November 28, 2017
College is stressful, to say the least.
At 7:40 a.m., you rush to get to your 8 a.m. class after getting only a few hours of sleep the night before because you worked the late shift and had to finish an essay that you did not have time to do within the last week.
After class, you’ll spend the limited time you have before whatever responsibility it is that awaits you to get assignments out of the way before a grueling shift, a difficult exam and a meet up for a group presentation.
It’s hard to say that balancing all of that isn’t overwhelming.
Since my freshman year of college, I’ve had to balance a few jobs, a full-time course load, internships and other responsibilities each semester. For me, it’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of being busy: stress, anxiety, worry and other negative feelings.
Reframing your perspective on stress, however, will benefit you for the long term.
Instead of focusing on how overwhelmed you are by everything that you have to get done during the week (and maybe the weekends), reframe how you view it.
This semester, 20.4 million students are attending U.S. colleges and universities, with the average price of attending these institutions at $16,757 for tuition, fees, and room and board, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
You’re lucky to have the opportunity to be stressed out in college.
In a 2012 Ted Talk, Rory Sutherland, an advertising specialist, discussed how reframing perspectives in various cultures helps people be more positive in their lives.
“The circumstances of our lives may actually matter less to our happiness than the sense of control we feel over our lives,” he said.
In other words, while you may not be able to control the circumstances that you have been handed, you can control how you think about those circumstances. That’s where reframing comes in.
Reframing your thoughts is the process of changing your perspective and “self-talk” to influence your stress levels, according to a presentation by the University of Illinois.
Part of this process is recognizing how your thoughts and behaviors are connected. Negative thoughts and a negative mindset might influence how you react or behave to stressful situations, which could cause you to feel overwhelmed.
However, it’s important to note that reframing is not “the power of positive thinking.”
Reframing helps your mental wellbeing, but some negative thoughts could be associated with issues like anxiety and depression, and the “power of positive thinking” is not a cure.
But identifying thought patterns and replacing those that may be negative with something that is reaffirming to positive behaviors could be helpful with understanding how we can take overwhelming or negative situations and benefit from them.
Let’s look at an example provided by the University of Illinois on reframing stress. For example, figuratively, a coworker is badmouthing others or demonstrating laziness when they’re asked to complete certain tasks that you ask them to do.
Automatically, you’ll probably be angry. You might think, “I’m not respectable;” “I have to do all the work myself now;” “I’m not good enough.”
Reframing your thoughts to be “How can I solve this?” “This isn’t about me, and even if it is, it’s not my fault;” and “This is inconvenient but not terrible,” according to University of Illinois, can produce more positive motions of being empowered.
By evaluating how we value our circumstances, our stress and our busy lives whether they are negative or not, we can come to realize that we are in more control of what we can and can’t do about a situation than we tend to think.
Can we change how others behave? Can we change how much work we have committed to? Perhaps not.
But we can reframe situations to benefit our time as students to get the most of what we set out to do in college.