College Student Stress: Part One!

I don’t usually focus in on a particular population of folks when blogging. I like to write blogs for everybody. But over the past year I’ve noticed an influx of college students showing up in the therapy room, with some horror stories about what it is to be a student today. The stress students experience seems unusually (ridiculously) high over the past few years – rigorous peer competition, honors-everything, a B minus perceived as a colossal failure… from where I’m sitting, the stress seems higher than it ever was, certainly for me, and even for students ten years ago.

From the pressure of academic work to the struggles of living independently for the first time, college students are working with sometimes overwhelming levels of stress and anxiety. While my therapeutic orientation is often more insight-oriented and less behavioral, I reluctantly acknowledge that some behavioral changes and tips can help make the transition to college (much) easier. So! This one’s for you, collegiate! Behaviors and practices to take care of yourself in today’s college environment:

  1. Prioritize self-care (and life-care!)

Self-Care. It’s a buzzword. I KNOW. But self-care is often the first thing that gets neglected when we’re feeling stressed, and it’s also pretty much the most important thing you can do to decrease stress. Personally, I struggle mightily to keep up with taking care of my body when I’m under pressure, and I suspect that I am the standard.

So, what is self-care, really? While taking long walks and bubble baths always seems to be the big winners (more about this here), I think self-care (life-care!) can be much more fundamental and basic. Think foundational elements:

  • Eat food that you love and that nourishes you, and eat enough of it. Not eating enough can contribute to anxiety and irritability, so take care to keep yourself nourished.
  • Get enough sleep, whatever that means to you. I have two best friends that can get by on less than 6 hours. I need a solid 9. Prioritize the amount of sleep that your body needs. If you can’t get it at night, nap, whenever you can grab one.
  •  Move in ways that feel good to you. This does not mean you need to go to the gym. Move yourself around, stretch, walk or jog a bit, jump up and down – whatever you feel your body needs. You do not need to meet some prescribed number of minutes of gym activity for it to count. It’s all movement; it’s all good.
  •  Relax when you need to blow off steam. Whatever you can do, for however long you have, is better than nothing. Deep breathe for a few seconds or disappear for an entire Saturday. Stare at a wall, or even your phone for a bit, if need be (unpopular opinion, I know, but I stand by it). Do whatever is available to you, that works for you.
  •  Be in community with people you love, who understand you. More on this next week, but connection is essential to health, and socialization is so important to keeping us happy and functioning. Yes, it’s an important part of the college experience, and yes, you should make room for it.

Setting up a firm foundation keeps stressors that sometimes feel unsurmountable, manageable. Do whatever works for you, focus on what you can control, and prioritize caring for yourself.

  1. Practice mindfulness

While it’s going the way of the dodo in today’s rapid-fire culture, mindfulness can be incredibly helpful in keeping things manageable and in perspective. In a nutshell, mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, without judgment. It helps reduce stress and anxiety, and improves overall well-being, by creating intentionality in one’s day and bringing the focus always back to the task at hand. There are countless ways to practice mindfulness, such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga – Even taking a few minutes to focus on your breath can help you feel more centered and calm.

Implementing a regular meditation practice doesn’t have to be daunting. A good place to start can be finding a meditation app (I recommend the Calm app) or using a free guided meditation on Youtube, like this one. Again, do what you can with whatever time you have available – you don’t have to do this for an hour a day. Fifteen minutes is great.

Practicing intentionality and focus in daily life is just that – a cultivated practice. It can be difficult. This is an area to be gentle with yourself, and practice patience when you inevitably find your mind stretching in eight (or eighty) different directions. When you notice your attention wandering from a task at hand, gently bring yourself back to a singular area of focus. Writing down thoughts can be helpful when they become too distracting (write them down and then set them aside for later – I keep notebooks around the house for just this purpose). In a multitasking world, doing one thing at a time is unusual, so don’t be surprised when it feels weird – just keep at it.


  1. Get organized


Easier said than done, right?

One of the biggest sources of stress for college students is feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that needs to be done. While I have a bone to pick with the expectations of such a massive workload itself, implementing organization tools can really help make shorter work of the massive piles of tasks. Here’s a few things I’d recommend for anyone trying to keep things together:

  •  Use a planner or calendar (paper or online) to keep track of deadlines, assignments, and appointments. Put something on the calendar as soon as you schedule – if you wait to do it later, you might forget. Don’t overschedule yourself (if possible), and remember to keep a little time in between appointments and plans. (Just as an aside, I like Michael Hyatt’s work on time management and all things planner-y… check him out here.)
  • Break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. For instance, write one paragraph and take a short break, rather than plan to execute an entire paper in one sitting. Ten paragraphs with a five minute break after each one feels much less dauting than writing out the whole thing in one shot.
  • Prioritize your work based on its importance and deadline. Do the most important things first, and delegate or put off things of lesser importance. Getting a bunch of semi-important things done often doesn’t feel as fulfilling as finishing one task of larger importance. Get the Big One out of the way, celebrate with a piece of chocolate (or whatever strikes your fancy), and move on to what’s next.
  • When something is good enough, call it done. Don’t spend your extra precious time wringing your hands over something that’s been finished, but could maybe be a bit more improved. That rabbit hole is endless, and can lead to burnout and anxiety if not managed.

And, with that – I’m calling this post done! I’ll do a Part Two next week. In them meantime, please email me your thoughts and responses – I love to hear your feedback and contributions.

And! If you like the blog and want to read it regularly, sign up below! I’m planning to write much more regularly in the coming months.

Talk Soon,





Useful Information

Some frequently asked questions and useful answers.

Online therapy works in the same way as in-office therapy, but is done online, similar to a Skype or FaceTime conversation. Clients are able to have sessions from home, work, or any other convenient location. We meet with clients using a HIPAA-compliant secure platform.

Online therapy allows you to work with us from the comfort of home, or any private location of your choosing. For some, the screen provides an added layer of comfort that makes the challenging work of being vulnerable in therapy a little easier.

Online therapy also creates the unique opportunity for you to work with us without the constraints of proximity! The practice was born in Keene, New Hampshire, but has since grown to service clients anywhere in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Florida, and New Hampshire.

Online therapy is a great option for clients that travel for work, for college students that go home during the summertime and do not want a break in their sessions, and for anyone with a challenging or inconsistent day-to-day schedule. It is an excellent choice for clients seeking a therapist with a particular specialty that they are unable to find support for locally. Some of our clients report that online therapy makes the vulnerability element of therapy a bit less intimidating.

No. For some clients with more complex symptoms or safety concerns, having a local therapist that is readily available is important in case of crisis or the need for a higher level of care. Online therapy is also a challenge for clients that do not have access to a private, quiet space to be “in session” for the hour, or for those that do not have adequate internet connectivity.

There are several reasons why we don’t accept insurance. The most important are:

Confidentiality. Insurance companies require that your information be shared with them in order to pay for services. We prefer that clients’ information is kept as confidential as possible.

The pressure to diagnose. Insurance companies require that clients are given a mental health diagnosis in order to pay for therapy. We have found that many clients benefit from therapy, but do not meet criteria for a diagnosis. Not using insurance allows clients to access therapy without being given a mental health diagnosis.

Flexibility and freedom. Insurance companies dictate the length and number of sessions they will authorize, as well as when a client is no longer eligible for the benefits of therapy. Because we do not work with insurance panels, you and we can collaborate to determine your individual needs regarding session length, frequency of sessions, and when to terminate therapy.

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