Monica Arenella ’18 talks about encountering stress during your first year at UNH and shaking it off.
The older you get, the more you know. The older you get, the more you think you know. And I definitely think I know everything. But, for the sake of this post, and your sanity, I’ll impart on you only what I have learned to actually be fact (and some of my own two cents, which you’re more than free to not follow). This is just your general self-help guide: dealing with stress, where you’ll encounter stress, knowing when you’re stressed, and, my personal favorite, how to take a break from that stress. Because, and I’m sure for all you freshman out there have heard this countless times…college is great. But it can be hard. And that’s OK.
1) The first thing I really want to put out there is this: You’re parents know best, except when they do not. Look, my mom is my rock. So is my dad. And whenever I’m having a bad day or need to vent, they’re always first on my “must call and freak out to” list. That being said, college is a balancing act. Especially the first couple of weeks. Everyone from your grandmother to your father’s best friend from high school, the uncle who’s not really your uncle, is going to have some grand piece of advice about how you should, or should not, be spending your first year. “Get involved in clubs”, “Have a really active social life”, “Get really amazing grades.”
They’re not wrong, and all of this is important. But, recognize that this is something you work up to, and feeling comfortable is the first thing you should be worrying about. Other than getting involved with UNH Tales, I chose to focus more on my social life and my classes the first semester. I found a group of strong, independent, and caring girls who are currently my roommates at the Gables, and I managed to get acclimated with my workload, and create a college time management plan. It may not seem that important, but not knowing how you work in a completely new system can harm you worse than anything else. Heed advice; just make sure to listen to yourself in the process.
2) Please, please, please do not worry about being best friends with your roommate! This may be a bit late, some of you might be learning this, some might already know this, or already knew this before getting on campus but I find it really important to say.
I absolutely loved my roommate my freshman year, in fact we’re still living together. However, despite how lucky we got, in terms of actually getting along with one another, the first coupe of weeks we didn’t push anything. Where she felt more comfortable going to Willy’s special orientation events the first week, I felt more comfortable staying in and meeting people gradually. We both did our own things, and let the friendship go where it went naturally.
No one is expecting anything with that relationship, although you might think they are. You will, without a doubt, hear everything from the truly ideal to the truly horrific about fellows and their roomies. Do not pay attention. There are so many different people on campus —we wildcats are truly a special breed — that you will find your niche somewhere. Of course, don’t settle for being disrespected or maltreated. You may not be best friends with your roomie but everyone deserves respect unless otherwise proven, you and them both.
3) I might sound like your mother here but something that I did not at all expect to get stressed out about was taking care of myself. That’s a bit obscure and you’re probably thinking “WTF, I know dude.” But I think it’s important for you, child to your parents, to figure this one out for yourself. You need to understand what’s normal and not normal for your body, and how to be proactive about taking care of it.
You’re around a bunch of other 19-22 year olds who are not your parents and are not as apt to notice when you’re “off.” This includes knowing the difference between being tired because you’re sick and being tired because you’re stressed out, haven’t been able to workout for a bit, or aren’t getting the sleep you need. I know it seems trivial to point out but knowing yourself is key. I was all too ready to shake off lethargy last year and not make a big deal out of nothing. Don’t become a hypochondriac, but you might need to get checked out or intervene in your health, and you’re the only one who can do that for you. Which also leads into…
4) FUN TIME! THE BEST THING ON EARTH! As stated above, I am a firm believer in cutting yourself some slack. Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t encourage working hard and challenging yourself because it’s always good to accomplish what you set your mind to. But, no one is superhuman and everyone needs to slow down at some point and just chill. Last year, at the end of the year, I finally broke down in a fit of tears on my bed, covered in sheets, surrounded by pillows, and just generally looking like a hot mess because I suck at admitting when I’m in too deep (I’m not saying this will happen to you, but it’s OK if it does). When the above list of stresses gets to you, don’t be that person. TAKE A BREAK! Here’s how and where:
a) The Dairy Bar! Their ice cream really is bomb. But when it’s cold out, grab a light salad or hearty sandwich and enjoy their cozy, quiet and relaxing atmosphere.
b) Breaking New Grounds: It should be no surprise that there are a lot of coffee shops here on campus, all of them pretty good. But my personal favorite is BNG because not only do they serve great tasting coffee, they’re just plain awesome. There’s a little couch/armchair section in the back that’s great for relaxing, talking with friends, and the numerous small tables scattered throughout the tight but peaceful space offers a nice alternative to the lib. Check it out!
c) This list is in no particular order; that’s why Portsmouth is third, and not numero uno. Plus, I’m lazy and it’s a Monday so my fingers are fighting my brain on reorganizing the numbering, but… PORTSMOUTH IS PRIME! Now, I wouldn’t recommend going there all the time. I think it’s nice to rediscover it every couple of months when campus is making you stir-crazy. But, when the first leaves begin to change color and the air is a bit more brisk, but the sun is still shining, and sweater weather is upon us…go to Portsmouth if you haven’t already.
The streets are cobblestoned and the shops are mainly small, independent boutiques and knick-knack shops. If you’re into magic tricks, pranks, humor, and old-time candy, check out Marco Polo, a entertaining joke shop on Market Street. Also, in keeping with the theme of food, Popovers is a must-visit, as is Flatbread if you’re going for a more dinner friendly menu. There’s also a book cafe (reading and eating?!?! Hell yea!) that I’m dying to try but have not yet had the good fortune of venturing near. Clearly, I like Portsmouth. So, please. Go.
d) The Great Outdoors/the gym: Despite what working out does for your body (shout out to you, Mr. Tatum), being active is the best mental break that I can offer you. And we’re in New Hampshire so where better to do it? The university is really great about offering a whole bunch of fun outdoor activities for students and faculty. The outdoor club usually hosts adventure trips on a first-come-first-serve basis. They’re creative and fun and designed with small, intimate groups in mind.
But those aren’t always accessible and not everyone has a car at school. If you’re in this latter category, go to the gym. And, no you don’t have to kill yourself physically to get those great mental benefits. If I’m feeling especially drained or frustrated, I rent a racquet from the desk downstairs, and a ball (though I believe you have to buy them now), and hit a couple of rounds on one of the courts in the back. The rec center also offers great classes (yoga, boot camp, kickboxing) in the studios on the lower level, free for all students ( fill out the release form here ).
Oops, I almost forgot!
…use your friends and the university, as a resource. When I was obnoxiously crying my eyes out, my friends stuck with me and made me laugh and just listened for a bit. There are also multiple services on campus that are there for YOU and want to offer you all the support that they can. The same goes for balancing your diet and trying to stay nutritious while away from home. Hit up this website for both.
Have a great year, Wildcats!!