The first two weeks of school: Transitional Anxiety & Distress Tolerance

My mom and I don’t have everything in common, but one thing we do is our equal disdain for the first week of school.

It’s rough.

As a professor, my mom is getting settled into a new schedule, new students, and a whole myriad of new things with corona virus.

As a student, I have brand new classes, new professors, new classmates, new projects.

New, new, new.

The phenomenon of the overwhelm my mom & I feel during the first couple weeks of school is not uncommon, and makes an incredible amount of sense.

Let me show you why, and how we can take care of ourselves during this transitional period.

Transitional Anxiety

Transitional anxiety is just that: anxiety during a transition.

When everything is different and new, our bodies and minds are not a fan.

Here’s why:

Our brains love to work on autopilot. They follow the same patterns, the same routines, and they don’t like having to shift.

They can totally do it, it just takes some time, and often times anxiety is high during this transition period.

Which is why- in order to cope with these first couple weeks, we need to develop some distress tolerance.

Distress Tolerance

Part of dealing with this transitional anxiety is doing just that, dealing with it.

It is what it is.

You can do whatever self care, planning, preparing you want but the fact of the matter is- you probably won’t feel great during this time.

This is where distress tolerance comes in- tolerating distress.

So basically, we decide, “it’s okay that I’m not okay.”

It’s comforting yourself through the distress, rather than resisting it.

If we say, “I shouldn’t be stressed, I hate this, I’m having a really hard time, school is terrible, I hate this…” etc., we are resisting the distress, bringing on more distress.

Instead, we say “I’m uncomfortable and that’s okay, my brain and my mind just need time to adjust. I will hold myself through this. We’ll figure it out.”

Beyond allowing, I have a few more tips for getting through these first couple weeks.

5 tips for Transitional Periods

Try to apply these tips/mindsets for a smoother transition. Remember, things will probably still be uncomfortable, but these can help aid in the transition.

  1. Let yourself make mistakes. Maybe you forgot a textbook, maybe you are in the wrong class, totally normal. Reassure yourself that everything will settle down and be okay soon.
  2. Set lower expectations. The beginning of the semester is a time of big goals and pursuits, but instead, ask yourself to just survive & make it through for a bit. Start applying more goals the more comfortable you get in your environment.
  3. Let you be you. If you speak up in class, own that. If you like to keep quiet, that’s okay too. Let yourself adjust to your classes and be yourself.
  4. Some days, the bare minimum is okay. Some days you will need more rest- this is because your body is working overtime to adjust to everything.
  5. Lastly, allow emotion. And then allow it some more. If you need to cry, cry. If you are frustrated, be frustrated. Don’t judge yourself for any of your feelings.

That’s all my friends, stay calm and gear up for the second week of school! Love you all!

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