Here it is, your first night at uni in your room, and you’re sitting in a new place, surrounded by strangers, wondering how on earth you’re going to survive Freshers’ Week.
Social anxiety is more than that degree of shyness that most people feel at some point in their lives. Many of us worry about social situations, but those suffering with social anxiety may feel overly worried before, during and after social situations – to the point that it makes everyday situations feel impossible. And if you’re suffering from social anxiety, Freshers’ week with all the unfamiliar social interactions it brings can seem like a daunting challenge.
How to survive Freshers’ Week when you have social anxiety
Social anxiety doesn’t need to stop you from making new friends or enjoying university in the way you want to. Don’t let social anxiety stop you living your best life at uni! Here are some pointers on how to survive Freshers’ Week when you have social anxiety and thrive in your new environment.
Start by remembering that everyone is the same…
Everyone here is in the same boat. No one arrives at university for the first time without some freshers-related anxiety. Just remember that comparison is the thief of joy – the outgoing lad down the hall may feel the same as you, he’s just very good at hiding it. Be wary of what you see on social media, there is nothing that will make you feel worse than comparing your reality with someone else’s curated content.
Try no to think about how other people perceive you, but rather focus your attention on them. Pay attention to what they’re saying, ask questions and listen. It’s likely that your anxiety symptoms don’t come across as obviously as you might think.
… but also very different
Make Freshers’ Week work for you. Don’t like the idea of clubbing? Don’t do it! Want to find others who spend their spare time playing rounders, eating cheese, learning DIY, or performing in a barbershop quartet? Do that instead! Spend your Freshers’ Week looking into the many clubs and societies available, and find your people.
Set yourself daily challenges and commit to activities that you would usually avoid. Start small, with things that don’t seem so overwhelming, and work towards more intimidating activities gradually.
Know that good neighbours can become good friends
If Kylie Minogue has taught me anything, it’s that good neighbours become good friends. When you have social anxiety, setting out with a goal of meeting new people can be incredibly daunting, so why not let them come to you. Buy a doorstop for your room, and take the opportunity to smile and say hi to your new hall mates as they pass. Never turn down a cuppa, keep some biscuits close by, and conversation will flow naturally and freely as the first couple of weeks pass. Feeling more at ease with your hall mates will help you settle and resist the urge to go back home straight away.
Start to spread your wings
Once you’ve got chatting to your neighbours, start to think a little further afield. Lectures and seminars are starting soon, and regular attendance is not only good for your studies but also helps you to recognise and feel more comfortable with your new course mates. Each time you sit down try and say hi to the person next to you, and it won’t be long before you find your study buddy.
As you get further into term and student loan day seems like a distant memory, why not consider finding a job? As well as the financial rewards, you’ll meet new people with at least one thing in common, without the pressure of a big social event.
Moving on from hello
As an adult, asking someone outright to be your friend seems a very strange thing to do, so we have to think about how to take those nods and hellos up a level. In the age of the mobile phone, swapping numbers is a great way to signify you’d like more contact with someone without feeling too vulnerable in asking. When you’re with a group either socially or whilst studying, think about your body language. Face the group, show you’re actively listening when others are talking, and try to chip in to the conversation at least once. Finally, don’t forget your common ground! Everyone is studying something, living somewhere and doing something with their spare time – ask them about it and find the spark that gets the conversation moving.
Recognise if it all gets too much
For many with social anxiety, these tips will help you survive Freshers’ Week and settle into your new way of life. For some, this much change can become overwhelming. If you start to feel this way, make sure you get some support from either your GP or your university. Spend some of Freshers’ Week looking into student support services offered by your university and students’ union – many have 24/7 helplines, counsellors and nurses available when you need them.
The beginning of university is a daunting time, but remember that this is your fresh start! Take your time, be brave and follow the steps above, and you’ll not only survive Freshers’ Week, you’ll fly on your new adventure.
For more tips about how to survive Fresher’s Week, checkout Amy’s advice from her own experience, or take a look at some of the resources below.
Useful Resources to Help You Survive Fresher’s Week When You Have Social Anxiety
There are many free resources available online to help you confront your social anxiety as you embark on your first year of university. Here are a few good places to start looking: