Many know the feeling all too well. It’s without logic, it’s without reason, but the dread is real, and it manifests itself. It makes class presentations a death sentence and walking down a school hallway nothing short of balancing on a tightrope. Those ice breakers that begin every year break nothing but a sweat, and when the teacher says “find a partner!” you practically feel your heart drop.
To some degree, almost everyone has felt this social dread in their academic career. But within that majority exists those who live it every day.
Social anxiety: two words that plague 200,000 Americans annually. Of that 200,000 are copious sitting in a classroom, which being an extremely social environment, can escalate the panic of this mental disorder to great heights. The crazy thing? You could be sitting at a desk right next to someone with social anxiety, and never even know it. Thousands suffer silently, which is why the Kilt has comprised a list of advice for those who try their hardest daily, battling themselves mentally, to earn their education like every other student.
- Don’t fight it.
This comes first and foremost. It may come as a shock if that’s all you’ve been doing to cope thus far, and that is understandable. As people, we often try to fight the parts of ourselves that we can’t bear to acknowledge. But in these circumstances, particularly during a panic attack, fighting against your racing heart, sweaty palms, lightheadedness, or tense stomach, will only amplify your symptoms. So, even if it takes time, accept your anxiety. Accept that it is a part of you, while understanding that it doesn’t define you. This is the only way you can learn to accept yourself as a whole.
TIP: Focus on breathing deep and slowly. Tell yourself that your feelings of panic are valid; that you are valid.
When you have social anxiety, it can be hard to get out of your shell. Self-improvement will become a major milestone once you’ve set down a path to self-acceptance. To love yourself is to want better for yourself, and by slowly practicing how to meet new people, engaging in new social environments, your anxiety will improve. It may be terrifying, but some great opportunities to help your anxiety can be joining a club, or getting a job. These things can really force you outside your bubble, and help you grow your social skills.
TIP: Look up. It sounds simple, but socially anxious people tend to keep their head down due to fear of being looked at, which furthers their misconception that everyone is watching them. Just looking up can do wonders in tethering you back to reality.
- Talk to someone.
Be it your school counselor, doctor, or just someone you trust, talking about your anxiety can help validate your fears, as well as find a way to alleviate them. With social anxiety, it can be especially hard to open up considering all the apprehension running through your head. But it is crucial that you do. Because, at one point or another, we all have to be vulnerable. You are not weak for voicing your feelings, even if they seem crazy or illegitimate.
- Take care of yourself.
Of course, you should always strive to eat healthy, exercise, and be well-groomed. Being that social anxiety is accompanied by a lack of happy hormone production, all this becomes exponentially important. When it comes to mental disorders like anxiety and depression, just getting out of bed can be the most difficult thing in your day.
- Realize this.
You are not alone. Your fears, even if irrational, are shared by 15 million in the United States exclusively. Sometimes it can feel like you are isolated from everything when you’re in your room overthinking, replaying scenarios, cringing at your own actions, words, existence. “Why can’t I be normal like everyone else?” might be a thought that has crossed your mind regularly, and while that frustration is reasonable to feel, you must learn to let it go. Everyone tries to be normal, but in the end, behind closed doors, we are all afflicted by something. This is simply your affliction, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Learning to live with social anxiety can be a major hassle, but with dedication, you are capable conquering of it.
TIP: Repeat it over and over: you are not alone.
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