By Rainha Passi, 3rd Year Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Third year student Rainha Passi provides us with essential tips on how to manage anxiety at university.
You’re sitting in a lecture theatre and not understanding what’s being taught. Suddenly you begin to feel a bit hot, very hot actually, your pulse is racing and you’re starting to become a little light headed. You’re getting a bit detached from your surroundings and all you can experience in the moment is the cesspool of wrongness churning inside of you. Finally, when you can’t take it anymore, you just have to get up and leave.
What you’ve just experienced is an anxiety attack and it is unbelievably common amongst university students. 1 in 4 students will experience severe anxiety during their time at university, so the most important message to take from this article is: you are not alone. There are thousands of students in the same situation as you all over the country and more importantly: there are ways in which you can control your anxiety rather than letting it control you.
Epigram / Marina Afzal-Khan
Rational thinking is not just a word used in your unit handbooks. By rationalising your thoughts, you will be able to overcome your symptoms. Firstly, when experiencing an anxiety attack, you must acknowledge it. This can be as simple as saying to yourself: 'I am feeling very anxious right now.' Once you have admitted your feelings you can start looking for ways to reduce what’s causing them. If it’s the stress of a lecture, remember that you are not being tested right now. You will have weeks if not months before any of these topics will be tested so you will have time to study.
You are a priority. If you believe that a certain situation may make you anxious, you are at liberty to avoid it. Now this isn’t just an excuse to skip your exams because they make you nervous, but if you feel like certain social situations make you feel uneasy, like being in a club, you can always find alternatives that may be more comfortable for you. If it is something that can be avoided then avoid it. If it can’t be avoided, then rationalize it and break it down into doable steps.
You are a priority.
Improvisation is usually perceived as anxiety’s worst enemy, but hear me out. The core meaning of the word, ‘to improvise’ means to make better. Anxiety is an unreliable illness because you never know what can set it off, so you must prepare yourself to thwart the symptoms when they appear. Feeling breathless? Practice deep breathing. Feeling detached from your surroundings? Focus on one small aspect, study it well and then start taking in more of it. Heart racing? Reassure yourself that this is your anxiety and nothing fatal. You are completely in control.
Overcoming is the hardest part of managing anxiety but when you believe you can do it – go for it. Sometimes facing your fears is horrifying but closing up to anything can really hinder your experience at university. When you feel confident enough that you can handle your symptoms, try dipping a toe in first. If you’re uncomfortable with going to a club but all of your friends admit to always having an amazing time – try going to a bar first, or maybe go to a club when it isn’t too full. I know this doesn’t sound like much fun but it will prepare you for what to expect the next time you go so you won’t be too overwhelmed. If you feel too claustrophobic during lectures, sit at the back so you can leave if you’re not enjoying it or sit at the very front so you can discount the people sitting behind you and focus purely on what you’re learning. Eventually you can overcome your anxiety.
I’ll be honest, this is a very general overview on how to combat your anxiety. However, if you felt any of these symptoms before or identified yourself in any of these situations then maybe it will inspire you to get some help or practice the ways in which you can improve.
Epigram / Marina Afzal-Khan
My final words to you are: understand that you are not alone, hundreds of other students are in the exact situation as you are. Reach out to someone you know, for example a friend or your personal tutor and they can help you navigate scenarios you find difficult. Do not try to suppress your anxiety, accept that you are anxious right now and try to find what is making you this way and try to reduce or eliminate it.
Disclaimer: These posts have been written to help students with anxiety cope while at university. It is in no way an alternative to proper medical guidance and consultancy that can be offered by trained professionals.
Featured Image: Epigram / Marina Afzal-Khan
What are your top tips on dealing with anxiety? Comment below or get in touch!