It’s hard to believe we’re into April! With only a few more weeks of the semester left, you likely have a lot on your mind.
And you might be facing some tough decisions in the next few months that may lead to difficult conversations. Maybe you’re trying to figure out your academics and trying to decide if you should drop a class or change your major. Perhaps you’re looking towards the future and trying to decide if you should get an internship for the summer, take the time to travel or debating attending summer school. Maybe you are already looking ahead to the next school year and trying to decide where you should live or what life after graduation will look like. We know these decisions can be overwhelming and, at times, feel heavy. You may even be anxious about some potentially tough conversations with family, friends or loved ones. We have identified some tips and techniques for you to consider.
Having Difficult Conversations
It’s important to keep open communication between yourself and your family and friends as you work through some of these decisions. Open dialogue with loved ones can help you achieve your academic and personal goals and alleviate stress and anxiety. The three main points to remember when having difficult conversations is:
- Plan a time to talk. This allows you to gather your thoughts and make a plan of what you’d like to say. Consider writing main points down before having the conversation so you don’t miss anything.
- Manage anxiety prior to the conversation. Take a deep breath before talking and remember to breathe while talking. Some effective anxiety coping skills include learning to use deep breathing, moving your body and practicing grounding. We covered a lot of those techniques in last month’s newsletter.
- Keep a positive perspective. Avoid assuming that others are against you. Begin conversations by gathering information and asking questions.
Carruth recommends using the SMARTIES acronym when working through difficult conversations.
S: SHOW INITIATIVE. by keeping family informed and updated throughout the academic term, not just at the end. Waiting until the end of the semester can build anxiety and possibly not allow you to communicate as effectively. Students should check out academic regulations, program options and career options. This can help build confidence going into conversations.
M: MANAGE ANXIETY. Students should learn the signs of stress and anxiety and develop coping skills. This can be learned through attending counseling sessions or workshops on campus.
A: AVOID JUDGMENTS. Avoiding judgment helps both parties in the conversation from becoming defensive. Consider using “I statements,” described below, to verbalize and describe feelings.
R: RESEARCH OPTIONS. WVU offers a wide variety of resources and services to students that they can use year-round. We talked about a lot of these campus resources in our January newsletter. Students can also make outreach to a Carruth counselor who can help them find the resources and support they need for their situation.
T: TIME IT WELL. Timing is everything. Don’t wait to have an important conversation with someone when they are about to walk out the door or go to bed. Plan when you’d like to talk with them and make sure it is in a calm and private setting.
I: I STATEMENTS. Avoid seeking to be right rather than developing an understanding. “I” statements employ active listening, empathizing and validation in conversation. Students should frame their feelings in “I” statements, for example “I feel ______ when ________.”
E: EMPATHIZE. Make sure to empathize and validate your loved ones’ possible concerns. You can understand their emotions and concerns, but by using “I” statements and engaging your active listening skills, you can also get your side of the dialogue out.
S: SEEK SUPPORT. Try talking with someone about how you’re feeling. It can be a friend, family member or roommate. You can also talk with your adviser or professor whom you feel close to. If you’re wanting to talk with someone outside of your immediate circle, visit Carruth, WVU’s campus counseling center, to talk with a counselor. You can make an appointment online or by calling 304-293-4431.
Looking for something less formal and don’t want to make an appointment? You can stop by one of Carruth’s Let’s Chat events and have a 20-minute conversation with a Carruth therapist.
We know there is a lot going on as we near the end of the semester. Make sure you take an evening to just chill. Join WELLWVU, Campus Recreation, Adventure WV, the Carruth Center and more for our semiannual chillFEST! Kick back and relax before finals with chair massages, aromatherapy, painting, free food and more! This spring's chillFEST will be on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, from 4-7 p.m. in the Student Recreation Center. WELLWVU also has a daily chillPACK that helps you chill and retrain your brain to look for the positive. Do one activity a day and watch your productivity and perspective change for the better!
Setting Boundaries with Family, Friends and Loved Ones
While you are planning to have potentially difficult conversations with family, friends and loved ones it is important to think through setting boundaries. Setting boundaries is difficult but can improve your well-being. It is important to know that while some conversations will go over really well, others may not. You deserve to decide what is important to you and matches your values and decisions. Once you identify the boundaries you need to put in place, you will be able to work on the relationships with your family, friends and loved ones.
While setting boundaries can be scary, they can have a lot of benefits, including preventing resentment, creating healthier relationships, supporting autonomy and independence and allowing you to feel you are living a life that is true to you.
Carruth has identified some ways to help you start identifying and setting those boundaries.
- First, notice unhealthy aspects of the relationship and ensure you have defined your values and needs. Consider a values inventory to strongly identify where you stand.
- Try to maintain composure and keep cool when talking. Arguing will not be helpful and can lead to feeling worse.
- Be clear with them about what will happen if they do not honor the boundary.
- Be sure to use assertive communication while also practicing compassion. You want to maintain eye contact, actively listen, monitor your tone and understand where the other person is coming from.
- Practice the “Broken Record Technique” when your requests for respecting boundaries are denied. The “broken record technique” prevents tangents, arguments and circular conversation. Using this strategy sends the message you are sticking to your boundaries and you are not interested in arguments or negotiation. (Example: “I am not engaging any further; please stop making comments about the major I have chosen.”)
- Release any guilt around setting boundaries. Practice affirmations such as “I deserve to express myself” and “I am allowed to have my needs met.”
Need More Help?
We have covered some items in this month’s newsletter that may create stress, so it is important for your own well-being to take as much time as you need when making big decisions and take care of yourself by reducing stress and adding relaxation when you can.
Make sure you are talking with someone as you work through difficult conversations and look to set boundaries. Below are some resources and contacts if your mood or situation should ever worsen.
- Call the Carruth Center at 304-293-4431 and ask to speak to a counselor.
- Call the 24-hour after-hours helpline at 304-293-4431.
- Text WVU to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the Crisis Text Line.
- Visit the Carruth Center and ask for help in identifying a counselor in the community.
- Go to the emergency room at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital or call 911.
- If your concerns are substance-related, consider attending local 12-step groups.
University Police: 304-293-COPS (2677)
Carruth Center: 304-293-4431 (press 1 after hours)
Crisis Text Line: Text “WVU” to 741741
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988
Veteran Crisis Line: 988 (press 1)
Trevor Project Hotline (LGBTQ): 1-866-4UTREVOR (1-866-488-7386)
Carruth Center has an urgent/crisis clinic that provides in-person visits without an appointment for students who are experiencing a psychological emergency. Call 304-293-7731 (press 1 after hours)