First of all, it is good that you are reaching out for help. Many students face social difficulties at some point, so know that you are not alone when it comes to having social anxiety. It is important to know that anxiety is normal and adaptive as it prepares you for dangerous or uncomfortable situations. Despite this, anxiety can still be problematic in situations where there is no danger. Though it may be difficult, here are some steps that you can take to help manage your anxiety in social situations:
- Examine your anxiety. Figure out what specifically causes you to feel anxious in social situations whether it be talking to your peers, speaking in front of crowds, walking into Paresky Commons alone, going to dances, etc. Having a better understanding of what causes you to feel nervous may help you to find a way to manage your anxiety.
- Practice in front of the mirror. Walking into social situations can be nerve-wracking, especially when you are not sure about what is going to happen. Try rehearsing what you might say to others in front of a mirror or with a close friend. Practicing greetings or conversation starters may help alleviate the pressure you feel in future interactions.
- Take deep breaths. Anxiety can be uncomfortable and prevent you from having fun in social situations. If you feel yourself panicking or becoming nervous, try taking a few long, deep breathes. Taking a short break in the middle of a social situation to focus on your breathing might help to ease your anxiety.
- Explore ways to change your thinking. Recognize thoughts that may be negatively affecting you, such as:
“No one will talk to me.”
“I will look awkward and people will laugh at me.”
“I will not know what to say.”
“I will say something stupid.”
“No one will like me.”
If you find yourself thinking any of these thoughts, try to remember that approaching a social situation with worst-case scenario assumptions in mind may contribute to feelings of anxiety. Although it is completely normal for people to doubt themselves at times, try not to overthink the intimidation of a social situation. Social situations may seem more approachable if you focus less on what others might think of you and more on what you might gain from the encounter.
- Make a move. Although it may seem scary, try putting yourself in social situations starting with small steps. Simply making eye contact and smiling at someone across the room is a good place to start! Although the most difficult step is often the first one, you will likely develop more confidence over time.
Hopefully, you found these suggestions helpful. Please reach out to the Sykes Counseling team at 978-749-4455 anytime if you have any other questions about anxiety or another concern.
-by Dear Sam, student club at Andover