Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

(Barely) Coping: A truthful account of an anxious fresher

Anxiety has been a constant companion throughout my life and I struggle to recall a time when I wasn’t weighed down by its presence. Although everyone’s experience differs,I typically relate mine as an intense homesickness even when at home. Like most things, my anxiety comes in waves; sometimes a splash, others a tsunami, drowning me in worries. But, ever since starting university, I can’t say I’ve had a dry season.

The summer before university marked the beginning of a downward spiral. I couldn’t stop panicking about my results and where I’d find myself in September. The uncertainty of the situation was overwhelming, and my time of post-exam relaxation was far from idyllic. However, my worst fear of failure was unfounded. My place at Warwick was confirmed and I could finally celebrate. But something wasn’t quite right; the knot in my stomach remained tangled, and I found it hard to maintain enthusiasm as I announced my success to friends and family. I wondered, Shouldn’t I be happy? But, my anxiety wasn’t finished with me yet; It was no longer occupied with the question of ‘if ’ but with the question of ‘what’. What was I getting myself into? I’d been so concerned about getting a place that I hadn’t considered what would follow; a new home, new people, harder work. My anxiety was spoilt for choice on what to worry over.

The anxiety of dropping out didn’t seem as daunting as that of sticking it out for three long years

When that fateful day arrived, I felt nauseated. The reality of leaving home hit me hard. I recall as my parents left, and I was left alone, little things like walking around campus suddenly seemed arduous. I didn’t want to leave my room. I just wanted to call it quits and be back in my own bed. I had heard many stories of freshers week as the highlight of the university experience, yet there I was, wishing to be any other place.

My lowest point arrived when I hid away in my room for a couple days; my mind had been working on overtime, I was drained and wanted to block everything out. I called my parents, telling them I couldn’t do it, I had to leave. The anxiety of dropping out didn’t seem as daunting as that of sticking it out for three long years. But, my parents talked me down, they made me realise that I couldn’t let these thoughts control me or stop me from thriving. I certainly wasn’t cured, but I understood that to feel better I had to keep moving forward. Stagnation was my enemy.

Mental health is equally important as physical

Anxiety is different for everyone, so the methods of managing it varies. What works for me may not work for you. Nevertheless, I developed some personally beneficial coping methods. Firstly, utilising comfort blankets. Everything at university is new, so it’s useful to have something familiar to fall back on, whether that be a beloved book, or a favourite album – anything that’ll transport you temporarily to a less anxious time.

Secondly, practising self-care; even just a warm shower or nutritious breakfast can make you feel infinitely better. Be kind to yourself, just like you would if you had the flu, since mental health is equally important as physical.

Thirdly, meditation; I find focusing on your breathing and being present can be refreshing, especially as an anxious mind only wants to live in the regrets of the past or the fear of the future. And finally, getting involved. Go join societies, push yourself to attend socials at least once a week. You need interaction and trust me, it’s relieving for once to listen to voices that aren’t the ones inside your head.

Whilst my story may not have had a happy ending, and I might not be the light at the end of the tunnel you need, I hope my story helps you realise you’re not on this journey alone. Remember, don’t suffer in silence, and don’t let your mind get in the way of living.

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