How to overcome Social Anxiety at uni

Having social anxiety in any situation is the worst, but for me, it surfaced when I went to university, and especially after Freshers’ Week. To other people, I seem to come across as a generally confident person, but what they don’t realise is that it is most often a façade to cover insecurity. I decided to speak to my friends to see if they too felt the same, and how they might overcome their anxieties. I found out a lot during my first year, and I would really like to share it with people. Some of this might not help you, but I hope there is at least one tip that might. Or, if you’re a person who doesn’t have any social anxieties, maybe it will help to enlighten you on how others may feel.

Fake it to Make it

This is probably the best advice I have, and what I followed before starting to talk to others. It might not sound like something that will change your life, but it really does work. As crazy as it might sound, after a while, I usually find myself believing whatever I am faking. For instance, I will feel overwhelmed when I’m around a lot of people, so I will pretend that I am a highly sociable person and that I love the situation. Yes, sometimes it doesn’t work, but more often than not it does. And it’s not a total lie – I usually love the people I’m with, which makes my anxieties more manageable.

Walking into Lectures

For the first few weeks, this can be interesting, to say the least. I am always nervous when entering a lecture theatre. What if there isn’t a seat for me? What happens if I’m late and everyone stares at me? Is this even the right lecture? All of these thoughts will be swirling around my head like a hive of bees! It’s not so bad the later you get in the year, as you will make friends, and then you can usually walk in with them – a bit like a safety blanket, I suppose! A tip for lecture theatres is that people typically have a favourite seat and stay in it. Try to find a seat that you like and stick to it. That way, people will most likely leave that space be, and then you can just bee-line to your place every lecture without having the anxiety of not finding a seat.

Societies

Perhaps my worst nightmare is going into a horde of new people where everyone already knows each other. I love what the societies offer, but sometimes the thought of having to meet new people halts me in joining them. The question in my head is always: “Will I make friends?” However, last year, I joined the UOTC (University Officer Training Corps) and made a few terrific friends through it. I had some fantastic experiences, such as hiking in the lakes and travelling around England with them. Ultimately, I left because I do not have the right type of personality for the army lifestyle, which is fine, but I have met some incredible people in the process and have no regrets (I am still in contact with some close friends that I made in the UOTC). Use the advice of faking it to make it, and sign up to some societies, or even just one. Any progress is progress, no matter how big or small.

I realise that everyone has some form of Social Anxiety, some a lot more extreme than others. I am fortunate that my social anxieties aren’t crippling for me, but I know for some that they can be. As I said above, going to university is a considerable step itself, and don’t forget that. University is an emotional roller-coaster, and getting over anxieties can be so hard. I found that actually making people aware of my anxieties is better, as they can then understand if you are seeing a situation difficult (I don’t like nightclubs, and therefore I don’t go to them very much. My friends are okay with that, and it has become a celebration when I do decide to go out!)

Just remember that there are loads of people who understand how you might be feeling. By coming to university, you have perhaps accomplished the biggest challenge that you will face during the next few years. Although you can’t get rid of your anxieties, I hope this article may have helped give you some tips for dealing with it or even helped prepare you for some future situations which might be difficult for you or a friend.

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