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Coping with change

Coping with changeChange can be overwhelming, even when it is positive. Find out how to handle it and where you can get support if you need it.

Understanding change

Change is something that everybody experiences, and even a positive change can be difficult. Starting university involves many different changes: you may have to adjust to living somewhere new, meeting new people, working in a different way an many other things all at the same time. Even if you are looking forward to these things, they can be overwhelming.

Understanding and preparing for how these changes might affect you can help you to cope. They may leave you feeling lonely or thinking that you don't know what to do. It's important to understand that this is a normal way to feel, and you shouldn't give up because of it.

This is especially important if you start to settle in and then feel like you are moving backwards. This can seem like a sign that you will never be able to fully adjust to change, but it's actually very common. In fact, research has found that many students feel this way. It's so common that it's been given a name: the 'W-curve'.

None of these situations will necessarily match up perfectly to your experience of change. But whatever you are feeling, you won't be alone.

Tips for dealing with change

Talking to others

Talking to other people about the way you feel can be very valuable. It may help you to understand why you feel the way you do, work out ways to cope, or put worries in perspective.

You may not feel comfortable talking to other students about how you are feeling, especially when you first arrive. This doesn't mean you are on your own: there are lots of other people you can talk to, including services you can speak to confidentially and anonymously.

Most universities also offer free counselling to their students, which are confidential. You should be able to find out more about this by looking on the university's website, or by contacting the student services department.

You don't have to talk to someone face-to-face to get support. You can also find support online or over the phone. Many universities have a Nightline. This is a phone number you can call at night if you need somebody to talk to, when other services may be closed and friends or family may be asleep. Nightlines are confidential and anonymous, so you don't even have to give your name, and there is often an often to chat online instead of calling.

Taking time out

Although getting involved with societies and activities will help you to make friends and find your university community, you don't need to be the life and soul of the party. It's important to have time to yourself, especially when you are dealing with lots of new changes and people.

Think about some of the things you find relaxing or comforting, whether it's reading, your favourite feel good movie/TV show or music. If you're very busy, it's easy not to give yourself time to do these things, so set aside some time every day that you will spend on yourself.

Surfing the tides of change

Just like changes can be scary even if you're looking forward to them, they can be exciting even if you're worried about them. Be open to experiencing different things at university: you may find your new passion.

The people you meet in your first week may not always become your main friendship group at university; be open to new activities and experiences and find people that are supportive and make you feel positive.

Being patient with yourself

Be patient with yourself. Don't panic or beat yourself up if you don't find your circle in the first week. Sometimes strong and worthwhile relationships can take a little longer to build.

Likewise if you are finding the new style of lectures or living independently difficult remember that these are big changes and there will always be an adjustment period. Give yourself a break and know it's OK to ask for help if you need it. Speak to friends, people on your course or even your course tutor.

Remember the positives

Before you go to university, make a list of all the reasons you are going to university and doing the course you have chosen. These could be about what you are studying, the career you want, or new experiences you are excited about. You'll be able to use this to motivate you when you do feel overwhelmed or like giving up.

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