminders at different times for each. For example, put in your exam date and a reminder a week before and two days before the exam. Don’t rely on your memory, use your resources.
  • Be mindful. Make an effort to notice what is going on in your life and what you’re eating when you start to feel anxious, lose hair, break out, can’t sleep, etc. Sometimes the simple act of noticing can help.
  • Ask for help! If you need to see a therapist to deal with your depression, anxiety or anything else, DO IT! If you need to work with a health coach to feel healthier and more energetic, DO IT! If you suck at math (like me) and need to see a tutor, DO IT! Many universities offer free tutoring. There is no shame in using the tools we have at our disposal.
  • Meal prep! Having your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks planned before a long day is extremely advantageous. With the help of my health coach, Emy Fernandez, I was able to learn about food and how it affects me. She didn’t hand me a list of do’s and don’t’s without explanation, instead I now have the knowledge of what certain foods will do to my body. That knowledge goes a long way when you have a busy lifestyle and need to be eating and drinking things that will help keep your energy levels high.
  • Last but not least, STAY ACTIVE! I know it’s hard to make time for a quick run or yoga session but 30 minutes goes a long way! You’ll feel happier and more energetic after just one day.
Contrary to popular belief, admitting you need help is not a sign of weakness; it takes a lot of bravery! After incorporating all of these things into my everyday life, I have been able to deal with my stress in a much healthier way. There really is no easy way out of this; you need to do the work to help yourself but it is SO worth it!