How to deal with anxiety & poor mental health at university

In this article we will share some tips on how to deal with anxiety and take care of your student mental health at university.

It is quite frustrating how nowadays everybody talks about mental health but does very little about it. Not to even mention those who believe it’s all an excuse!

It looks like politics, where they all want to sound good and jump on the most appealing trends. It’s the same story over and over again, everyone talks but nobody acts.

While this happens, problems are not really tackled with practical things but only constantly discussed. The reality is that no one really cares, and as a result student mental health is getting worse day by day.

Thus, overall student wellbeing is going down with it, that’s the real trend! Every student reflects that in a different way, however, anxiety is by far the most “feasible” consequence.

Is student anxiety real or an excuse?

Yes! Student anxiety is very real. It is worth specifying few things about it because people don’t seem to understand it yet, but still they like to judge.

Even worse, some consider it as an “excuse”, something that does not exist. Students express their anxiety it in different ways, below some of the most common:

  • Social anxiety: students struggle to fit into the environment and make friends at university. They are afraid of anything they say because they constantly feel judged and observed. As a result, they tend to isolate and avoid social events.
  • Inferiority complex: students feel “inferior” compared to others and think every other student is smarter than them. This gradually drains their confidence as it worsens and, again, leads to isolation and depression.
  • Study anxiety: students feel overwhelmed with the university workload and struggle to cope with it. The thought alone of how much they need to study gives them anxiety. Thus, they think they will never be able to go through all that study materials. This leads to procrastination as they are afraid even to start studying.
  • Exam anxiety: really similar to study anxiety but this is particularly focused on exams and assignments. Unsurprisingly, exam anxiety builds up more and more as the exam day or assignment deadline gets closer. As a result, students are unable to effectively prepare for exams and therefore they might perform poorly.
  • Future anxiety: students are scared about their future after university. They think they won’t find a job and be successful in life. Future anxiety can ruin their university experience and make them doubt going to university in the first place.

Improving student mental health & anxiety, what is getting done?

The are some positive aspects of all those talks around student mental health and anxiety.

For example, nowadays more people are aware of it; there are counselling services available at most university; more research is being conducted on this topic and so on.

However, most students don’t find those very helpful, some not at all. The general advice on student mental health is quite standardized: stay active, socialise and make friends, eat healthy, get some good sleep and so on.

Those are certainly useful and I absolutely agree with that, but are they the solution for your anxiety? What about talking to someone from the mental health service, either on the phone or maybe face to face.

It might sound ok while you are there, but as some point you are going to be alone, it is there when it all starts again.

You can’t talk to someone reassuring you 24/7. So as soon as you are back in your flat anxiety starts again..

How to deal with anxiety at university? Help yourself first to improve your mental health!

The reason why “nobody cares” is not because they are all bad people, but instead because ultimately it is not their life!

Everyday they see and hear hundreds of students sharing their mental health problems. Even if they are passionate about their job, it remains a job!

Once the day is over they’ll go back to their life and you are going back to yours, that’s it. They might be able to help at some point, but the first person you need in order to improve your student mental health is.. you!

Ultimately, you are your best friend, counsellor, researcher and so on. You got to take care of your mental health at university, nobody can help you if you don’t help yourself first.

Remember the anxiety list above, what do they all have in common?

They are all personal feelings! It’s all about how you perceive things, nobody tells you that you are inferior to other students, nor that you will fail at university and never find a job.

Actually yes, there is one person telling you that.. yourself!

How to deal with poor student mental health at university

We will now look individually at some of the different types of anxiety we have outlined earlier. This is important as they come with different (unpleasant) feelings.

Some students might be experiencing a specific kind of anxiety at university, others more than one. In any case, poor mental health is the outcome of that.

Obvious disclaimer here, please consider this post as an opinion only, and seek professional help if you are struggling to deal with anxiety at university.

Mental health: How to deal with social anxiety and inferiority complex

The key here is to boost your confidence! Firstly, stop comparing yourself to other students, we are all different.

We all have unique strengths and weaknesses. At the moment you are most likely downplaying your strengths and highlighting your weaknesses!

If you have social anxiety and an inferiority complex, you most likely feel judged and observed at all time. This makes you also scared to approach other people, resulting in poor a social life at university.

It’s like feeling under the spotlight, you are never sure what people around you are thinking about you. Well, that is just in your head, and that feeling can make you look nervous and uncomfortable.

Then in that case you will draw attention to you, you don’t really want to do that then, do you?!

Do not prepare what to say or how to speak in advance, you might think it makes you sound cool but in reality it makes you sound unnatural and “fake”, be yourself!

Talk freely about your interests, no matter if you think you are a “weirdo”, most likely there are many other students who share your same ones.

If you are struggling to make friends at university, finding those students with similar interests to yours is a must! However, if you never speak about your real interests you will never find them.

We have wrote a separate in-depth article about gaining confidence at university, find it here if interested: how to become more confident at university and beat social anxiety!

Mental health: how to deal with study and exam anxiety

No matter what degree you are studying, university is challenging. Regardless of your subject(s), the workload requires a real effort and dedication.

You will have to study multiple topics at the same time; meet assignment and coursework deadlines; prepare for different exams (something really close to each other); contribute in group projects and so on.

When people say some degrees are very easy, it’s a lie. The university workload is very demanding and can make you feel overwhelmed.

The real problem of study anxiety is that you are even afraid to actually start doing some work (or start preparing for your exams)!

The thought alone of how much you need to get through impedes you. Relax, take a deep breath and start to organise your studies, make a plan!

Focus on one thing at a time, what needs to be done first? Only you know what strategy works best for you.

You might want to plan it around the chronological order of your assessments/exams; or around what you know best (or least) first.

What about your study methods? If you think you are not effective when studying, try different study and revision methods (e.g. visual learning); we will write a separate article on that and leave the link here when ready).

In any case, sometimes all you need is a start, you will then realise that it’s not that bad once you are doing it!

If you do it without a study plan you will most likely feel overwhelmed, get organised and show them what you got!

Mental health: how to deal with future anxiety post university

Uncertainty about the future after university is very common. Many students experience it, you are not the first and you won’t be the last.

Will I find a job after university and be successful? It isn’t just a matter of getting good or bad grades, it is a genuine question regardless of whether you are going for a first, a 2:1, 2:2 or just a pass.

There are many factors around you play that play a big role in that. The economy, and therefore the job market, reflects what is happening on a large global scale.

This means that you have little to none control on that, regardless of how good you are. The real problem with those factors is that they change your perception of the future post university!

When that happens, you lose confidence in yourself, in your plans! You might unconsciously let opportunities slip away; e.g. apply for less jobs/internships, doing less networking activities, giving up on personal upskilling projects etc.

There is one thing to bear in mind: the market always bounces back up! Forget about negative economy and job market trends, even if those coincide with your life right after university.

Instead, focus on your university journey, make the most out of it and everything will be fine at the end!

Conclusions, how to deal with mental health and anxiety

Student mental health is a very serious topic and unfortunately it seems to be getting worse. Whereas the pandemic has certainly contributed to that, it has mainly “uncovered” something that was on the rise anyway.

At the moment, the response to student mental health problems from universities is quite generic, with a lack of proper individual support.

This might, and hopefully will, improve as more research is conducted and more insights are shared.

Ultimately, there will never a bit a one-size-fits-all solution to student mental health and anxiety. We are all different and unique in the way we feel and express emotions.

The objective of this post is to make you understand that YOU ARE UNIQUE, take care of yourself! You are the only one who can learn to deal with anxiety at university, and improve your mental health.

Thank you for reading and supporting this independent blog!

Disclaimer

As usual, let us disclaim the obvious. Please mind that everything you read on this blog is based on the authors’ opinions, experience and research. Therefore, consider it as an opinion only.

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