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Fresher Pressure: Student Stress And Anxiety – How To Be Mentally Prepared For University

With almost half of school leavers going on to university, and many worried about the debt they will incur, Trinity PR is working alongside the Priory child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg to help promote new students to look after your mental health at university:

Dr van Zwanenberg’s advice to students follows recent reports and surveys, including by YouGov, suggesting that as many as a quarter of Britain’s students say they have some type of a mental health problem.

The findings mirror a Priory report, conducted across 18 universities in the UK in 2013, which found that one in four was “too afraid” to mention their mental health problem to friends.

There is help out there

If you’re stressed or anxious, there are people there to help, whether they be medical professionals like GPs, or counsellors, psychologists, welfare advisers or student union representatives. Their job is to listen and to help you cope. Your GP may refer you to a psychiatrist.

Feelings of being lonely can be defeated

Don’t worry if being a student isn’t immediately the fun-packed experience you were anticipating – that will come in time as you settle in. Moving away from home means students are often left without their safety blanket of friends, parents or siblings.  Find at least two university clubs or societies that appeal to your skills, whether it be rowing or the student newspaper, and join. You are then instantly matched with like-minded people. Make the most of freshers’ week, where clubs and societies urge you to join them.

Pause and concentrate on the moment and not the future

You may feel overwhelmed but everyone is in the same boat. Enjoy the moment. You have worked hard to get to University but it should not feel like a hothouse and it is ok not to know what career you might follow at the end.

Social media

Much social media, like Instagram, can make it look like everyone is having a wonderful time except you. Don’t judge your social status or social life by it. It’s a false measurement.

Phone home

Don’t feel you have to sound like it’s all a big party. Have open conversations with family and friends about how you feel. Encourage them to visit. Always have someone to call. While sharing living space with people outside the family is part of student experience for the majority, whether in halls of residence, or in various forms of shared private accommodation, it is not always easy.

Dr van Zwanenberg adds; “Leaving home and starting a new life of study in an unfamiliar place can be a daunting and difficult experience. – although they usually pass soon. However, what is more concerning to me are the additional burdens that freshers are increasingly carrying on their shoulders, such as financial worries, lack of resilience or experience of looking after yourself, and pressure to achieve top grades.

“Whatever your age, interests, academic ability or gender, I cannot stress how important it is to open up and talk. There is no shame – and certainly should be no stigma – in admitting you are feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope or experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety. Homesickness and ‘first term nerves’ are also common feelings but should not be ignored

“Many universities offer fantastic counselling and welfare support services, which provide an ideal opportunity to talk through problems – whether practical, emotional or financial. Often, that is all that is needed to reverse a situation.


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