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Dealing with Post-College Stress
Q: I've just graduated from college and I'm stressed! How can I put this time in perspective?
A: This is one of many times in your life when you will experience stress. That's okay. Life is not about avoiding stress, it is about dealing with it effectively. You have every ability within yourself to choose to deal with stress well by taking care of yourself, getting help when you need it, having a strong group of supportive friends, and listening to your own judgment instead of letting others -- or your own negativity -- get you off course.
There are two very powerful stress relievers: a positive attitude and a sense of humor. If you can keep your spirits up no matter what happens, you will make the most out of every opportunity. If you've ever taken Tae Kwan Do or any martial arts, you may have heard the term "indomitable" spirit. That is the outlook and attitude that allows people to overcome any obstacle, like the immigrants who came to this country to create a better life for themselves, people who survived the Holocaust, and men who came home from World War II and built the economic foundation in this country that still benefits us today.
The second key part of managing stress is to learn how to "self-soothe," as Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence puts it. One great way to calm yourself down is to maintain your sense of humor and seek people who don't take themselves too seriously. Achieving the goal -- any goal -- at the expense of your own mental health, your heart, and your soul is not worth it. So keep perspective on your own unique talents and strengths. As Mary Chapin Carpenter said, "Keep the faith, don't give it away."
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Carol Carter is the author of many books on college and career planning. She is the cofounder of Lifeskills, Inc., a nonprofit organization that encourages high-school students to explore their goals, career options, and the real world through part-time work and internships. She also gives workshops around the country on career exploration and other issues directly related to helping students succeed in college, career, and life.