How to tell if your uni blues are more than just stress

May 17, 2016
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It’s incredibly common for uni students to find themselves overpowered with mid-semester stress. The assignments are piling up, exams are just around the corner and you’ve had to neglect your social life in order to get things done, making you feel seriously overwhelmed.

Now when you do start experiencing these sorts of emotions, its important you don’t just write it off as “normal” uni stress. Because yes, while sometimes it will pass, other times it will be a much more serious issue and choosing to ignore it only makes it worse.

So here are some signs to help make clear whether those uni blues you’re experiencing are actually something more serious.

You find yourself mentally shutting off when at uni

Cognitive Behaviour Therapist Claudia Prothero states one of the main symptoms of depression or anxiety is a difficulty in concentration and memory. 

“Students often get into the vicious cycle of being worried about exams and trying to overwork,” says Dr Prothero. “Their concentration and memory then reduces due to stress and you study ineffectively for long periods.

“Three hours effective study a day combined with exercise and time with friends is much better than seven hours not really being able to concentrate and not much being retained.”

So if you find yourself mentally shutting off while at uni and can’t seem to concentrate no matter how hard you try, this could be an early warning sign there is a bigger issue at hand.

Finishing an assignment doesn’t give you any sense of accomplishment

Usually, no matter how much stress you are under when doing an assignment, the minute you complete it you feel a sense of accomplishment, and that weight you had is gone.

But if you find yourself not having any sort of happiness with a completed assignment, if you don’t even care that you’re now one step closer to finishing the semester, it might not just be stress, but a sign you’ve started to withdraw from your studies.

Depression and anxiety usually start in a very gradual way so we don't notice that we are changing and not seeming ourselves.

Dr Prothero suggests speaking to someone at your university who could provide you with some guidance regarding this issue.

“[Your tutors] are very used to dealing with students who may be stressed, anxious or depressed. They are often able to relieve the pressure by helping to plan a study timetable or extend a deadline.”

 You’re starting to withdraw from your friends and family

Dr Prothero and author of Made it Thru the Rain Beverley Jones, who has had her own experiences with depression and anxiety, both highlight that shutting yourself off from those closest to you is definitely not a good sign.

“Depression and anxiety usually start in a very gradual way so we don't notice that we are changing and not seeming ourselves,” says Dr Prothero.

This means that those around you will begin to notice your lack of interest before you will. Keeping a close-knit group to support you can ensure there’s someone there for you when times get tough.

You have no motivation to do anything

One of the main symptoms of depression and anxiety as stated by Dr Prothero is a change in eating and sleeping patterns. However, this can be difficult to notice as it is common for uni students to already have irregular sleeping and eating patterns.

That’s when you need to start looking for other symptoms which Prothero says includes shaking, increased heart rate, lack of interest in sex, sweating, negative thinking or being distracted by constant worrying.

Dr Prothero does note that these symptoms may be noticeable at several different points in your life, especially during the uni exam period.

“An indication that there may be a problem that needs treating is if these symptoms are so severe they interfere with your life, or persist for longer than a couple of weeks even at a mild level.”

You have no passion for your degree, and can’t see a future once you graduate

Starting to lose the passion you once had for your studies and future career is a sure sign the stress will follow you past the current semester.

If you end up questioning the point of the degree is, it may be because you need to make some serious changes. It’s at this point you should consider speaking to a professional.

“Many universities have good psychologists, counselors or CBT Therapists on campus to help support students with problems,” says Dr Prothero.

If you find your symptoms aren’t going away and are only getting worse, it’s time to seek professional help.

Natalie Cupac

Natalie is a Journalism and International Studies student currently working for The Business Woman Media, with previous experience working for Pacific Magazines.

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