A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Anxiety can affect any of us, with some studies suggesting that 1 in 5 students experience anxiety during their studies. Moving abroad to a new environment can exacerbate these feelings, as well as the pressures of student life. Here I’ll discuss some of the main things to look out for, as well as some resources to help deal with anxiety.
Anxiety can take many different forms, from fear over presenting, persistent procrastination and avoidance of tasks, to a constant belief that you’re not as good/clever/important as your peers (imposter syndrome). It can manifest as increasingly “reckless” behaviour- increased alcohol or drug use, smoking, abnormal risk taking, or increasingly “controlling” behaviour, such as excessive control over food, exercise, or grades.
This is only a beginning step, but it’s important to know that you’re not alone, and that there are resources to help you. Anxiety is a broad spectrum and no matter where you fall on it, you deserve help and support.
As difficult as it can be, try reaching out to your friends or family. If attending lectures is difficult, arrange to meet a friend before hand and go together (this also works well for social events), practice a presentation or study together. Reaching out is not weakness, and you may find you’re not alone struggling with these feelings.
Leiden University offers several services that may help you, primarily student psychologists. Talking through your concerns is incredibly important and the team focus on finding practical solutions to help you cope day to day. They are specialists in student issues, and are friendly and accessible. The International student advisor may also be able to help, especially if you feel your anxiety is linked to financial or other practical matters.
Speaking with your academic supervisor (or another lecturer or professor you feel close to) can also help, finding ways to manage your workload and support you in your studies.
Therapy and support can also be found online, such as Betterhelp, which offers online sessions with fully licensed therapists specialising in a variety of issues. This can be an excellent way to fit therapy around your schedule and find a therapist who really suits you.
Another option is Headspace, which offers guided meditation, which can help to clear your mind and develop a routine of taking care of your mental health.
Speaking to your doctor can also be incredibly helpful, with them able to refer you to a therapist, or consider medication options. While the concept of taking medication for anxiety can be scary, if it’s an issue that’s affecting your wellbeing for a prolonged period they can be incredibly helpful. It is normally suggested to combine them with therapy or additional support, though your doctor will have more advice on this topic.
Hopefully these suggestions will help get you on the road to feeling better and managing your anxiety. If you have a good resource that you find helpful, please share it in the comments!