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08 January 2021

Worried about going back to online university?

Christine, one of our Shout Clinicians, shares her tips for coping with the pressures of studying and university assignments.

Getting back into a studying mindset can bring up a mix of emotions, especially amidst a backdrop of change, uncertainty and further restrictions. The fresh start of a new term can bring a sense of renewal yet, it can also bring up feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. There are some strategies you can use if you’re experiencing unwanted feelings about the new year and new term. Before we get into the strategies, think back over the last term and last year. Take a moment to reflect on and celebrate the resilience you’ve shown, despite what 2020 has thrown at you.


Show gratitude to yourself and keep monitoring your progress.

Here are some things you can do to manage anxious thoughts and feelings about going back to start a new year at university:

Set the right conditions

If we jump straight back in without setting up the right conditions, we create the perfect environment for anxiety to flourish. Create calmness and space by slowing down and setting up the optimal conditions first. Remind yourself that big goals and the future can feel overwhelming, that’s normal and okay.

Take some time to think about the type of conditions you thrive in:

  • Do you need a quiet place to study?
  • Would regular professional support to talk through challenges help you feel calmer?
  • Do you need to declutter your room?
  • Do you need to exercise before you begin coursework?
  • Do you need to take a day alone to relax before online classes start?

Remember that everyone’s ideal conditions are different, so what might work for your best friend might not be the same for you. Be intentional about setting up the right conditions before you dive back in and you’ll notice things feel less overwhelming when you start with this step. Progress.

Break it down

Big goals can feel overwhelming and hard to achieve, so start by trying to break goals or assignments down into smaller, manageable chunks.

Think about what needs to happen today to reach that goal or complete your assignment and then what needs to happen this week to reach the goal, this month, this year.

You can keep your focus on what needs to happen in the weeks and months ahead, but keep your focus on working towards what you need to do today, in that moment.

If your goal is, "to attend all my online classes without missing any because of my depression..." trying to never feel depressed again is going to be too overwhelming for anyone. Instead, start small:

  • Can you come up with one coping strategy today that you can try like making a playlist?
  • Can you look up your local NHS or university's counselling centre and read a little about it?
  • Maybe that playlist turns into being able to go on a run then exercising every morning before class for a week.

Little by little, you are chipping away at your goal and making progress.


Take a moment to reflect on and celebrate the resilience you’ve shown, despite what 2020 has thrown at you.

Take a moment to reflect Christine quote

Ground Yourself

To counteract stress, we can use grounding techniques. Grounding techniques are scientifically proven ways to bring your thoughts back to reality. They work even in our most distressing moments. These coping strategies help reconnect you with the present. They have the power to bring you out of a distressing emotion like stress or anxiety. They help separate you from the distress of your emotional state or situation.

Here’s one of our favourite grounding techniques you can try anytime anywhere when you feel a wave of anxiety or unwanted feelings come up:

  • Take a deep breath and think about 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can taste, and 1 thing you can touch. This will bring you back to the present moment. Keep repeating this exercise until you feel some relief.

It is key to take time to pause and reward yourself for all the resilience you’ve shown up to this point. Take time to stop, reflect, and check in. Show gratitude to yourself and keep monitoring your progress. Repeat the strategies outlined here if you ever feel off track or overwhelmed.

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