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  • Writer's pictureYvette E. McDonald, LCSW-QS

Starting Your College Semester on the Right Foot

5 ways to catch your breath and practice good self-care at the start of the Fall semester.

Note to the reader: The following is a pep talk I sent my current college students and thought I'd share for anyone else that finds themselves in this season of this life.

You got this!!!!

The fall semester is underway, and I can hear the anxiety from a lot of you guys. This will continue to be an unusual year between COVID-19, hurricane season and online classes. However, I will do whatever it takes to keep the online format running smoothly and moving forward providing you with the best education and experience possible.

Professionally this year has been different for me as well as both my practice, conferences, and teaching has moved to strictly online. Things that we depend on consistently has changed and continues to change without any notice. People everywhere are in a collective experience that has them overwhelmed and anxious. People are having a hard time finding their footing and establishing a new normal that includes a new routine in life, work, school, family life, and play. We are having to regroup and reorganize in ways that we have never had to before. It’s all uncharted territory and can be unnerving at best.

With all this chaos that surrounds us the question I have for you is: “How are you catching your breath now a days? How are you setting yourself up for success this semester and for life in general?” You might be silently giggling with these questions or perhaps you haven’t slowed down enough to even ask yourself these questions. But, I’m serious despite all the chaos it’s absolutely crucial that you do not neglect your emotional and mental health. Below are some ways that you can catch your breath and practice good self-care. You know the things that fill you up. Remember Self-care can come in all shapes and sizes, but the big part is that you must recognize it’s extremely important to your mental well-being it’s what grounds you and you have to prioritize it. Self-care isn’t selfish!

  1. Unstructured time. Time that has no purpose. Another way of looking at it, is the white space in your schedule where you don’t have anything to worry about. You just do whatever you feel like doing.

  2. Opportunities for connection. Research continues to reveal that social connection increases happiness, affords you better health and a longer life. I recognize how difficult that is in the midst of a pandemic, but this is where creativity comes in with regard to finding ways to connect with people in a socially responsible and safe manner.

  3. Being kind to yourself. Think self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff explains it as “Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?” Be more flexible with yourself and work on changing expectations in order to thrive in this current situation rather than just survive.

  4. Allow yourself to grieve all the losses. There has been a lot of change and loss in this season of life and your system needs the chance for grief to run its course in order to reorganize.

  5. Take care of your own mental health. I recognize that there are numerous stigmas out there revolving around mental health. However, please don’t lose sight of the fact that mental health is integral to living a healthy, balanced life. Our mental health impacts our whole being. It affects how we feel, think, and behave. Which in turn has an impact on our decision-making process, coping and how we relate with others.

The challenge is on. How are you going to move from fear and anxiety to clarity, intuition, faith and inspiration. What areas do you need to get perspective on at the start of the semester in order that you can be present and find beauty in the chaos allowing this time to redefine and refine you as opposed to wipe you out. The first step to starting school off on the right foot is being calm and grounded. My secret to success during this time is practicing the above mentioned ways of being and creating a routine.

Let the adventure begin. I will serve you in any way that I can. I appreciate your ongoing efforts to provide positive feedback and work collaboratively in getting this course off to a good start.


Yvette E. McDonald is the owner and counselor at Traveling Light Counseling, a practice for individuals, couples and families helping them achieve a new normal within all the chaos that threatens their sanity. If you're in the Saint Lucie or Martin County Area and life isn't quite what you expected it to be at this point in your journey and you are ready to make some changes or perhaps level up some areas in your life, please give me a call at 772-361-8448 for a free, 15-minute phone consultation.


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