SOAS University of London

Student Advice and Wellbeing

Information about Anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the feeling of being very worried, fearful or tense, particularly about things we think might happen in the future. It's normal to feel anxious at times of high pressure, and everyone will feel anxious at some point in their life. University can be a particularly challenging time: you might be living away from home for the first time, adjusting to life in the UK or making new friends in a new city. You aren't alone!

What does anxiety feel like?

Different people experience anxiety in different ways, and this will depend on outside factors as well as individual responses to stress. The Mind website has a useful section on the types of thoughts and feelings that come from anxiety available on this page.

How does anxiety affect us?

When we feel anxious, our bodies release hormones which can help us feel more alert and ready to react to danger. This is useful if we're running away from a threat but not so useful if we're trying to sit an exam. The physiological effects vary from person to person, but commonly you might experience:

  • Feeling nauseous or having butterflies in your stomach
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual aches and pains
  • Increased or irregular heartbeat
  • An upset stomach or digestive problems
  • Panic attacks
  • Restlessness, problems sleeping and increased irritability

If you have these symptoms for more than two weeks, it's recommended that you see a GP to rule out any other health issues.

Anxiety can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health, so if you are concerned about feeling anxious please seek support from a GP, or from Student Advice and Wellbeing's counselling or mental health services.