Coping with Anxiety at University

With many young people recently starting university, Ieso’s Clinical Lead, Sarah Bateup, discusses how students can be affected by anxiety.

Going to university is an exciting time filled with opportunities and possibilities. It’s the first real taste of independence for many students, with new friends to make and new experiences to be had. But adjusting to student life can also be stressful – juggling studying, fitting in, managing money and living in unfamiliar surroundings can cause students to worry and feel anxious.

If you are feeling anxious, it is important to understand that you are not alone. In a recent study, 92% of students claimed they had experienced feelings of mental distress while at university, with almost one third stating that they suffered mental distress every week.

Many students suffer with anxiety in silence, with over a quarter of students not seeking help or telling anyone about their problems. But there are ways to combat anxiety at university, so that you can make the most of your time as a student.

Identify the causes

Students experience anxiety for a variety of reasons. In the study, 65% of students said that course work was their main source of anxiety, while 54% put it down to exams and study. 47% were worried about financial difficulty.

A lot of students feel nervous about making friends. Others worry about being away from home in a new city that they don’t know. There could be any number of reasons why you’re feeling anxious. Identifying the cause is the first step to overcoming your anxiety.

Identify triggers

Once you understand what it is that causes you to feel anxious, you may be able to identify what triggers spells of anxiety. For example, if you feel uncomfortable in some social situations, you might find that you feel perfectly fine meeting a friend for lunch, but panic at the thought of going out at night in a large group.

Similarly, you may be happy writing an essay that you have prepared well for, but worry about sitting exams. When you identify what triggers your anxiety, you can take steps to overcome those obstacles, rather than avoiding them.

Find out what works for you

Anxiety is a mental health problem that affects millions of people, and each person deals with it in their own way. Many people find that regular exercise helps to alleviate anxiety, while others choose to meditate, or practise mindfulness. Others find that medication can improve their symptoms, while some state that talking about their feelings with friends or family can be hugely beneficial.

Student Unions often have councillors who you can talk to and get help from if you feel your anxiety is affecting your life at university. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is another option to help with anxiety. Our online interactive therapy service provides individualised CBT treatment at a time and location convenient for you.

Finding out what works for you is an important part of combatting anxiety. Once you’ve found it, you can fit it in around your studies and socialising to ensure that university life is as enjoyable as possible.

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