One moment at a time: How I deal with anxiety at university

22 Nov 2018
By Alice H., Student at University of London

Being a student with anxiety, I often feel as if I’m the only person who feels out of their comfort zone or has no clue what they are doing. Sometimes, it makes me question whether I even made the right decision in going to university.

Since I started uni, I’ve had to tell myself lots of times, ‘You made the right decision!’ But it can be difficult to know how to cope with your anxiety in university.

Moving away from home for the first time can be a daunting experience, and feeling homesick is tough.

Ever felt this way? Here are the things I do to feel less anxious - I hope they help you too.

Learn to feel okay saying ‘no’

Of course, the first thing you want to do when you start university is make friends. And it can often feel as if the only way to do that is to go out and drink with people you have just met.

But what if you don’t want to go out partying? Politely saying no to an invite - instead of forcing yourself into a situation you know you won’t enjoy - will make you feel so much calmer.

Most people are actually very understanding if you say no to an invite. And it's more likely you’ll become better friends with your flatmates and classmates if you are true to yourself.

You could simply say, ‘Thanks for the invite, but I don’t really like drinking and clubbing. Have an amazing time and let’s do something soon.’

Schedule anything and everything

Make a plan - this is what everybody who gives advice about university says. However, it does work. Having a schedule means you always know what to do next, and that’s one less thing to worry about.

I use weekly planner sheets. These are simple A4 sheets with spaces for all the different days of the week. Putting simple things like laundry on them takes a weight off my shoulders, as I know I won’t forget to do it.

Read more: 6 Smart productivity apps for students

Stay up to date with your notes

When I get home from university, I like to have a little break - a cup of tea (Twinings Lady Grey, always) and about an hour of Netflix (1.3 episodes of Gilmore Girls). Then I sit down to work on my notes from the day.

Yes, I’ve spent the whole day at university writing notes. But I was writing them quickly while trying to keep up with the lecturer and the PowerPoint slides. They won’t be much help in a few months when exam season begins.

So I write up the notes from each day in their simplest form. Honestly, some of my notes consist of things like, ‘cognitive psychology is the study of how people think and why they think the things that they do’. My pastel highlighters motivate me to study, so I use these too.

Once I have my revision notes in a simple form, I find I truly understand the topic and I’m able to write about it in academic, exam-type language.

Remember to relax

If you suffer from anxiety, it is likely that you use more energy doing things that other people do easily. And that means you need more time to relax.

Whether this involves watching the last season of the Big Bang Theory, or reading the fifth Harry Potter book (yes, I am a geek), it’s important to remember there’s more to university than studying.

If you are worried about falling behind, put some time in your weekly planner to catch up on your notes. If you need help, speak to your personal tutor or module leader. In my experience, they’re always happy to help.

Read more: 45 Easy ways to relax in your room

Talk to your parents whenever you want to

Moving away from home for the first time can be a daunting experience, and feeling homesick is tough - especially if you suffer from anxiety. Please don’t ever feel ashamed of wanting to call home.

I call my parents at least three times a week. Even if you are a second year, third year, mature student or postgraduate student, you can still want to talk to your parents every day. This is completely normal and okay for everyone to feel.

‘You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf’

Try to keep to a schedule, do the work from your course at your own speed, and don’t think too much about what your peers are doing. I know it’s easier said than done, but it will make your university experience less stressful.

And remember, you are not alone. Lots of people around you will be experiencing similar feelings. Talk to your friends or family if you can, and try to accept the support available to you from your university if you feel you need it.

Your anxiety may still come and go, but now you have ways to cope. As mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn says, ‘You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf’.

Moving away from home for the first time can be a daunting experience, and feeling homesick is tough.
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My interests include reading (‘Harry Potter’); I obviously watch Netflix and am currently binge-watching ‘Gilmore Girls’ (somehow watching Lorelai drink so much coffee at ‘Lukes' while he grills her about how unhealthy it is, has really increased my intake). The Big Bang Theory + FRIENDS are also good contenders in the TV Shows that I watch. I also enjoy writing, this is normally non-fiction; however, I am now attempting to write something that is fiction.