Yup, I did. Three, in fact. I cried in front of three different professors in one day. I got through to my final semester here at Moravian without buckling under the strain, then it all came out in one day. The mounting stress of graduation, job searching, and planning graduate school, on top of health issues and regular run-of-the-mill stress built up inside of me until I couldn’t keep it in. Then it became impossible to have a conversation about some genuine concerns that I had without crying. Here are 5 tips from a graduating senior on how to not end up sobbing in your advisor’s office (yup, that totally happened).
1. When you feel like you’re reaching your stress limit, talk to someone.
I did not do this. I had this idea that I just needed to put my head down and work harder. The problem with this approach, is that I ended up unable to talk about the stress I was under without getting extremely emotional. When I say “extremely,” I mean I needed a whole box of tissues. I didn’t think I would ever cry in front of a professor, until it was happening. I didn’t go to the Counseling Center, but I thought about it. I didn’t schedule some time with my advisor to talk about what was concerning me, but I totally should have. By the time we did sit down, I was already feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed.
2. Don’t be ashamed of your emotions.
The second professor that I talked to (and ended up crying in front of) said something that I will never forget. When I apologized to her for being so emotional, she asked me why I would apologize. She told me that my feelings were valid, that I needed to let myself feel afraid, upset, unsure, and vulnerable. We live in a society that stigmatizes these feelings and often we feel the need to apologize for feeling them at all, but that’s ridiculous! When I’m overwhelmed, I cannot magically make that feeling go away by ignoring it. Acknowledging those emotions and their legitimate causes is key, then I can start to work on solutions.
3. Once you’ve recognized that you’re overloaded, don’t be afraid to set some limits.
I’m looking at you, overachievers. Moravian is full of amazing opportunities, and at every info session and alumni event I've ever attended, I have heard someone say, “take advantage of every opportunity!” This is a great mantra, but note to self: four classes, two internships, a work study job, et cetera, might be a bit much. It is perfectly OK to acknowledge when your plate is full. No, really! It is!
4. Treat yourself to some “you time.”
Real talk: I bought myself some fancy coloring books and broke out my colored pencils for some serious quiet time. It is fabulous. When I’m busy (and broke) it is hard to reserve some time to just do something for my mental and emotional well being. As much as I’d love to, I can’t just schedule an hour-long massage when I am stressed. *drool* I wish! But I have found that just getting away from my electronics: phone, TV, radio (Yes, I actually walk away from my phone, well… maybe I just silence it) is really relaxing. I just chill out with my coloring books every now and again. Going to the gym is another great way to relieve stress and do something good for yourself, but let's be honest here, coloring is way more fun.
5. Remember, you’re not alone.
It is easy to feel isolated when you’re busy. I isolated myself without even realizing it, not talking to anyone about what I was dealing with and feeling like I had to just try to get through it. When I did finally break down and talk (and cry) to my faculty, they were tremendously supportive and encouraging. Each offered understanding, compassion, and positive, realistic solutions. Come on, it’s not their first rodeo. In addition to the faculty, as a student here at Moravian, I have access to wonderful resources. The Counseling and Academic Support Centers are there to work with me. It was a wonderful thing to realize I needed some help, and that I had it right at my fingertips.
For more information on the Counseling Center, visit their website: https://www.moravian.edu/counseling