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Goals for a New Year

january12014 is here, and with each new year many of us make resolutions of things we want to do better this year.  Ways we can grow, improve, be a better person.

From the Parent Programs perspective, we want to offer a few suggestions of possible resolutions or new practices for students.  Please feel free to share these if your students are open to suggestions.

Take care of your health - it is flu season; students should practice good handwashing and consider going to Student Health to get the flu shot.  Good health also means nutritious food, enough sleep, and exercise – but all in moderation.

Manage time more wisely – now that it is the second semester and students have gotten the hang of academics, many of them will add new extracurricular and social activities, which can impact their study schedules.  It is far easier to plan for homework and assignments than to play catch-up after you are already behind.  Urge your student to set regular study hours and avoid procrastinating on homework and assignments.  With proper planning, students can minimize the impact of an increased social life on their GPAs.

Seek out a mentor – students should take advantage of our mentoring culture by forming ties with professors in classes they especially like or in departments they may wish to consider for their major; they can visit faculty members’ office hours or invite them to chat for coffee.  Students can also work with their academic advisor or staff members and administrators to be a resource and a sounding board for them when needed.

Become more independent – with every semester, students should stretch themselves to be more independent and more responsible for their lives and outcomes.  Instead of asking mom and dad or family members for help or advice, students will grow and learn more when they formulate their own ideas and plans.   If your student presents a problem to you or asks for help, instead of responding with a solution or suggestion, turn the situation back to him and ask what he plans to do, what are his options, what has he thought of?   Help encourage that independence by allowing him to stretch his own wings.

Chew on the big questions - college is a time for reflection and self-discovery.  Students should begin to think deeply about some of the big questions of life: who am I? what makes me happy?  what are my gifts and talents?  in what do I believe?  what is important to me?  This is an ongoing conversation they will have with themselves for the rest of their lives – and the sooner they can begin to know themselves deeply, the richer their lives might be as they make choices and decisions for careers, relationships, and more.

Have fun! – students should find time every week for fun activities, to celebrate small joys, to cultivate friendships, and to be present in the moment.  Walk through Reynolda Gardens, go see a midnight movie with friends, make that late night Krispy Kreme run, and do random acts of kindness for others on campus.

Build resilience – this is related to the idea of becoming more independent.  There will come a time when your student suffers a setback – could be grades, interpersonal, romantic, career or grad school related, anything.  And while none of us enjoy setbacks, failures, or painful lessons, college is a great safe learning environment in which to experience those.  Students are here with peers, friends, faculty and staff, and a vast range of support offices to help them in the moments where they stumble.  As the song goes “you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.”  And as we do these things, we build resilience.

There is a great site from the American Psychological Association called “The Road to Resilience.”   This site defines resilience as follows: “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.”

The Road to Resilience has some suggestions for how we can build resilience.  They are listed below.  Building resilience is one of the most important things students can do.  It is a self-care skill your students will need for the rest of their lives.  When they have issues or problems, help them develop resilience by letting them work through those issues themselves.

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10 Ways to Build Resilience

Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.

Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”

Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.

Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.

The key is to identify ways that are likely to work well for you as part of your own personal strategy for fostering resilience.