Control Your Emotions
We are disturbed not by things, but by the views we take of things. — Epictetus
This page describes some of the emotions that cause problems for college students and provides suggestions for dealing with them.
Why students get angry
There are many reasons why someone might lose their temper and express anger like this.
People who are not getting enough sleep often lose their ability to control their emotions. If this is your problem, change your sleep habits.
People with low self-esteem may fear failure. They may think people are saying terrible things about them. They may be jealous when a girlfriend or boyfriend talks to other people. If this is your problem, look at the page on self-confidence. It may be helpful.
Think about your strong points. Improving your study skills may help you make better grades and thus feel better about yourself.
If you ever get angry like the man in this picture, you have a serious problem. Even if you don’t get quite this angry, If you find yourself losing your temper more than once a month, you need to
STOP reading this page and go to the page on Anger Management
Traumatic experiences can cause emotional problems
People who have been through traumatic experiences may take months or years to recover. These might include:
1. Military personnel who have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. PTSD causes many problems including sleep disorders and poor emotional control. The soldiers in the picture are saving a wounded friend. Now, as college students, they continue to have nightmares about this and other experiences.
2. The death of a family member or close friend
3. Being in a serious traffic accident
4. Major disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or wildfires, especially when your life or the lives of loved ones were threatened
5. A major disappointment like breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend
6. Having family members lose a job or lose their home. You may worry about them and fear there may not be money to pay your college expenses
7. Feeling guilty
If you are having difficulty with any of these experiences, you might talk to a counselor.
Common reasons students lose control of their emotions
The move away from your home and family brings many changes Some students may not be prepared for either the independence or the responsibility that comes with it. While some students welcome the change, many experience a great deal of stress and experience emotions they don’t know how to handle. Some may feel anxious or even break into tears at times.
Here are some of the more common emotions students, especially freshman, may experience.
1. Homesickness: You miss your family more than you thought possible. You may even dream of dropping out of college and going home “where you belong,” where people know you and love you.
Call home occasionally, to hear those familiar voices and learn what they’ve been doing. They probably miss you too. But avoid going home for at least the first month. It’s best to wait until Thanksgiving or whatever your next big holiday might be. Resist the urge to call home every night. Once a week is plenty. Instead of sitting alone in your dorm room, wishing you were home, get out of your room. Go somewhere and do something. Join a club, listen to a speaker, hang out in the student union and talk to someone. The more you manage to stay busy, the sooner you will feel comfortable and “recover” from homesickness.
2. loneliness: Moving away from friends, people you’ve known all your live and facing the need to meet people who you know nothing about can be extremely stressful. Some students continue for weeks or months to call, email or send Facebook messages to their high school friends instead of taking the huge step of making new friends. They are certain that they’ll never find new friends they like as much as their old friends.
The solution is obvious. Cut back on calls and messages to your old friends. After the first week or two, once a month is plenty.
Alyssa is checking her appearance in the mirror. She may not be beautiful, but she knows she’s not ugly. She had many friends in high school. Why, she wonders, is it so hard to make friends in college.
She needs to go places and do things where she will meet people. She should get to know who they are and what they have in common with her. It may take some time, but she will eventually make new friends.
Doing this is easiest at the beginning of a year when other students are looking for new friends. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. But, at any time of the year, you should be able to find someone new to meet, someone who might eventually become your friend. If you are having problems, read the pages in this website under Meeting People.
3. Confusion: You may not know your way around the campus. Even if you’ve been on campus for several years, you may never have had a class in some of the buildings and be uncertain where the building is. You should get a campus map if you don’t have one. When you have free time, take a walk and get to know where everything is.
Your clothes might be dirty and you feel uncomfortable. You might not know where the laundry is or how to work the machines. Ask another student, maybe someone who’s lived in the dorm before. People enjoy giving advice.
You have an assignment that requires library research. You find the library, but once inside, you feel terribly lost. It’s so much bigger than your high school library and you don’t even see card catalogs.
Don’t turn around and run the other way. Talk to the librarian. They might have a map of the library to show you where to find different things. They might show you how to use the computer instead of a card catalog. They might explain how you can even look up sources from your own computer before coming to the library.
4. The food is awful. This usually isn’t true. What is true is that this food is different from the food you are used to eating. Get used to it. If you try a number of different things, you should find something you enjoy. I remember one college cafeteria that regularly served roast beef heart. I grew up eating tongue and loving it but never heard of eating heart. I was proud of being brave and trying new foods. It was like roast beef, maybe better.
The most difficult part of eating in the cafeteria is not knowing anyone there and eating alone. It’s easy to think everyone notices that you’re alone and wonders why. You think they might think you have no friends. The truth is that very few will notice. The ones who have time to notice are those who are also eating alone. Some people actually bring a container, pack up the food, and go back to eat in their dorm room. That only makes the problem worse.
If you see someone sitting alone, someone who’s just begun to eat, walk by and pause. Ask politely, “Would you mind if I join you?” You may end up making a new friend. You might have found someone to eat with on a regular basis. But sometimes, they are waiting for someone to come, or they might actually prefer eating alone, perhaps doing homework as they eat. Don’t let it bother you. I think that more than three out of every four people eating alone will be happy to have you join them. Keeping taking chances.
5. Disappointment: Everyone deals with occasional disappointments. But Jonathan was worried. His father had been the quarterback on the football team when he went to school. All Jonathan’s life, his father had talked about how proud he would be when Jonathan played on the college team. He bragged to his friends how Jonathan would be one of the greatest quarterbacks on ever.
The problem is, Jonathan didn’t make the team. The coach suggested he play on an intramural team. Jonathan is disappointed, of course, but he’s accepted it. He’ll be happy playing on the intramural team and he’ll have a lot more time for his studies. But how will he ever tell his dad?
One thing he can do is provide something else for his dad to brag about. Telling his father that he’s looking forward to having more time to study, that he’d like to work toward getting top grades, might be enough to brag about. “Jon didn’t make the team this year, but he’s taking it well. He’s going to play intramurals instead and use his time to work hard on his studies. That my kid. He knows what’s most important. I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes all A’s.”
No Jonathan probably won’t make all A’s, but his father’s friends aren’t likely to ask about that. If Jonathan’s dad is deeply disappointed, that should be his problem, not Jonathan’s.
If you are disappointed because you did poorly on your first tests, learn to accept it and create a study plan to help you do better in the future. Most students who fail and have to drop out of college skipped a lot of classes, didn’t spend much time studying, and cared more about having a good time than making passing grades.
If you are working hard and still making poor grades, talk to your professor. Ask for suggestions on how to study and how to prepare for future tests. Most professors are pleased to help someone who want to do better in the future. If you did poorly on essay questions, ask how they grade the essays so you can be better prepared.
They may be afraid of disappointing their parents if they don’t do well.
They may be afraid that they’ll do poorly on a test or term paper and fail a class.
They may be afraid that they won’t be invited to join the fraternity or sorority of their choice (or their parents’ choice.)
They may be afraid that they’ll never make any friends.
None of these should be serious problems. Don’t focus on your parents’ goals for you. Focus on your own goals.
If you need academic help, read the pages in this website on Study Skills.
If that isn’t enough, investigate the resources available. There may be tutors to help you understand the material. There may be a writing center to help you improve your writing. Most students overcome these fears, soon after they pass their first test.
Generally students who work hard, do reasonably well. Those who fail spent too much time playing video games, drinking, and going to parties. Improving skills and organizing your time should remove most of your fears.
7. Guilt: Some students feel guilty. They might feel guilty about not putting enough effort in their studies. The answer is obvious. Use the guilt to motivate you to study harder.
Some feel guilty that parents have lost their home, unable to pay the mortgage, partly because they are paying for your college expenses. If your parents did this, it was their choice. They did it because they love you.
Let them know how much you appreciate it. Try to cut back on your expenses when you can. Get a part-time job. Apply for scholarships. If you have a younger brother or sister who will be in college after you graduate, you might promise to help cover part of their expense. Instead of feeling guilty, feel honored. Your parents think your education is a good investment. Prove that they are right and get the best education and the best grades you can.
Don’t feel guilty about the time you spend with friends or participating in school events and organizations. These should be an important part of getting the most out of college.
8. Overwhelmed: Many students feel so overwhelmed by the amount of work they need to do that they feel helpless. This is true for the woman in the picture. She spends more time worrying about it than she does studying. And when she does study, she sometimes tries to read 100 or more pages in an hour or two and doesn’t understand why she can’t remember what she read.
What overwhelmed students need most is to study the website pages,
Get organized, especially the page on Time Management. They should set clear goals, create study plans, and create a schedule for the best use of their time.
Reading Study Skills will also help.
But, you might say, “I have so much work to do. I just don’t have time to read all this extra stuff.”
I guarantee that learning to create and use a study schedule will save time, not waste it. I guarantee that if you read the section on Reading, especially the new and improved version of SQ3R, you will learn more in one hour than you are learning now in three hours. That certainly isn’t a waste of time. The same is true of other sections.
Skim a section. Decide if it meets your needs. If it does, study it in detail. Take notes. Practice using the method. As with any new skill, it will take practice to be most effective. In the end, these methods should help you learn faster, understand more, remember it longer, and help you make better grades.
Further pages on controlling your emotions: