Ah, yes…Back-To-School mode is in full swing. Out last week with my own wee one, I saw the Target carts filled to the brim with mini-fridges and desk lamps. Meal plans have been scrutinized and laundry cards loaded up with cash. Maybe your child is already on campus and classes begun or maybe you’re counting down the days – with a healthy mix of hesitation and anticipation – until move-in day. Either way, here are some non-traditional stress reducing, self-care “items” you can still get setup for your college bound kid.
Prescription and Over The Counter Medications
Maybe the colleges and universities put this on their suggested school supply lists and kudos to you if this was on your radar as this is a super item to take care of in advance along with a plan to keep them stocked.
Many, many years ago, I was the quintessential Poor College Student who also has cold-weather and allergy induced asthma, a chronic condition that requires regular preventive and emergency prescription medication to, um, breathe. I also have allergies that require over the counter medications during the fall months, otherwise my asthma kicks up and mucus and tears vacate my face at alarming and disturbing rates. (Ew.) But medication of all kinds is expensive, so it was something I tended to fret about. It’s not that I was irresponsible. Sure, I was technically an adult at 18, but honestly? I was a glorified child living on my own for the first time in a city, so keeping tabs on some very adult things like my own health was daunting at times. Especially as I was trying to navigate Latin and Organic Chemistry at the same time.
To have a supply of my regular over the counter medications like antihistamines and ibuprofen (and supplements/vitamins) already purchased and stashed until my next trip home or annual physical was a huge load off my mind. Who wants to worry about that during midterms and finals?
Prescription medications are a bit harder to keep stocked as many have rules for how frequently you can refill them, etc., but here are some bits to keep in mind:
- If you haven’t done this already, make a list of all your child’s medications (name, dosage, frequency, food and other drug interactions) and keep it in a place easily accessible for both of you. On a card in a your wallets or listed on your smartphone, whatever works. (I just did a quick search and there are a number of apps available for just this type of thing.)
- Become familiar with the refill rules of each medication. Some can’t be filled before 30 days has passed, some can’t be refilled without a valid ID presented with the prescription, etc. A call into your insurance company customer service department (the one that covers the medications) can tell you some of these. The customer service representative can also tell you if your plan allows for 90 day supply refills or for direct mailing of prescriptions on a schedule (VERY handy). Calls to the prescribing doctor and/or your pharmacist can answer the others.
- Use your pharmacist! Pharmacists are medication experts. They can answer anything from refill rules and drug interactions and sometimes even get you drug manufacturer coupons to make medications more affordable. (I kid you not.) Talk to them about transferring the medications to a pharmacy local to your child’s school if you can’t have the medications auto-mailed.
Do these activities together, with your child so they can hear it all and learn a valuable self-care skill. At the end of the school year, at school vacations or at annual exam time, review the medications together to make any updates and refill adjustments as needed.
(Jenn. Seriously? Meditation? Did you just misspell “medication?”)
Nope. Meditation. I meant it.
(For my college student? For realz?)
Yes, for realz. With a “z”.
I’ve mentioned to some of you fine folks that I started up a regular meditation practice myself. Been going strong for about 3 months. (Pats self on back. Gently.)
I think the conversation I recently had with my 9 year old nicely captures why people pause a bit when I suggest this as a going-off-to-college item.
Me: (blah blah blah something something)…when I meditate…
My 9 Year Old Who Has Developed An Attitude: Wait. Mom. You meditate?!
Me: Uh, yeah. I meditate.
M9YOWHDAA: WHA..?! So. Wait. (dramatic pause) You go on top of a mountain and sit like this (plops down criss cross applesauce, closes eyes and hold hands palms up with thumbs touching index fingers) and chant “ommmmmmmmmmm…”?
Me: Uh, no. It’s not nearly as dramatic as all that. Go brush your teeth.
Mention “meditation” and many think of chanting and new age music while sitting in uncomfortable yoga positions trying to think of absolutely nothing.
I may or may not have been one of those people.
But I gotta say, it’s way more down to earth and doable than that. I personally use an app and have a paid subscription with Headspace. It’s an extensive library of meditations lasting anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes (or longer) and they cover a wide range of topics from restlessness, productivity, depression, change, athletic training, chronic pain and even those you can do walking or commuting.
Yes, I meditate while I walk.
That’s the cool bit. I’m sure I’ll talk about it more in a dedicated blog post but it’s become an activity that I actually look forward to most days and gladly fit it in because it makes me feel better. I have started to experience pockets of actual calm in my day, and not just while I am actually meditating…it stays with me and pops up here and there all day. Trust me, this was a novel feeling as my brain just doesn’t stop and stress had become a baseline feeling.
Know who else is stressed?
Well, yes, but that includes your college student. And learning how to accept the daily grind through meditation may help.
I mentioned one tool but there are loads. Other apps like Calm and Omvana have a different feel and other options. While paid subscriptions can offer more variety, don’t disregard the free resources. MIT has a great resource available online for meditation, mindfulness and stress reduction and you can see their entire catalogue of resources (including an article on how to choose a mindfulness app) here. I like many of these options because you can do them on your own, but many schools now have mindfulness programs or meditation groups if that’s your thing.
And Yes, You Guessed It: Massage
Once, and sometimes still, thought of as a luxury, massage can be a fantastic item to send your college bound student with. Is it a luxury to feel good in your own skin? I’d argue not. Massage is good for the muscles and mind, but you still may not have thought of it for the college bound. Let’s think of some of the benefits of massage but with the eye of the college student. I even put it in a handy, dandy table for you:
|Benefits of Massage||Good for College Students?|
|Can improve quality of sleep.||✅|
|Can reduce feelings of anxiety.||✅|
|Can reduce feelings of stress.||✅|
|Can reduce feelings of depression.||✅|
|Can assist (not “boost”) proper immune function.||✅|
|Can reduce muscle pain and soreness.||✅|
|Can enhance mood.||✅|
|Compliments exercise and athletic training.||✅|
|Raises body self-awareness.||✅|
|Introduces healthy touch in a safe environment.||✅|
|Just. Feels. Good.||✅|
Wow…it’s such a good fit I’m starting to wonder if massage was actually invented for the overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, coming-of-age populace known as “college students”.
But how do you pay for massage when you just used your combined life savings on text books and laptops? Some massage therapy practices may offer student rates (but ask) or have membership options that reduce the cost, rewarding regular visits. One of the most cost effective ways is to check out any local massage therapy schools/programs. Massage schools typically have senior student run clinics and offer reduced rates to the general public and other students. Here in Worcester, home to a whopping 9 colleges and universities, students can get an hour massage session at the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy for a mere $35. So your students can get some valuable R&R and it fulfills graduation requirements for the massage students. Win, win!
Some therapists (like me) also offer reduced costs if you buy a series of sessions. In my practice, a series of five 30 minute massage sessions saves you $25 for a total cost of $175. Those 5 sessions get your kiddo one 30 minute session for move-in day soreness, fall semester mid-terms, fall semester finals, spring semester mid-terms and spring semester finals. Yup, just 5 sessions can get your student through an entire school year. Boom.
And don’t downplay the effect of these shorter half hour sessions. Even a mere 10 minutes of massage has shown to lower blood pressure and improve mental clarity. Consider shorter sessions times for cost but also if your student has never had massage before. Starting with a shorter 30 minute session gives a nice introduction to, say, neck and back massage with a chance to chill out, see if they even like massage and save some serious cost.
So Let Classes Begin…
…with some peace of mind. College can be daunting and stressful. But think about it: so is the “real world” that college is prepping your student for. These skills and techniques that can help carry your kiddo through college will be additional skills they now know how to navigate once out navigating life.
Nope, they won’t be taught in a class called “Navigate Your Stress Filled Life 101” but they are worth even more than the cost of tuition. (I promise.)