Thrive on Campus//

What It Takes to Get Back on Track

An open-minded approach to finding your footing at the start of a new term.

Julian Hochgesang / Unsplash
Julian Hochgesang / Unsplash

Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering student mental health, well-being, and redefining success from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

Resolutions at the start of a new term come fast. Study more, sleep more, exercise more. Procrastinate less, scroll less, stream less. The road to optimal performance is paved with bricks made of more and less. In the early weeks of the term, you’ve managed to put down a few bricks. You’re in the front row of every lecture, you’ve been to office hours, your homework assignments are complete days before they’re due, you’re working out five days a week.

And then you’re not. It might start slowly — a missed lecture or a late assignment, a morning workout skipped. The compensatory thinking kicks in. Next week you’re going to be back in class, homework turned in early, back on the treadmill. But then you’re not. Your road has run out of bricks. Maybe in the back of your mind you cling to the hope of another reset, another clean slate that awaits you after spring break. Or maybe you start feeling the guilt and self-doubt.

A couple of steps to get back on track:

Self-compassion

We’re often our harshest critics. We evaluate ourselves under the brightest of lights, uncovering the smallest of flaws, even those unnoticed by others. But self-improvement need not begin by scolding ourselves or meting out punishments for our own shortcomings. Instead, we can reframe our missteps with a more compassionate, forgiving, and nonjudgmental mindset. By not attaching judgment to our performance, we don’t create an ever growing catalog of errors. Every fault is not worthy of a fix. Don’t look in the rear-view mirror so often — our failures are smaller than they may appear.

Structure

When things start falling apart, we want to restart immediately. We pick up the pieces and commit to working harder, longer, and faster than before. We think that by brute force alone we’ll figure things out. But before you rebuild, look at the foundation. What are the basic tools, skills, and strategies that have worked in the past for you — and how can you replicate them? There’s great value in reexamining our accomplishments, not only to bolster our self-confidence but also to assess the deliberate choices and actions we took.


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More on Thrive on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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