Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Adulting at Uni with Anxiety

I have ~so~ many Uni orientated posts I’m excited to write, (expect to hear about my experience in halls and see a room tour within the next couple of months), but thought I’d start with something I would have wanted to read this time last year; how I’ve coped with anxiety since entering the Big Wide World by myself. Committing to attending the University of Leeds was something I’m not sure I actually managed until the morning I left home, and that definitely wasn’t the end of my decision. I struggled through my first semester, unsure if I was doing the right course, if Uni was even for me or if I wanted to come back at all after Christmas. I spoke (and cried) to my parents, my coursemates, my friends and my tutor, made five thousand ‘pros and cons’ lists, and eventually decided to return for my January exams; and I can confidently say now that it was the best decision I’ve made in the last year.

I thought I’d compile a list of the things I struggled with, if and how I overcame them, and any little things I’ve put in place since then to keep myself in a calm and positive mindset, and to get the very most out of my first year. With two semesters behind me and only five weeks left of studies and exams until a well deserved summer can begin, I hope my worries, progress and ~tips~ can help even one person believe in themselves enough to conquer their journey into Adulthood too. If I can do it, anyone can.

I by no means suffer with anxiety to a debilitating extent and I consider myself very lucky and grateful for that, but there have definitely been some ~testing~ experiences that I’ve struggled with over the past few months. I don’t think your first night alone in halls is something anyone ever really forgets, when your parents have dropped you off with all of your things, and said goodbye for what feels like forever. I remember sitting on my bed, dreading going into the kitchen on my own to try to befriend the people I’d be sharing a flat with for the next year, but my first piece of advice would absolutely be to try to do it as soon as possible. The sooner you introduce yourself, the sooner the awkward greetings are over and you can start to get to know each other. I found it comforting to repeatedly remind myself that every single person is in the same position of unfamiliarity, and everything is a lot less intimidating when you’re not alone, so aim to overcome this step ASAP. The same rules definitely apply when attending your first lecture. Talk to anyone and everyone who you notice is on your course, and if that’s too daunting, smile and take a mental note of faces; this will definitely help when trying to recognise coursemates to follow or wander with when trying to find your way around.

Whilst it’s obviously useful to have a plan where your ~career~ is going, or where you hope your degree is going to take you, try not to get too obsessed with feeling as though you need to know. This is what led me to panic about whether or not I was doing the right course because I had no idea what I wanted to be doing in three years, but so many more people than you think have no idea what they want to be doing either. If you’re enjoying what you’re studying, let your degree lead you down different paths and trust that you’ll find something along the way that you’ll hopefully want to continue to work with in the future. Alternatively, utilise the people around you !! I was super grateful to have a wonderful tutor who made time to talk me through my anxieties about my course, and just to listen when I needed to panic-vent. Make yourself aware early on who you can talk to should you need any advice or just someone to listen.

Although there are are elements of starting University that can be anxiety inducing, you will naturally overcome so many hurdles, big and small, without even realising. I’m very proud of myself for actually making phone calls (to real life humans), talking to people at the bank and getting two trains every week to visit home (long-distance relationship perks). Celebrate every personal success, and remind yourself that even on days when you feel like you’re not managing as well as you’d like to be, just by living this life, you’re achieving so bloody much.

The whole process of discovering yourself at University is an entirely personal thing, and you will learn many things along the way. I’ve found tiny things like having fresh flowers in my room make a huge difference to my state of mind, and can be a real positivity boost (if you can get reduced bouquets from the supermarket it’s a win-win). Don’t be afraid to turn down plans if you’re not having a good day, and make sure to arrange things that suit you; going on nights out isn’t very ~me~ so I prefer to go to the cinema/out for food with pals instead (PSA, Vue cinemas do super cheap tickets on Mondays; you’re welcome). Facetime and phone call your friends and loved ones (and pets) as many times as you need, visit home whenever you can if you need to be around familiarity, and remember that there isn’t one ~right way~ to do University. Whether you go out every night or never go out at all, if you visit home once a semester or once a week, whatever you need to get yourself through, you’re doing so bloody well. Take it one week at a time, one semester at a time, and be very, very proud (I am).