Reducing Anxiety

Many students will experience some form of anxiety or panic during their time at university. Anxiety is likely to peak when you are beginning new classes, have assignments due, are preparing for exams or are involved with placements or field work. It is likely to ease off as you get to know other students, understand expectations and finish tasks.

We want to help you understand anxiety, manage these fluctuations and find some strategies to offset anxiety’s effects.

Recognising anxiety

Anxiety can show up in a number of different ways. Signs of anxiety might include:

  • feelings of irritability and/or uneasiness
  • heart palpitations
  • muscle tension and pain
  • nausea
  • shallow breathing
  • dizziness
  • muscular tremors
  • repetitious thoughts
  • excessive perspiration
  • change in sleep or eating patterns

Sometimes students experiencing very high levels of anxiety may be diagnosed by a medical practitioner as having an anxiety disorder. If you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and it is affecting your study, contact Campus Central to talk with a Disability Advisor.

Working through anxiety

Anxiety can impact your studies. Experiencing even mild anxiety can make it hard to concentrate on a range of tasks - including reading, writing and listening. Anxiety can stop you from thinking clearly, and physical symptoms can be restrictive.

The effects of anxiety on your studies will probably fluctuate. Sometimes you may have difficulty maintaining motivation while at other times you will be focused and productive. Certain activities might be particularly challenging, such as placements, practicums or presentations.

It is helpful to take proactive steps to increase your chances of success at university.

  • read your course outlines and then reread them to find out the 'what', 'when', 'how' of each assessment task
  • think about forming a study group with other students
  • check with your tutors about assessment criteria well before due dates
  • ask questions during lectures, workshops, tutorials or laboratory times
  • check out our strategies for managing stress
  • plan, organise and manage your time
  • consider participating in a relevant university workshop

What else can I do?

Students who have experienced anxiety have identified a number of strategies which have helped them to complete their studies successfully.

Build self-knowledge

You can limit the effects of anxiety by learning more about yourself and discovering how anxiety impacts on your life. You can do this by researching anxiety and its effects, and by keeping a diary or a daily running sheet for a period of time to see what patterns emerge.

Most students discover through self-monitoring that they have both high and low times. If this is the case you can plan to make effective use of the high times and be accepting of reduced productivity during the low times.

Set realistic goals

Sometimes anxiety and panic might get in the way of a study program. If that happens you may not be able to complete all your work on time and may need to negotiate extensions for assignments, enrol in a lighter course load or take longer to complete your degree. Generally, reaching a goal is more important than how fast you get there.

Develop your personal skills

Some personal skills are particularly helpful in navigating study (and life!) and will minimise anxiety and its effects. It will take time and practice, but some skills to give attention to are:

  • developing relationships with other students
  • maintaining motivation despite setbacks
  • viewing anxiety as only a small part of your life
  • working on your time management and planning skills
  • focusing on the positive

Students who experience anxiety often describe how difficult it is for them to feel positive about themselves. Feeling depressed is sometimes a side effect of anxiety, so it is important for you to find ways to create a positive environment. You can begin to do this by:

  • recognising your achievements and those of others
  • making a list of affirmations, reading them and carrying them as a reminder
  • asking some good friends to add their ideas to the list of affirmations
  • celebrating achievements and rewarding yourself
  • getting help, including from UniSA’s free counselling service

Take a slow breath

Try this simple slow breathing exercise three or more times daily to help reduce anxiety or panic.

  • hold your breath and count to five
  • at the count of five breathe out and say the word 'relax' to yourself in a calm manner
  • start breathing in through your nose and out slowly through your mouth in six second cycles, breathing in for 3 seconds and out for three seconds
  • continue breathing in six second cycles for 5 minutes while thinking "in, two, three, relax, two, three"

Learn some mindfulness exercises


Need further assistance?

Contact Campus Central

Your one-stop-shop for student services. UniSA general enquiries: 1300 301 703.