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Ask Dr H

Dr. H, Column Writer

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Dear student,

This is a continuation from last week’s conversation about how to “get rid” of stress.

Last week, I emphasized the importance of sleep, food and movement as a way to put you on the road to coping.  Let’s be real—while you can do well to address the stress in your life, you’re never going to “get rid” of stressors.

There will ALWAYS be commitments, terrible people in our lives, unfortunate circumstances and mistakes, both of our own and of others that affect us. I see many students, when faced with a particularly stressful academic situation, altogether shut down, as if they’ve already told themselves whatever that they’re going through is just too challenging.

Attempting to work through challenges, knowing we might fail, can do well to build experience and confidence in ourselves for future challenges. Taking care of yourself in the aforementioned areas will at least give you the mental space to work through challenges.


Financial stress is a reality for many students who rely on loans to cover costs of school and who still have to work.

While education is an investment, if you’re tanking in your classes because you’re prioritizing a part-time job, you may not have the opportunity to move beyond that job and get one that actually affords you the option of paying back your loans.

If you’re not in a position to quit your job or ask your parents/family for more financial help, you need to focus on managing your time to be more efficient.

Talk to your advisors about course planning and be honest about your work commitments. Can you sequence your classes so you’re not taking all the intense ones at the same time? Can you take a lighter load or incorporate an online class to build in some flexibility?

You may not be in a position to “get rid” of the financial stressors because they are beyond your control, but you may be able to make some adjustments to make the stress more manageable.

A “Balanced” Life

Life can be very stressful when you’re in school because many things feel outside of your control. Maybe you feel like you’re sacrificing “fun.”

People expect that a balanced life has equal parts work and play every day. I don’t know anyone’s life that looks like that.

There’s going to be times when it seems like all you do is work. What keeps you balanced is the 20-minute walk around your neighborhood with your roommate to chat about the hard stuff, joke around and remind yourself that good times are coming your way.

I’m not telling you to drop your social life to focus on work and school, but perhaps we need to manage our expectations. College is a particularly stressful time in one’s life where work isn’t confined to a 9-5 Monday through Friday schedule.

Work vs. School

Other considerations: Are you more invested in your job and would rather spend time there than at school?

Can you reduce school to part-time, or dare I mention, take some time off? A lot of people end up in college because that’s what they’re “supposed” to do.

While we want you here, we also hate to see you suffer when you’re not even sure about college. Your professors have been in your position. We were students just like you, once.

Try reaching out about your struggles to a professor you like and trust. If you’re committed to making it work in school, we want to help. We can’t help if we don’t know what’s going on.

We may not be able to change your circumstances, but we may have some helpful insight to impart.

The bottom line is that we do genuinely care about your success and if you are as well, we should be able to form a united front on tackling some academic-related challenges.

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Ask Dr H