Sunday, 9 September 2018

Counting down to the next academic year: managing the fear.

Emma writes about dealing with anxiety in the build up to the academic year, and how to face it when you finally return to university.
- Emma

As I write this post I am counting down the days until my third year at university begins. I took a year out after second year to do a placement after having had a tough time adjusting to uni life. Although I feel like there is more awareness around this topic now, when I first went off to university I was so excited to start a new chapter of my life: I hoped I’d become this vibrant, extroverted and more relaxed version of myself that I blamed A-Levels for hiding. Needless to say, this wasn’t the case. My first year of uni really wasn’t what I had expected and I felt like this was all my fault. I missed home a lot more than I thought I would and I found myself comparing my not-so-great experience with that of friends at other universities who seemed to be having the time of their lives.

Eventually, summer semester was over and I had a whole 3 months at home stretched out in front of me – I couldn’t have been happier. However, as September began to creep closer, I could feel myself becoming more and more scared at the prospect of going back to the life that I had managed to avoid for the past few months, a life filled with home-sickness, deadlines, stress and – worst of all – loneliness. 

It turned out that, although second year still wasn’t the amazing experience I was searching for, it was a lot better than I feared it would be. After all, the fear and anxiety at the anticipation of something is rarely ever as bad as the reality. 

This leads me to where I am at now: a new term is almost here once again and, although I am beginning to feel the dreaded final year nerves, I am in a much difference place to this time last year. So I want to share some key messages that have helped me out this time around, in thinking about the coming academic year.

1. Enjoy the present but don’t be afraid to plan ahead. 

As much as it can be tempting to bury your head in the sand for a few more weeks and pretend term-time isn’t approaching, it won’t help in the long run and it’ll only make you think about it even more. Be prepared. Write a couple of goals or things you want to achieve for the new academic year. Problem solve any potential barriers that might get in the way. I found going to the gym helpful when I was feeling down during first year, but I stopped when deadlines became too much. This year I plan to maintain going to the gym by setting up the habit before term actually starts and choosing a gym located on my way home from campus. 

2. Push yourself 

I know all too well that being in your comfort zone can seem like the best place to be when you’re not feeling yourself or if you’re missing home. Sometimes this can be helpful and wrapping yourself up in your blankets with a hot drink can be the best way to unwind after a tricky day, but don’t let this be an excuse! Often the best thing for yourself may be the thing you really don’t want to do. For example, going into the kitchen to have dinner with a flatmate or arranging to meet a friend after lectures. Doing the thing you don’t want to do (especially when it comes to socialising) will give you such a sense of achievement in yourself that it will beat any satisfaction from a night in watching Netflix. And it gets easier each time, I promise!

3. It’s okay not to be okay

University isn’t always the best time of your life and I’ve realised this through opening up to friends and educating myself about student wellbeing through sites such as Student Minds. If you’re not enjoying certain aspects of it, try to change them. If you can’t, also know that these things will pass and you just have to ride them out as best as you can. As cliché as it sounds, things do get better, you just have to be ready and waiting for when they do!

Hi everyone! I’m Emma and I study Psychology at King’s College London. I’m currently on a placement year working in the NHS – so (hopefully!) I can combine what I’ve learnt on placement with my experience as a student in my writing. I haven’t got much of a background in blogging/writing but I look forward to sharing my take on mental health and student life. I’m really excited to be able to contribute to the Student Minds blog as mental wellbeing is a topic I love to talk about and should never be overlooked!

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