What it’s like to have anxiety at Newcastle University

It can often feel like you’re the only one

Completing a degree at university can be a stressful time for anyone, but add a bout of anxiety into the mix and even the simplest everyday tasks become almost impossible.

Whilst I performed well throughout my studies at school, the pressure I applied to myself to succeed along with constantly my heightening anxiety made my experience rather difficult. Therefore when making the transition to university I knew it was likely that anxiety would become an issue I would have to tackle head on.

For anyone who doesn't suffer with anxiety it is difficult to comprehend the magnitude to which it disrupts a sufferer’s everyday life. Anxiety has an unrelenting ability to uproot the simplest of routines, and the refusal to allow a moments rest between irrational thought after irrational thought often encroaches on your ability to fully engage in university life.

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Like most things, some days are harder than others. You can go from attending every lecture with no trouble at all to some days when just the thought of opening your eyes is too much to handle. For many, the rollercoaster of emotions seem irrational, sporadic and difficult to control. Anxiety plagues every moment, making conversation impossible and completing a to-do list beyond comprehension.

The difficulty of overthinking means thoughts refuse to stop circling your mind, causing exhaustion and irritability. Overthinking every detail of what was said in group discussions, and how you were perceived. While the majority of students leave the classroom taking with them only the knowledge they have learnt, sufferers of anxiety can be left questioning events for days on end. Did I say the right thing? Did anyone notice my awkwardness as I spoke? Was I taken seriously?

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We can often end up asking how it is fair that, while our mind works in overdrive to assess every detail of every situation, those around us appear so carefree. Anxiety’s trick is to make us feel like they couldn’t be further isolated from the community that we are so desperate to feel part of. Anxiety drives a wedge between reality and insanity. And some days anxiety’s grip is so tight that it is impossible to take a moment to realise that you are not the only one feeling this way. However, with the right attitude to tackling the problem, it is possible to get it under control.

While anxiety often feels inescapable, there are many things that can be done to tackle these emotions. It is important to note that every individual is different and finding a plan that works for you can take many attempts.

I have found that since coming to university, establishing a reliable support network of people I can talk to when things go wrong is a crucial part of getting through my day. When anxiety hits at its hardest and I feel suffocated by my thoughts, knowing I have people to turn to and share the problem with is critical.

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After prolonged suffering I did a lot of research to find methods of tackling the way I was feeling. In doing this I learnt a lot about the ways that food could affect my mood. I learnt that I would benefit from foods containing serotonin and omega-three and should limit my intake of caffeine and alcohol. You can learn more about how your diet may affect your health on websites such as Mind and the NHS.

Although I have always been a very active person, learning about how sport could improve my mental health helped to motivate me into targeting my anxiety through exercise. While it is well known that exercise releases endorphins to improve your mood, I discovered the long term affects that running regularly could have on your brain, thus reducing affects of anxiety.

Most importantly, remember that you are not alone – help is out there.

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