Monday 13 September 2021

Anxiety and Agoraphobia when starting University

Reece shares his personal experience of adjusting to university life with anxiety and agoraphobia. It isn't as bad as you'd think.
- Reece Beckett
You’re not alone. 

This is the one thought I would most liked to have had affirmed for me during the first month of university when I started in 2020. With the pandemic making the social side of university more difficult than expected and my anxiety and agoraphobia making it even more difficult, this feeling of loneliness was quite pervasive. My excitement for my studies was soon switched out and substituted for growing fear and nervousness that gripped tightly around me and sought to ruin the studies that I had spent the last few years feeling so excited for and working so hard towards.  

There was a simple solution though and that was frequently reminding myself that it was just fine to take things at my own pace. A short walk around the area of my student accommodation to adjust to the surroundings and to try to meet people, heading to the kitchen only for an hour or so to see flatmates and build that much needed rapport, etc. One of the most important things to soothe an anxious mind is to lull yourself in those nervous situations, but it should be done as a friend would do it rather than being forceful. Tell yourself that you’re just going to do something minor, and often you will find that those anxious feelings will fade away and you’ll do more than you were expecting to. This starts a very positive cycle of building up confidence and lessening anxiety surrounding certain situations. 

For me, in taking those small walks and having those small talks, the anxiety gave way to a new feeling of homeliness and hope. Once I was more comfortable, which took only a week or so, vulnerability became more of a possibility and thus started those conversations with flatmates about any struggles or worries we had been having about starting university. And as we all found out, the majority of us had been having similar thoughts and anxieties the entire time - the same excitements, the same nervousness and the same feelings of being alone.

You’re not alone, even if sometimes you trick yourself into thinking that’s the case. By reminding yourself of this, by reaching out to friends to discuss issues you’re having and by allowing yourself to take things a little slower, great things can happen and that anxiety can soon become less problematic. You can work towards the university experience that you probably wanted. Things may be tough, but they can become better or easier, and it’s okay if that needs to take a little while as these issues can so easily drain us of all energy. Take it slow and remember, you’re not alone.

Visit Student Space for further support with your mental health or emotional wellbeing

I'm Reece, I am a cultural critic and poet and I have struggled with anxiety and agoraphobia for a few years now and am hoping to find catharsis in looking back at those experiences and sharing them, being open and honest with myself as a way of self-expression and to help others who may be feeling the same.

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