In 2017, a record proportion of 18-year olds gained a place at university or college. In the next couple of weeks around 230,000 more young people will become “freshers” – that group of excited young people who start university/HE colleges every September; beginning a new phase of their life journey.
Any life change – marriage, moving house, having a baby, losing a loved one – can be stressful. We all cope with change and new experiences in a different way and it’s the same for these young adults.
Many students will be looking forward to their new life with enthusiasm and overriding feelings of positivity and opportunity. You’ll hear them syaing “I can’t wait to meet new people and make friends”, “I’m really looking forward to my course” and even “I can cook and eat what I want and when I want”.
For others, the experience may be tinged with less positive thoughts, some apprehension or even fear and anxiety. The transition from being a young person typically living at home with parents/s and siblings to living in shared accommodation with a bunch of strangers, taking full responsibility for all aspects of your life, can be scary.
Common fears included the worry about making friends, missing family, being “good enough” to do the chosen course and coping on their own. These feelings are not uncommon. Fortunately, for many students they will never become burdensome or prevent them from really enjoying and fully embracing the university experience.
However, for some the concerns and fears are fuelled with negative thinking which can turn to anxiety which builds up and results in many different symptoms:
- Poor sleep – either not getting to sleep or sleeping to much and still being tired.
- Low motivation or procratination.
- Feeling anxious, angry or depressed (or a combination of these emotions)>
- Panic attacks
- Poor eating habits that do not fuel the mind and body sufficiently well.
- Feelings of isolation, lack of confidence or poor body image.
A NUS (National Union of Students) survey in 2015 revealed that 785 of university students had experienced mental health issues. Issues such as financial concern, sharing with strangers, being far from home and support networks and the pressure to ” have the time of your life” are common causes.
The human mind is a powerful tool and depending on how we look at a situation can change how we deal with it. Looking at the situation in a positive way may enable you to find your own solution to the problem you face. As humans we are much better working as a tribe so positive inter-action with others will stimulate the ‘feelgood’ chemicals Serotonin and Dopamine, positive activity even if it is only a short walk will produce Endorphins. Choose friends who make you feel safe. Eat well and try and create a good sleep routine as well (not always easy with the many social invitations at university!) I found this article on Student Hut which is really easy to read and offers good advice.
Remember that reaching out for support, no matter what your age, will assist you in any situation; phone or Facetime family and friends, meeting other people for a coffee or a walk around campus. All good universities and colleges have a great student advice and counselling services – don’t put off contacting the pastoral office if you need help – you won’t be the first or the last student who has asked for advice. Support from others can be a powerful help in changing your mindset and helping you get the best from this time in your life.
You are never the only one who is not having a good time, feeling stressed or just not feeling that you are settling in, others feel this way but don’t always show it, you are not alone.