College is a sociable experience. You socialize in the dorm, dining hall, classroom, sports events, concerts, etc. More importantly, one’s college experience is determined by the strength of his or her social skills, which can be stressful for some, specifically for people who have social anxiety.
Social anxiety is anxiety triggered by social situations that mainly involve interacting with other people. The interaction isn’t always with new people, and it doesn’t particularly mean that the person with social anxiety is shy. A person with social anxiety is simply nervous about how he or she is perceived in a social situation while focusing on the negative.
Keeping this all in mind, here are some tips to help get through the social part of college:
Make “Me” Time A Priority
It’s important to go out and socialize with people (familiar and unfamiliar) at the bar/parties or school events, but it’s also important to take time for one self and relax. You could re-watch a favorite from your childhood, read a book, take a long hot shower, or color in a coloring book. You can really do whatever you want as long as it relaxes you. It truly helps to keep a person, specifically a person with social anxiety, sane when he or she takes a step back from the social aspect of college every once in awhile or when need be.
It’s difficult to keep track and manage all the social events, classes, assignments, club meetings, etc. This can be overwhelming for someone, like me, who has social anxiety. That is why I highly suggest investing in a good planner. It’s a great way to organize your day-to-day life to ensure that you don’t miss anything, which has become a fear of mine after being embarrassed about not having a research paper done in the eighth grade.
Be Prepared For Classes
Class discussions and I have always had a love-hate relationship. I find class discussions to be great and insightful, but the idea of me speaking up in class discussions scares the hell out of me. That’s why I have found that it helps to come extra prepared for class discussions with questions or comments and to always have my assignments and readings done. This allows me to walk into the classroom with a bit of confidence rather than feeling scared about what could go wrong.
It’s sometimes difficult to make friends when you first get to college because you are constantly meeting new people. It can be a little overwhelming and might cause someone with social anxiety to shy back a bit. Joining clubs is the perfect way to meet and socialize with people whom you possibly have someone in common with. Clubs and groups also help to narrow down the pool of people making it not as overwhelming.
Give Yourself Plenty Of Time To Get Places
One time, I didn’t go to class because I was going to have to walk in late, which was horrifying for myself. I see countless classmates show up late to class all the time, but I could personally never do it myself due to my fear of being judged by the other classmates and teacher. This is why I allow myself plenty of time to get to class or club meetings so I can avoid that uncomfortable situation.
Figure Out Your Triggers
It’s important to have an understanding of what triggers your social anxiety. That way you can either get yourself out of that particular social situation before it gets worse or use the tricks you have up your sleeve to try and calm yourself down. Whatever you choose to do, knowing your triggers allows you to have a bit more control of the social situation at hand.
Don’t Be Scared To Put Yourself Out There
Even though it might be easier to take one self out of a social situation that makes him or her uncomfortable, it’s good for a person with social anxiety to do things that might make him or her uncomfortable. College is about discovering yourself, and the best way to do that is to try new things. I’m not saying you should be taking dangerous risks or forcing yourself to be uncomfortable. I’m saying that a little risk now and then may be a good thing.
Evaluate Your Living Situation
In college, your living situation isn’t always ideal to how you would prefer to live or what would be helpful for you and your social anxiety. For me, I need my own space. I struggled having roommates my freshmen and sophomore year, and when I got a single room junior year, it made a world of difference. However, if you’re unable to have a single, there are still ways to modify the room to your liking. Decorate your walls with positive quotes, pictures of friends and family, or have an old stuffed animal on your bed that calms you. You could also loft your bed to make the space underneath your own- a place you can go to when you are feeling particularly anxious and do what you need to do to feel better. If you gave this a shot and discover you need a single, sometimes housing will allow it with proof of medical condition or illness, which is great! So, don’t be scared to explore that option as well if need be.
Don’t Go Crazy!
Sometimes people feel like they have to drink to have fun or because it’s college and that’s what college kids do. This is not the case though. I spent my entire freshmen and sophomore year going to parties and bars sober simply because I didn’t like the taste of alcohol at the time, and I had a perfectly great time. Therefore, you should partake in activities such as drinking and drugs that you are comfortable with. That being said, people especially with social anxiety shouldn’t use alcohol or drugs as an escape from their anxiety. It’s the easiest way to get addicted and at the end of the day it will make whatever situation you are trying to avoid worse.
Find A Support Group
A lot of colleges and universities have a mental health division incorporated with the health services that they provide for their students, and some might even offer support groups that you, a person with social anxiety, can partake in. These support groups are great because they show that you are not the only one on campus struggling with a mental illness, or struggling in general. I have personally have never joined a support group for my mental illness at my college, but I have heard from friends that go to different colleges and universities that it can really make a difference.