Questions and answers about your health and wellbeing

Depression

Question: I don’t feel like myself right now. I don’t have the energy to study as much as before and I feel like I’m falling behind. Sometimes I don’t feel like getting out of bed and nothing feels fun or meaningful anymore. I start crying for no reason and I don’t want to hang out with my friends as much as I did before.

The Student Health Service’s answer: From what you describe, it sounds like you are feeling low at the moment. Has anything in particular happened? Have you gone through a separation or has it been more stressful lately? Or is there something on your mind that is making you feel down? What you have described can potentially be a reaction to an event or experience that is affecting you more than you expected. You may need to take a step back and evaluate whether you have a balance between the various aspects in your life.

However, if you have been feeling low for a longer period of time, perhaps even for months, you could be going through a depression.  Are you having problems sleeping? Are you finding it difficult to concentrate? Do you find yourself reading the same sentence over and over again without remembering what you have read? Are you crying a lot and feeling like you want to withdraw from life for a while? These are all signs of depression, and if you are feeling like this, you may need some help to get better.

Depression can be very treatable, though the treatment can vary. Often talking to a counsellor or therapist can be very effective and can help you to evaluate your circumstances. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a recommended form of treatment and can often be effective in combination with some form of medication. If your depression is severe, you may need to be prescribed antidepressants by your doctor. From our experience, those in your situation often start to recover and feel better after a few weeks of treatment. It is important that you your situation seriously and seek help. A first step could be to contact the Student Health Service and book an appointment with one of our counsellors. Depression is a common problem, one that you are not alone in experiencing.

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Alcohol consumption

Question:  I think that I drink too much. I often get very drunk and feel hungover and anxious the next day, which makes it hard for me to study. When I start drinking, I find it difficult to stop. What should I do?

The Student Health Service’s answer: Excessive drinking affects your health as well as academic performance – it’s good that you have become aware of this issue. During their time at university, many students find that their drinking increases. If, as you mention, you have difficulty controlling your drinking, or if your drinking habits are negatively affecting your studies, it can be a sign of a drinking problem. The sooner you start taking control of your alcohol consumption the better. It may be an idea to plan how you are going to handle your drinking, before you even start. For example, you could decide that every other drink will be water, soft drink or other non-alcoholic alternative. Alternatively you could decide that you will drink everything at a slower pace, that you will stop drinking after a certain time or that you will not drink on an empty stomach. If these tips do not make a difference, you may need some help with your drinking. We are able to help you assess your alcohol consumption and teach you how to drink responsibly. 

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Social anxiety

Question: I have noticed that I have become more and more anxious and find it hard to relax when I am with others – even if it is friends and family. I find that it is so bad that I have started to avoid social situations.

The Student Health Service’s answer: Shyness and social anxiety can be a part of an individual’s personality and is completely normal. Anxiety that is strongly associated with social situations and which limits our ability to function in aspects of daily life is known as social anxiety or social phobia. Those who suffer from social anxiety or phobia often have a fear of being judged by others or of doing or saying something that will be humiliating or embarrassing. This could mean that you are afraid of making a telephone call that you need to make or that you avoid asking questions in class. It can also mean that you isolate yourself from groups that you want to be a part of. You tend to avoid social situations and this increases your social anxiety even more. Fear and avoidance behaviours, such as avoiding eye contact and always sitting close to an exit, begin to dominate daily life. Such behaviour solves the immediate issues, but in the long term it means they actually worsen.

If your social anxiety is severe, ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen? What does it mean and what other feelings are you having? Is there any other way that you can look at the situation? Can you make any small changes to the situation? Remember it is good to make small changes – not big ones – so that it is possible to get closer to what you are anxious about. By doing so, it can help the discomfort to subside. When you are in a social situation, what other feelings do you experience? Do you feel happy, angry or interested? When you feel like all the focus is on you, work on accepting your shyness and instead shift the focus on to others by asking questions, for example. Challenge yourself a little bit each day so that you expose yourself to situations that you would otherwise avoid.

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Anxiety

Question: Help – I think I’m having a panic attack! I’m having heart palpitations and feeling short of breath. I’m so scared!

The Student Health Service’s answer: If your heart is racing, if you are having difficulty breathing, if you are sweating, experiencing tunnel vision and feeling dizzy, it is likely you are having a panic attack. It is a natural reaction, completely harmless, but nonetheless incredibly unpleasant. It is your body’s natural response to a perceived threat. Anxiety is our body’s way of defending us from a threat – whether the threat is perceived or real. Whilst in the midst of a panic attack it is difficult for us to understand why our body reacts as it does, in a way that makes us afraid. This reaction is often automatic and against our will. It is often mot possible to control our reactions and therefore we become afraid of it happening again.

In reality, during a panic attack our body reacts exactly as it should, yet the threat actually exists only in our minds. The perceived threat could be an increase in anxiety, fear of embarrassing ourselves or feel of losing control. In such situations we come in contact with a negative self-image.

Prolonged periods of stress and high demands leads your body to produce higher levels of adrenaline and other hormones. As a result, you are more prone to having panic attacks. Your panic attacks are signalling that something is wrong, that life need to slow down or something needs to change.

If you are experiencing an increases in anxiety during your studies, it can quickly become debilitating and natural to want to avoid or postpone what is making you feel anxious. As a result you may skip lectures, avoid spending time with friends, procrastinating or simply distancing yourself from your studies. By avoiding such situations you may end up starting to fall behind in your studies or have difficulty completing your thesis, which only increases your anxiety in the long run.

If you feel recognise yourself in this situation, you may need some help understanding what is happening and how to overcome your anxiety. You are welcome to contact the Student Health Service. If you are aware that you are about to have a panic attack, remind yourself that anxiety is a normal response, happening in the wrong situation. Keep in mind that it is not harmful. Rather, focus on what is happening in your body, even if it is unpleasant, and concentrate on letting the feeling pass. Due to the way the nervous system is designed, after a while the reaction ends.

Try out relaxation techniques, mindfulness and yoga as ways of combating anxiety and improving the balance between the various aspects of your life.

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Sleep, health and lifestyle

Question: I’m having difficulty sleeping. My thoughts keep going round and round in my head and I constantly twist and turn in bed. I fall asleep very late and am exhausted the next day. My concentration has worsened and I am worried that I will miss exams and this makes everything worse. I feel depressed and nothing is fun anymore. I have tried different tricks to get to sleep, but they just don’t help! What should I do?

The Student Health Service’s answer: Not getting enough sleep one or two nights a week isn’t dangerous, as we make up for the lack of sleep on the other nights, regardless of when you fall asleep. Are you currently in a stressful period right now? Is there anything that is particularly worrying you or are you partying more than you should? Having difficulty sleeping can also be a part of being depressed too, so it is important that you clarify the cause. Sleep problems are very common, something that almost everyone experiences at some point.

If stress is the cause, you should find out the reason to your stress. Are you falling behind in your studies, or do you feel like you are struggling to keep up? Are you doing fun things outside of your studies, or have you changed your habits recently? These can all have an effect on your sleep. Alcohol, coffee, tea and energy drinks can all have a negative impact on your quality of sleep. Irregular habits, Facebook, training and studying late into the night can affect how you fall asleep, as well as the quality of your sleep.

If you have had problems with your sleep for a longer period of time, ie more than a week, combined with other issues, it may be a sign of depression. You may start crying for no reason, have difficulty getting up in the morning, feel apathetic, and have negative feelings about yourself, for example. You may have stopped socialising, exercising or going to classes. If this is the case, you should ask for help to find what the right support and treatment you may need. This could be in the form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), stress management, or by changing your alcohol habits or medicine.

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Choice of education

Question: How do I know whether I have chosen the right programme for me? Everyone else seems to know but I have just no idea. How do I know what is “right” for me? I don’t know what suits me…

The Student Health Service’s answer: First of all, there is no “right” programme, there are only different programmes that may suit you better than others. The future labour market will require people who have different experiences in life. Chance and contacts plays a role, no matter your plan in life. Often things work out differently to how you expect them to, and you can always change direction or supplement and acquire knowledge in other ways at a later date.

You can receive support from the university to figure out what areas of study are closest to your interests, qualities, competence and values, so that you can find what feels right for you. The Student Health Service can also help you to work on your self-knowledge. The Study and Career Counsellors can help you with your study and career choices.

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Homesickness and loneliness

Question: I have always felt quite secure, but since moving away from home and starting university, I have started to feel lost and unsure. I feel lonely and what should be exciting and fun now feels difficult and anxiety-ridden. I even feel homesick. What has happened to me?

The Student Health Service’s answer: Sometimes the adversities and difficulties we face are harder to handle than usual. Everything is new and it can be hard to tackle what is happening. It sounds like you are having difficulty adjusting to university life and to this new environment. Since change is not always easy to cope with, it is completely natural that you feel this way. It is a very common reaction to what is a big transition in your life. You may have difficulty recognising yourself and your surroundings, something that can be described as an identity crisis. You may ask yourself, who am I in this new situation?

You may ask yourself: What happened? How can I understand this? What will I do now? How do I proceed? These questions are very normal and it may help to speak to someone about your situation. You can either speak to us at the Student Health Service or to a friend or family member.

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