I’d never had much trouble dealing with stress before. I’d always get a little worried around essay deadlines and examinations, but I know this is completely normal. However, coming into third year at university I started to experience feelings I had never felt before.
Seminars, which used to be space for me to freely express my ideas without judgment, suddenly felt like a daunting and intimidating place. The workload, which prior to my final year had felt vast but doable, was now scary and overwhelming. Time spent not reading or studying or stressing felt wasted. Nothing had changed apart from the fact that second year was now third year, but something certainly seemed different.
After a couple of weeks of feeling anxious, tearful and worn out I started to do some self-reflection. What was going on, was I suffering from anxiety?
It turns out that anxiety is something that anyone can feel at any time in their lives. It’s something within us that helps us survive, when confronted with a dangerous situation anxiety will get our adrenaline pumping and help us react. However, when you’re experiencing this on a daily basis when trying to do a degree, it can be a scary and unhelpful.
I’m aware that anxiety is a crippling illness and experiencing stress at university is different to being an anxiety sufferer, but the feelings I was experiencing at this time sounded just like those I’d heard before.
After realizing that a lot of the pressure was coming from myself and wanting to do well, I decided to work out how to get my feelings under control. Here are some of my tips on dealing with stress and anxiety at university.
- Talk to your friends and family. Having never felt like this before I was didn’t want to worry my mum by saying that I wasn’t coping well, so I kept silent. Once I did speak to her I felt a burden lift. Sharing your worries is not something to be ashamed of, making sure that your family and friends know how you’re doing is important and will make you feel like you’re not alone.
- Realize that these feelings don’t just go away. Anxiety is a feeling that is going to be ready to pounce at any time in your life, the trick is knowing when to let it do its job and when to let it fade into the background. When I used to have to present in class I would feel immense stress before hand, which I would try and fight. Fighting the feelings exacerbates them, whilst acknowledging them and interacting with them internally will make you realize that all they are is feelings.
- Listen to podcasts such as ‘The Anxiety Podcast’. This podcast was a real help to me when I needed to hear from someone who felt the same way I did. Tim gives you tips, advice and anecdotes from his past suffering with anxiety which is a great help when you need to know how normal it is to feel this way.
- Spend more time outside. It’s all too easy to get into the routine of hurrying into Uni, sitting at a desk for a couple of hours, heading to the library and then going home. Staring at a screen all day in doors is simply not good for our mental health, but spending time with nature is. Go for a walk, cycle into University, head down to the beach or explore the beautiful South Downs, just try and set aside time away from your desk.
- I turned to yoga and found it’s the perfect way to battle feelings of anxiety, but I’m sure any kind of physical exercise will have the same effect. If you fancy trying yoga, there is a wonderful YouTuber: ‘Yoga With Adrienne’ who does free yoga videos. As Mollie spoke about in the last issue of the Badger, exercise is proven to fight anxiety, and yoga is particularly stress releasing.
- Come to terms with your worries, and realize that they aren’t the end of the world. A lot of my stress came from wanting to succeed at University by getting a first, I didn’t want to feel like I’d done all this studying to not come away with something to be proud of. However, realizing that grades are not the only thing that matter in your University education is really useful. Your friends and family will still love you aside from your academic achievements.
- Seek counseling at the University. It’s free and confidential, sometimes it’s helpful for people to discuss things with someone from an unbiased outside view.
- Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Yes, your degree is important, but not more important than your mental well-being.
After taking a few days at home I decided to ask my friends if they’d felt like this before. I was surprised that nearly everyone has at some point and that everyone thought it had increased in third year. Many people I knew had to go home for a few days as they found that university was just too overwhelming. However, this shouldn’t come as a shock, as it turns out 8/10 students have felt feelings of stress and anxiety at University.
Whether it’s the pressure to be having the best time of your life while achieving the most academically you possibly can, or the thought of crippling debt and a new way of life after University, life can get pretty stressful. Just remember to take time for yourself and it’ll all be ok.
* This article is based on personal experience, if you feel you are suffering severely from anxiety you can consult a professional through your local GP *