Ah, the agony of college applications! Tension and anxiety could build up rather quickly during this period, with the exams to pass, essays to write, forms to fill.
After this rigorous process, the real torture begins – waiting. What’s frightening about this point is you’re no longer in control, having abandoned the fate of your application (and immediate future) to the hands of the admissions committee.
If it’s any consolation, thousands of other students go through the same misery each year and survive unscathed.
The stress and worry, however, could take their toll on one’s mental health. It is hard to put your apprehensions into perspective when you are in the middle of a predicament.
Whether you’re complying with requirements or waiting for results, you should not let stress keep you from enjoying the other aspects of your life.
Here are tips to help you breathe easily and stay mentally healthy during this anxiety-ridden time.
Get Outdoors and Off Social Media
Spending hours scrolling through your friends’ social media posts to see what college they applied to or if they were accepted could be mentally and physically damaging to you.
A study conducted by Dr. Mai-Ly N. Steers of the University of Houston and her colleagues shows that social comparison on digital platforms such as Facebook has a connection to depressive symptoms among users.
When you’re only seeing people at their best on social networks all the time, you tend to negatively compare yourself to them and assume they are happier and better.
Overthinking and what-iffing could lead to insecurity, low self-esteem, and self-doubt. Not exactly the kind of emotions you want to entertain while working on your college application or if you are working a job in between school and university.
There are plenty of helpful online mental health college courses and wellbeing resources to substitute the time you’re on social media.
Rather than lounging on the couch all day and staring at your phone screen, channel your energy into achieving something productive.
If deadlines are worrying you, create a to-do list and a timeline of getting requirements done, then reward yourself every time you accomplish something.
Also, if you are waiting for application results, distract yourself with a wholesome and enriching activity. Try not to check your email every five minutes for a reply from the college you applied to.
Pick a hobby, learn a new skill, start a journal, cook for your family, get a part-time job, focus on schoolwork, or volunteer for a cause. Have a little or a lot of adventure. Go out and smell the roses – literally.
After all, nature and the outdoors offer some of the best therapies.
Exercise Can Help with Anxiety
It sounds contradictory, but exercise can indeed be relaxing. A study by the Harvard Medical School states that regular physical activity stimulates the production of endorphins, the chemicals produced by the brain to relieve pain and elevate mood.
At the same time, it decreases levels of adrenaline and cortisol, the body’s stress hormones.
Exercise frees your mind from worries as you focus on your body movements instead of negative thoughts. It improves your self-confidence and fosters a sense of pride.
As your muscles get toned, you gain strength and stamina, and you begin to perceive your self-image more positively.
Moreover, exercise provides you with renewed vigor and adequate energy to accomplish your daily tasks.
You don’t have to be an elite Olympic-level athlete to reap the benefits of physical activity. Almost all types of exercise have the same stress-relieving and mood-boosting effects.
Choose an activity that you love, whether it’s engaging in your favorite sport, doing a vigorous workout, going for a stroll, cycling outdoors, or dancing around your room.
Make Sure You Get Decent Sleep
Your sleep pattern can get disrupted by anxiety, depression, or stress. Lack of sleep can make you irritable, lethargic, and confused. It may even lead to the “blame game” wherein you attribute every personal issue during the day to sleep deprivation.
Young people ages 13 to 18 need eight to ten hours of sleep every 24 hours.
Deep sleep strengthens your immune system, regenerates your cells, and repairs your bones and tissues. It is during this stage your body restores energy, allowing you to feel refreshed when you awake.
Meanwhile, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep enhances learning, memory, and emotional health. Students who get enough sleep tend to have better focus and attention and fewer behavioral problems.
Be sure to practice good sleeping habits by sticking to a consistent sleep schedule. Keeping busy during the day by doing varied physical activities can help you fall asleep quicker.
Stay away from distractions by limiting the use of technology, such as mobile devices, during bedtime.
If you are having difficulty falling asleep because of worry, practice meditation or deep breathing exercises to counter the anxious thoughts.
The truth is there is no way you can wholly erase worry from your mind while applying to college or waiting for the decision.
In a way, being anxious is a healthy and expected response to your situation. It implies you care enough for the application, and by extension, your future. But overthinking and over-stressing about it can be harmful to your mental health.
According to research, taking a break and merely focusing on your breathing reduces stress and anxiety. Mindfulness makes you aware of your environment and the present moment.
To keep worries from gnawing at you, shift your attention from negative thoughts to your surroundings and the sensations you are feeling. For instance, if you are eating, concentrate on the taste, smell, and texture of the food.
There are different structured mindfulness exercises that you can practice. In body scan meditation, you lie on your back and pay attention to each part of the body, from toe to head and vice versa.
In sitting meditation, you sit in an upright posture, typically on the floor, and focus on your breathing and the sensation of being in the moment
Lastly, you can try walking meditation, wherein you find a quiet place and begin to walk, concentrating on the movements of your body, such as standing and keeping your balance.
We are inherently social beings, and so we crave a sense of connectedness in one form or another. Stress levels are naturally high when you enter a new milestone (i.e., applying to college).
Depression could escalate when you feel uncertain about the future, lonely, hopeless, and isolated.
For this reason, it is crucial to maintain a close and caring relationship with your family and friends. Knowing that you have people to turn to for emotional support creates a sense of security, belongingness, and self-worth.
Individuals who feel accepted are less likely to suffer from depressive symptoms.
Socialization helps you take your mind off mental stressors while reinforcing your sense of purpose and meaning.
You don’t have to be a social butterfly to enjoy and participate in meaningful social interactions. Having two or three close friends who know you very well is better than surrounding yourself with a group of acquaintances who’ve only met once or twice.
Your activities don’t have to be extravagant or boisterous, either. Yes, parties are fun (at least in movies), but they can be counterproductive. Invite close friends for a movie marathon, cookout, or exercise.
Schedule a night of board games with your family or eat at your favorite restaurant with them. You can also join volunteer groups or take classes that interest you.