Find Your Anchor


Written by Aisha Qadoos a current NTU Philosophy student

It began when I was 16. This debilitating sadness and feeling of despair. Not leaving my room for weeks on end. Wanting it to end. Wanting the numbness to subside. Severing ties with people because friendships were exhausting. No longer enjoying the things I called my hobbies. Studying was a chore that bore little fruit. Sad but numb. Angry but numb. Pained but numb. Forgetting the happier days that passed and the happier days that were sure to come. This continued for 2 years.
On first arrival to university, I was not nervous or anxious; I was excited. I was ready for the changes. I was starting to remember what it was like to feel happy, to look forward to events, to eagerly anticipate what the future held. I enjoyed learning in lectures, I enjoyed debating issues in seminars, I even enjoyed writing essays (controversial, I know). University became the clean break I needed to get me to restart my life with a positive focus.
But it wasn’t long before everything came crashing down once more. I was lonely, lectures and seminars were wearisome, and I wasn’t doing as well as I’d hoped. I was no longer enjoying my experience at university. Probably typical student concerns, but with fragile mental being, ordinary problems become amplified. The desire to drop out was overwhelming.
3 years later, I graduated with a first class honours degree and have embarked on a research master’s degree. I won’t lie and tell you it was easy because it wasn’t. I won’t tell you I enjoyed it from start to finish because I didn’t. There was many lows, but just as many, or even more highs. And the only way I got through it was by having what I like to call an ‘anchor to life’.
An anchor to life is something or someone that gives you reason to be, it’s the things or people that make you happy, they take away your stress, when you’re with these people or doing these things you don’t have to think about your responsibilities. For me, my anchor was my niece. Spending time with my niece gave me considerable joy and, for the few hours a day we spent together, it meant I didn’t have to think about the stress of grades or the looming deadlines for assignments I hadn’t started. It is just pure joy that arises from doing what you love or being with whom you love and living in the moment; being wholly present.
Your anchor can be absolutely anything that gives you joy. It can be anything from knitting to mountain climbing. For a long time, drawing and reading removed me from the reality of everyday life and took me to a place where I didn’t have to think about myself, or how I was feeling, or the anxieties I had. What’s more, your anchor doesn’t just remove you from your problems while you’re engaging in them. You are sure to feel much better after the occasion.
Find the thing or the person that gives you pleasure and allow yourself the time off from university to engage with them. Remember to make time for you, to do what you enjoy for the sake of doing it, to stay in touch with the people that lighten your day. And, remember, nothing is more important than you, than looking after yourself. Put yourself first.

For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.
Personal Pastoral Support at NTU (general worries and anxiety, homesickness, loneliness, a relationship breakup, or a bereavement)
Support from NTU
Silvercloud: SilverCloud is our online system designed to help with a range of mental health issues.
Depression advice
Wellness in Mind: Advice and support for anyone in Nottingham experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing
Struggling at Uni? Go to Student Minds
10 Keys to happiness

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