In our course, Dr Shanker talked about the impact that urbanization has had on stress levels. That really resonated with me as I thought back to my own experience. I grew up on a farm and the closest town had a population of 650 people. I went to a small elementary school and a small high school (400 students). I lived at home and commuted to college for my Early Childhood Education diploma.
When I finished college I was accepted for the Early Childhood Education program at Ryerson in downtown Toronto. They have a program where your two years of college count as two years of university; you just have to make up four electives, research and statistics. I had always wanted to live in Toronto and could hardly wait to get off the farm and start my big city adventure. Within a few weeks, I was so homesick and I couldn't figure out why my dream was now turning into a nightmare. Luckily I stuck it out and by Thanksgiving I was loving my new life and my new school. Looking at it through the five steps of self-regulation:
Read and reframe - the problem wasn't that I hated the city and wanted to move home. I was just stressed by a number of factors.
Recognize the stressors:
Biological - the noise of the city, the vibrations from the subway that ran directly under our residence building. In our residence we were not allowed to have food anywhere but in the dining hall. I had breakfast and dinner at the hall, no snacks, and had to eat lunch out every day. I also had to get use to crowds and people invading my personal space.
Emotional - nervous about moving away from home; lonely because I only knew a few people in Toronto. Since I was joining the cohort in the third year, they all knew each other already.
Cognitive - making the jump from college to university level requirements; problem solving and finding my way around the campus and the city
Social - fitting into the cohort when they all knew each other already; learning to live in residence and share my space with everyone. As the only daughter with two brothers I had always had my own bedroom. Now I had no space to call my own.
Prosocial - I was feeling so stressed and crowded and I craved my own personal space. Along with many classmates, I had a placement at the Ryerson toddler centre in their lab school. We were supposed to do all these activities with them and I had a hard time. I felt like the toddlers probably just wanted some space and to be left alone for awhile. My empathy was getting in the way of being successful on placement.
Reduce the stressors
-my boyfriend had a studio apartment a short subway ride from the residence so I used to go there when he was at work so I could have some quiet alone time
-I went home for visits at Thanksgiving and Christmas to reconnect and recharge (no phones in our rooms meant limited phone calls home as this was back in the olden days, before cell phones and social media)
-I tried to make healthy choices like the school salad bar for lunch
-I gave myself time to adjust to the academic rigour of university
-participating in some group projects gave me an opportunity to meet some of my classmates
Reflect - I realized I didn't want to move home and that I just needed to give myself time to adjust to the myriad of changes (stressors) that were all flooding me all at one time. I choose the ones that bothered me the most, which were the lack of personal space and the change in eating patterns.
Respond - Making incremental changes and allowing myself time to adjust were very helpful in getting through the first six weeks. Years later, when my niece went through a similar experience when she moved from her rural home to residence at Fanshawe, I was able to reach out through social media and tell her to just hold on until Thanksgiving. She told me later that she couldn't believe it. In September all she wanted to do was go home, and by Thanksgiving she never wanted to leave college!