When you think about the transition from high school to college, what are the images that come to mind? Moving boxes, tearful parents, dorm room bulletin boards, the all-too-familiar concoction of fear, anxiety and excitement. This year of life, for many, is the beginning of a new season. The start of independence and the development of a new identity as an adult, a chance to differentiate and learn and build your own mark in the world.
The most common phrase to identify this first year of independence is: The Freshman 15. As a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist, Outreach Coordinator and Advocate for eating disorder treatment, I am disappointed, and frankly outraged, that our society has chosen to define this very crucial, formative year by a phrase that is used to describe what society perceives to be “negative gain”. Looking back on this time in my life, and this year for the many patients we have worked with at Reasons, this burden and fear of gaining weight begins to define what would otherwise be a year focused on all of the beautiful things that can be gained with this new chapter.
So let’s refocus, let’s focus on gaining the three C’s: Consistent Self-Care, Community and Compassion. I want you to fight for and create opportunities as you prepare to thrive during your transition to college– and through whatever transition you may be facing in your life. Focusing on positive habits, people and ways to serve, can help you focus on the positive gains in a season full of change.
Consistent Self Care
When everything else in life is changing, a consistent self-care routine is crucial to stay grounded, positive and fully present for your life.
- This can start small, maybe you have a saying or mantra that you’d like to repeat to yourself every morning. One example is “I am valuable. I am here for a purpose. I am lovable, acceptable and capable.” Saying this affirmation the moment you wake up, can be a great tool used to center you when the day’s worries threaten to creep up like the rising sun.
- Another consistent form of self care is having a mindful moment before mealtime, or saying a prayer giving thanks for the meal in front of you. Building in mindful habits is a way to check in and make sure you are staying centered, in touch with yourself through moments of change.
- It’s important to stay personalized when you plan your self-care. Maybe journaling is a powerful tool of healing and centering for you. Buy yourself a journal you connect with and make it a habit to write in it, even if only a sentence, every night before you sleep to keep your mind at peace. Maybe you truly love being in nature, plan to drink your cup of tea outside under a tree or in as close to a peaceful nature setting as you can get, depending on your campus! Stay connected to what you love and this consistent self-care routine will help you work through even the most stressful moments of change.
Oftentimes the most challenging piece when transitioning to college is also the most important and that is: creating community. None of us were meant to live life alone. It’s so essential to surround yourself with others who can help lift you up, who accept you no matter what you look like and who you feel safe with and earned your trust. Creating your community should be the most rewarding and deliberate part of your college experience.
Compassion for Others
An essential way to stay grounded is by practicing compassion. Colleges offer a unique space to give back and cultivate compassion. Every institution provides unique opportunities to get involved in service projects, allowing you to practice and grow compassion towards others. This can also be a beautiful way to build a community, surrounded by like-minded people who care for the same causes you do.
Remember, the key to happiness is helping someone else and finding the right fit for sharing your love for others. These thoughtful actions will help connect you to your purpose during transition and throughout your life. As Maya Angelou once said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”
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