By on September 10th, 2020


Student life can be stressful at the best of times. The shift from home life to university life might be something you’ve never experienced before, and whilst it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous about this important stage in your life, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming!

As part of our new series of virtual events for Downing Students, we welcomed GP, TedX speaker and mental health expert Dr Dominique Thompson to our Instagram livestream, to answer your questions and give words of advice on how to manage stress and anxiety as you embark on your university career.

Here’s a roundup of the best bits, just in case you missed it:

1. Reframe the way you look at stress and anxiety

When facing potential stress, the way we view it can either exacerbate or minimise our feelings of stress and anxiety. We all need a small amount of stress in our lives, a release of adrenaline that we need to do well in exams and assessments, but we don’t want excess adrenaline overwhelming us and manifesting as anxiety. On a practical level, doing things like exercising – just a few star jumps or dancing around your bedroom – to get rid of some of that excess adrenaline can be really helpful in managing it, but even just using different language to describe stress changes our outlook. Instead of: “I am anxious about my new lecture”, try saying “I am excited about it”. Replacing your thoughts with more positive ones may seem strange at first, but over time you will find an improvement on stress management which allows you to get on and enjoy your entire university experience.

2. Be Friendly

It sounds obvious, but be friendly with everyone. Everyone is in the same boat and are bound to be nervous to make friends and enjoy their experience, and simple actions, like smiling, lets people know straight away you are a nice person. It is also wise to have a couple of questions up your sleeve to ask people: what subjects are you doing? Where did you live before coming to uni? Have you found out who your tutor is? Keep them broad and neutral – asking about things like exam results can seem quite testing and could put people’s backs up.

3. Try new things

If you’re interested in amateur dramatics then absolutely sign up for the drama club, it’ll be something you’re confident with and you are likely to meet like-minded people. However, university is an opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, with a whole host of interests and hobbies, and but only sticking to what you know, you’re limiting the amount, and what kind, of people you are going to interact with. Get involved with something you’ve never tried before, and you might click with people you’d have never otherwise met.

4. Make use of the university’s support networks

There will be a hub, a wellbeing officer, or a GP’s practice attached to your university that you can utilise if you are struggling. Remember that they are there to help you, and over the years have seen it all in terms of student mental health. This goes hand in hand with your academic support from your lecturer or course leader. One thing you’re not, is alone.

5. Check in with your flat/house mates

Being a good flatmate and getting along with the people you live with is so important for your peace of mind. There are obvious tips like not eating anyone else’s food, or not going into their room without permission, but it’s also nice for you to check in with your flatmates. Ask them how their day was, or if they’ve found any nice places to eat. They will most likely be going through exactly the same sorts of emotions as you, so make sure to be tolerant, be thoughtful and considerate. Effective and open communication will save you in the long term from having to have difficult conversations.

6. Look after yourself

It’s the advice everyone gives, but it is so important to eat well, stay hydrated and get a good amount of sleep. These are key in giving us more energy to achieve our goals, more pride in what we do, reducing stress and enabling us to manage our emotions better. Don’t fall into the trap of relying on alcohol and drugs to manage stress, they will cause long-term damage for a fraction of the effectiveness self-care brings.

7. Remember: you deserve to be there

Imposter syndrome is a term used to describe a sense of unworthiness, even though your grades might be good or you might be getting good feedback from your tutors. It is a common feeling, and often manifests itself within students taking their first steps on the university ladder, however you can’t allow it to run your life. Be kind to yourself – if you didn’t deserve to be there, you wouldn’t be.

Get Involved

Thank you to everyone who joined in on our live stream, and congratulations to the winner of one of the award winning Dr Dominique Thompson’s books!

For the 2020/21 academic year, we will be broadcasting live events every Tuesday and Thursday across our Instagram account.

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