By: Deborah Wu ’17, University Health Center HEALTH Works Peer Educator
College is a stressful time for many of us. Often times we feel alone in our struggles. We know that others are having a hard time too, but somehow it just feels like we’re each fighting our respective battles on our own.
Although the majority of students understand the importance of social support and its benefits in our lives, when we become stressed or start feeling overwhelmed, our social lives are often the first to go. We cancel hangouts, dinners, and activities… and start spending all of our time alone in a study room.
Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with an old, far away friend. It was the start of the year and I felt completely burnt out and lonely. I emailed him all of my stress, fears, and frustrations. In my head, he was so far away it was like I was journaling.
A few days passed, I didn’t receive a reply. I almost forgot all about it until one evening I received a call from my mother who told me I had a package by priority mail from Georgia. The note that came with this package said, “Hello Friend! I just read your email. Sorry to hear you’ve been having a hard time but you’re strong and not alone! Share these with your fellow struggling peers.”
To my struggling peers, let me share my care package with you so that you may benefit from it as well!
- Company. Studying alone late at night can feel like you’re the only person awake on the planet. Grab a friend! Although studying in a group may not be for everyone, having someone next to you is both comforting and reassuring. Plus, if you start dozing off, you now have someone who can wake you up!
- Encouragement. Sometimes just knowing your friends are a call or a text away is simply the most comforting feeling. Take a moment and send a friend an uplifting message. You never know – you may just make their day, and all it took was a few seconds of your time.
- Gifts. Who doesn’t love a gift? Drop a little note, a small treat, maybe a nice warm cup of tea and watch the reaction. It’ll make both the recipient and the giver feel absolutely wonderful.
- Mental Health Break. Take a moment and walk away from all of your work. It may feel like you’re procrastinating or wasting time, but I promise you that the benefits of those couple minutes away are completely worth it. Remember, life is so much greater than that exam, project, or paper. Catch up with a friend, do something silly together, or go out for a walk together. Refresh. Recharge.
- Listening Ear. A lot of times, our sense of loneliness stems from our inability to release all of the thoughts and stressors in our mind. Don’t do that to yourself! Reach out to a friend. Letting out all of your fears and emotions is like putting down a heavy backpack. The items don’t go away, just as our stressors don’t necessarily disappear, but the weight is lifted! A friend’s listening ear generates a sense of acceptance, support, and empowerment.
What does your social care package look like? I encourage you to take a moment and reflect on these.
While this worked for me, it may not work for everyone. At the University of Maryland College Park, we also have incredibly wonderful resources available to us on campus such as the Counseling Center and the Mental Health Services at the University Health Center. To make an appointment call the Counseling Center at (301) 314-7651 or Mental Health Services at (301) 314-8106.
Look at all the people and resources watching out for you. You can do it!