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Difficult subject at uni

Hi all! Thought I'd use the collective brains of RO to figure out a solution to a dilemma that I'm having at the moment.

 

I'm taking a Physiology subject at uni this semester that is all about functions of the organs of the human body and how they interact, and the consequences if something goes wrong with them. Unfortunately the subject matter is a major anxiety trigger for me and I had a lot of difficulty with the subject the last time I attempted it (I ended up having to drop out as I was too anxious to go to class). Whilst my anxiety is much more under control now than the last time I attempted it, I'm still very nervous about it (I started to feel anxious just reading the lecture notes) and I'm trying to figure out how best to tackle it.

 

I was initially going to not attend the lecture and just watch it online in my own time but my psychologist thinks that this isn't a good idea, and having listened to her reasoning I tend to agree. However I also don't want to have a panic attack in the middle of the lecture because that's not exactly going to help my anxiety either. I would drop the subject if it was possible but unfortunately it is required for my degree... There is a disability office at uni that you can talk to if you're having difficulties with your subjects due to a medical/ psychological condition so I thought that might be an option? I'm unsure what they can do for me though. Has anyone else had to tackle a difficult subject at school or uni before? What did you do about it/ what strategies did you use? Does any have any ideas on ways I could manage my anxiety in class?

Re: Difficult subject at uni

I'm taking a mental health unit right now as part of my occupational therapy degree so I can relate to having a unit that is quite difficult due to personal reasons.

Have you talked to your psychologist about ways to manage your anxiety in lectures and doing the work and stuff? Maybe you and your psych can come up with some strategies and possible solutions?

Even though you're not sure what Disability Services can do for you, it may be worth it to go see them anyway. After all, they may have something to offer and if not, you don't have much to lose anyway by going.

Re: Difficult subject at uni

Hi! I too experience anxiety about university subjects that I find overwhelming, however not yet to the extent that you have.

I think it would be worthwhile visiting any offices and support services at uni that you can, because you won't know until you have tried, there is nothing to lose (you can discontinue seeing them whenever you like), and the people have gotten jobs there for the purpose of supporting students in your position. They want to help you!

 

Some practical advice I would give about getting into the content of a difficult unit is to look at other ways or learning it and to reframe how you imagine the workload. It's possible at the moment (and I could be wrong, this is just how I think sometimes and I know it makes me feel anxious) that you are imagining it as a HUGE chunk of new information and a huge difficult essay and a confusing exam. I find I feel a lot better when I concentrate on what is most important to get done first, I would put the exam material away and get out all of the essay (or whatever your first assessment piece is) instruction sheets and read through it with a relaxed and open mind, thinking about ways to complete this assignment, and not thinking about the other assessments that are due after.

 

I find it really hard to learn and remember information like areas of the body (similar to what you are doing at the moment) from a text book. When learning the areas of the brain I bought myself some different coloured play dough and made a (very rough, I'm not artistic at all) model of the brain and once I'd made that area, said out loud to myself its name and function. I repeated this a few times a day for the few weeks leading up to my exam. You could do something like buying a cheap toy doll and a white board marker and labelling the areas of the body and saying out loud its functions or the diseases associated with it. Then wiping it off and repeating it later. It will probably make you feel silly, but I know I would remember that more than reading and rereading and rereading a textbook!

 

This might not be completely relevant to you, but it's some different options for you to try anyway Smiley Happy

Re: Difficult subject at uni


@FindingHope wrote:
I'm taking a mental health unit right now as part of my occupational therapy degree so I can relate to having a unit that is quite difficult due to personal reasons.

Have you talked to your psychologist about ways to manage your anxiety in lectures and doing the work and stuff? Maybe you and your psych can come up with some strategies and possible solutions?

Even though you're not sure what Disability Services can do for you, it may be worth it to go see them anyway. After all, they may have something to offer and if not, you don't have much to lose anyway by going.

Hi FindingHope, thanks for your reply.

 

I have to do a MH unit for my OT degree next year too which I'm a little nervous about, so will be interesting to see how that pans out. I hope that it works out alright for you Smiley Happy

 

The idea of coming up with some strategies with my psych is a really good idea, thanks for that. I'll be sure to mention it the next time I see her. At the moment I feel like she's thinking that it will be easier this time because I have my anxiety better under control, which I'm sure is true, but I'm still nervous about it and it would be great to have some strategies in place.

 

That's a good point re: disability to services too. I won't know whether they can help unless I ask. I think I'll gave them a call tomorrow to make an appointment.

Re: Difficult subject at uni


@cm1234 wrote:

Hi! I too experience anxiety about university subjects that I find overwhelming, however not yet to the extent that you have.

I think it would be worthwhile visiting any offices and support services at uni that you can, because you won't know until you have tried, there is nothing to lose (you can discontinue seeing them whenever you like), and the people have gotten jobs there for the purpose of supporting students in your position. They want to help you!

 

Some practical advice I would give about getting into the content of a difficult unit is to look at other ways or learning it and to reframe how you imagine the workload. It's possible at the moment (and I could be wrong, this is just how I think sometimes and I know it makes me feel anxious) that you are imagining it as a HUGE chunk of new information and a huge difficult essay and a confusing exam. I find I feel a lot better when I concentrate on what is most important to get done first, I would put the exam material away and get out all of the essay (or whatever your first assessment piece is) instruction sheets and read through it with a relaxed and open mind, thinking about ways to complete this assignment, and not thinking about the other assessments that are due after.

 

I find it really hard to learn and remember information like areas of the body (similar to what you are doing at the moment) from a text book. When learning the areas of the brain I bought myself some different coloured play dough and made a (very rough, I'm not artistic at all) model of the brain and once I'd made that area, said out loud to myself its name and function. I repeated this a few times a day for the few weeks leading up to my exam. You could do something like buying a cheap toy doll and a white board marker and labelling the areas of the body and saying out loud its functions or the diseases associated with it. Then wiping it off and repeating it later. It will probably make you feel silly, but I know I would remember that more than reading and rereading and rereading a textbook!

 

This might not be completely relevant to you, but it's some different options for you to try anyway Smiley Happy


Hi cm1234, thanks for your reply Smiley Happy

 

Having read yours and FindingHope's posts I think I will contact someone. Even if they aren't quite sure how to help me they should be able to direct me to someone who can.

 

I like your point about compartmentalising the workload. I have been rushing ahead in my mind a bit and worrying about assessments that are weeks away, so focusing on what I need to get done each week/ day at a time will probably help me to cut that down. I hadn't even thought about that affecting my anxiety so thanks!

 

Finding some different ways of studying is a good idea too. Doing different things will probably keep me a bit more engaged. When I get anxious about my study I tend to just stress out and close the book and not go back to it if I'm reading the text. Trying different study techniques would probably help to limit that which would be good. I love play dough Smiley Tongue I'll have to see whether I can fit that in somewhere... Will have to try and track down a doll too.

 

Thanks for all your ideas! They've given me a lot of food for thought.

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Re: Difficult subject at uni

@delicatedreamer My advice would be to try to acknowledge your personal feelings about the material but try to de-personalise it and think about approaching it the same way you'd approach learning maths equations. Also try to focus more on learning about how the body parts work and develop a curiosity around that rather than focusing on what happens when things don't work normally. If you feel yourself being triggered at any point, remember that you can walk out of your lecture/ lab for a few minutes. Letting your lecturer/ tutor know may also be worthwhile if you are struggling with certain things. Hope it all works out for you!

Re: Difficult subject at uni

Hi JustThatGirl, thanks for your reply. Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you!

 

Depersonalising the material is a good idea, thanks for that. Will definitely give it a go. I hadn't thought about balancing my focus, that will probably help me a lot as I do tend to have selective attention and go straight to focusing on the negative details, which makes my anxiety worse. Looking at the topic in a more balanced way will probaby really help to reduce that. I have been taking time out when I've needed it, it really does help Smiley Happy. I haven't spoken to my tutor as yet (she is also the lecturer conveniently) but I am keeping it in mind. I'll see how I go.

Re: Difficult subject at uni

Anyone good at English Studies want to help me? Smiley Happy

 

Inspire All Smiley Happy

Re: Difficult subject at uni

Every single one of my units this semester at uni have material that I find either triggering or too close to home. There has been some really good advice already posted on here, and I can completely relate.

 

If you can I would recommend going to the disability office and discussing it with them. Even if they can't help you they might be able to direct you to others/resources that can.

Re: Difficult subject at uni

Hey all,

 

this thread has been really helpful! I have had some anxiety problems in the past which made going to uni really difficult. I had a friend who came to a couple of lectures with me a few times which helped to distract me from the panicky thoughts that were running through my head.

 

Or sometimes I would bring my ipod to lectures so if need be, i could just put my head phones in and tune out for a bit.  Then, after I'd been to the lecture a couple of times without having a panic attack or the world ending (or whatever scenario my anxiety had me convinced would happen), I realised that I could actually do it and that I had just been letting my anxious thoughts defeat me.

 

And although these things are always easier said than done, I think that we underestimate ourselves a lot of the time and we often can manage to deal with far more than we let ourselves believe we are capable of.