When I approached the Students’ Health Service to seek help with my study-related anxiety, night-time panic attacks and insomnia, I was really not sure what to expect. Although I knew they would have heard it all before, I did not anticipate such swift and effective support. Dr Grant, who I was able to see within a couple of hours of my panicked phone call, suggested a number of helpful options including referring me to a colleague in the Centre for Sports, Exercise and Health who introduced me to a range of approaches, including neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). In just an hour Matt Edwards had taught me a simple method of recalling a desired mental state: in my case, a state of calm and focused concentration on the task at hand. I had never attempted anything like this before, largely due to a deep suspicion of such techniques. I like to think of myself as a ‘rational’ person, not usually drawn to ‘alternative’ medicines or therapies. I felt nervous and a bit silly, but prepared to give it a try. In a private and comfortable office I explained that I was hoping address study-related anxiety and improve my concentration and focus. To my relief this was all the detail I had to give: this was not a counselling session! Matt outlined a range of approaches and we agreed to try a certain NLP technique. He told me to close my eyes and imagine a situation when I had felt calm, focused and in control: the mental state I wanted to be able to recall. He then talked me through a process of cementing in my mind what I could see, hear and feel in this situation. This took about ten minutes or so, but after imagining and magnifying that feeling in my mind’s eye, I felt that I really could return to it any time. Matt explained that in NLP this process is often accompanied by associating this mental state with a physical ‘anchor’: for me, this became a single word. Now, when I say that word to myself, I am able to recall that feeling of being calm and in control. I have used it several times since in class presentations and at home, particularly in the evenings, when my workload seems too much.

Apparently NLP is about being able to visualise what you want to achieve, and then re-create it for yourself by placing yourself mentally in that situation. I am being honest when I say I can’t believe it works, but it really does. I really would recommend anyone else at the end of their academic tether to give it a go – it can’t hurt, and if you believe in it even a little bit, it works wonders.

For a discussion about a referral to Matt Edwards book an appointment with a GP at Students’ Health Service.