Amanda Uhme: Managing back-to-school stress

Back to school at GW means changes from the calmer days of summer.

These changes might mean seeing old friends and roommates, getting back to life in the city or shirking the rules and restrictions of your parents. But returning can also mean new stresses, shifting support systems and a longing for the comforts of home.

A little stress can be good – you want to be worried about your research paper due Thursday morning if you haven’t started it by Tuesday night – but there is a difference between productive stress and destructive stress. If you notice a change in your sleep patterns, appetite, mood or interactions with others, you may be too overwhelmed with stress.

There isn’t one universal solution to heightened stress; different de-stressors work for different people. Some activities that may help include going to the gym, watching your favorite Disney movie or getting off campus to check out D.C. for a while.

Whether you are an incoming freshman or a rising senior, having a support system of people to talk to is essential to staying mentally healthy in college. The best places to find that support system are in your residence halls or student organizations. People with interests similar to yours are most likely to understand how you can relieve stress, because they are, more often than not, going through the same problems, too.

The University Counseling Center, which has counselors trained in helping students cope with transition, is ready and waiting to talk to students 24/7.

There may have been days this summer when you thought you couldn’t get out of your house fast enough, but every now and then most people get a little bit homesick. And being homesick is fine for a while – parents get a little upset if you don’t miss them – but there is a difference between being homesick and being depressed.

When thinking about home brings on tears, becomes a daily thought, a distraction from schoolwork or a deterrent from hanging out with new friends, you may be more than just homesick. If this is the case, consider talking to people in your support system at home or at school. Some of them probably feel (or have felt) the same way.

Regardless of how going back to school changes you, remember that it is always better to talk about your concerns than to let them overwhelm you.

There is no wrong way to get help in taking steps to be mentally well at college, but be sure to take those steps. You’ll have a better year for it.

Amanda Uhme, a junior majoring in political communication, is the co-president of Active Minds at GW.

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