Stay Calm & Carry On – How to Cope with Anxiety at University

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Going to uni is a great opportunity; lots of new experiences, new people to meet, new places to explore. But there’s a lot of pressure to have ‘the time of your life’. How many times has a relative said to you ‘Oh you’ll have a brilliant time!’ or told you how lucky you are? Often, young people can feel like they have to be having ALL of the fun, ALL of the time, but it’s perfectly normal to not feel these things.

Here’s our quick guide to why uni anxiety is normal, and what you can do about it.


  • Away from home – getting used to being self–reliant and living without family support can be a big adjustment and make you homesick.
  • New social life – you’re suddenly trying to find your way in a whole new social circle, with different dynamics.
  • Money – the cost-of-living crisis can be particularly challenging for students; apart from the day-to-day financial strain of having to pay for food/bills/books etc., there’s also the added worry about future debts.
  • Workload – deadlines, exams, coursework – these need to be balanced with part–time jobs and a new social life.


  • You’re irritable.
  • You feel anxious.
  • You’re not looking forward to things or enjoying things like you used to.

You might also experience the following:

  • Sleep problems – either not being able to sleep or wanting to sleep all the time.
  • Nail biting, picking at skin etc.
  • An upset stomach.
  • Restlessness; for example, tapping your fingers, fidgeting etc.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Shortness of breath.
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  • Breathe! When you’re anxious your body can go into fight or flight mode and your heart rate increases. Breathing exercises are simple but effective and you can do them anywhere and nobody will know; for example, try the 4-7-8 method (breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7, breathe out for 8 seconds, although the number of seconds doesn’t really matter).
  • Look after your physical health – at the start of term when you have so much going on it can be easy to forget to look after yourself; things like getting enough sleep, eating well, staying hydrated and avoiding drugs (this includes caffeine and alcohol which can both have a negative effect on your anxiety levels).
  • Exercise – you don’t have to hit the gym or knock out a 10k before lectures; sometimes activities that raise your heart rate can raise cortisol levels and mimic an anxiety attack, but a yoga session, or a walk can really help.
  • Be mindful – stay present and observe and acknowledge your feelings.
  • Journal – writing your thoughts down can help you process them.
  • Be around people who make you feel good. It’s ok to say no to things!
  • Take time to relax – whether that’s watching something on Netflix, reading a book, napping, making time for a hobby, it’s good to switch off and do something just for you.
  • Plan – if your workload is adding to your stress then try making a schedule, or try to get out of bad habits, for example, there are things you can do to help stop procrastination at uni.
  • Be kind to yourself – talk to yourself like you would to a friend who was feeling anxious or stressed.
  • Remember it will pass!


  • You’re struggling to function
  • You’ve tried everything and nothing’s helping
  • It’s affecting your life and uni work


There are plenty of resources on the NHS for advice on self-care and mental health. Student Services at your uni can offer a range of support too, including free counselling; there should be information on your uni website.

Other services include Student Minds, Student Space and Nightline.

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  • Let them know it’s normal to find it hard.
  • Remind them that you’re there for them – text them regularly and let them know you don’t expect them to reply immediately. A care package can be a good way of showing your support.
  • Help them feel prepared – maybe give them advice on how to budget for uni, look at societies with them, course material etc.
  • Remind them about self-care.
  • Encourage them to get support if uni work pressure is building; whether that’s by talking to a tutor, or applying for an extension.

Heading off to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people is always going to feel overwhelming, whatever your age, but the main thing to remember is you’re not on your own.

The more prepared you are, the easier the transition so read our tips on making friends at uni, and find out the 5 life hacks that could make student life easier.

Making sure you feel safe at uni helps too, and you might want to think about protecting your belongings with student insurance, it could cost you as little as £2 a month*. It’s not often high up on the list of priorities, but it does give the peace of mind of knowing that if anything were to happen, you’d have something in place to minimise the stress. Take a look at the website; you can choose the policy that suits you and nab yourself a 30% discount while you’re there.

*Lunar Monthly premium based on £2,000 of contents, living in a hall of residence. The average premium our customers paid in 2023 was £5.71 per Lunar Month, with an average £2,487 sum insured.

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