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Coping with being a new student; freedom or chaos?

 Written by UKCP psychotherapist Elif Ebeoglu

Coping? What is there to cope with? It’s your first year; maybe even your first week as a university student. Oh the freedom! Everything feels new; new people, new places, new home, new rules………or lack of rules!? The freedom to make up most of the rules, at least. Sounds exciting, it is exciting right? If this is the first time you have lived away from home it can be amazing to answer to yourself alone. To make your own choices; eat what you want, sleep when you want and go out when you want!

But can too much freedom be a bad thing? Surely not!! No, it doesn’t have to be. But it is important to remember that you need time to get used to, and adjust to a new life with new rules. To allow yourself to discover your own boundaries, which will mean over stepping them at times, and isn’t that part of learning and fun? It is…… if you are able to maintain some balance and that is the tricky part, most of us can, but some of may struggle to do this. The important thing is to keep an eye on your own emotional and physical health. Too much freedom can be a bit scary at times; it can spiral into chaos…..and if you don’t listen to your own thoughts and feelings, you can end up in a place that can feel quite confusing and isolating.

So keep an eye on yourself; have fun and create the direction of your new life. But if you notice that you, or anyone around you seems to be frightened, lost or confused, you can offer a word of support and refer them to places that can help. It’s not easy to admit that you are finding the transition hard, that it is a bit too much. Too many options can make you feel like you want to hide or your not coping.

Check the following with yourself, regularly:

  1. How am I feeling at the moment? Do I feel any difficult feelings?
  2. Am I experiencing any feelings suck as low mood, worry, anxiety, fear or panic?
  3. Am I struggling with making friends?
  4. Do I feel comfortable with the people that I am spending time with?
  5. Am I doing things that I want to do/try, or am I doing things because I feel others want me to.
  6. How do I really feel about my friends and the activities that I am doing?
  7. Am I going to all of my classes? I may miss one or two for certain reasons; but am I going to the majority of them?
  8. Do I feel I understand my course well enough? Am I enjoying it?
  9. Am I happy in the place that I am living?
  10. Do I feel comfortable with undertaking my daily life/chores?
  11. Am I forgetting to eat, eating well, or keeping clean?
  12. Am I getting enough sleep?
  13. How much am I drinking (alcohol)?
  14. Am I doing any recreational drugs and are these causing me any negative side effects?
  15. Have I lost or put on any weight?

If, when you answer any of these questions you feel worried that an area of your life (or you notice a friend may be struggling) is going from exploration and freedom to confusion or chaos, you can talk to someone about it. The most important thing is to feel like you are learning, growing and having fun….but also looking after yourself and those around you.


For help at university please contact:

  • Student Support Services
  • University GP and Counselling Service
  • Family and Friends
  • Samaritans is free to talk about anything on 116123 or email them on jo@samaritans.org
  • Go to b-eat.co.uk about food and information about eating disorders.
  • The Mix, contact 0808 808 4994 regarding a number of issues related to drugs, alcohol and sex.
  • Talk to Frank on 0300 123660about drugs and alcohol.
  • Visit brook.org.uk regarding sexual health matters.