Wednesday 29 July 2020

My Experience with Anxiety at University

Niraj writes about his experience with managing anxiety at university, and what he has learned from this.
- Niraj

I struggled a lot with anxiety throughout my time at university. Even though I was still able to achieve a lot during this time, anxiety made things a lot harder. I want to use this article to share my experiences of anxiety at university. Even though I talk about my own experiences in this article, everyone’s experience is different. However, I hope this can help others gain a greater understanding of what it is like to struggle with anxiety, or any other mental health problem for that matter.

The main thing that I found was that dealing with anxiety can be mentally exhausting, and felt like an extra burden that I constantly had to carry. It was a barrier I had to overcome in almost anything, even for small things like getting out of bed. I can be very productive most of the time when I put my mind to it, however, there were times where my anxiety proved to be an initial barrier that I had to overcome before I could start being productive. For me, anxiety was linked to ongoing, stressful thoughts and an overactive brain. Combine that with an extremely full-on schedule that comes with being a university student and there were times where my brain literally couldn’t take any more. Despite this, there were times where I took the mental exhaustion as a sign of a busy schedule and something which was normal at university, which meant that I sometimes denied the fact that my anxiety was taking a toll on me.

The worst part about my anxiety was that it was sometimes hard to see the light of the tunnel. I always believed and had hopes that there would be a time where the anxiety would completely go away, and indeed there were moments where anxiety didn’t affect me. Despite this, there were also moments that would trigger my anxiety, which was annoying and frustrating. One thing I learnt over time though is that anxiety isn’t something that will completely go away, but you can still find ways to deal with it effectively and become the best version of yourself. This change of mindset from hoping that my anxiety would completely go away to accepting that my anxiety would always be there, but I could find ways to deal with it effectively, made a big difference.

I also found it very hard to open up about my anxiety to others. I know that everyone says that talking about your problems is always the best thing to do, but sometimes that is easier said than done. For me, I would always struggle to talk about my anxiety with people that couldn’t relate to it, mainly due to the fear that I would be judged and looked at differently. Furthermore, I also felt at the time that dealing with my anxiety was my own problem and not for others to interfere with, and that it would be more productive for me to deal with it on my own. Whilst that approach did allow me to take ownership of the problem which actually worked well most of the time, it also meant I bottled things up. The advice I would give here is that everyone deals with anxiety differently. Some will be like me and deal with it on their own as much as they can, whereas others will talk about every small problem they are facing with others. Provided the approach genuinely helps the individual deal with the problem, there is no such thing as a wrong approach in dealing with it.

Despite all the challenges and struggles that I faced with my anxiety, the defining thing I think about when I look back on my experiences with anxiety at university is what I learnt from it. Even though anxiety made achieving my goals harder at times, there were a lot of positive things that came out of it. For example, anxiety taught me that it is only by having incredibly bad days that I can really appreciate the good days. Furthermore, I remember considering anxiety as a challenge I was ready to overcome, making me even more motivated and determined to succeed. That is why I never wanted anyone to feel sympathy for me, as I wanted to use my anxiety to prove to myself that I could overcome any challenge presented to me. So even though struggling with anxiety was extremely tough, there were some useful things that came out of it that will help me going forward.

Whilst the anxiety hasn’t completely gone away, I can now manage it a lot better than before. One tip that I would give to readers from my experiences is to reach out to your friends and family even if you have a slight doubt that they may be struggling. In my case, a lot of my struggles were invisible to other people, but it was the wonderful friends and family that took the initiative to reach out that made a huge difference. I agree that we all have busy schedules, but reaching out may just involve a simple text message asking how someone is every now and then, which will only take up one minute of your day. Furthermore, another piece of advice that I would give to someone that is struggling with anxiety or any other mental health problem is to take heart from the fact that you are trying your best despite the challenges you are currently facing. Struggling with a mental health problem can be exhausting, so even trying to cope despite that shows that you are extremely resilient, which is a really important skill to have in life.

Check out Student Minds for more advice on looking after your mental wellbeing at university.

Hi, I'm Niraj! I am a third year student from the University of Warwick studying Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics. Having suffered from anxiety issues whilst at university, I know about the various mental health issues that university students face, and how tough it can be. I therefore want to raise awareness on different aspects of mental health and well being, and help as many people as I can by sharing my own experiences.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Niraj!
    The most difficult thing for me is to accept my anxiety. Friends and other people at university do not see how it affects my life and they do not understand when I have difficult periods. But I work to accept the situation and to improve my feelings.
    Still, anxiety will never completely go away, but you can ease it and avoid crisis situations.