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Coping with Anxiety at University Without Letting it Define You

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bristol chapter.

            When I started university, I was enthusiastically looking forward to it just like everyone else – I was excited by the prospect of making new friends, about living on my own independently and exploring a new city. Despite all these new things to look forward to, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was slightly terrified to be relatively alone in a unknown environment, and anxious to do my best. The pressure to maintain a good work and social life balance, alongside worrying about deadlines and not always doing your best, can start to feel overwhelming when you are at university. I know at times it often felt like I was drowning – struggling to come up for air under the weight of my anxiety and the pressure I was placing on myself.

            These are struggles that I grappled with during my first and second year at university – feelings that are all too common. The deadlines, the academic stress and comparison, as well as being surrounded by new people you may be unsure if you can yet confide in, can create an incredibly daunting environment. Mental health can be difficult because it is persistent; there is no immediate cure or surgery that will make it go away. However, these anxieties can be overcome – university is also an incredibly fun and thrilling time of your life, and one that you shouldn’t let anxiety get in the way of if you can. As my time as progressed here at Bristol, here are some of the ways that I have managed to control my anxiety and ensure that I make the most of my time here.

Stop Holding Yourself to a Higher Standard

As someone who often sees academic praise and validation as important to their self-motivation and worth, I know it can become difficult to remain positive or upbeat in a sea of deadlines or when you do not do as well as you had hoped. Being overly self-critical can be one of the biggest components of university related anxiety. It is so important to not focus on your mistakes or failures and to encourage yourself to not give up. You have been accepted into university for a reason, and although sometimes it may not feel like it, you are clever enough to be here.

Find a Hobby

Keeping your life focused on solely grades and academics may mean it can be difficult to find relief from university stress. It is so important, and I have found it hugely helpful, to have a release from my degree, and the pressure that can come from it. Finding a new society, getting involved with sports, or even volunteering, can be great way to allow you to engage with others over something you are all mutually interested in. I have found it can give you something to look forward to and be passionate about, when sometimes you may not be feeling especially positive in other aspects of university.

Don’t be Afraid to Seek Help or Validation

Sometimes I felt so alone in how I felt and was so sure that I was strange for feeling down in what should be such an exciting period of my life. Ultimately, you are surrounded by people who are going through the same experiences, and you will not be isolated in your feelings no matter how much it seems like it. Just speaking to someone, to not bottle up all your feelings, can feel incredibly gratifying. I also found something as simple as listening to mental health podcasts, and just hearing my own thoughts spoken by someone else, made me not only feel less alone but also validated in my feelings.

Freshers Week Does Not Have to be the Best Week of Your Life

Most of the time, you will be tired from club nights or events, homesick and probably ill with freshers flu. Whilst freshers is a super fun period and a great way to get to know people, it does not have to be the best week of your life, and you don’t have to feel bad if you need to take a moment to yourself. My most memorable club nights and times I have had the most fun have not always come from my freshers week, so don’t feel anxious if you have not had the easiest week or put any pressure on yourself if you aren’t having fun.

Ultimately, there is more to life than grades, broken friendships, and the people you don’t enjoy living with (which will be temporary). The things that matter most is how you treat people, and that it is okay to feel anxious or stressed, and that seeking help is not a bad thing. University can be one of the best experiences of your life, and anxiety can exist alongside it without getting in the way of it. It will be invaluable to find things that work for you when coping with anxiety, and bringing joy into your daily life, not just in University but beyond.

Hi, I'm Harriet! I'm a third year English Literature student and President of HerCampus Bristol!