Suddenly Back from College: How to Manage the Stress of Online College Education without Substances

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By Sandy Baker

The current pandemic has led to many college students returning home early this year and over the summer. Now, instead of spending time engaging in classrooms and managing homework in dorm rooms, students are back home, trying to handle virtual learning while also adjusting to life with family again.

A High Stress Recipe

The sheer shock of a change in environment and learning processes can leave many students overwhelmed and highly stressed. If you are a college student, it’s important to recognize the need for more help during this time, especially if you tend to cope with stress by turning to drugs or alcohol.

Here are some strategies for managing the transition from college to home with success.

Make Education a Formal Part of the Day

You’re at home, and depending on how your professors are handling remote learning, you may not have to follow the same strict course schedule. However, to give yourself some level of continuity, it’s important to dedicate time each day towards your education. Try to create the same type of structured environment at home to keep learning.

  • Have a specific place in your home to study. It should be quiet and away from others.
  • Create a schedule for yourself – or stick to your current school schedule – and study during that time each day.
  • Your “job” during this period is to keep your college education on track. Don’t become distracted.

Engage with Your College Friends

Your friendships are so important to your health and well-being. Isolation from friends can lead to depression and anxiety–which can make you want to turn to substances to cope. Be proactive in nurturing your friendships. Set up times to meet your friends online to talk and hang out. Zoom and other types of video calling are simple and highly effective ways of keeping yourself engaged with your friends.

Recognize the Need for Addiction Help

Coming home from college may mean it’s harder to find the drugs and alcohol you’ve been using. It can also be a wake-up call; now that you’re home, you can evaluate your habits and get perspective on the unhealthy lifestyle you may have developed at school.

If you used heavily at school and are not able to access drugs and alcohol at home, you may be going through withdrawal or at least have strong cravings. If this is happening to you, consider the following recommendations:

  • Recognize the need to get help. Look towards a drug and alcohol treatment program that can help you immediately.
  • Don’t try to detox at home. If you are facing increasing pain and discomfort, it’s best to seek out a formal detox program to protect yourself.
  • Reach out to a drug and alcohol treatment center and counselor virtually. You can do this privately without even leaving your home.

Consider using this time away from a college setting as the ideal time to get healthy again. Not only will it give you the ability to complete your college education successfully, but it can also help you manage these high stress times with more ease.

Already in Recovery? How to Minimize Relapse

Perhaps you’ve already worked through your addiction and you’re in recovery. Congratulations on doing one of the most complex and rewarding things you can do for yourself. If the stressful changes related to the pandemic are making you feel tempted to use again, don’t fall down that hole.

Now is an excellent time to reach out to your mentor or counselor. Review the tools you’ve learned to deal with cravings and high stress levels. In addition, you can start to practice coping strategies that are good for you, such as meditation and exercise.

High-stress and quickly changing environments can put a lot of pressure on college students. That doesn’t mean you have to put yourself and your health at risk. Reach out to us at The Ranch at Dove Tree. We can help you find the resources you need to get through this difficult time.

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