"Get in a small group and discuss your results", "present this as a group", "work together as a group to work out the answers"... the type of phrases that make my anxiety go crazy in an academic environment. Everyone claims that group work is so vital in order to progress in life and in your own personal development but, I beg to differ.


Honestly, I think that forcing group work upon students can do more harm than good. There's very little consideration for those of us who would really rather just get on with the work independently rather than having their anxiety consume every second of the situation. What might seem like not a big deal to some can be the breaking point for others and I just don't think that this is ok. 

For the majority of my life, I've tried to get out of group work whenever I can because, to be frank, the stress that it causes me is just not worth it. However, as I've entered second year, group work has become somewhat of a vital part of my course and really, I've just had to get on with it. I wish I could say here that I've had a revelation and now I can cope with collaborative projects but you know I'm going to tell the truth. It's sent my mental health spiraling down. 

It makes me feel sick, panicked and constantly shaky. I panic that I'm not contributing enough when I know this is irrational because I do work hard and I feel scared to speak up in a group in fear that I'm annoying people. My paranoia makes me believe that the group of people I'm working with absolutely despise me, think I'm weird, different - yknow, the usual. This is not their fault. I'm just really anxious and I'm not feeling very ok about this whole thing. This isn't me saying that this is the result of other people because it's really not, this is my mind and I just can't get away from it. 

However, I have somehow managed to get myself through the first couple of weeks of group work - it hasn't been easy at all but I'd like to share some tips on how I stop myself from having a full on meltdown at University when asked to work in a group. I really hope that these tips can help at least one person because I am just fully aware of how draining this can be...

1. Don't put pressure on yourself to be someone you're not

Easier said than done, right? In situations where my anxiety consumes me entirely, I tend to bring out the other side of my personality; the one where I seem confident but I know people can see right through it. Honestly, it's so draining too. I'm not a confident person and I'm just trying to tell myself that's ok. I'm under enough pressure with the workload, I shouldn't make myself feel worse about who I am. 

2. Use a group chat to share your thoughts if you're nervous to speak up in face to face discussions

Personally, I find it really difficult to speak up in face to face group discussions. I always feel as though people are not really interested in what I have to say and sometimes, I just struggle to get my opinion across. However, I still have an opinion and it's important to share that. Using a group chat with the group that you are working with means that you could discuss your thoughts over messages so you are still saying what you want to say, without so much anxiety. 

3. Don't force yourself to do things you're not comfortable with

At the end of the day, you and your mental health are the things you need to focus on. If you don't want to speak in a presentation or be the main point of communication between your group and a lecturer, let people know. Suggest that you do something else. I plan on doing a whole other blog post on my anxiety regarding presentations so I'm not going to focus on that too much right now but ultimately, you need to do what's best for you and you shouldn't feel as though you have to do something that you don't feel comfortable with. 

What are your top tips for dealing with group work? Let me know!