stressed student with books

Results day was likely a mixed bag of excitement and uncertainty, for both students and parents. If you were able to secure a place at uni, you’ve possibly left home with your laptop, your shiny new kettle and high hopes for your chosen course. It’s exciting but perhaps also a bit daunting, this prospect of three years in an unfamiliar habitat, with so many new people. You’ll have essays, tutorials, money and meals to manage, work deadlines to weigh against life’s new freedoms…getting a degree is a lot to grapple with.

Going to university can induce stress and anxiety for many students, let alone those who are going during Coronavirus uncertainty. Here, we outline our tips for managing stress and anxiety about going to university.



1. Keep on top of your work


You’ll be learning a hell of a lot about yourself and the person you want to be in this first year. Try not to let life studies get in the way of the academic work you signed up for. Although many of us do it, starting the week’s essay at 3am on deadline day is not really a good feeling. ‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started’ as Mark Twain wrote. Try to read and research throughout the week: get essential work done first to enjoy the fun stuff afterwards.

Break your academic work down into manageable chunks, set SMART targets and give yourself regular breaks. If you are struggling to focus, take a few minutes away from the work. When you return to it try to think about what you maybe able to accomplish, for example read a few pages of a document and after each paragraph write a summary of what you have just read, if you can’t recall what you have read, read it again.

Try to frame your thoughts and goals for your work into definite statements ‘I am going to spend an hour working on this assignment’ rather than ‘I should do all this work’.


2. Focus on building strong friendships


Try to make decent friends, acquaintances to have fun with are also great but over time try to find the ones you’ll want to share a house with for the next two years. Are these people you can trust and live alongside? Have they got your back rather than talking behind it? Appraise them by the standards of your old friends back home – whom you’ll want to try to keep in touch with as well.

If you’re struggling to make friends, look for others with things in common with you, they maybe on the same course, have the same taste in clothes, enjoy gaming or tend to be quiet. Commonalities give you that initial talking point.

Arm yourself with a unique selling point:  a signature dish or cocktail, a vintage turntable or even a bottle opener may break the ice. 


3. Try not to let relationships get in the way                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Student love life can get quite intense. Try to bear in mind that, important as your relationship seems, it may not necessarily outlast your studies. Or it maybe that a relationship from home has broken down because of distance. Try not to let a relationship ending take you down and break your spirit as well as your heart. If you are grieving a relationship, talk to friends, they will likely understand and support you.

If you need someone to talk to outside of your friend and family circle, our krysallis online therapists are here to listen, contact us here. If you’re struggling to cope and need 24 hour help, please contact Samaritans.


4. There is financial support available to you


Be aware that at some stage you may run out of money. Don’t be afraid to tell your parents if they could help or speak to student services. Consider a part-time job if your timetable allows. If you are struggling financially, there are many support avenues available to you, speak to your university for advice and they can point you in the right direction. Most students go through financial hardship at some stage whether it’s something they discuss or not, speaking to someone may help reduce stress about your finances. 


3. Realise that everyone else is nervous too


There’s always people who appear mega confident and give the impression they are going to get a first without breaking sweat. Don’t fall for their façade or feel intimidated: they are probably just better than you at hiding their insecurity.   

Graduate J recalls his fresher feelings: ‘I was terrified as well as excited. I thought I’d totally need to reinvent myself to fit in. Then it hit me: every one of these people was in the same boat as me. We’d all left the lives we knew and we were all facing this new chapter together. That was a very calming thought.’ 

Remember that you are unique, but that we all often share the same thoughts and feelings particularly in new environments. We can predict that this new chapter will be awful, or we can balance that with a more balanced and questioning prediction, it maybe awful but it maybe wonderful, perhaps it will be okay. We can assume we will not make friends or be unable to do the work, we are not fortune tellers, we do not know the future, again balance that thought, I may or may not make friends or be able to do the work. Look for evidence that goes against these negative predictions, for example, I have friends or I have succeeded so far academically, GCSEs, A-Levels; I have predicted negative outcomes before and this has not come true.

For more advice specific to students, visit:


6. Practice self care


Make your room a feel-good space. If you’ve had a rubbish day, going back to a complete mess will do nothing for your mood. If your personal environment is important to you, try to keep your room calm, tidy and clean, fill it with things that make you feel at home, photos, cushions, whatever you prefer. Take time for self-care, it is so important, reading a novel, listening to music, having a laugh with friends, practising relaxation, eating something nutritious…..


7. If you’re overwhelmed, don’t suffer in silence


Deal wisely with any disillusion. Maybe uni doesn’t feel all it was cracked up to be, especially if, in these COVID times, a fair part of it is online learning and your social life is restricted. The workload might feel too great, maybe you’re overwhelmed by unfamiliarity, struggling to self-motivate or with the strangeness of being away from home for the first time. Identify someone you can trust to confide your feelings in, either at uni or at home.

Remember that all universities have counsellors who can offer confidential, non-judgemental support to you. What you most need is reassurance that although this is difficult, loads of students feel this way and it will likely pass. You’re normal. Give it time.

If you are feeling that you cannot cope and are having thoughts of harming yourself or taking your life, please tell someone, a friend, a family member, a student counsellor, your GP, the Samaritans. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger please call 999.

Download the Stay Alive app here:

Contact Papyrus for 24/7 support:

If you think a fellow student is struggling with their mental wellbeing, please talk to them, ask them how they are, support them and encourage them to seek professional support.


Advice for parents


Parent M describes feeling lost, lonely and bereft, “I didn’t know who to be, even though I work full time my main role had been as a mother to my daughters for so many years, I missed being needed, I missed their company, even their arguments. It took a while for me to adjust and to realise they still needed me and adapt to a new way of being. I love their visits home, but over time I also learnt to enjoy the peace and quiet of my own company and space”.

If you are a parent or guardian of someone leaving home to go to uni, you may be struggling too. Even in more normal, pandemic free times, this can be a very difficult time for you. You may be torn between being pleased for them and worrying about how they will manage and whether they will be safe. You might be feeling really lost and low, whether it is because your nest is empty or that you just miss them dreadfully. This is a big transition in your life too and it is okay to consider how you feel and what support you may need. Please don’t feel you are alone, there are many people feeling exactly the same. Talk to friends, access helplines, seek therapy, whatever you need to support you.

Call Samaritans:

At krysallis offer a range of counselling services for young adults and parents who may be struggling to cope with this transition in their lives. If you are feeling low, stressed or anxious, please reach out to us. Our services are available across Yorkshire or online. Contact us here.


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