Anxiety sucks wherever you are, but for a lot of people, starting uni can make things even more difficult. The issue is that a lot of the same things that make uni exciting also act as anxiety triggers. Moving away from home, making new friends, starting new classes, and learning how to live and study by yourself is a lot. If your anxiety symptoms are severe and are having a very negative impact on your life and studies, the best thing to do is to go to your doctor. But if you’re at the point where you could just do with a little help managing your anxiety, here are a few tips that might help. These are 10 ways to manage anxiety whilst at Uni!
1. Get organized and establish a routine.
One of the things about uni that aggravates anxiety is the disruption of routine and the new experience of having to live by yourself. Lots of things about this are difficult, from homesickness and learning how to cook, to having to manage your own time outside of classes. However, just making sure you’re factoring in enough time for all these things is enough to reduce anxiety significantly. There are lots of ways to do this. Some people are helped greatly by the visual element of a wall-planner or to-do list, but other people find diaries or ‘bullet journals’ more helpful.
You may also find it helpful to get into a pattern of behaviour, for example always doing your washing on a Thursday morning, or doing your washing up every evening before settling down to Netflix. Knowing when things are going to be done helps organize thoughts and reduce stress and anxiety.
2. Get moving outside or at your local gym.
Yes, I know. Often the last thing you want to do when you’re suffering with anxiety is get up and exercise. But it can help, really. Short term benefits include instant relief from the endorphins your brain releases when you exercise. Longer term benefits can include things like a rise in confidence or a sense of achievement as you see yourself improving. You can also get creative about this. If you hate running, then don’t run. Instead, you could try lifting weights, or joining a fun fitness class like Zumba. After all, the more you enjoy it, the more likely you are to keep it up.
3. Try laying off the coffee.
For many of us, a morning coffee is pretty vital to starting the day. Then in the afternoon you might grab a coffee with friends, or an extra one to get you through your essay. Turns out, if you’re prone to anxiety, this may not be the best idea. The caffeine in coffee that gives you the buzzy, jittery feeling can make anxiety worse. Try opting for decaff to keep yourself calm.
4. Keep in touch with your friends back home.
Remember your high school friends, the ones you spent every day with and spent hours chilling on the grass or in each other’s bedrooms? These friends still exist, and they know you in a way that your uni friends don’t. They know your hometown, your parents, your pets, and will likely be missing exactly the same things as you are! Skyping with someone you know really gets you can be more mood-lifting than you might expect.
5. But don’t forget to make new friends too!
Although this may go without saying, a surprising amount of people forget to put the time into making new meaningful friendships. It’s true that it can be easy to feel disheartened if you don’t find ‘your people’ immediately, but they’re out there somewhere, you just have to find them. Join some societies and go along to socials and you’ll find yourself making friends in no time. Spending time with people you like helps boost your mood and may reduce your anxiety.
6. Download a meditation app.
When people think of meditation they often think of sunsets and people making circles with their thumbs and forefingers. But the reality is that meditation can take as little as ten minutes and can be done cross legged on your bed if you want to. Downloading a meditation app can be really helpful for both teaching you how to do it, and motivating you to keep going with ‘day streaks’. The app ‘Headspace’ does a free ten day trial course, so you can try it and see if it’s for you. Meditation is definitely something you can incorporate into your uni life, and can reduce stress and anxiety significantly.
7. Join a yoga class or watch some YouTube tutorials.
Yoga is another thing famous for calming stress and anxiety. It’s very likely that your university has a yoga society, or that your gym has a yoga class. But failing that, YouTube has a lot of very good tutorials for beginners, so you can try it out just as easily on your bedroom floor.
8. Make time for hobbies and relaxation time.
Uni life can get very full, and trying to juggle everything can be one of the things that causes anxiety. Therefore, it can be tempting to start dropping things like hobbies and relaxation time in order to catch up on work. This might actually end up making things worse in the long run. To be most productive, your brain needs breaks, so for both your mental health and your studies, make sure you make time to do things you enjoy doing ‘just because’.
9. Put time into making your living space lovely.
The space around you can have a big effect on how you feel. If your bedroom is messy, cluttered, or just plain bare, this could mean that it’s contributing to your uni anxiety. Work out what things help you feel happy and relaxed in your environment. This could be fairy lights, plants, cushions, or photos of friends and family on the walls. Being in a place you like will naturally help calm your anxiety. Keeping on top of mess is also really important. To help do this, either dedicate 10-15 minutes of your time every day to clearing up daily mess (you can set a reminder on your phone), or if you prefer, have a larger clear up weekly at the same time each week.
10. Take advantage of your uni’s support system.
Your university will know that uni has the potential to make anxiety flare up, and will have support systems in place to help you cope with it and overcome this. Some universities will offer on-site counselling, while others have group sessions or will refer you elsewhere to get the help you need. Help will be there, you just have to ask for it.
Do you have any tips for managing anxiety while at Uni!? Share in the comments below!
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Harriet is a 22 year old English graduate from the University of Southampton. When she's not writing, she's crafting, weight lifting, or continuing her search to find the world's best vegan brownie recipe. Like most other 22-year-olds, her other interests include dogs and Instagram.