You did it. You battled and bested high school. No more scheduled lunch period, no more trips to and from a beat up locker and no more hellish second semester senior year papers that just don’t seem worth it anymore. Instead, what awaits is an environment where you are the sole proprietor of your future. Any class you wish to take is your decision, your academic and social schedule are your’s to build and your level of independence has never been higher.

As such, your accomplishments carry more weight as they were completed under the complete control of yourself. The highs you’ll feel while pursuing and practicing your passions are truly what the college experience is about at its core.

College is designed to challenge and push you to your limits in a way you may not yet be comfortable with. As a result, what accompanies this environment is a tremendous sense of responsibility and onus, characteristics that can quickly spiral into immense pressure and stress. This reaction is nothing if not natural; while being independent can be a treasured reward after eighteen years of regimented academia, transitioning to complete solidarity can come with a significant amount of discomfort.

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Suddenly, excelling in classes and getting involved with what you’re passionate about become pressure filled endeavors that feel less like a nourishing opportunity and more like a check mark on a list of college requirements. A quiz or exam doesn’t feel like an opportunity to showcase your knowledge, but instead can manifest itself in a gnawing sensation in the pit of your stomach.

These emotions are normal and, quite frankly, unavoidable, we fall feel the pressure to succeed. However there exist practices and patterns to assist in keeping a positive mindset even in time of intense stress. I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard the same humdrum story leading up to college a thousand times over: stay positive, take each day as it comes, focus on what you can control, the lot.

However, just because a message is commonly used does not mean it deserves to be dismissed immediately at its referral. Messages such as these began and survived as central mantras of our existence not because they’re cliche, but because they’re centrally important to leading a fulfilling and focused lifestyle.

The first three quarters of my freshman year were extremely challenging. I had told everyone I was ready for the independence, but I had underestimated how many aspects of my life were about to change. I went from knowing everyone in my neighborhood to knowing no one. I went from a class size of 20 to 200. I went from attending class in one building to six. The adjustment was not easy.

However, the last quarter of my year I thrived. My initial strife had been righted, and I was on my way to concluding a winner of a year. And what got me there was simple.

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Each time a self deprecating thought would trudge into my mind, I would replace it with an accomplishment I had achieved in that same day. A difficult exam on the horizon that I didn’t feel confident about? Not to worry, I had just turned in a paper I was truly proud of. I came to realize that compulsive dread did not benefit me in any way. By spending my energy worrying and wearing myself down and out, I was only making my situation worse.

Positive reinforcement completely refocused my freshman year, and it may not seem that simple, and it’s not, but it’s an ideal place to start.

Lucas Johnson ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in journalism.