Syllabi are flying at you. Teachers are throwing out future dates and deadlines. You are acclimating to a new physical and social environment. All the while, you need to somehow figure out how to “adult” as you juggle everything that this new semester holds. Regardless of how long you’ve been attending college, the first few weeks of the semester can be emotionally exhausting.
For years, I would start each semester sitting in a classroom, paralyzed in panic. As professors excitedly shared everything we could expect from their classes, endless worries swirled through my head. I would lay in bed at night worrying about a group project with a deadline a month away, a social dynamic I didn’t know how I’d handle, or a subject matter I didn’t think I’d be able to grasp. Above all, I was anxious about burning out.
I wanted to instantly “fix” everything and feel OK about school, but instead I just felt anxious.
In my last year of university, however, I tried a different method to conquer these early semester anxieties. I called it the “Am I OK right now?” technique. In the first days and weeks of the semester, I promised myself that I would ask myself a simple question in each anxious moment: “Am I OK right now?”
Once I started utilizing this method, I discovered that the majority of my anxieties didn’t involve my current circumstances, but rather, a fear of a future that didn’t yet exist.
I wasn’t worrying about making it through the day nearly as much as I was worrying about the parts of my future that I felt certain I wouldn’t handle properly. Instead of making decisions out of fear, however, I chose to consciously refocus on the present moment and present circumstances.
The truth is, sometimes we are not OK, and we must address our needs. Sometimes we should drop that class, put extra effort into that social situation, adjust our part-time job schedules. But so often, our overwhelm is not about the present moment, but rather, future fears bleeding into the now. Instead of living our lives in constant fear, it can help to try trusting that each “OK” moment will unfold into another.
You don’t need to know the answer to how every moment of the semester will unfold from day one. You don’t need to plan out every assignment, or even each day. Take that weight off of your shoulders right here, right now. Sometimes you won’t be OK, but you can cross that bridge when you get there. You will know when a difficult moment that requires addressing truly comes.
Right now, are you OK? This moment is enough for now. Trust yourself this semester. Checking in with yourself is the best way to conquer the beginning of the semester anxieties.
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