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Anxiety at University

Book47
Book47
10 Replies

Hi! I'm currently in my first year of university living in halls, and in all honesty, it's been the hardest few months of my life. The constant socializing is extremely overwhelming as an introvert. But what I've found most difficult is living in halls. Even if I'm just sat in my room, I feel so anxious and sick to my stomach so I can't concentrate on my work. I feel like I'm constantly listening out for what other people in the flat are doing (I've had my ear to the door many times to listen for people), and if I hear them socializing in the kitchen I get a sudden overwhelming rush of anxiety. Whenever I'm in the kitchen, I can't relax either as I'm constantly on edge that someone will try and initiate a flat night out. It's so draining to not feel relaxed or comfortable in the place I'm living.

I'm also not a big drinker or clubber as even the thought of these types of social situations makes me feel so anxious and always has done (sick to my stomach, sweating, dry mouth, hot flush, anxious thoughts so I immediately try and think of ways to say no to going out). I've pushed myself and gone out clubbing a couple of times, but I've found it's really not my thing as the anxiety during the build-up to the social event is just not worth it. Even though I don't drink much and still get 6-8 hours of sleep, the next day I can't stop crying because of how anxious I feel.

I'm worried that not enjoying the 'student life' of clubbing and drinking will cause me to lose my friends. They go out clubbing with other people and always seem to enjoy other peoples company more than mine (laugh and talk more) so I'm worried they'll eventually forget about me for not going out a lot and being 'boring'.

Has anyone else had a similar experience or any advice? I'm considering going to the uni counselling service but I'm really nervous to do so.

10 Replies
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teemo1

It sounds like you're dealing with social anxiety, and on top of that, the first year of University can be very difficult, especially living in the halls. You may have had to leave your family and the friends you grew up with, and now you are adjusting to an entirely different living situation. On top of that, there's the stress of classes, homework and exams. It's understandable that you are feeling anxious right now.

But this is only temporary. You will feel better as you gradually get acclimated. I think that visiting a university counselor would be a really good idea, especially if they have one who specializes in anxiety.

Here is a good article: anxietynetwork.com/content/...

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Book47
Book47
in reply to teemo1

Thanks for your reply, I'll be booking an appointment with the counsellor after the Christmas holidays.

Your point about it being only temporary has genuinely helped my mindset on the whole situation, as I had a look at my calendar and I'll only be living in halls for another 12 more weeks, so thank you so much. It may seem like an obvious statement but when you're living in it, you do forget that things like this are only temporary.

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teemo1
teemo1
in reply to Book47

That's good to hear, I'm glad I could help your mindset! You're right, nothing is obvious when you're dealing with anxiety.

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Hi Book,

I just had to respond to your post as this is something I can really relate to. University accommodation isn't the nicest and I can totally understand what you mean about over hearing people. I had this too. The walls might as well have been made from paper.

Based on my experience, I have some advice for you both regarding the living situation and the social side. I don't know if it's the same for your university, but at mine, if the student has a mental health issue then they are prioritised for university accommodation, and may even be eligible for the post graduate centre, which is much quieter and has a culture of far less social pressure, as everyone you're living with is a bit older and has more pressure with work. I stayed in post graduate accommodation in my second year and my original third year and it was a lot better - admittedly a little lonely (as they were all in a different year group) but far more peaceful, and conducive to work and rest. I don't know if you have been given a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder but I would strongly advise you to see your GP as soon as possible, and connect with a counsellor. A diagnosis would give you the ability to get the right help and support.

As for the living situation itself, you could consider moving out now but realistically you may not be able to, as everywhere might be full, and everyone settled. I tried to move out of the noisy accommodation in my first year and was unsuccessful - the only room they could offer me was too far away and I didn't know the area then. Even if you could, this may cause more stress and not be worth it. I had to "ride it out" for the whole year, and it wasn't easy - although I scraped through. You may be able to move after the Christmas break, as this is less disruptive and there's only a month to go before Christmas. You may also have more luck finding alternative accommodation as some people graduating in the winter may have freed up space, but there still might not be anywhere else available even after Christmas, so it's better that you're aware of this now and not get too hopeful if you were to consider moving. On balance I think I was probably better off staying where I was.

What I can offer you is how I have gradually learnt to cope in the meantime. I personally found it easier to cope if I kept everything tidy and organised, as this made the environment as restful as it could possibly be. Try to identify when it's quietest in the flat and maybe plan your work around then, or consider studying in the library or a cafe. I know uni accommodation can be a bit depressing, so it's probably better to spend as much time out of it as you can. Wearing earplugs may also help with sleep and studying. Additionally, or alternatively, you could try listening to music (through headphones/earbuds) while you study in your bedroom, or getting a "white noise" device for sleeping and studying (you may be able to find some on Youtube to play through ear buds). Try getting a folded blanket and putting it under your door to filter out the noise from the flat. I personally haven't tried this, but it might filter out some of the noise and help with insulation. In addition, grocery shopping - order in bulk - and get food that you can store in your room so if you get hungry but can't face going into the communal kitchen to get something to eat, you have food there. You could do an online order and get enough staple food (obviously with perishable food you have to keep using and restocking) to last for the rest of the year. I personally ordered multiple packs of Nakd bars (healthy breakfast bars), multiple large packets of Pop Chips (healthy crisps), multiple bars of dark chocolate, and multiple packets of biscuits (aim to eat the last two in moderation) to name a few. Just get whatever you like that isn't perishable, that you can just grab, and store it in your room in bulk. You could bulk order cereal, and long life milk and long life orange juice (long life meaning it doesn't have to be refrigerated, and is long lasting), and rice cakes or oats cakes. You could also keep fruit in your room, such as clementines or pears. Don't forget to do this for toiletries too. If you don't feel you can manage a big grocery shop, albeit a delivery, at the moment, then when you come back after Christmas you could ask your family to help you with shopping when they bring you back to your accommodation after the holiday (I'm assuming you're in regular contact with your family, but I apologise if I'm mistaken).

Another issue I experienced was trying to live independently alongside living with people I didn't know - stuff like grocery shopping (which I've partially covered), doing my laundry, cooking and cleaning etc and the worry of bumping into people from the flat, when I was having an off day. My coping mechanism was doing all of this on one day of the week, get it out of the way on that particular day, so I could spend the rest of the week recharging from social stimulation, if I needed to. If you're running around doing everything in one day, then, at least you also have a genuine excuse such as "my laundry's finished", "I need to do shopping/ my grocery delivery has arrived" or "I need to finish cleaning my room" so you're not stuck talking to someone, or a group of people, for too long.

I don't know how close your home is to where you stay at university, but if you're within a reasonable distance (maybe no more than an hour and half commute) and you're still finding it a struggle, you could maybe compromise by commuting from home some of the time - only crashing in your room at university when it's necessary, for example if you had an evening lecture, and then a morning lecture the next day (again I'm assuming you have a stable home life outside of uni, and I apologise if I'm wrong). The issue with this is it might mean less of an opportunity to be sociable (more about that in a moment), but may be an appropriate compromise if you feel you can't cope where you're living and are determined to continue studying.

If you've taken all my advice and you're still finding staying in accommodation too much, and moving isn't an option and/or if you're unable to cope with your anxiety/mental health in general, then you might want to consider taking a period of time off from university. I just want to put it out there so that you know it's an option. Then you should be released from the accommodation contract and you can spend time just focusing on your mental health at home, so when you return to university you can cope a lot better, and have a more appropriate living arrangement in place. I hope this is a route you won't have to go down as you seem committed to your work - but it's okay if you do, your mental health is just as important as your physical health and some people just need a break. Your health must come first, and there is plenty of time to get your degree. You may also only need a short break, such as a term.

Regarding the social side: don't try to be something you're not. Honestly I tried doing what you did in my first year, going clubbing when my heart wasn't in it, and I think every introvert, when they first go uni and are surrounded by this culture of partying, feel that this is what they have to do to fit in. But I can assure you, there's so much more to university than that and, if you be yourself you will eventually meet people you have a genuine connection with and who will like you exactly as you are. Have you joined any societies? Some of the best friends I have I met in Tea Society and Creative Writing Society.

In my third year, I also discovered a mental health organisation called Student Minds, ran by students for students, which offered weekly group meetings of how to manage mental health at university, and you're university might have this too.

Does your university have a chaplaincy? Mine does and it's a supportive environment for people of every faith and no faith. It hosts regular activities, for example craft at lunch time, where everyone (student or staff member) is welcome to come along and learn to knit, or do colouring in, or they can just bring their academic work in if they're busy with that, and at least they have some company. Craft is run by the university chaplain (who can also give personal, pastoral support), and they also offer tea and a biscuit or piece of cake. Going to something like Student Minds, or a chaplaincy (I'm sure your university would have an equivalent) would give you the opportunity to meet like minded people in a caring, supportive, and calm environment. You might meet people who you could live with next year, or find people you can spend time with while studying individually, maybe in the library or where they live, and then studying can seem less daunting.

I finally want to reassure you that you're absolutely not alone. There will be many other wonderful people, just like you, who feel stuck in their room, alone and on edge. You just need to find each other. I bet even some of the people who are out partying a lot are probably struggling as well, and are just putting on a front. I really am sorry that your experience with accommodation is not as you'd hoped, but remember it's not the be all and end all. You can manage this, and you can makes friends in other ways. It will get better.

xx

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Book47

Thank you for taking the time to reply, I'll definitely be seeing a counseller as I feel like a diagnosis will really help improve my situation.

Listening to music whilst in halls has been a life saver for me, and I have a secret stash of food under my bed, I'll for sure be investing in earplugs though.

Being someone I'm not is still something I'm working on because sometimes I'm not sure who I am at all. But I'm sure after the next couple of years, I'll be completely confident and comfortable in myself.

I'm personally in a few societies, and I'm still working on making new friends in those societies, but it's so nice to get out of the flat and be doing something non-academic (I also love to go to the library to watch Netflix, definitely makes me feel relaxed and calm).

Thanks for your advice, I know when I'm feeling low I'll come back to read these replies and be reassured that I'm not the only one who's felt this way and that things will look up in the future, so thank you so much for replying :)

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happy_kitty

Hi Book47,

I am in College as well! (my second year)

I'm going to guess that living in the halls is the same as living in the dorms? I purposefully chose a college close to home so that I wouldn't have to.

Firstly, does your campus have anywhere with an enforced quiet area? At my college the second floor of the library has couches, tables, ect. and it is a 'whisper only zone'. You may find it easier to concentrate in such a place since you know people aren't there to socialize.

Secondly, if you don't enjoy doing the same things that your friends enjoy than maybe you're not hanging out with the right crowd? I have no interest in the typical "college life" either, so I found myself a group of friends with a similar mindset. Your username suggests you like to read so maybe joining a book club would help you find some friends who have more similar interests. I don't mean to sound rude though, I may have the completely wrong impression, but that's just an idea (please don't take it the wrong way).

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Book47
Book47
in reply to happy_kitty

Thank you for replying!

Yeah, halls are the same as dorms. The library is my favourite place at university, not just to do work but to relax and watch a couple of episodes of my favourite TV show.

I think you're right about hanging out with the wrong crowd. For me, I find it easy to be peer pressured into going out for fear of what others think of me and wanting to be accepted. The whole 'student life' which is constantly portrayed in films, tv shows and online also makes me feel pressured as i'm worried it's something I'll look back on and regret (which is stupid as the 'student life' is what's causing me problems). So I'm going to try and say 'no' more to benefit my mental health and help me enjoy my time at uni.

A book club sounds like my idea of heaven, so I'll check and see if there's one at the uni.

Again, thank you so much for your reply, it's easy to feel alone when in these situations, so thank you :)

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SophieC22

Hey! I’m in my third year and the advice I can give is don’t ever try to be someone you’re not, and I assure you that you will find your group that you feel like you fit in with. I was very fortunate to be in halls with some lovely girls that also didn’t go out, but I would really reccomend getting involved in some small societies, for example we have knitting and baking societies that have such lovely different people to the ones in your flat who may be a bit out there. If you are on talking terms with your flat mates and consider them as people you could see being friends with maybe suggest a movie night or something a little more toned down? Just try to breathe and remember how far you’ve come, and that you’re doing so so well to even be living day to day in a very strange environment. Definitely seek help from uni, they are great with tho sort of thing and will help you find your way, good luck x

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kate24601

This was exactly me at uni! I didn't go out and drink or go clubbing and bc of that I thought I'd be excluded. The whole flat were mostly really inclusive but I was working part time in my home city so was away a lot and ended up drifting from them, it was lucky I had such good course mates who made it better!

I ended up dropping out for a mixture of reasons, but the day I left, none of my flatmates bothered say bye to me and the second I walked out of that door it felt like a weight had been lifted.

People will always judge you in any situation and there's nothing you can ever do to change that, so just try to accept that just because they might see you a certain way, doesn't mean it's true, doesn't reflect on you and doesn't mean everyone will agree with them.

If you're dead set on staying, try spending more time with course mates and things (I used to go to a friends flat in the day time and we'd study and bake and things) and maybe start looking at places you want to live next year, maybe a house with some friends from your course or even move home and commute if that's an option! Or talking to your flatmates, I bet a few of them feel exactly the same.

I don't regret not having 'the experience' at all as my health and mental wellbeing is far more important and the damage it can cause just isn't worth it.

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crowningglory19

There is no need to go out clubbing, you can focus on your studies if you want. Good friends will stay, others would leave anyway. I started taking magnesium and ginseng to help w my anxiety and depression. They get rid of sticky negative thoughts and calm the mind body and spirit! They have helped many with these problems! Also, get out and sit on grass if you can or go barefoot if it's warm enough. It grounds you and helps with anxiety too. Congrats on keeping with it in your studies, it is far better in the long run than clubbing, those college buddies will for the most part not continue being part of your life after graduation and you will go far! You got this!

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