It's that time of year. Students of all ages are returning to class; some are happier about it than others. If you are a first-year or returning college or university student coping with social anxiety in addition to the usual stresses of school, this can be a difficult stage of life. Below are 10 steps you can take to try and make the transition easier.
- If you think you might suffer with social anxiety disorder (SAD), get help. Although it may sound simple, most people with SAD never take this step. Talk to your doctor, or make an appointment with the counselling center of your college or university. This is the perfect time in your life to make positive changes.
- Practice relaxation exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing or guided imagery. You can do these types of exercises on your own in your dorm room at the end of the day, and they will help you to worry less, fall asleep more easily, and reduce the impact of stress on your life.
- Practice public speaking skills. It is likely at some point during your college career you will need to speak in front of a class. If the thought of public speaking is terrifying for you, consider joining a group such as Toastmaster's International. Although adding one more thing to your plate during the start of college might seem like a lot, a group like this can make the difference in terms of overcoming your fears about public speaking.
- Learn to be more assertive. Assertiveness is a method of communication that clearly expresses your feelings and needs while still taking into account the needs of others. Learning how to communicate in this manner is key to overcoming your social anxiety.
- Read about other people's experiences. Here at About SAD readers have generously shared their stories about what it is like to live with SAD or cope with social anxiety at college. Read what they have to say and share your own story.
- Read self-help books. Although not a replacement for traditional treatment, self-help books for social anxiety can help you to cope with social anxiety in your daily life.
- Participate in an SAD Forum. You are not alone! Although it might seem like no one else suffers with the same anxiety as you, this isn't true. Connect with others going through the same issues on one of the various online SAD forums.
- Keep thought records. Thought records are a tool used in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you identify negative thinking patterns and replace them with more positive and helpful coping self-statements.
- Try an herbal supplement. Be careful when choosing an herbal supplement; most are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and some can have potentially harmful effects when combined with other medications. Valerian root, passion flower and St. John's wort have all been used in the treatment of SAD.
- Practice exposure therapy. For simple problems like fear of using the telephone, practice exposure therapy to gradually desensitize yourself to the feared situation.
College can be a difficult time for those with SAD, but you don't have to let your anxiety prevent you from achieving your goals, meeting new people, and having a good post-secondary experience. All of the above strategies can be used to make the transition back to college a little easier.
Photo © Microsoft