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If You're Feeling Anxious About Starting College With a Disability or Illness

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This may be your first time away from home without family members or close friends, so it can be extremely frightening for anyone – but especially so for students facing college with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Not only will you be dealing with the normal fears:

Will I make friends?

How do I manage school work?

How will I not feel homesick?

…But you will also face much more challenging questions. Such as:

Where do I go to the doctors now that I’m out of my hometown?

Where will I fill prescriptions?

Who will care for me if I get too ill?

What places on campus aren’t accessible and how will I face that?

This can be a daunting task that creates anxiety and may keep you from moving out of your hometown, but these tips are here to help you reduce anxiety and address the fears about facing college with disability or chronic illness.

1. Connect with your on campus disability resource services or counseling services. Many colleges offer an office for students with a disability and chronic illness to register to get proper accommodations for classes, housing, etc. If this is not offered at your college, seek out the counseling services offered as they may also be able to help guide you in the correct path for getting the accommodations you require.

2. If you are attending college out of your hometown or state, make sure your insurance works wherever you are going because traveling home every few weeks for appointments can eventually become an issue for some people. Possibly plan on going to new doctors in your college’s area and call ahead to schedule as some specialists schedule months in advance. Also be sure to find a place on or close to campus to refill medication if you take them. Study your campus layout to make sure you can make it to all the places you need to go, if some areas are not accessible to you reach out to the university to address those issues. Map out a plan on how to get in-between classes to minimize time spent trying to navigate accessible areas and then being late the first day.

3. Seek support groups or counseling at your school of in the area surrounding. It is very easy to slip into bad habits or have you mental health decline when you’re juggling things in college. Having a place you can go and talk to someone not directly connected to your life can give you the space you need to problem solve and vent.

4. Keep in touch with friends and family from home for comfort and help in your journey. They were there for you when you were home, and odds are they are still there for you. Anytime you need to vent or talk, make sure you have some friends and family you can reach out to. Weekly calls to people you love that may not be in your area can make you still feel close and help keep the bond alive.

5. Reach out if you need help! That could be with school work, healthy eating, mental health, sleep schedule, or a variety of other things. Colleges often offer a huge variety of services to help students such as writing centers, career centers, health centers, and more. You are never a burden for reaching out, so please do so if you are struggling.

6. Plan in advance to complete assignments. Often times pain and sickness can be unpredictable so it is important to have time set aside in case you experience this. By completing assignments early you give yourself more leeway when it comes to having time to relax. Sometimes this is not possible though so when in doubt reach out for accommodations and extensions on assignments.

7. Join clubs and groups that match your set of interests. This gives you a gateway to make friend with people with similar interests as you.

8. Talk with the chefs at your dining halls if you have any food sensitivities or allergies – they can work with you to prepare food to fit into your diet. If you don’t have a special diet or food allergies it is good to work on a food plan with yourself because gaining or losing extra weight when you’re stressed can be easy. Know yourself and be mindful of your eating habits as they can affect your health.

9. Schedule time for rest and relaxation. College can be huge stress physically and emotionally, with or without a disability or chronic illness, so it is essential to make time for self-care. Set aside some time to do something you enjoy like watching Netflix or doing a face mask at least once a week so you can decompress from your school work and life.

While facing college with disability or chronic illness can seem like a huge task to take on you can have an amazing time filled with knowledge and friendship. Good luck!

Getty Image by RossHelen

Originally published: July 20, 2018
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