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Stress and Anxiety

The thought of studying can create heaps of excitement from the moment we start planning our journey into University - thinking about all the opportunities for learning, developing and connecting to new people and making friends. However, being thrown into the unknown and away from your comfort of either living with your family or friends, into a new environment can be daunting and cause levels of anxiety.

Questions like ‘will I manage my course work? Will I get a job after University? Will I make new friends and get on with them?’ can be some of those key questions that are likely to pop up before beginning a new chapter such as starting a degree or course at University.

Anxiety often starts with thoughts arising in our mind which we connect to certain consequences and attach meaning to, causing negative emotions such as worry, sadness fear or fright. Although anxiety can be distressing, it is a normal part of life. It affects our mental health but can also be felt physically.

The physical experience of anxiety is often linked to an increased heart rate, a pain in the chest, tearfulness, shallow breathing, increased sweating and other symptoms associated with the flight and fright response, a response released when we try to protect ourselves from potential danger. Anxiety takes on different levels and can feel differently depending on situation.

Normally, when we start feeling anxious about something or someone, we start avoiding the activity or person. However, there are a few things you can practice that may help you manage your anxiety to live a balanced life and take positive risks that means you still develop and learn.

Take time out and pause what you are doing. Go for walk, speak to a friend or make yourself a cup of tea can help you shift your feelings slightly.

Fit in regular exercise. When our body moves, whether it is going for a brisk walk, a jog in the park or an exercise class, we release endorphins, which helps to lift our mood.

Limiting caffeine and alcohol is useful when managing our moods, as caffeine induces our stress-hormones which can lead to heightened levels of anxiety. Similarly, alcohol is a stimulant which can have a negative impact on our mental health.

Practicing mindfulness meditation and focussing on breathing is helpful when managing our minds and moods. When practicing mindfulness we can direct our direction onto our breathing which can help us diverting attention from our own mind. This is used in different meditative practices and the aim is to learn to identify our emotions better, but not to react or judge our thoughts or ourselves.

Taking a step back and seeing the whole picture can use useful when establishing your situation. Mapping out those things you can control and change and give an answer to is useful here. Try writing them down.

Practicing letting go: Understanding that some things are out of your control is important when managing anxiety.

Practicing methods of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) is helpful as a method to managing anxiety. This method, which includes a variety of different tools, can be useful when mapping out how our thought processes work. We are thought that we have a set of negative automatic thoughts that arise in our minds based on our previous experiences, and we assume they will be similar to those previous outcomes.


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