College Graduates: A Season for Stress Management
As a licensed psychologist I've been working in college counseling centers for 10 years. Students arrive at our centers presenting with a wide range of psychological concerns. This time of year is generally exciting across campuses. The beginning of spring, college spring break, and of course the last half of the semester before summer break. However, for the graduating college students the spring semester brings for many psychological stressors that warrant the attention of helpful providers.
During the spring semester students fill counseling center appointments with multiple stressors concerning their looming graduation date. Stress about lack of jobs, affording healthcare, having to move back home with their parents, decisions about attending graduate school and pending student loan repayment are a few examples of presenting concerns. Many times these concerns are overwhelming for students who often will simultaneously report symptoms associated with anxiety, depressive, and adjustment disorders. Symptoms that are notably mentioned include sleep problems, increase or decrease in appetite, mood shifts, and interpersonal conflict. Additionally, I have observed cognitive symptoms in the form of negative thought cycles that often maintain anxiety and depressive disorders. Themes of pessimism about finding a job, settling for an undesired position, questioning of whether another course of study would have been better often lead to self-doubt and may have an impact on student self-confidence. Recognition of these graduating student issues is critical as is the necessity to avail resources to them.
Several strategies I have found to be helpful include:
1. Provide students with emotional support while monitoring their symptoms.
2. Encourage students to utilize other helpful resources, such as career centers.
3. Engage students in brainstorming exercises to generate alternative options and optimism.
4. Encourage perseverance.
5. Focus on the importance of developing and maintaining positive, healthy coping strategies particularly during their transition post graduate transition.
Finally, it is not only important to address these concerns with students but to prepare parents for potential adjustment challenges from their graduating young adults!
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