How to deal with anxiety at university

Some people refer to their university years as the happiest years of their life. But for many young people, that is not the case. Do you worry about money, getting an internship, dealing with a relationship or simply feeling lonely? Are you nervous about your dissertation deadline or worried you’ll blush when a lecturer asks you a question in front of a packed lecture theatre? These are all widespread worries that many young people face while at university, and you are by no means alone. Thankfully, some help is available through savvy diet changes and food supplements. Here are some simple, natural ways to help you manage and reduce your anxiety.

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What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a very natural feeling of worry or apprehension. It is part of our natural ‘fight or flight’ to help us deal with any threats we might encounter. It only becomes a problem if it begins to affect our daily life. Symptoms of anxiety vary between people but emotionally you could feel irritable, detached, panicky and filled with dread. Physically you might feel dizzy, nauseous, breathless, sweaty, have heart palpitations, wobbly legs, problems sleeping and in more severe cases panic attacks.

Why do I feel anxious?

Anxiety is a very common emotion. According to the UK charity, the Mental Health Foundation, young people are more likely to feel anxious than any other age group. Research carried out in 2023 revealed that 80 per cent of UK adults aged 18-24 years said that “anxiety actively interfered with their day-to-day life to some extent.”

For many youngsters at university, it is the first time they have lived away from home, having to make new friends and live independently. And the world is constantly bombarding them with global uncertainty, social pressure and much more. But also young people today are amazingly good at recognising and articulating how they feel.

What can you do to manage your anxiety?

There are many positive things you can do to manage your anxiety which can really help you feel better and cope better with your worries.

  • Have a healthy diet – eat food which is rich in protein such a poultry, meat, fish, seafood, eggs, cheese, yoghurt, tofu and pulses. Also aim to eat lots of fruit and vegetables and less refined sugar and ultra-processed food. Aim to keep processed food, like those cheeky kebabs or pizzas on the way home from the pub, to below 20 per cent of your weekly diet.
  • Eat GABA rich foods – GABA is a brain chemical or neurotransmitter that keeps us calm and relaxed. It can be found in live yoghurt, kefir, oats, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, berries, broccoli, chamomile tea and black/green tea.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation – I know it is university, but alcohol can really fuel anxiety, leading to poor sleep and sometimes a feeling of paranoia. Start to enjoy calmer, hangover free days when you cut back or quit.
  • Avoid drugs – stimulant drugs can make you feel depressed, anxious and paranoid. Cannabis use is also known to increase anxiety and has links to depression and psychosis.
  • Practise mindfulness – and take plenty of time away from a screen. Try plugging your phone in away from your bed, to allow your mind to switch off. A good tip to start your day is when you wake up, lie still and listen to five natural things before reaching for your phone.
  • Start journalling – journalling is becoming increasingly popular in helping to manage stress. Write down your targets and objectives, along with those things you feel grateful for. It encourages us to sit, reflect and record how we are feeling.
  • Take regular exercise – especially during busy times when you have spent hours studying hard in the library. Exercise is known to reduce stress and anxiety, and getting fresh air and enjoying our natural surroundings has a positive effect on our mental health.
  • Try to get enough sleep – we all feel better when we have had a good night’s sleep. Try to have a calm bedtime routine to unwind, without being drawn back to that unfinished essay on your laptop!
  • Keep communicating – it is ok to feel anxious and worried, but a problem shared really is a problem halved. Keep talking to friends or family as they can really help put your worries into perspective and come up with a plan to help you.

Here are some natural remedies to help manage your anxiety:

  • Vitamin D is especially important in the winter when it is dark and grey and is why we feel cheerier in the sunny summer. People with anxiety and depression are often found to be low in vitamin D. It can be found in oily fish, shellfish, beef liver, eggs, organic dairy products, grass-fed meat, mushrooms and some fortified foods such as plant-based milks. However, there is often a limited availability of vitamin D through foods and sun, so it is important to find a good quality vitamin D supplement.
  • Magnesium is an essential mineral that is important for good health and helps to encourage better quality sleep. It helps to calm the nerves, especially when prone to panic attacks or neurosis such as irritability and being overly self-conscious. Some of the best sources of magnesium include spinach, kale, avocados, dark chocolate, brown rice, quinoa and oats. Nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are all high in magnesium. Some types of seafood, like salmon and mackerel, are also good sources of magnesium. Alternatively, you can take a magnesium supplement.
  • Theanine is an amino acid present in green tea and black tea, which is rich in the calming neurotransmitter called GABA. Scientific studies have demonstrated that theanine can affect brain function by reducing symptoms of stress, enhancing mood and promoting healthy sleep patterns. It promotes calmness and helps take away that jittery feeling. If you are avoiding caffeine or are not a tea drinker, then a theanine supplement may be helpful to promote the calm GABA feeling.
  • Inositol, also known as myoinositol, is a B vitamin which supports the serotonin pathways and is a great mood and hormone balancer, particularly helpful when there is high anxiety, OCD thoughts or hormonal mood swings. Inositol can be found in fruits, beans, grains and nuts such as almonds, peanuts, walnuts and cashews. You can also take an inositol supplement. Please do not take inositol alongside antidepressant medication known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Saffron (crocus sativus) is a gorgeous deep russet-coloured spice that may help with stress, low mood and anxiety. It helps modulate adrenal response to day-to-day challenges and there is some evidence it helps with focus and concentration for people with scattered minds. Studies have shown saffron helps both anxiety and depression and works on helping rebalance an overly active fight or flight response. Add saffron to delicious Spanish or Southeast Asian recipes such as paella and curries or take it as a saffron supplement.


Anxiety is a very normal feeling that we all experience, but it can become an issue if it interferes with your day-to-day life, especially when it is bearing on your enjoyment of university. Habits you introduce now as a youngster are likely to be very formative for your future, so taking positive and natural steps to manage your anxiety can make a real difference to you in both the short and longer term.

I hope my recommendations help you but if you need further support for your mental health, please get in touch with our clinical team for a one-to-one consultation.

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