9 tips to beat the new term terrors
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As we head into September many students across the country will be heading to university, some returning for yet another year while others are only beginning their university experience.
This can be a terrifying time for those just starting out, as they face many changes in their life, such as where they live and what they study.
The pressure of university can be immense, as the work gets harder and the expectations get greater. Everyone around you seems to expect you to ace your classes and join societies, all while making lifelong friends and (supposedly) having the best three years of your life.
Understandably this can make university seem daunting, as it seems impossible to juggle it all and actually have a great time. Don’t worry though, as even if your time at university doesn't start off smooth we’re here to tell you that it will get better, and once you find your place in the community it will be amazing!
For those of you heading to university this year who are still feeling a little terrified, have a look below at the wise words of Will Williams, Europe’s leading Vedic meditation expert.
As Williams points out, leaving the comfort blanket of your home and school will naturally impact your mental equilibrium. As a consequence, the number of students with mental health problems is rising, as they struggle to find their feet again in a new environment in which they are surrounded by strangers.
He advises that anyone who finds themselves feeling homesick, depressed, or just a little out of their depth follow his steps to combat anxiety and boost confidence.
1. Bring a piece of home with you
No, we don’t mean the kitchen sink, but a few sentimental comforts from home won’t go amiss. This attachment is known as "essentialism," the idea that objects are more than just their physical properties.
In a study published in the Journal of Cognition and Culture, researchers asked people to cut up photographs of a cherished item. The results showed that participants had a significantly stronger stress response to cutting up pictures of their beloved item.
Whilst we still don’t know exactly why we make these connections, the comfort of having cherished items from home is real. Which means the desire to bring the pictures of friends and family, your favourite blanket or some comfy cushions off your bed are all valid. So don't be embarrassed, bring it all with you! If visitors come you can always hide them under the bed.
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2. Throw yourself into new challenges
There’s no doubt that taking that first step into a lecture theatre or the student union bar can be terrifying (trust us, it is!), but the very best solution is to do it anyway. This is something often recommended by psychologists – and is known as ‘exposure therapy’.
Researchers have found that this can dramatically improve the way people relate to their fears, as exposing yourself to your fears and phobias proves that you can overcome them, thus increasing your confidence. Most students will have led a somewhat sheltered life, thus pushing boundaries and facing fears will show you what your capabilities are, and how well you can cope with independence.
The more you face your fears, the less terrifying they will be, and in some cases facing a phobia even once can nullify it completely.
3. Set bite-sized goals each day
If you try and do everything all at once you will likely end up huddled in a ball under your duvet. Instead, it’s much better to set yourself one goal to achieve a day. It could be as simple as talking to a housemate, getting lunch with a friend, shopping for supplies or getting some working done.
After all, procrastination diminishes happiness, so the more you can get done the better you will feel. Unfortunately, procrastination occurs when we are feeling nervous or insecure, so it is common to do when you start university. Try and fight the urge to put work off, as there is no feeling worse than getting behind on work or tasks.
You will be much happier if you break it down and stay on top of everything, as this allows you to relax and enjoy the time you spend socialising. Moreover, it will help you get enough sleep, which is essential for your mental wellbeing.
Though conquering something challenging may stress us out while we’re doing it, it also makes us happier in the long run. Setting goals, (and preferably meeting or surpassing our expectations), helps us feel in control and boosts our self-esteem, all while getting things accomplished.
4. Stay healthy
Ok so we know that traditionally you’re supposed to be living on cold pizza and kebabs when you’re a student, but waiting healthily will actually benefit you a lot more. No, we’re not asking you to never eat takeout, but we do advise you have a proper meal now and again and consume at least some fruit and vegetables each day.
Yes, it’s boring, we know, but doing so will significantly improve both your physical and mental wellbeing. It will ensure you have the energy you need to go out and have fun and will keep your health on track.
5. Get enough mental rest
While the lure of the late-night bar is very compelling, you still need to get enough sleep. We are by the no means telling you not to drink, as we recognise that for some it's an essential part of freshers. Nights out are a great way to meet people and even those who don't drink will find it a useful icebreaker and surprisingly good way of getting to know people (like who’s the lightweight). However, you do need to find a balance in your life, as you can’t live on no sleep and sleeping through the day will only mean you miss other great chances to meet people.
Vedic meditation is a strong technique to adopt at times like this, being credited for a 42% reduction in sleep disorders and 250% more effective at reducing anxiety than any other technique. It has also been thought to reduce the stress hormone cortisol by 33%.
The process is easy and simply involves silently repeating a personalised sound (mantra) for twenty minutes, twice a day. It can be practised anywhere, which means you can get it done in your room, before going out there and showing your new classmates what a confident and positive person you are.
6. Be the one that helps others
When you're stressed and worried yourself, it might seem like you hardly have the time or the energy to invest in other people. But you can help yourself by making it a priority, as research suggests that helping others helps reduce stress levels.
No matter how nervous you’re feeling, you can guarantee there will be others out there feeling the same. So go over, introduce yourself and invite them for a drink; you’ll be helping them and yourself at the same time.
7. Go easy on yourself
We can be our own worst enemies when we find ourselves in stressful situations, as the voice in our head is often much harsher than anything anyone else would say.
While it’s good to be self-aware, being overly self-critical will only drive those feelings of insecurity. In fact, experts believe that self-criticism can just make us more miserable.
As such, instead of dwelling on your every failing, focus on how and why you value yourself. This shift will help make you stronger, more productive, less stressed, and, yes, happier.
8. Celebrate the yellow
When it comes to decorating your new digs, try harnessing the power of a yellow hue.
Research shows happy people tend to associate their mood with this bright colour, and tend to think of yellow as representative of optimism (possibly because we associate it with the sun).
To incorporate the power of yellow into your life, try adding a bit to your walls or your wardrobe, then walk down the road with a spring in your step. After all, positive behaviours are proven to lead to positive emotions.
9. Move it
Getting out of bed to work out when you’re burning the candle at both ends can be torture – and we’re not saying don’t burn said candle, as that’s all part of the fun!
Just make time elsewhere to be active, as exercise has been proven to release feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids).Even if you don’t want to run (we feel you) try doing something simple, like getting up a little earlier to walk to lectures. That way you’ll always be on time and you’ll start the day in a far more positive way.