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Being A Student With Anxiety Disorder – What First Year Taught Me

Being A Student With Anxiety Disorder – What First Year Taught Me

Going to uni is a big deal. But, sometimes anxiety seems to get in the way. Here is what first year taught me about being a student with anxiety at uni.

Going to uni is a big deal. But, sometimes anxiety seems to get in the way. Here is what first year taught me about being a student with anxiety at uni.

Do not stay in your room

Something that is very typical of people with anxiety disorder, myself included, is struggling with new situations that might present you with difficult emotions such as nervousness and simply the unknown. This is why it would be easy to get to uni, your parents leave you and then you just stay locked up in your bedroom. This will only make things worse. Being left alone with your thoughts can be extremely tormenting and can, and I speak from experience, make you feel so much worse. Make the most of having flatmates. If you feel confident enough to go downstairs and sit in the kitchen, it can act as a distraction. And if that seems unbearable, then take a walk, read a book on a bench outside your flat, go for a run listening to an upbeat song. Anything beats that feeling of staring at a wall thinking you are alone.

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Decorate your room

The very first thing I did when I moved into my student accommodation at the University of Winchester was I put photos on my pin board. Most rooms in any university come with boards so make the most of them! If you fill your room with pictures of your friends and family and even your pets then when you do have to be in your bedroom, such as when you’re writing an essay, you have something to remind you of what life is like when you aren’t anxious or unhappy. Of course, you are not going to feel your best when you are faced with new assignments and it is easy to forget what it’s like to NOT feel anxious. So reminders such as photos are the best way to calm you down and remind you that there is a light at the end of what feels like the never ending tunnel that is anxiety disorder.

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Don’t let anxiety stop you from doing ANYTHING

This can be one of the most difficult things to comprehend before you’ve actually done it but missing out on a new experience is worse in the long term than any amount of anxiety might be. I did it first semester, when I didn’t go the student night at the SU because I wasn’t sure how much to drink or what time I would get home. But ultimately, I regretted it. I saw snapchats of my flatmates bonding and I missed that opportunity. Start slow, agree to yourself that once a week, you will do something with people from your course or your flat. You’ll never be free from anxiety until you challenge it. The pain is horrible when you’re so anxious in the club that you’re crying in the toilet, but that pain doesn’t last forever. That song you used to listen to on your pink C.D. player will come on and you’ll go back on the dance floor and then you’ve beaten it down a little bit.

Seek help before it’s too late

All universities will have some form of support they can offer you, whether that’s group or individual therapy or they can pass you on to external help outside of the university. For example, at Winchester, they have student services where they offer many services, including weekly therapy sessions over the course of a month. This is what I was given and this is great because having someone to talk to helps give you different perspectives. My advice is if you know you have issues or are likely to struggle, go in Freshers Week to beat the waiting list. I went on the second day since moving in and I got assigned a therapist straight away, but I know that a month into the semester the waiting list really builds up.

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University doesn’t have to be all about drinking

A lot of people think that Freshers week and the whole university experience must be all about drinking and that there isn’t anything to do that doesn’t involve alcohol and busy night clubs. I know clubbing can be an anxiety provoking situation and that a lot of people might be on anti-anxiety medication that means they can’t drink alcohol. From my experience, if you open up to people and say you want to do something else, they will. Freshers week at the University of Winchester did yoga classes which I took my flatmate with me to try and during the week they run quiz nights. Societies also offer up great opportunities to meet people without alcohol and provide a good distraction from your studies which you need to keep yourself sane!

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Anxiety is different for everyone. Different things trigger it for different people. But these are just a few things that I learnt from my first year at University. One of the most important things about mental illness is recognising it and being willing to challenge it but with the support of friends, family and professionals. Don’t dismiss university because you think it will be too hard. I won’t deny it, it was a challenge for me and my anxiety, but through face-timing my mum when I felt an attack coming on and opening up to my flatmates I had people who were willing to help me. What I think is crucial is to remember that you are never alone, no matter how lonely and misunderstood you feel.

What have you learned as a student with anxiety at uni? Share in the comments below!
Featured image source: infinitecircles.org