Dealing with start of the semester stress

Written By Jordyn Hronec, Editor-in-Chief

I don’t know about all of you, but at the start of every semester, I feel a huge pit in my stomach.


It’s a familiar feeling, as someone with an anxiety and depression diagnosis. Because the pit is anxiety. 


This semester is my last of my undergrad career. So I’ve started and finished a semester of college several times over. And yet, I still experience incredible anxiety and dread right before a new one begins. While I consider myself to be a decent voice of reason in most circumstances, in this one, I don’t have much noble advice to give. For me, trying to prevent the anxiety before it happens or avoid it is futile. It is always going to come. A new semester brings new challenges and a new life schedule. These occurrences are anxiety-inducing.


And truthfully, my coping strategies have previously been less than satisfactory. I’m not great at calm-down techniques. I often let myself spiral and have panic attacks. 


I am sharing this with you so that I may normalize this experience. There is no shame in being anxious over something that may feel silly or small. There is no shame in not being good at managing these feelings. Having mental health problems is not shameful in any way. And you don’t have to be great or even good at dealing with them. You just have to try.


A couple of months ago, I started going to therapy again. It was a small, easy thing to do, but it has made a difference. Therapy is useful in that it is always helpful to talk about your problems and feelings. But it has also been useful in proving to myself that I am capable of trying. I am capable of putting in an effort to try and make my anxious feelings more manageable. To me, the proof of capability means a lot.


The first step in managing anxiety is the trying. And that is where I am at. But I have found that there are other small things that can be helpful. Controlling my environment and doing things that promote a sense of calmness, like lighting a candle or petting my cat, are also helpful. Checking my calendar daily is helpful. Staying on top of emails is helpful.


But the best things I can do for me are to remember that I am not alone and to not force myself to do things that I am incapable of doing. I like to share my feelings with friends who I know can relate to me. When I hear that fellow students are also anxious about starting a new semester, I start to feel less weird about myself. A sense of solidarity is incredibly important.


And if I am having a day where I feel like I cannot fulfill a task, I do not force myself beyond my limits. It is okay to take a break. It is more than okay to practice self-care and listen to what your brain is telling you. Sometimes, you get overloaded. And sometimes, you need to take a step back and ask for help.


The start of the semester stress is too real, and sometimes, it is impossible to push away. But you are not alone. And you have options when it comes to tackling it.


Assess your options and do what you can. Whatever your best is, is good enough.