Leah is a reader, short story writer, and dry humorist. She has electronically published a collection of short stories (the interface of light and darkness) and poetry (the american conscience). She enjoys volunteering, traveling, and encouraging individuals. Leah received her bachelor’s degree in both Sociology and English and American Literature as well as her master’s degree in social work from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). She is originally from El Paso, Texas, but currently lives in College Place, Washington.
By Leah Diaz
In retrospect, undergraduate and graduate school was a significant mental health challenge. Anxiety, apprehension, fear, inadequacy, uncertainty, disappointment – one experiences these and much more. The difference lies in how and to what extent we effectively cope with these feelings. Generally, we cope without active thought, much less distinguish between those coping mechanisms that are functioning and not functioning. For example, we do not often say ‘Today, I shall cope with my frustration by exercising nonstop.’ Rather, we simply react.
So one question to ponder is how are you responding?
Fortunately, that you have continued to pursue higher education is a mark of resiliency. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. No doubt, as you navigate through college life, you have coped (and shall continue to cope) with a myriad of issues – their magnitude as distinct as each of us. As such, your overall college experience is partially dependent upon the state of your mental wellbeing. Because the reality is: you shall experience a wide array of situations and events (even graduation!) that will stimulate a psychological response.
Once again, it is your response that is critical.
And so possibly the next question to consider is what can you do to respond effectively?
Well, to begin, attempt to name the feeling. Are you angry, frustrated, displaced, anxious, enthusiastic, happy? Mind you, you can experience several emotions simultaneously. Plus, be aware of your body – how is it reacting? At times, your body may be communicating physically what you are experiencing psychologically. Secondly, see whether you can identify what is causing the feeling. For example, there were two periods of time during college when I felt severely lost and like a failure. These feelings came about because I decided to withdraw from two courses (big gasp!!!). Namely, I saw myself as having failed the exemplary student ideal. Third, whereas I did not discuss my despondency with family or friends, I would encourage you to seek someone that you may confide in. For example, most campuses have counselors that are available on a walk-in basis and may be able to provide guidance and support. Plus, your advisor or a trusted professor may also be a potential resource for insight and encouragement. Lastly, have some confidence in yourself as well as explore new ways to cope well. As I mentioned earlier, you have, to this point, been able to meet challenges and overcome obstacles. Thus, keep and strengthen those coping mechanisms that function and search for new ways to achieve a healthy mental state.
Build your resilience by accumulating healthy ways of coping and you may find that these shall buffer the great and small calamities of college and help you develop into a person that is able to overcome.