Students learn to cope with living on their own

When being on your own feels like too much, how do you cope?

College is the first time many people consider themselves to be independent or fully on their own.

For many students, we had parents tell us what we needed to do. They made us food, cleaned up when we made a mess and comforted us when we were down.

But that’s over now.

College is the time for independence and discovery of how to live as adults.

With all this freedom come new responsibilities and feelings that young people experience for the first time. In these new situations we can feel alone and overwhelmed by trying to make friends, get involved and keep up with homework. 

We have to buy our own groceries and cook our own meals. These situations can create a new type of unease that maybe we haven’t felt before: overwhelming stress.

We are realizing that we are the ones who have to take care of ourselves. 

One of the biggest problems I had was finding the right friend group. I started my first semester hanging around people who made me feel like someone I wasn’t.

I eventually had a break down and even called my mom saying I wanted to go home because I thought I couldn’t handle it alone.

Instead of giving up, I decided I had to distance myself from what was making me feel so miserable.

In the weeks after, I met a friend who shared my interests and cared about how I was feeling. Just meeting one person that makes you feel less alone can help.

We need to learn how to deal with these new feelings and become independent, strong adults.

You are not alone

When students are overwhelmed by stress or feel like everything is wrong, they can talk to ASU Counseling Services.

Associate Vice President and Director of ASU Health Services Aaron Krasnow works with a team of counselors to make sure students get the help they need during this life transition.

“Adjustment is one of the most common reasons people come to counseling,” Krasnow says.

When life gets out of hand, we tend to only see in black and white, Krasnow says. People think everything is bad or everything is good and that there is no in-between or gray area. This leads people to catastrophize all the situations they’re dealing with.

To decipher what is good and what is bad, Krasnow suggests to instead think about what is true.

“When you think about things that are true, it tends to help you cope,” Krasnow says. “It is true that things are new. It is true that things can be scary. It is true that being alone is hard, but there are other things that are true too. There was a time when you had to make friends before. There was a time when you had to solve problems for yourself before. There was a time in which you figured things out, but it’s hard to remember doing that when you get used to something previous.”

Coming to college, almost everything is new and that is something we need to accept. We may not remember the old times when something was new because that thing is habitual now, but we must remember that it all started somewhere. Everything takes time.

One of the main reasons students get stressed is because they don’t have the same type of curriculum or environment as before. 

“The difference is in high school a lot of the structure is provided for you, and in college you have to provide the structure,” Krasnow says.

Jason Storr, a sophomore studying nutrition, poses in his apartment at Vertex student apartments in Tempe, Arizona on Sep. 15 2017.

Structure = success

This is what hurts new college students the most. Some kids never learned how to manage time because they had someone else to tell them what to do and when. Now, you have to keep up with all your classes, quizzes, assignments, tests, projects, practices, meetings and events all on your own. (I suggest a planner if you don’t already have one).

Sophomore nutrition major Jason Storr enjoys the freedom but notices the structural differences.

“There’s no one forcing you to do anything so you have to be like ‘Alright, I got this,’” Storr says.

Storr is a native Arizonan who is used to family being around, so living out of the house was something he had to adapt to. Even though his family lives close to ASU, Storr likes this new adventure of adulthood.

“I was a smothered child at home, so living on my own is more of my preference,” Storr says.

For others, they may notice the gaps of time they spend alone and not enjoy it at all. This is loneliness and it is curable.

One way to feel less alone is to join Greek life.

“I would say being in a sorority does help with the feeling of loneliness, because anytime you feel down you can literally reach out to anyone, and they’ll be at your doorstep with a pizza and a movie,” sophomore journalism major and Delta Gamma member Gabrielle Micketti says.

It is good to be a part of something because it’s an easy way to meet people that have similar interests as you. 

“I was looking at transferring last year, so I actually had sisters that reached out to me and let me rant to them about how I was feeling,” says Micketti. “They were just there to listen. Even though they didn’t want me to leave, they just wanted me to be happy.”

If you’re someone who thinks Greek life isn’t really your thing, another way to meet people is by joining other student organizations. These can be related to your major or just a fun club you have interest in. From the Arizona Outdoor Club to Chess Club, ASU has a place where you fit in.

It's OK to be sad

 Maybe your loneliness isn’t just loneliness, and you’ve been diagnosed with depression. This would definitely be a point where someone should consider speaking with ASU Counseling.

“What doesn’t work is telling people to just think happy thoughts,” Krasnow says. “It is experienced as shaming and stigmatizing, so then people feel badly about being depressed because supposedly they’re supposed to not be depressed.”

When Storr feels upset, he decides to turn it around on his own.

“I force myself to find a purpose for the day. I have nothing to do, so I’m like what do I want to accomplish so I feel like I did something today?”

Even just doing homework, cleaning or cooking a meal by yourself can make you feel accomplished, which boosts moral. What you don’t want to do is stay in bed and do nothing.

Another thing a person can do when they feel down is work out or do some form of physical activity.

“Exercise is related to mood. Moving your body, stretching, getting a little sweaty while you’re exercising is all related to improved mood,” Krasnow says.

During physical activity, endorphins are released as well as serotonin. Even after exercise, there is what some may call an “endorphin high.”

Physical activity doesn’t have to mean going hard at the gym. It could be a leisurely walk somewhere with a view, a karate class, yoga or dancing. 

All of these things are coping mechanisms we can use when the struggle of becoming adults seems like too much. Take a deep breath, remember what is true and figure it out from there.

Reach the reporter at or follow @KaitlinKollasch on Twitter.

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