Wednesday, 15 June 2016

How to Survive University When You Have Anxiety

Anxious girl

When I think back about the six years I spent at university, I often wonder how different my experience would have been if I didn't have Anxiety. Would I have made more friends? Would I have gone out more? Probably. Would I have been happier? I'm not sure. Either way, that's not what happened. I had Anxiety, and yes that did affect my experience, and yes I would have done a few things differently if I had the chance - but I still got excellent grades, which for me was the whole point of going.

The good thing about my experience is that I feel like I can give advice to someone in a similar situation. So if you're starting university or going back in September and feeling a little nervous about it, read on.

Know Your Limits (I Don't Mean Alcohol).

When I was 19 and deciding where to do my Bachelor's Degree, I knew I didn't want to go far. I decided to stay at the same university I was currently doing my Art Foundation in, because I liked little things like already knowing my way around the building, and already knowing the area and all the bus routes. It also meant I could carry on living with my parents, as frankly dorm rooms terrified me. I missed out on quite a few experiences... but my mental health was considerably worse back then, and I don't know what would have happened if I'd pushed myself to do something I wasn't really comfortable with. 

Saying "No" Is Fine.

I've always hated parties and nightclubs, and I've never got on board with alcohol. I tried it a couple of times, but eventually I accepted that I just wasn't like a typical university student. Again, this meant a few missed experiences, but I'm not 100% sure that I would have actually enjoyed these occasions even if I didn't have Anxiety. I got to know the difference between actually wanting to go somewhere but being too scared to go, versus not wanting to go somewhere but feeling obliged to. If it was the former I would try to push through my nerves when I could, if it was the latter I wouldn't go.

Get Diagnosed.

You probably have a pretty good idea that there's something wrong even if you haven't been diagnosed yet (which was the case for me until I was 21), but if you haven't, you should for university. Talk to your student support services, and they will likely say that if you get a signed letter from your doctor they can give you extra support: this can include things like extensions on deadlines, reimbursed printing and photocopying costs, and extra tutoring - in my case it was all of the above, as well as a free laptop and software. They can also talk to your tutors about your condition, which I know is really scary but they'll most likely be really nice about it and do what they can to help you. 

Take Advantage of the Free Counselling.

Most universities have a free counselling service for everyone to use - it doesn't matter if you're diagnosed or not. They will never, ever tell you that your problems are "too small". Trust me, go and talk to them. It's the best thing you'll ever do.

This is the sort of thing I wish someone had told me when I was a teenager, so I hope it helps some of you.

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