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How to Navigate Social Anxiety in College

Last updated January 10, 2024

Starting college can be an exciting yet nerve-racking time for many young people, especially for those who struggle with social anxiety. In this article, we'll explore some practical strategies for coping with social anxiety in college and offer some reassurance that you're not alone!

A black woman with braids, wearing a white sports bra and gray leggings, meditates on a yoga mat - How to Navigate Social Anxiety in College

What is Social Anxiety? How Can it Affect College Students?

Social anxiety is a common mental health condition that affects millions of people. It can show up in many ways, including a fear of being judged or rejected by others, excessive self-consciousness in social situations, and physical symptoms like sweating, trembling, or nausea. 

Many college students navigated high school in the context of the pandemic, unable to see or socialize with their friends and family in person for long stretches of time. While social distancing and virtual learning, many students may have gradually found it a bit harder to socialize with and relate to their loved ones after becoming acclimated to their virtual environment. This can certainly contribute to a college student's social anxiety. 

If you're experiencing social anxiety, it's important to know that you're not alone and that there are effective ways of treating and coping with this anxiety, such as counseling, mindfulness practices, or medication.

How to Cope With Social Anxiety in College

If you're struggling with social anxiety in college, there are some practical strategies you can use to cope.

Practice Self-Care

Taking care of your physical and emotional health is crucial when dealing with social anxiety. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities you enjoy. Make self-care a priority, and don't neglect your own needs.

Be Proactive in Seeking Academic Support

Social anxiety can not only affect social situations, but it can also impact academic performance. For example, students with social anxiety may be hesitant to participate in class discussions or group projects, which can affect their grades and overall academic performance. It can also lead to avoidance of seeking help when struggling with coursework. 

Don't be afraid to reach out to others for help and support. Talk to your professors and let them know that you struggle with social anxiety and that it may affect your participation in class. They may be able to offer alternative ways for you to participate or provide accommodations to help you feel more comfortable. In addition to this, many colleges often have resources available for students who need academic support, including tutoring services, study groups, academic coaching, and more. Don't be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.

Take Small Steps

You don't have to tackle your social anxiety all at once. Instead, try taking small steps to gradually expose yourself to social situations. This could mean attending a small gathering with people you know, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or trying a mindfulness app.

Focus on Others

Instead of focusing on your own anxiety, try to shift your attention to others. Ask questions and show interest in what they have to say. This can help take the pressure off you and create a more positive social experience.

When to see a therapist or counselor

If social anxiety is seriously impacting your academic performance, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist or counselor. They can provide support and strategies for managing social anxiety and academic stress. Many colleges and universities offer counseling services to their students, often at little to no cost. These counseling centers can provide individual therapy, group therapy, and other resources to support students' mental health. If your school does not offer counseling services, there are other low-cost therapy resources that may be available to you. For example, many communities have mental health clinics that offer sliding scale fees based on income. You can also search for online therapy options that may be more affordable than traditional in-person therapy.

Taking care of your mental health is an important part of your overall well-being! You deserve to have a positive and successful college experience, and getting the help you need can make a big difference. If you need support, be sure to check out our list of free mental health resources for college students

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