How to cope with Social Anxiety at University
Before I offer any advice or coping strategies, it is important to know that one in four people suffer from a mental illness. This means that it is highly likely for you or someone you know to be struggling with anxiety. If you feel that you do not have social anxiety but there is someone you know that does, then I suggest that you research it and try to understand or sympathise with how others may be feeling. For those of you who feel you may suffer from social anxiety, it is essential for you to talk to either a GP or a counsellor. Yet, if symptoms persist or you haven’t been given the answer you were looking for, then always seek a second or even third opinion.
Starting at University can be one of the most stressful times of your life, especially if you are living away from home, because it is something you have never experienced before. For those who are dealing with social anxiety it may feel like your worst nightmare, however, it is vital that you never let this take over your life. There are three steps to remember when trying to cope with anxiety: firstly learn to challenge unhelpful thoughts such as “I’m not good enough” or “they will think I’m weird” and replace those with calming thoughts like “everything is going to be okay”; secondly reduce the focus of worrying about what others may think of you during social interactions, and instead focus on what others are discussing and how you could contribute; then lastly refrain from using avoidance behaviours when confronted with a difficult situation and actually attempt to gradually tackle your fears.
The most important step in this new chapter of your life is to take new opportunities, either by joining a society that interests you or by introducing yourself to the person next to you in a lecture. However, do not try to do too much, too fast, as this may make you feel more anxious and the best way to build up your confidence is to go at your own pace. If, at any point during your time at university, you find yourself in a situation that is uncomfortable or makes you feel distressed then you must remove yourself or just walk away. There are many relaxing techniques you can use to calm yourself down (for example using Complete Relaxation on your phone which is free on the App Store) or by simply doing anything you enjoy; my personal favourites are having a cup of tea or reading a book, but this can be anything that makes you happy.
If, after reading this, you feel you still need help with trying to cope with social anxiety then there are many organisations, including the two mentioned below, you can get in touch with.
Anxiety UK (Phone: 08444 775 774 – Website: http://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/), a charity which provides support and services to those with anxiety problems.
Living Life to the Full (Website: http://www.llttf.com/) , an online life skills course to help tackle some of the problems we face from time to time.
By Joana Alemany Bird
(Image from www.uniworldnews.org)