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Coping With Anxiety and Stress

With Revision Week in full swing, many students are left feeling anxious and stressed beyond control. It can be incredibly isolating, especially if your emotions are new and disconcerting. In light of this common yet troubling problem, here are my tips for dealing with anxiety and stress, as based on my own personal experiences. 

Please be aware that what I have to say should not take the place of a medical doctor’s opinion and advice and does not necessarily pertain to more serious diagnosed conditions, such as depression or severe forms of anxiety. 

So with that disclaimer in mind, let’s begin – 


1. Figure out what you are actually feeling

This may seem like a simple and common sense tip, but it is actually one of the most powerful things a person can do for themselves. It can be extremely difficult to get to the root of your emotions and reason out just exactly what those feelings are, but it will make your recovery process so much easier if you can understand what you are experiencing. I find it helpful to write my thoughts down, as this allows me to work through them in a private manner and to see how my feelings have changed over the course of a week, month, etc. It can always be handy as well to have another person there to help you through, which leads me on to the next tip. 



2. Talk to someone

When learning how to cope with anxiety or stress, it can be very comforting to have another physical person to turn to in order to share your thoughts and emotions. It can help you work through your feelings and will make you feel less alone. The trouble with this is that not everyone feels as though they have someone they trust deeply enough to broach them, but if that is the case, there are a variety of official resources that can provide you with a willing listener. Nightline, the St Andrews official hotline, is an anonymous resource that is available during the nighttime. Furthermore, you can always speak to Student Services or a counselor within your school. 



3. Find a stress-release 

This can be a hobby or a society – just find something that relaxes you without making you feel guilty for not studying or using your time otherwise. I hear that a lot from people who would like to join a society or pursue a new hobby but feel that their time should be spent working on their essay or learning last week’s lectures. This constant need to work, however, can be counter-productive, as your mind can quickly become overworked. Anxiety and stress exacerbate your brain’s tiredness but coincidentally, also make you feel as though you never have enough time for anything else. I promise the world will not end if you take a breath or two breaths and then come back to your work. It’ll still be there for you when you are mentally ready. [Source]


4. Ask for help 

If talking to a friend and joining that new club did not help elevate your emotions, it may be time to consider seeking professional help. The NHS provides free psychiatric support – all you need to do is make an appointment with your GP and if needed, find a reference for a good psychiatrist or psychologist who can help. Many people, myself included, are afraid to seek medical assistance as they do not wish to be prescribed any medications, as most anti-depressants do have a plethora of unwanted side effects. However, the method of approaching psychological problems, such as anxiety, have changed to include more therapy and fewer medications, unless absolutely necessary. 



5 Be kind to yourself 

This is fairly self-explanatory but bears mentioning. It is probably the single biggest thing you can do to help yourself – we all have the penchant for being unnecessarily brutal to ourselves, and this can seriously affect your mental health. It is not easy to be kind to yourself and can take several years to fully understand, but it is so important. Be forgiving of your mistakes – no one is perfect and that is perfectly alright. Be kind, be gentle and be honest with how you are feeling and what steps you need to take to ensure proper self-care. Your body and your mind are with you for your entire life – please take care of them and be kind to them. [Source]


Lastly, please never feel like you are alone. If you do need further assistance, please contact Student Services or your local GP. 



I am an American medical student at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. I have been an avid writer for several years, focusing mainly on creative writing. But I hope to be more involved in our university's culture, particularly by bringing interesting information to all of our students!
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