I’ve been working diligently on my upcoming book, Social Media Wellness: Successful Strategies for Students, Parents and Educators, which is set to be released in 2017. I have been focused on not much else of late (so much that my writing buddy, Sallie, frequently sits next to me at the kitchen table while I write). But, someone recently asked my short advice for recent high school graduates. As students head towards graduation, many may feel a twinge of nervousness and anxiety – after all, many of them have consciously and subconsciously been worried about the college admissions process for so long that actually going to college seems a bit overwhelming. What to do now? Well, first things first, have a great summer. Spend time with friends. Read a book for fun. Go to the beach or spend time in a hammock. Walk your dog. Cultivate hobbies. Get a job (side note: I spent my teen years working at Pottery Barn, J.Crew, an antiques store, a greeting card store, a candy store, and even selling NordicTraks – and each experience was supremely valuable).
And then, think about the following tidbits of advice for your time at college (and or wherever are next year):
Figure out your WHY. Why are you doing something? Is it because you enjoy it? Or, are you struggling with F.O.M.O.? There are so many wonderful things to do in college (and in life), and much of it can be incredible. But, it’s easy to be swayed by the crowd. Take time to stop, reflect, and figure out your “why” in this land of opportunity, and ruthlessly prioritize what is meaningful to you. Don’t be afraid to try something new, or quit something that isn’t working for you.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to. There will be tons of opportunities to get involved – understand that you always have a choice in how to spend your time and with whom you spend your time – and just because you can doesn’t mean you have to. Saying no allows you to say yes to the things that matter most to you.
Spend phone-free time with friends. There, I said it – have coffee, lunch, or dinner with friends where everyone puts their phone away. Resist the urge to create the witty Instagram post or send a Snap. The conversation will be more rewarding and you will instantly feel more relaxed. Research shows empathy between individuals drops simply by the mere presence of a phone on the table. Take the opportunity to sit, converse, and make eye-contact. It makes a difference.
Beware of the Snapchat streak. And other social media creeps that end up taking up way too much time. It’s so easy to think it’s only going to take three seconds, but the reality is, posting on social media makes you spend the most time waiting for responses (we all know what it’s like to endure the excruciating wait for a reply to a text… especially when iPhone bubbles are involved….). Your time is valuable and finite.
Sleep. It’s under-rated. Simply sleeping more allows you to focus (understand what is going on in class), be more productive to get your work done faster) and reduce stress (which can help your emotional and mental health). Cal researcher Matt Walker teaches a class on sleep to college students, and spends one day showing before and after photos of students who were sleep-deprived. Beauty sleep is for real, folks.
and finally, BONUS: Be proactive about getting help when you need it. Things may not always go as planned – and that’s okay. Within six months of my college graduation, I had emergency surgery, barely missed being in NYC on 9/11, and was laid off from my first (and only) post-graduate job. Thankfully, I had a great support network of friends and family. If you are headed to college next year, the school likely has lots of great resources around promoting mental health, physical fitness, academic support and career services – take advantage early and often! Figure out where the resources are *before* you want or need them (early!) and use them without reservation (often!).