Handling the stresses of a new school year

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The beginning of a new school year can be taxing for students learning to navigate college life, but TCU’s Counseling and Mental Health Center has ways to help students handle stress.

Stress is a normal part of life and the college experience, according to Dr. Kristin Harris-McDonald, a licensed psychologist at the counseling center.

While some find ways to better cope with their stress, everyone is affected by it, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

New places to see, new people to meet and a new schedule — all of these can be overwhelming for students when they are trying to map out their semesters.


The beginning of the semester can be a lot for students, but taking time for self-care is important for academic success and overall mental health. Photo Credit: Maya Bulger.

Harris-McDonald said if students are feeling stressed, the first thing to do is focus on self-care.

“This includes getting enough sleep, food for fuel and exercise to keep energy levels up,” Harris-McDonald said. “Talking to your close friends and family is also a way to manage stress.”


Whether it be just breathing for a few seconds, watching your favorite show, napping for a little or taking a few minutes to journal about your day, Harris-McDonald said creating good habits that benefit you can be very helpful for your overall health.

Kurstin Grady, a senior political science major, is taking 21 credit hours this semester but uses her planner to help her stay prepared and get ahead of her workload.

“I copy all of the course schedules into my planner from the syllabus for the whole semester,” Grady said. “It helps me to keep track and plan ahead so that I don’t have to stress about assignments last minute.”

Grady said she also tries to spend free time with friends or binge-watching her favorite shows on Netflix.

Shelby Smith, a sophomore fashion merchandising major, said when she gets stressed, she takes time out to spend with her friends.

“Doing things that make you happy and feel as if nothing else matters in that moment is so important for your mental health,” Smith said. “Taking a yoga class, drinking water and eating fruit help me relax as well.”

Dr. Harris-McDonald of the TCU Counseling and Mental Health Center. Photo courtesy of TCU.

Harris-McDonald said stress may cause discomfort, but it should not be long-lasting.

If you notice you are worrying more than usual, feeling unable to focus, feeling like you can’t control your worry or stress, or having physical anxiety symptoms like stomach pain or muscle tension, Harris-McDonald said students might want to consider going to the counseling center for assistance.

The TCU Counseling and Mental Health Center can be contacted at 817-257-7863 and is located in the basement of Samuelson Hall near the post office.

TCU also has a 24/7 counseling hotline. To contact someone, call 817-257-7233.