Anxiety: How I understand and manage my feelings
University life isn’t always what it seems. The social aspects and the freedom of living in a new place are promoted and celebrated, but people forget the hard bits many students face. The bits that go unnoticed by those who haven’t experienced it themselves.
Many of us move away from home to study, away from the people we are closest to and rely on for support. The moment your parents leave you at your new home for the next three years, you feel like a little lost puppy - starting everything from scratch and having to become independent.
How do we explain what it’s like to feel anxious at university?
What is anxiety?
Leaving university each day and coming home to an empty room can be hard. It can have such a strong impact on your mental health, giving you too much time to overthink.
I have no shame in admitting that I suffer with anxiety on a daily basis. I am currently in the process of understanding and managing my feelings, but I know there is still a stigma surrounding mental health. So what is anxiety and how can we talk about it?
Anxiety is something that affects different people in different ways, and at different times. To me it’s just a label for suffering. As students with high stress levels, it’s important to recognise that it’s common to worry, to feel on edge or alert to everything around you. For me, it feels like my thought processes get the better of me, and I struggle to block out those negative thoughts.
How I’m dealing with my anxiety
I visited my GP and spoke with a specialist, which I am still doing. It’s the best decision I ever made. They help me understand what is causing me to feel this way. They’ve helped me understand anxiety better, and to see that I’m not alone.
Most importantly, they’re helping me find ways to overcome my feelings. Here’s what I’m doing more of to overcome my anxiety:
- Find opportunities to be busy. Volunteering, work experience, blogging - anything to get back some of that time you spend alone in your bedroom. It really does help, take it from someone who has experienced this feeling first-hand, living in London alone with not a lot of people around me.
- Open up and speak to someone about the way you’re feeling. It can be anyone you feel will listen to you and not judge you. I understand it’s difficult to explain the feelings, but once you sit down with someone and let it all out you can feel such a sense of relief - and one step closer to feeling better.
Find out about Nightline, the confidential student listening service.
- Meditation is my go-to when I feel anxiety approaching. It calms you, helps you relax body and mind. I use the free Meditation and Relaxation app, which focuses on everything from breathing and concentration, to positivity and more.
- Write a diary or a blog. What better way to get your feelings out without having to speak to anyone? Opening up and writing about how I feel helps, that’s why I am sat here writing this post. In a few years’ time, I will look back and read this post from a much better place. I’ll feel a sense of achievement, knowing I got through it, seeing how strong I was and how much things have changed for the better.
- Exercise. Even if you’ve never been a sporty or fitness person. Why? It increases your overall health and sense of well-being. It has direct stress-busting benefits, and gets you fit at the same time.
It is perfectly natural to feel deflated sometimes. University can be mentally and physically draining. It’s important to remember that each time you feel this way, you become stronger and you learn new things about yourself.
But if your feelings aren’t going away and they’re affecting you every day, speak to your GP or your university’s mental health service. There are people around who will listen, and you don’t have to suffer alone.