by Ivan Drouin, M.A., R. Psych.

Finally, high school is over.  You are headed for College or University.  You can’t wait for the new challenge, but maybe you also feel a bit stressed and wonder if you will be able to make new friends.  And what about all these stories you heard about exams, essays and quizzes that reach another level. “It’s not high school!”, everybody says!

But you will be more independent and you can’t wait.  On the other hand, maybe you wish you were not going so far from home as you know you will miss your parents, or your siblings, or your friends.

This transition from high school to College or University is an important step in your life.  Like all the transitions you have been through already (remember when you started Junior High?), and others to come, they are filled with a sense of anticipation, excitement and… stress.  In fact, stress is not only normal during a period of transition, it is in fact healthy.

Research suggests that our relationship with stress is what is important.  If we think we can handle stress, if you use tools to manage it, we will often be able to overcome obstacles.  And, in the process, we will learn how to handle other stressful situations.

One of the tools to manage stress is a simple breathing exercise called Belly Breathing. Here are two Belly Breathing exercises.  One is audio and the other is a short video.  Try them and see how you feel.

Koru Belly Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing

Of course, many other things help us to adapt to stress like exercise, quality time with friends, staying on top of assignments and studying, refraining from excessive drinking.  More on this in another blog.

It is also important to remember that at times stress can be become overwhelming and may become a factor in a mental health problem or illness. If you think this is your case, you can contact the Health & Counselling Centre of your University to have a confidential meeting with a counsellor or a clinical therapist.  Many universities also offer sessions on relaxation or mindfulness that can help you manage your stress.

A great resource is the teen mental health site developed at the IWK.

So, in thinking about the upcoming year, take a breath.

Ivan Drouin, M.A., R. Psych. Clinical Therapist, Health & Counselling Centre, St. Francis Xavier University

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