STUDENT VOICES: How to Cope with University Stress

With Wellbeing Week on the horizon and coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week, it’s time to discuss university related stresses.

The final year of University is a stressful time in any student’s life. Writing a dissertation and studying for exams is a 5-star recipe for an emotional meltdown amongst us feeble-minded study-bugs. If you know what I mean or are perhaps even going through an existential crisis, or a bout of all-consuming anxiety of your own, well, you’re not alone.

The final year of University is a stressful time in any student’s life. Writing a dissertation and studying for exams is a 5-star recipe for an emotional meltdown amongst us feeble-minded study-bugs. If you know what I mean or are perhaps even going through an existential crisis, or a bout of all-consuming anxiety of your own, well, you’re not alone.

I’ve been suffering with depression and anxiety since the age of 15 but my final year at Uni has knocked me for 6. I’ve begun to wonder how on earth some people manage to make it through Uni with their sanity intact. My friends here at Uni have all experienced some kind of panic attack, I struggle to find any student who hasn’t in all fairness. I can even remember my sister telling me stories about how she and her housemates would have in-sync panic attacks in their final year leading up to exams as if it were the twisted cousin of the mysterious synchronised menstrual cycle girls experience when spending a lot of time together that us men just can’t get our heads around.

Anyway, I digress. My first (of many) final year anxiety attacks hit me completely out of the blue when I realised in mid-March I hadn’t started my dissertation. No-one had, though. So, why all the panic? Well, I have to scrupulously place myself in the aforementioned category of “feeble-minded study-bug”. Okay, maybe not so much a study-bug, but feeble-minded? Absolutely. Through the panic, I’d convinced myself that I was going to fail my degree and life as I knew it would become redundant (I think that’s the type of catastrophic thinking I’d been warned of).

But, rest assured, there’s hope! Little did I know that this panic attack pretty much saved me from failing my entire degree. “But Alex, how?!” I hear you cry. I’m glad you asked. I became so worried about failing my degree that all my energy turned to writing my dissertation. Social Life? Nope. Saturday afternoons watching football? Nope. Teaching myself Somewhere Over The Rainbow on ukulele? Nope. My routine became: Eat, Sleep, Dissertation, Repeat (eat your heart out, Norman Cook). I was so scared of having another panic attack that I made sure I spent as much time as my, albeit limited, mental capacity would allow. 6 weeks later I’ve managed to concoct something semi-coherent and even potentially worth reading.

Having said this, I understand that making sense of these twisted, self-destructive thoughts can be challenging and time-consuming to say the least. They can destroy your confidence and leave you a shivering wreck crying out for a hug! There’s nothing belittling about this. Just remember- nothing lasts forever. Sometimes, all we need is an arm thrown around us and a shoulder to cry on. Don’t be scared to talk to someone, like I said, you’re not the only one!

Anxiety is becoming less taboo and more commonplace in today’s society and the University and Student’s Union offer plenty of ways to help. Maybe try talking to your personal tutor? I mean, this is what they’re there for- to help! Also, a little browse online at the Student Union’s ‘Good Advice’ department will show there is support out there. Maybe you want to be a bit more active? Then try out some tried and tested ‘Mindfulness’ techniques at some of the SU’s Weekly Wellbeing Workshops coinciding with their Wellbeing Week 2015 from 11th-15th May. All the relevant information can be found via the links below.

I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t be scared of having a panic/anxiety attack. A bit of anxiety here and there can be helpful. It can focus the mind and turn us into a workaholic, even if only temporarily. I can safely say I wouldn’t have spent anywhere near as much time and produced nowhere near as good a piece of work that I did had it not been for anxiety giving me a little boost at the start. So embrace it. Adopt it as your friend, not foe. And trust me, you’ll find there are plenty of other students experiencing similar things.

By Alex Whitaker

Useful Links:

Student Union’s ‘Good Advice’

Brighton University Counselling Service

The Mental Health Foundation’s advice on ‘Mindfulness’

The Verse Staff

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