Anxious student? Here are some tips to help amidst the pandemic

Mental health is as important as ever

If adapting to new surroundings, making friends with strangers, all whilst trying to complete a degree wasn’t difficult enough, we are now on the brink of another lockdown.

These are tough times for every student, but hopefully some of the following tips will help you tackle some of university’s most difficult tasks:

Making friends

We all know it’s not easy to introduce yourself to new people, particularly if you suffer with bad social anxiety – trust me, I know.

If it wasn’t harrowing enough trying to make friends in person, you now don’t even get to do that. The only thing you get to look at is a purple screen split into 6 little boxes that sometimes glow (good old’ Microsoft teams).

So how do you go about this and can the new online system be a good thing?

Instead of being forced to speak in front of strangers by tutors, or submitting yourself to those horrendous ice breakers, we can try a new angle to make friends:

Add people in your online groups on social media!

Only yesterday I followed a girl who seemed to have similar opinions as me, and the next day I received a lovely DM, asking me questions about the work and my thoughts on it. Just by clicking that blue button, I made a new friend – thanks Shana!

Another way to get to meet new people, whilst remaining in the comfort of your home is by making a smaller group chat with people in your seminars who seem to be especially kind or perhaps share your opinions.

Yes, it’s terrifying being the one to make the first step, but everyone is in the same boat at the moment (particularly if you’re a fresher) and in a way, having more people in the group takes the pressure off yourself.

Adapting to the change of being away from home

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is rife amongst students this time of the year, and with all the bars and pubs being closed, it might seem as if you have nothing to do except sit in your shared accommodation and wait for the day to pass.

To help combat SAD, as well as the stark contrast some of you may feel from your hometowns, try and get out at least once a day, even if it’s just for ten minutes to go down to the co-op.

I’ve found that getting out of the house and going somewhere with a purpose can shatter some sadness, even if it’s only for a small time.

Taking time to explore the city is great, too.

Some of my favourite, slightly longer walks include a turn around the Arboretum and a wander through Lace Market, particularly if you’re in the city, or if you’re closer to the West Bridgford or Clifton end, a walk down the Trent or a stroll through the park is so pretty at this time of the year.

Meanwhile, places offering take-aways can remain open throughout the month, and what you buy doesn’t have to be expensive. There are hundreds of coffee shops and cafes which may remain open – and even if you only buy one teeny cup of coffee or a cup of tea, getting out in the fresh air and sitting in new surroundings will reduce the effects of not only SAD, but also the loneliness and anxiety that surrounds new students.

Or, if it’s freezing, light some candles and crank the heating up (if your housemates are stingy, buy a fan heater – it was a life saver for me!).

Cold weather is bound to make you miserable, so get cosy and put on some good comfort films and tv.

Combating the loneliness

Despite succeeding in making friends, it doesn’t completely disband the feelings of loneliness that are bound to accompany your early months as a fresher, especially if at the moment, you’re not allowed to physically meet new people.

Although it is possible to go to gym classes, or starting a new sport, before the second lockdown, it doesn’t look as though it’ll be possible to continue from then. (Post-lockdown, however, getting that serotonin boost and being around like-minded people can be great!)

So, instead, ask people to go for a walk. Before Thursday, you’re still allowed to meet outside with people you don’t live with and going for a takeaway coffee is always such a lovely experience. If you have managed to pluck up the courage to message people virtually, why not try extending the olive branch further- ask them to go for a walk with you. Alternatively, ask someone in your halls or a housemate you don’t spend much time with. This way you’re encompassing all the little factors we discussed up above – a recipe for friendship, don’t you think?

The final thing that will help is calling home!

It’s so important to keep in touch with your loved ones at home, whether it’s family or friends, they WANT to hear how you are. Tell them how you’re feeling. Een if it feels like you are alone in your thoughts, I promise you’re not. 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health, so you’re bound to find sympathy in at least one person, whether they’re from home or from here.

Remember to take care of yourself on the days where you are swamped by depression, anxiety or loneliness. You’re allowed to give yourself some slack from the alarming amounts of online work, and bear in mind that your grades do not define you.