Ask Dr. Claire

Stressed and I Worry A Lot, Any Suggestions?

Dr. Claire,

I am a 23-year-old senior college student most likely graduating in the spring of 2018. I don't have a job that conflicts with my school work, so I know I am pretty lucky in that regard. My biggest conflict is going on in my head. It looks like I have a pretty big workload this semester and I worry about having balance in my life. I want to be more productive by studying and not procrastinating or waiting until the last minute to do something. But I also worry about losing time to relax. Whenever I take time to study, I worry about things like if I won't get to watch more of my favorite shows or videos or if I will be able to socialize. When I do have my free time, I am worried about what I should be doing for school! It's a never-ending cycle for me, and I want to find balance. With my internship at school that ends when it starts to get dark, I don't have the motivation to study when I get home. How do I take proper advantage of my time without worrying? -Katie stressed

Hi Katie,

Hi, Katie,
It sounds like this year is going to be a very busy for you! Finding a balance between school, internship, friendship, and downtime can be challenging. And when you graduate, the demands will continue, so asking yourself what you can do now is a great step towards learning how to take care of yourself.

The first thing I want to address is allowing yourself to have fun and connect with friends. I understand the demands of school and internship. And I also know it is important for your mental, physical and emotional well-being to stay connected to friends, have fun, get plenty of rest and exercise to create a foundation of health. With all the demands on you, it may seem impossible to stay “in balance.” I want to encourage you not to put pressure of trying to be productive all of the time. It’s not sustainable.

Creating a schedule could be helpful. Each week, I am sure you have specific places you have to be (classes/internship) which anchor the majority of your time. The next chunk of time is likely devoted to studying. Be sure to schedule activities to look forward to, such as spending time with friends, watching your favorite shows, exercise, etc. And commit to enjoying your time during downtime activities instead of worrying or feeling guilty because you’re not studying.

I also want you to consider creating a routine to unwind after internship or classes. You need some downtime after working or being in classes. For example, give yourself thirty minutes to an hour of relaxing after classes or internship. This could be exercising or doing yoga or meditation. Then prepare a meal or do something enjoyable and restorative before jumping back into studying. When you do study, break down the time into manageable time. For example, for every solid 50 minutes of study time, give yourself 10 minutes to stretch, make a cup of tea, check social media, or fold some laundry. I know for many students social media, alerts from phones and the net can be distracting. Turn off notifications when you are studying and reward yourself after fifty minutes of studying with 10 minutes of fun.

If you are interested in learning more skills and strategies to bring in self-care, please take a quiz I’ve developed called How is Your Well-Being and Self-Care? Once you finish taking the quiz, you’ll receive an overall score as well as skills, strategies, and ideas on how you can start improving your well-being.

Regarding your worry, I want you to purchase a great book on worry called: The Worry Solution. This book is fantastic with outlining the different types of worry and provides solid skills and strategies to combat worry. If you find yourself continuing to worry, I would suggest reaching out to the counseling/health center on your campus. Most universities and colleges have on-site support or clinicians in the community who can support college students. Reach out and make an appointment, talking to someone even for a few sessions would help give you support.

Thanks for your question and hope you have a great year!


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