Anxiety, and stress in general, can have a detrimental impact on both your mental health and your University experience. Understanding how to manage it is essential…
Okay, I get it, we’re students. If we weren’t all a little bit stressed then we’d probably be doing something wrong. But no stress or anxiety should be so severe that it becomes unmanageable. Understanding our worries is the key to solving them, and the key to maintaining positive mental health.
What Anxiety Looks Like
Really, this is different for each person, but anxiety is usually defined as ‘A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.’ This is a normal response to dangerous situations (you’ve probably seen it called ‘fight or flight’) but it becomes an issue when
we get anxiety over situations that aren’t really dangerous at all. Now, it’s important to remember that anxiety disorders are a medical diagnosis, but that’s not to say that other, more general, types of stress and anxiety shouldn’t be taken just as seriously.
In my case, anxiety looks like a whole lot of unnecessary worries: I check I’ve locked the door three or four times before I leave the house; If someone doesn’t text me back straight away, I’m instantly wondering if I’ve upset them. Anxiety comes in all manner of other shapes and sizes, but if you’ve ever felt anxious about something, you’ve probably experienced at least one of these symptoms:
- Physical reactions like butterflies in your stomach or shortness of breath
- A lack of patience/ being easily irritated
- Overreacting/ getting upset over small situations
- Trouble sleeping
- Worrying about potentially embarrassing situations
(This list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the idea).
What you can do about it
Talk about it
It probably sounds like I’m repeating myself when I say that opening up is the best way of managing your mental health, but trust me – it works. Talk to whoever you like – your friends, you parents, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your tutor, your cat – it really doesn’t matter. Just make sure that you don’t bottle it up. Telling someone how you’re feeling lifts the weight off your shoulders. I promise it will make the stress easier to manage.
Ask for help
Every University has support in place to help students who are struggling to cope. Make an appointment to go and see a student counsellor, or even just go and talk to your personal tutor (especially if the anxiety is work- related). Alternatively, there’s loads of helplines you can call if you’re panicking and you just need to talk to somebody. There’s a list of useful numbers you can call on the Mind website here.
I know it’s cringe-y and cliche, but it really is okay not to be okay. Anxiety is perfectly normal (and actually very common) but you shouldn’t ever feel like you can’t manage it. And you don’t have to cope on your own.