Dealing with anxiety at university

Having suffered from anxiety since I was a child, it has affected my everyday life for as long as I can remember. Things that should have been exciting and enjoyable were often dreaded experiences that caused days of agonising over whether or not to go – from birthday parties, to the local youth club disco to even going to school if I was going to have to do a presentation, or group work.

It got steadily better after I left school. I took a year out between ALevels and university and took the time to go inter-railing with my best friend, a trip which still inspires me to this day. I got a part time job, and through that managed to build up my confidence and become more sure of myself. With the support of my parents, I finally sought proper, medical help for my anxiety and stepped away from googling how to handle it.

However, it wasn’t until I made the decision to come to Sheffield for university that things really began to change. I’m from Ireland, so this was an unbelievably huge decision that had multiple people – including me – wondering what on earth I was doing. Would I be able to handle being away from the safety net of home and my family? What if I retreated back into my shell and didn’t make any friends? What if I ended up dropping out of uni and didn’t get the confidence to ever go back? The list of ‘what if’s’ were endless, but I really knew, even through the fear and anxiety of moving countries for university, that this was the right choice.

From the moment I met my flatmates on that first night in freshers, I haven’t regretted my decision once. I’ve now made some of my best friends, who have given me a crazy amount of support and who are more understanding that I could ever have hoped. They’ve helped me branch out and try new things, to become more sociable and to even feel more secure in myself and my decisions. I’m truly lucky to have met some of the most amazing and kind people, and to have had them stick by me through thick and thin.

It was because of them that I ultimately decided to also get help from the university. When my anxiety began to flare up again – the excitement of first year had dulled it slightly – I went to the University Counselling Service. Doubtful at first, it was one of the best things I could ever have done. My counsellor was an extremely wise woman who helped me to no end. Even now, almost three years later, I remember things she taught me and still use them. I’m so grateful for the UCS, as I think going to them, and being able to talk to someone professional, who could really help me get to the root of my anxiety, was the beginning of my journey to help myself.

From there, I was able to go to the DDSS and get help from them – again, another absolutely amazing support system this university offers. With the help of them and an academic mentor they provided me with, I became much more able to handle university work, and also life in general. Every person I’ve met along the way has imparted some invaluable advice to me that has allowed me to begin to change the way I think, and therefore change the way I live.

The university’s support services, from the DDSS to my department, have been so helpful that it actually shocked me at first – I have received nothing but constant support and help from everyone I have looked to for it. I didn’t expect to receive the amount of help and guidance I got, but I’m so grateful for it. The University and its services have gone above and beyond to help me have the best time at university.

Basically, the moral of this very long-winded story is – don’t be scared in going to the university for help. You will receive amazing support and you’ll not regret it. Don’t let anxiety take over when there are so many fantastic services the university has to offer. Once you get started, you’ll wonder why you didn’t take the plunge and contact them sooner.

University Counselling Service: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/counselling

DDSS: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/disability/contacts

Nightline: http://www.sheffieldnightline.co.uk/

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