In my private therapy practice in Boulder, Colorado, I see a lot of very stressed out or very anxious (or both!) college students. Yes, the social pressures, the courses and workload, the independent existence .. can all be super stressful and can exacerbate any underlying anxiety. But at the core of the stress is a sense of unspoken disconnection from “home” and “safe.” Many are far from home, making the most of their college years in places like the foothills of the Rockies, but also prematurely too far removed from their home base and safety net. This causes an activated nervous system as a baseline. Did you know that adolescent development actually continues all the way to 27.5 years!?
Here are 5 ways to support your college student (while also acknowledging her fierce independence!) –
- Expect the Unexpected – Then accept the unexpected! This will be your new norm. It’s your work to adjust to it. She already has.
- Self-Regulate – The #1 most important self-care tool is self-regulation. What I mean is the act of being self-aware, and noticing when you are too activated or too under-responsive, and using tools to move your nervous system into your optimal window of tolerance.
- Connect with Consistency – She might act like your weekly phone call is too much, or your daily “I love you” text is over the top, but it will actually soothe her nervous system to receive regular moments of connect with you. It’s her job to become more independent, so expect her to brush it off. But keep at it. You have no idea how much she loves that connection.
- Ask Questions – Don’t give advice, make statements or infer judgments. Approach every conversation with an open mind, ready to get curious like a kind detective about what she’s telling you. What she needs now is someone to guide her with some curbs but let her make her own road.
- Listen + Be Present – This one just may be the hardest one on the list. She’s going to tell you 10,000 things that you will want to jump right in and react, respond, fix, help, question… But what we know from the latest brain research is that someone in their late teens / early 20s needs the kind of silent, non-verbal right-brain connecting that a 4 year old needs. Remember those days? Focus on giving non-verbal cues of support like eye contact or gentle nods (yay for FaceTime!), soft mm-hm’s, reflective listening and these words “I’m here. I’m with you. I understand.”
- Uplift Her! -And a little box from Uplift delivered monthly might be just what she needs. Get one for yourself while you’re at it! Use code UNIVERSITY for 10% off and FREE shipping for your order!