While not a religious person, there is no doubt that there are countless life changing lessons in the religious texts of the world. This year, college students across the nation have navigated countless transitions to their learning experience in light of hybrid and online learning due to COVID. This is incredibly stressful for countless reasons from not having adequate spaces to study, living in an environment which might have drastic differences from one’s own beliefs/values, really missing friends and support systems, as well as grieving the loss of one’s “planned college experience” (i.e. socializing, study groups, parties, sports, clubs). In light of these ongoing transitions, a wisdom that stands out right now is the Serenity Prayer: “[Insert your version of a higher power] grant me the ability to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Here’s how to apply it:
- Serenity: We can’t change that COVID is still here, and will be through the spring semester (and likely longer). We cannot change that strict measures are essential to keep our society safe, including – in many instances – avoiding having students living together in residence halls on college campuses. These changes are not fun, they are hard on a personal level and professional level and can lead to loneliness, financial hardships, and a host of other challenges. However, the reality of the situation lies outside of our control. Getting angry at reality and pushing back against this is the equivalent of digging deeper while at the bottom of a hole. Remember, all the generations before us overcame incredibly difficult situations, we are a resilient species if we tap into this part of ourselves.
- Courage: While we can’t change some of these realities, we can control the actions and mindset we bring to each day. Yes, it stinks that we can’t socialize how we want, go out to eat, or hang out with friends. However, there are creative ways to cope if we can find and lean into our courage. The benefits of overcoming our anxiety to do something new SO often outweighs the anxiety of not doing anything. Craving some quality time with friends? – schedule a zoom meeting with a virtual board game. Is zoom fatigue a thing, yes, is it still a meaningful way to connect with friends, yes. Is it the same as being in person – no – is it better than nothing, absolutely. And research shows that doing so can actually build your resilience, decrease cortisol levels (hormone that leads to stress), and even make you more focused when it is time for work. Unwinding in any way that brings our focus 100% to the present is essential to our well-being. For some it’s meditation, for others its exercise, reading, or spending time with friends (virtually or while physical distancing). Whatever it is, find creative ways to work these activities into your routine. Additionally, be grateful if these are the biggest stressors in your life. Don’t forget, countless individuals have lost jobs, are in fear of missing rent, and are experiencing food shortages. If this is your reality, know that you are not alone, and reach out to local resources for support. If you are lucky enough to not be facing these challenges at present, consider finding ways to help others who are. Research shows that helping others actually helps the helper (yes, that can be you in this situation) even more than the helpee in terms of mental and physical health benefits.
- Wisdom: The reality is, deciphering between things we have to accept and those that we can change is the hardest part. And our ability to do so often waxes and wanes day to day depending on our mood, stress level, and overall headspace. Wisdom requires: an openness to viewing our own experiences through an unbiased lens, a curiosity and dedication to better understanding the experiences of others, and patience to let these lessons come to fruition. While that might feel a little fluffy, try it on for size and I’d be surprised if you didn’t like the results. If you find yourself feeling stuck, turn to your support network to find the grounding you need to stay the course and lean into your wisdom.
Any transition brings strain as our brains crave routine, but the magnitude and timeframe of this one brings a bit more than a simple change of seasons or the beginning of a new semester. I am incredibly grateful to be able to support hundreds of thousands of college students manage this transition through my team’s work with YOU at College, providing mental health and well-being resources to thousands of college students across the nation – learning and growing as an individual in doing so. This provides me with serenity in doing the best I can to support students given the current confines, courage to push beyond the way we have done things to adapt to this new world, and the wisdom to be patient in both personal and professional life as vaccines roll out and (hopefully) return to a more normal fall semester. In the meantime, practicing serenity can go a long way.