How to deal with anxiety at uni
A guide for coping with anxiety while studying
One in four university students in the UK suffer from mental health problems. If you're going to university with anxiety, you're not alone. While it may be a bigger challenge to leave home and move in with total strangers for someone with anxiety, that doesn't mean it's impossible.
When it comes to dealing with anxiety, especially in a high pressure university environment, there's no one size fits all method to relieve symptoms. Everyone is different. Here are many ways you can try to tackle your anxiety at uni. Remember there are always counsellors at the uni who can offer you further guidance or therapy for your anxiety.
How to deal with anxiety at uni
Although having anxiety may feel like a huge obstacle between you and a successful uni life, there are plenty of ways to combat it, along with the knowledge that loads of other students are going through the same thing – you're not alone. A lot of people develop an anxiety disorder at university.
This doesn't work for everyone, but if you're into writing, there's no better therapy. Once you get it all down on paper, your problems seem smaller and more manageable.
Confide in friends you trust and who won't judge you
Your friends from home who know you well will be able to help you through your first days at uni, but you'll quickly end up becoming best friends with people you've met at uni and you'll be able to trust them to always chat about what you're going through. Let your flatmates know that you suffer from anxiety so they know you might need help from time to time.
The app Headspace is used by many with anxiety
It's "meditation and mindfulness made simple" and helps you to live a happier and healthier life.
Watch YouTube videos, or read stuff by people who living with anxiety too
Seeing someone else speak out about their issues is empowering when you're going through the same thing. It encourages you to speak to your friends about what you're going through and it shows you that it's okay to not be okay, and you can always get through it.
While this doesn't work for everyone, it helps to relax you as well as altering the way your mind works, preventing it from becoming stressed in the future. If you can focus on meditation it can have many long-term benefits.
Whether it's the gym, going running, playing a group sport, or even going for a walk if you're not into raising your heart rate too much. Moving your body and getting away from a stressful place like your room or the library gives you respite and a chance to clear your head. Plus it's essential for you to live a healthy lifestyle and the endorphins will make you feel amazing.
Get more sleep
Sleep is essential for your mind to settle and process everything you've learnt throughout the day. Going out every night at uni will worsen your anxiety as you're not giving your mind a chance to collect itself. Listen to your body: when you're tired, sleep. If you're struggling to sleep, this is normal too. Try meditating or using a well-being app to aid you. Looking at your phone late at night can affect sleep but apps like Calm can be useful to help you get to sleep.
Try not drinking
While alcohol is a great ice-breaker when you get to uni and it's the easiest way to make friends for some people, it can have a detrimental effect on the mind for many people. Cutting out drinking can reduce the risk of addiction as well as reducing stress and means a healthier lifestyle.
While it sounds like a cliché, a healthy body really does contribute to a healthy mind. Find a diet that works for you, whether it's vegan, vegetarian, or just cutting out junk food, giving your body the nutrients it needs is a great step to taking control of your health and doing something positive for yourself.
Feeling lonely at uni
If you feel lonely at uni, don't ever feel like you're the only one. Everyone experiences loneliness, especially at the start. The chances are, the person in the room next door to you is feeling the exact same way and would love for you to just knock on and have a chat. Read our guide to making friends at uni for more help.
Make an effort with your flatmates
They're going to be with you all year and could end up being close friends the whole way through uni if you get on – and if you don't that's fine too. Just give them the best chance to get to know you at the start and you'll have a group of people you can always rely on.
If you don't get on with your flat, just go next door and knock on
It's a lucky dip when it comes to who you end up in halls with. You don't have to be tied down to those in your flat or corridor. There's no taboo when it comes to spreading your wings to other parts of your halls.
Make friends with people on your course
You'll be spending three years with them often in the same classes with a lot of people. It might seem really daunting at first, but just chat to whoever you're sat with and you'll quickly form a group of mates. It's so helpful to have people who study the same subject as you so you can always ask them for help with work too.
Join a society
Meeting people who have the same interests as you in a society is one of the best ways to make friends. Societies are sociable by nature and the focus of a common interest means you're unlikely to be stuck with an awkward silence.
People only post their best lives on social media – it's not an accurate representation of what their lives are really like. If you spend your day watching Instagram stories and scrolling through Facebook, you'll be convinced that everyone except you is having fun with their new friends. This is definitely not the case. They're all sat with a mug of beans doing the exact same thing.
Social anxiety at uni
Being thrown into brand new situation far away from home with complete strangers might sound like the most intimidating thing for someone who suffers from social anxiety, but it doesn't have to be.
Join a society with like minded people
Whatever your hobbies are, no matter how unusual, there will be a society for that. There you can find people you share common interests with in a welcoming environment.
Don't try to be someone you're not
It's an easy trap to fall into – to create a persona you think other people at your uni will like. However, everyone ends up gravitating towards their own people eventually and not being yourself to begin with will only make you unhappy. Be yourself and embrace yourself and you will make true friends.
You don't have to go out every night just because other people are
If going out and drinking isn't your thing, that's totally fine. There are loads of societies for people who don't drink and if you make friends with people on your course, you'll always have people to hang out with in the day time if nights aren't your best time for socialising.
Anxiety about starting uni
Starting university is one of the scariest things you have to go through – it's totally normal to be nervous. One of the reasons its so hard is because you're venturing into the unknown.
Talk to people you may know who have been to university before you, maybe a family member or friend who's a little older than you
They can advise you on what to bring with you, what halls will be like, how to host a fun pre-drinks and just generally what to expect. This knowledge will make you feel a lot more confident about heading to uni for the first time.
Join Facebook groups specifically for people starting the same course as you, or in the same halls of residence
This will enable you to make friends before you even get there, plus you can all vent your worries to each other and you'll realise that it's totally normal to have questions.
Pack everything you need for uni
It's better to be over-prepared than underprepared. Bring everything you'll need for the kitchen to cook comfortably (if you're in catered halls), bring all the clothes you like, loads of photos to put up in your room, and definitely bring a doorstop so your room is inviting for people walking past looking to make friends. It's also good to check what books you need for your course so you can come to uni prepared and maybe even read a few in advance if you can. Read our guide to packing for uni for more help.
Unsure about which uni you're going to?
Anxiety attacks at uni
Speaking to your friends is always the best way to cope with anxiety at uni. Open up to them about your worries and the fact that you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks. If they are aware of the symptoms when an attack occurs, they will be able to help you.
Visit counsellors at the SU and they can give you advice, or give you cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Anxiety affecting uni work
If your anxiety is affecting your uni work, you can get apply for mitigating circumstances and get an extension on your deadlines.
Organise a daily routine which you can incorporate your work into so you always know you'll be able to get your work done and balance your time.
Support for anxiety and depression at uni
There are support systems available at every university. If you search your university's website, or the Students' Union's website, there should be information about the services available.
If you're coming to university knowing you suffer from anxiety or depression, you can organise to see a counsellor as soon as you arrive and they can advise you on applying for mitigating circumstances and how to receive consistent support.
There are also nightlines available at all unis which you can call at any time if you need to talk about anything.
If you are struggling with anxiety and don't know who to talk to, contact Anxiety UK. Phone: 03444 775 774 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm). Website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk