Ask Counselling

Counselling and Psychological Services

Stress and anxiety over novel coronavirus

I’m writing this because I suffering a lot since last month. I’m from mainland China. I noticed the news about an unknown virus are spreading. I cannot shut down my internet to seek a moment peace. I began to experience nightmares. Every day I woke up, I worried about the food, water and even the air. I feel unsafe. I start to feel anxious. Then, comes the travel ban, followed with more anxious. The good things is, I’m getting better. I kept myself from the intense news. But I have strong uncertainty about the future, or I may say the real world. I feel unsafe.

Thank you for your question. The situation that you’re in right now is a very stressful one, particularly as there is a lot of uncertainty about what is happening and what will happen in the future.

When experiencing these distressing events, it’s normal for stress levels to continue for a while. Sometimes this includes a sense of being unsafe. Sleep is often affected, as well as the way we feel about the future. Too much exposure to distressing information in the news can also exacerbate the stress response, as this increases our sense of being in danger, even if we are actually safe.

When a stressful event is continuing for a long period of time, the symptoms of stress can often build up. It’s great news that you feel you’re getting better. Limiting exposure to the internet and news can be helpful, as it’s important to be able to have some breaks from receiving distressing information.
It may be helpful to remember that for most people, the effects of stress will continue to reduce with time, and there are some things that you can do that will help you manage this difficult time. Where possible, try to keep to a routine and communicate with supportive friends and family. Engage in activities that you find enjoyable or comforting. Click here to stay up to date on advice from the University on what support and options are available for students who are affected by the travel ban, and click here for some more information on managing stress associated with the Coronavirus (covid-19).

Mental health

How I can I limit my reactions on negative issues, what I don’t like to talk in front of people about it directly, sometime it ruins relations, people also find me rude.

Hello and thank you for your questions. From my understanding, you are asking how you can limit your reaction to negative issues, as you find you don’t like to talk about it with others or that talking about it with others can have a negative impact on your relationship with them. You also may have had the feedback that others find it rude if you talk about it. Sorry you have experienced this.

As I am not sure what the negative issues are or what your reaction is, therefore I will answer the broad question of how to process negative emotions in a healthy way, without impacting on others.

As humans, it is normal for us to feel a whole range of emotions – some we label as negative and others we label as positive. These ‘negative’ emotions often include things such as anger, sadness, boredom, jealousy, frustration or feeling low in mood.

These emotions can produce a ‘negative’ reaction such as being irritable, crying, ruminating (thinking too much) about different situations, feeling unmotivated and low on energy (or sometimes feeling agitated and restless), wanting to isolate yourself from others or pull away from friendships or situations.

There are a lot of healthy ways to help process emotions we label as negative.
– Regular exercise has an important role in our mental health and can make us feel more alert and clear headed, and able to handle the challenges we may face in life
– A balanced diet and making sure we get enough sleep are also important
– Crying is a very healthy response to life’s stressors and frustration. If you feel to cry, allow your tears. You will find you usually feel better after allowing yourself to cry.
– Journal writing helps people to process their emotions
– Writing a letter (without sending it!) can be useful if your frustration is about a situation or directed towards someone in particular
– Thinking about how much the situation will matter in five or ten years can be a good way to gain some perspective and to ask yourself if it is worth reacting negatively
– Although you say you don’t want to talk to others about it, sharing our frustrations with others in a safe and supportive environment can often make them easier for us to deal with
– Talking to a counsellor about your reactions can be another way to help process them

Also make sure to check out the upcoming workshops, as we often run workshops that address ways to improve our wellbeing, manage stress or to communicate more effectively.

Anxious about travel restrictions

I am in China currently and I don’t know when I can get back to Australia. I’m worried about how this will affect my studies and whether I will still be able to graduate on time. I feel extremely anxiety and I could not sleep for more than one week and I feel sadness all day. I don’t know what should I do.

Thank you for asking this question, as you are definitely not alone in experiencing uncertainty and anxiety about this issue. First, it’s important to try to stay up to date on advice from the University of Melbourne. You can do this by going here to get information about what support is available to you, as well as advice that may be specific to your course. Also make sure you are regularly accessing your student portal and ensuring you are reading any updates that may be sent from the University.

Even with this information, it’s normal to experience stress, anxiety and sadness. When situations are uncertain and evolving such as this one, it can be very difficult to manage the anxious thoughts and worries that come up. This anxiety can also have physical symptoms such as disturbed sleep. Where possible, make sure you are communicating with supportive friends or family, try to keep a healthy sleep routine and practice self-care. For some more advice on how to manage stress and anxiety, have a look at the Counselling and Psychological Services website.

Emotion management

I feel I’m too sensitive. 1. I feel I actually don’t have friends. When I talk to them, some of their behaviours and words make me feel they actually don’t care about me. 2. I can easily feel anxious or angry. 3. I have issues in relating to my family. I try to manage my emotions, but sometimes I couldn’t help myself to argue with them. 4. Last semester I failed one of my subject. For nearly one month, I did not want to talk to anyone.

It can be hard to know what is ‘too sensitive’. Sometimes our emotions may seem stronger than we think they ‘should’ be, and sometimes they seem stronger than other people’s, but that doesn’t mean that they are wrong. Strong emotions can also be helpful as they are our brains way of telling us something important.

If you are finding your emotions to be overwhelming, or they are affecting your ability to relate to other people or your studies in a helpful way, then it can be useful to learn some new ways to respond to them. Being able to understand why you feel so strongly about something is important, as is treating yourself and your emotions with self-compassion. Judging your emotions as too strong or yourself as too sensitive will often lead to more distress, whereas responding with compassion and without judgement will make it easier to manage and communicate your emotions and in turn help you take more effective action in your life.

Self-compassion is important as we as human beings are inherently flawed; we are not supposed to be perfect. Self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal shortcomings and can re-focus your attention to ways of improving yourself for next time. A simple self-compassion strategy is to imagine how you would treat a close friend if they disclosed a similar situation to what you have experienced.

There are many useful tools that can help people better understand their emotions without judgement, and to manage those emotions in a healthy and more helpful way. If you’d like to try some other techniques on your own there are several resources you can try, such as mindfulness. However, you may find it easier to learn and practice these techniques with the help of a counsellor. Counselling and Psychological Services provide short term, confidential counselling, as well as well as a range of workshops throughout semester that you may find beneficial.

Maintaining a relationship during exams

Last semester boyfriend and I broke up during the exams over something really small and idiotic. We were both so stressed and tired and put pressure on each other. It all just blew up! We got back together but I’m already really anxious about my studies and fear that I’ll stuff up our relationship in a stupid reactive way. I don’t trust myself to manage this. How do we get through this time?

Yes, managing both a relationship and exams at the same time can seem a difficult combination. However if you support each other well, then the relationship may become even stronger. Here are a few tips;

1. Work with your boyfriend to support each other’s study routines, while communicating how you each like to manager your stress levels. This can help you to figure out whether it’s possible to support each other, while also trying to manage and reduce your own stress levels.

2. Consider whether you might be better off just having some space during exams and then coming back together to celebrate when they’re over. Sometimes it’s hard for two people who are very close to support each other when they’re both going through a hard time. It might be easier to spend time with friends, or someone who isn’t so stressed.

3. Welcome and manage the stress to your advantage. Be aware that in order to give a good academic performance a certain amount of stress can be helpful. However, too much stress will tip you over into being reactive. Read here, here and here for some helpful tips on how to manage stress during this time.

4. Set aside a weekly time to meet and debrief, but have no expectations it will be a fabulous date. Just listen to each other, be supportive, and get regular sleep.

5. Agree ahead of time not to have a deep and meaningful “about the relationship” until one full week after you have both finished exams and handed in every assignment. Get some sleep; recover your sense of humour; get perspective; etc. If you MUST talk about your relationship then consult a close friend or family member first.

Is it worth it all, this studying?

My mother is working very hard to support me. I feel guilty because her business is not going well and she is tired and stressed. I could get a job to help cover my living expenses but it is hard to study and work. I am worried about whether I will be able to get a good job when I graduate, to one day take care of my mother financially. Is it worth it for me to spend so much money to study here?

This is a common and difficult dilemma you face. Many parents make sacrifices to support their children in study and it is understandable that you care about your mother. It sounds like you are juggling many competing demands and seem to be feeling a little overwhelmed by your situation. I wonder if you have tried to discuss your feelings with your mother. Often students don’t want to worry their parents more by sharing the pressure they feel. However, it can be helpful to have an open discussion about this and get her perspective on the situation as well.

It is wise to carefully decide if you can manage paid work as well as study. Sometimes when students take on too much paid work it impacts on their academic work. However, studying part-time may be a good compromise. These sorts of decisions can be difficult to make, so read here for some tips. A good start may to be first consider all of your options, then to list the pros and cons of each. There is usually no perfect option, but considering what your values are can also help to guide you.

The question about whether studying at all is worth all the sacrifices is a difficult one to answer, as it depends on what your priorities are, as well as the pros and cons which may be different for everyone. It may be helpful to do some research into what your options will be after your finish studying, so that you can better answer this question.

Whatever decision you make, it’s natural to worry about the future when we can’t know exactly how things will turn out. Managing worry about the future is a valuable skill that will help you to manage your study as well as your future work life. Mindfulness is a practice that can help here. You can also find some tips on stress management stress management here.

Study is one way of investing in yourself and your future opportunities, but so is taking care of your emotional well-being. You might like to come to Counselling and Psychological Services so you can better understand how to manage your situation and take care of yourself as well.

I’ve fallen in love, now what?

I’ve never had a long-term relationship but over the past week I’ve started hanging out with a guy who I met through my book club. But now it’s a period of anxiety where I’m trying to be my authentic self but also, put my best foot forward and not come off as too strong. How do I not mess it up?

The early part of a relationship where there is both possibility and uncertainty about the future can be exciting and terrifying and wonderful and awful! These feelings are a normal experience whenever you have strong feelings for someone and are to be embraced as unfortunately it’s not possible to ‘skip ahead’. There also isn’t any specific advice I can give you that will ensure you don’t ‘mess it up’. Sometimes things don’t work without it being anyone’s fault, such as when two people just want different things or are not compatible.

Being your authentic self is important, as ultimately if the two of you are honest and open about who you are, what you want, and how you feel, then you will be able to figure out if this is right for both of you. This requires being vulnerable however, which is often very scary. It’s difficult to define what ‘too strong’ means, as this will be different for everyone. If your feelings are stronger than his than that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with how you are coming across, just that the two of you are not in the same place. This is painful, but it’s important not to blame yourself.

You mention that you’ve been hanging out for the past week, which means there is still a lot more for the two of you to discover about each other. Try not to focus just on how you are coming across and what he wants, but also continue to recognize what it is that you need and want in a relationship.

Remember to also ensure you are engaging in other areas of your life that are important to you and who you are. Spending time with good friends, studying hard, looking after yourself and doing things you enjoy will help to increase your resilience and emotional wellbeing during this time. Remember that this period of anxiety doesn’t last forever, try to enjoy the fun parts and look after yourself when it gets tough.


This year has been really tough for me mentally and I experience waves of sadness from time to time. But past few weeks have been worse. My parents came from an environment where mental health discussions are still taboo and my boyfriend is on exchange. I don’t feel comfortable sharing this with my friend because they seemed to be disinterested and dealing with their own stresses. I am feeling so lonely. What should I do?

Thanks for your question, I’m really glad you took the time to post this. University life can certainly come with its challenges and sadness and loneliness can emerge at any time for students for a range of reasons, so you’re not alone. It’s great that you’ve been able to identify a change in your feelings, I wonder if anything has happened to bring about this change?

Loneliness can be a sign that some important emotional needs are not being met, such as feeling a lack of connection with others, and opportunities to share feelings and important experiences with someone.

While it can be difficult opening to others about the challenges we are facing, sharing your experiences with someone you trust can significantly ease the feelings of loneliness. Others may not be able to resolve your problem, but they can offer their presence, emotional validation and support. I know you said your friends seem to be disinterested or dealing with their own stressors, and your boyfriend is on exchange, but I wonder what would happen if you told them how you were feeling? Often, if others are unaware of how we are feeling, they will not know what it is that we need from them.

Of course, at first this can feel uncomfortable or intimidating if we are not used to discussing these kinds of topics, however there are ways to help this. This includes increasing the frequency of contact we have with somebody, sharing an activity or experience together which opens new avenues for conversation, interacting with others in new contexts, and talking about deeper topics and emotions with them instead of superficial topics.

Saneforums is a great place for individuals to discuss any mental health challenges in a safe, supportive and non-judgemental environment. SANE forums are anonymous and free to access and are moderated 24/7 by trained professionals. These forums are also a great way to connect with others, ask questions and seek advice.
• ReachOut have some great suggestions on what to do if you’re feeling lonely.
• UOM has lots of great clubs and societies running across the campus. Getting involved in ones that interest you is a great way to connect with others, make new friends and help regain a sense of connectedness to university life.
• UOM Counselling and Psychological Services run workshops on creating social connections each semester, check out our website for information.
• Or, if you’d like to talk to someone face-to-face about this in a confidential setting, feel free to make an appointment at Counselling and Psychological Services.

How to help my friend with depression?

I have a friend, he is also a Unimelb student. Recently, he is very seldom to talk with anyone because of working on assignment. However, actually this assignment have been already due two weeks! I am so worry about him. I think he can apply a special consideration and contact with university for seeking help.

Thanks for your question, it’s great that you’ve noticed there is an issue with your friend and want to help. Changes in academic performance can be one of the many signs of depression, however this alone does not necessarily mean your friend is suffering from depression. Many students withdraw from friends while they are experiencing stress or a high study load, and an overdue assignment may be due to issues with time management, procrastination, or other practical obstacles. A first step would be to talk to your friend about how he is feeling.

You can start by mentioning why you are worried, then ask if there is an issue you can help with. An example may be “I’ve noticed you haven’t been talking much and your assignment is overdue. Is there anything going on?” If your friend is experiencing depressed moods, there are a number of resources both for him, and for you to help support him.

If your friend meets the criteria for special consideration, he may be able to apply using supporting documentation from a health professional who has prior knowledge of his circumstances. Counselling help is also available for University of Melbourne students at Counselling and Psychological Services.

Speech issues in social settings

Despite feeling like a friendly and reasonably sociable person, when I go to talk to someone new or even someone I know decently well 9/10 times I just turn into a muttering mess who can’t articulate what I want to say. This only really happens in social settings and in professional settings I am usually okay. Even though this has affected me for quite a few years now, in a new place with new people all around me it is especially frustrating.

Thanks for your question. It can feel frustrating when something is getting in the way of you being yourself and forming the friendships you want. The symptoms you describe are commonly associated with social anxiety, so I’m wondering if you are experiencing any anxiety or self-consciousness in these social settings? Social anxiety is a very common experience, and affects everyone to some degree, but in some cases can have a bigger impact on behavior (E.g., some people may avoid social situations altogether or change how they behave and express themselves to attract less attention).

If it’s not happening around people in professional settings, it may be that when an environment is purely social, you are focusing so much on how other people are perceiving you, and the possibility of being perceived in a negative way, that you find it hard to respond to them naturally. The more pressure we feel to act and be perceived in particular way or to make a new friend, the harder it can be!

You can find more about social anxiety here, and get some strategies to manage it here. If you’d like to speak to someone one-on-one to discuss this in more depth, counselling appointments are available at Counselling and Psychological Services, or The University of Melbourne Psychology Clinic.

Number of posts found: 112