Student Life

Dealing with Social Anxiety

Social anxiety can make going to school a challenge, so here are some ways to cope.

Mar 21, 2016

School is tough. Getting in—and staying in—post-secondary school can be difficult as well. But for some of us, that’s not even the most stressful part about the whole process. For some of us, it’s the people that make it hard to go to school. I’m not talking about bullying (which is definitely not tolerated at any post-secondary institution), I’m talking about social anxiety.

Social anxiety is a disorder in which a person has an excessive or unreasonable fear of social situations; it usually manifests as intense nervousness, self-consciousness, and a fear of being watched, judged, or criticized by others.

Social anxiety has plagued me for years. Simple things can be a challenge for me, like walking onto the bus—suddenly I feel like everyone’s looking at me, my heart is racing, and oh my god is it hot in here? Why am I sweating? I just need to CALM DOWN.

It’s never quite that easy, is it?

I skipped my entire first week of classes when I started at MacEwan University. During that time, it really hit me that attending post-secondary was the start of a whole new life, with all sorts of new challenges as well as new people—a lot of new people.

It was simply too much to handle, so I hid. It was a dumb move, but anxiety doesn’t know the difference between smart and dumb. It just is.

Tips for dealing with social anxiety

I’ve done of lot of work to manage my social anxiety but it still affects my day-to-day life. Here are a few things I tell myself when I’m becoming anxious—maybe you’ll find these tips helpful too.

1. No one cares as much as you do

What I mean by this is that, in reality, people don’t care about your clothes, or how tired you look, and no one is wondering what’s up with you. It’s all in your head, you’re working yourself up because you’re nervous. Relax, no one is staring at you.

2. Crowds bring anonymity

This is actually something that brings comfort to me. Crowds make me anxious but I just think about their perspective. I’m just another face in the crowd, and I can fade into that comfortably.

3. It’s your world too

You don’t need to step on eggshells when you’re at school, it’s a place for everybody. Not just for the confident kids, or the cool kids, or whatever the cliques are nowadays. It’s for all people, and unless you’re an alien or something, that includes you too.

4. Breathe

At some point you may have to speak in front of your class, or during a group project, and it’s going to be tough. I know the feeling, heck I get sweaty hands just answering a question in class because I’m so nervous. If you can feel yourself getting worked up, just take a breath.

How I got comfortable with public speaking

Some of my tips might sound lame and cheesy, I know, but they work for me. As a Learning Clicks Ambassador I regularly present in front of large groups of people. It’s taken a lot of work on my part to be able to do this job, but these days I just think about what I have to do, take a breath, and then jump right in.

You might be surprised to discover that someone who deals with social anxiety would choose a job that puts them in front of people. It’s funny though, it’s like I sort of become another person.

I tell myself that I’m not afraid of talking in front of large groups, because I’m the most confident version of me you’re ever going to meet. I’m the guy who doesn’t sweat talking to people, I’m the guy who loves talking to people!

Social anxiety is really tough to deal with, and making the transition to post-secondary might feel impossible at times. But I’m living, breathing proof that it’s totally possible. I hope my strategies for dealing with my social anxiety can help some of you who may be in the same boat.

Don’t let social anxiety hold you back. Don’t be afraid to be afraid. Attending post-secondary is an amazing experience, and the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself to overcome your fears.

Kelsey

Communication Studies
MacEwan University

I moved to Edmonton for school which is kinda funny because I used to be terrible in school, to the point where I dropped out.

Check out Kelsey's profile »»