College applications are pretty much finished and submitted. Now the waiting starts--the agonizing waiting to hear did your teen get in or not? Did she get into her top pick? Was any merit or scholarship offered? There’s a lot to do, the stakes are high, the deadlines are strict, and you’re being asked to make major decisions about your future. How could our kids not be stressed?! So what can we do to help our kids take a breath, to work off some of this stress?
Luckily there are a number of things you can do to help mitigate the physical, mental, and emotional consequences of admissions anxiety. The first one is to go into this with realistic expectations. Colleges are competitive. Chances are, you won’t get accepted to every school you applied to. That's ok, you can’t eradicate the possibility of rejection, but you can anticipate it and come to terms with it in advance, and that can help lessen the anxiety.
Another big hurdle is getting off that comparison train. Every college applicant is unique, and it’s nearly impossible to meaningfully compare yourself to others. Even if another student seems very similar to you, the reality is that you don't know the details of their application, nor what the admissions people are looking for. Instead, remind your kid to stay focused on doing what’s best for her-- finding a college that’s a solid personal fit.
Meanwhile let them lead whether they want to talk about it at all. Don't ask about it all the time, and don't ask their friends about where they applied either. That just gets that anxiety ramped up. Instead, here are 5 quick ways to help her take a breath.
Sleep is critical for health and even if they have an exam tomorrow, they still need to get a good night's rest. Sleep helps you avoid illness, relax and clear your mind. They will thank you (well, maybe not!) for easing that brain fog in the morning. And honestly, it is second semester senior year. A B won’t kill them.
This can be outside, running around type of play. Getting outside in the fresh air can improve your mood no matter what your age. Or it can be time with friends, just hanging out. It can be down time like reading a book or seeing a movie. Or it can be cuddling a puppy—suggest your teen connect with something or someone. Something to get some endorphins running through their body. Honestly, anything to keep them from becoming an application–status stalker!
It may feel like life right now is too serious to joke around; but that’s when they need it the most. Distract them from their endless email waiting and find something else to talk about than college. Find your sense of humor even if it's sarcasm or a dark humor. Laughter releases those awesome endorphins and helps your body relax. Go watch the Simpsons or whatever you find hilarious. Laugh it out.
It may feel like one more pressure added on, but it works. It really, really works. Move your body. Exercise pumps up your endorphins, improves your mood, improves your sleep and is basically mindfulness in motion. Run, hike or swim your stress away. Or try kickboxing!
I know breathing and mindfulness can sound stupid but it really does all start and end with the breath. Deep, slow, fill-your-lungs breaths calm you down. In the time it takes for 3 big breaths, your stress and cortisol levels plunge, physically causing a calmness and settling in your body. When all else fails, just Breathe.
Your teen is going to find her place. Believe that and help her believe it too.