Dealing with Stress at an Internship

Updated: September 9, 2020

Life can be stressful, especially during times of transition. For many, starting an internship is a positive experience—but it’s still a big change. It can feel like entering a whole new world. To help you deal with internship-related stress in a healthy way, here are some tips to help you move from student to pre-professional:

  1. Use the resources available to you. Your school’s Career Center should have helpful information online or in print to help you prepare for your internship. Check the Career Center calendar for any pre-internship training classes, and set up an appointment if you have specific concerns or anxieties that you’d like to discuss. If you’re really overwhelmed, consider seeing a school counselor.
  2. Consider the “inner you.” If your stomach does flip-flops when you imagine walking into your internship on the first day, take some deep breaths to settle your nerves. Try keeping a journal for a couple of weeks to record your feelings and pinpoint specific stressors. Does your heart race when you think about meeting new people? Try introducing yourself to a new classmate every day, extending a firm handshake and smiling. Does adding more work to your already busy schedule feel overwhelming? Explore project-management software to stay organized and balance your many projects.
  3. Establish a new routine. If your new schedule is stressing you out, do a trial run. A week before your internship starts, maintain the same daily schedule that you’ll have during the internship. As a student, you’re probably used to staying up late every night and sleeping in whenever possible. As an intern, you’ll need to get up early to get to your internship on time, so it’s a good idea to call it a night a bit earlier. Aim for eight hours of sleep to ensure you have plenty of energy.
  4. Be good to yourself. You’re taking a big step in your career, so give yourself some credit. Rather than beating yourself up for feeling stressed, remind yourself that you’re doing something new and exciting, and that it won’t be stressful for long. Then, be kind to yourself. Read a novel, play a videogame, or treat yourself to a fancy latte (but not too late at night!). Use your weekend to recharge whenever possible. Try to get some physical activity every day, even if it’s a 15-minute walk. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress.
  5. Confide in a friend. It’s important to have someone to talk to when things get hard. During the first week of your internship, you might need a good listener, so reach out to a friend whom you can trust and confide in. If you know anyone who has already completed an internship, go to them for advice and support. And don’t wait until things feel unmanageable to ask for help; if you don’t have anyone to talk to, see a counselor at your school.