Monday, 2 May 2016

Learning to understand Anxiety

One student writes about how they cope with anxiety at university and how they found what works best for them.
-Anonymous
Anxiety is tough.

For me, it always has been. Ever since I was a teenager, I knew something wasn't quite right. My friends were starting to go out more - gone were days of Xbox 360 FIFA tournaments with a pizza for dinner. It wasn't that I was left out, if anything I was always surrounded by numerous people, be it at school or on Facebook to attend a particular event. But I just didn't want to. I didn't feel comfortable.

I shrugged it off as just quite a high level of shyness. I'd been pretty shy from a very young age, so I thought such occurrences were just natural. Yet, when I left behind the world of GCSE's and then A-Levels, which I still thoroughly enjoyed, along came University. I was horrifically nervous, but I plucked up the courage to give it a go. The first week was something I never thought I’d do. I went out constantly, interacted a lot with people, engaged with a number of sports. Everything seemed so easy.

But then it hit me.

I wasn't being myself. The sports side of it, yes. The social interaction, no. I soon became scared and didn't want to even talk to people in my dorm, let alone the house accommodation I was in. So much so I would only cook when people went out, I didn't answer my door when people knocked on it and pretty much shut everything out. I now knew I had anxiety. But this is how I'm dealing with it:

1) Close friends

You may think you're alone, but you're not. It wasn't until the start of 2016, the second semester, that I realised I have to try to beat it. I worked with some very close friends back at home to settle my mind and it really helped. Positive reinforcement was and still is key to my mind-set.

2) University help

I first used a fortnightly Skype conversation to figure out what works best for me. Social anxiety was a massive problem, but these talks with someone part of the university made me much more confident in what I did.

3) Take little steps

Clubbing and interacting in massive groups isn't for everyone, especially me. I'm the type who likes to play FIFA with a couple of mates or watch back-to-back episodes of Friends with my girlfriend. So realising that early on when you've just moved to University is vital. Find people that like you for you and have common interests, don't just try to fit in. 

4) It's okay to say no.

When asked out somewhere, if you really don't want to go, just say no. Pretty much everyone understands. It is the over thinking aspect that affects you, because you believe that voice in the back of your mind that says they won't like you because you didn't go out is telling the truth. Trust me, it isn't.

5) Take a step back.

If Skype chats or close friends isn't something you can achieve to help manage the situation, then don't feel obliged to do them. For me, someone with social and health anxiety, the best thing is getting through to your mind. Try mindfulness, a type of breathing meditation, do hobbies, try something new. Listen to the rational mind, not the emotional. Will not going clubbing be important in six months time? Answer - no. Take a step back, access the situation and then make an informed decision.

The last year has been tough for me, even in recent months. But positivity is the right way forward. 

Reading this is already a step, let's push on from here.

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