Mel Thompson
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How to Accept and Survive Anxiety at Uni

Understanding Your Mental Health and Ways to Help Manage It During University

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Not to start on a negative, but I feel like this is one of the main reasons I wanted to start blogging in the first place—to share what I’ve learned in the hope that it could help someone else. What I do know is that more people than you may think suffer from it, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Fighting anxiety can help you to understand the need for patience, perseverance, and resilience, but that doesn’t mean you will feel these positives whilst you are at some of your darkest stages.

I first struggled with anxiety a few years back in the form of OCD, which at first I did not understand. I didn’t know why I felt the need to control things in such a way and where it was coming from. After a long two/three year battle it finally calmed down due to a change in lifestyle and I began to understand some of my triggers and avoided getting back into the mindset.

However, when I began my third year of studying at university after a summer of endless 12-hour shifts at work with no weekends off and therefore no real rest, anxiety took a hold of me. I’d been suffering from painful stomach aches all summer and been diagnosed with what they thought was IBS, only for me to discover that it was actually anxiety. On my worst days, I couldn’t leave the house, eat, get any sleep whatsoever, and cried more than I ever thought was possible. Whilst I thought this was the worst thing that had ever happened to me, I learnt many valuable lessons that I plan on keeping in mind throughout the rest of my life, and though I speak about it as if I am all better, there are still dark days that feel slightly less dark thanks to what I know now.

1. Take care of yourself.

Yes, I know many of you may have read this and thought “I don’t have time!!”, exactly what I thought 12 months ago. This tip is key to keeping yourself happy and healthy. Don’t feel like going out and getting hammered this weekend? Don’t. Don’t feel like piling your to-do list up with all the things you think you should be doing to better yourself? Don’t. It’s okay to need a break. Yes, it can be scary thinking that your friends may notice something wrong, but you don’t always need to give them an explanation (although check the next tip to see what I do recommend). It’s just important not to overdo it, it may be great earning money but you can’t enjoy spending it if you’re miserable. It can be great to smash the gym four or five times a week but again, you won’t reap the benefits if you’re not in a healthy mental state.

2. Don’t be scared to open up.

This can be one of the biggest steps that take the absolute longest, but once you do it you’ll be so glad you did. Just speaking to someone else about the thoughts in your head gives you a little more space up there to relax. Be mindful of the fact that everyone has things going on, and the best thing to do is find a therapist who can give you advice when you need it most. The idea of a therapist may be a bit heavy but I found it a lot easier to think of them as a friend who actually gets paid to listen to your problems. After all, these people didn’t spend all their years training to not get any clients. I was lucky and have an amazing boyfriend and best friend who, when I opened up to them about what was going on, were extremely supportive which made the whole process of putting myself first a little easier.

3. Get a little fresh air.

Whilst I was in my final year at uni I spent a lot of time behind a screen typing away in hope to get a good grade, and one thing I found to help was to put a little time aside each day for a walk. My heart used to pound at the beginning of the walk at the thought of leaving my safe little room, but ten minutes in and I found I actually enjoyed seeing some greenery after a day in the library. Go for a run, take your dog for a walk, get your steps up or even go, and get a nice drink—whatever it is, get outside.

4. Get some self-respect.

By this, I mean respect yourself enough to know when to walk away from friends who just create drama in your life, learn when to speak up, and don’t be afraid to back yourself even if none else does. You have to learn to put yourself first even if the other person in the situation doesn’t like it. Friends who are there for you will always understand and one thing I found is people respect you more when you respect yourself. This isn’t an easy thing to do but I learned that by applying some confidence towards my own thoughts in situations I actually became a much stronger, more accepting person who people actually listened to.

5. Get some reading material.

There are hundreds of reading materials out there which can all give you a range of different techniques which combined together in a way that works for you can be really effective. I found books on CBT which helped me loads as I put into practice what they taught and managed to override bad thoughts. As well as this, I read a number of blogs such as Hugo Rock’s post on ‘the speed of your thoughts’ and Victoria Jackson’s post on ‘making yourself a priority.’

I hope you join me on this journey as I discover more about myself and the way I tick, and I hope it encourages you to introduce some self-love into your life.

Mel X

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