Tough Stuff

How to deal with social anxiety during back-to-school season

You might not be psyched to be going back to school because, let's face it:  Who wants to trade days at the pool and staying up late to binge-watch your fave show for days in the classroom and staying up late to finish your homework? But if you find yourself feeling sick to your stomach at the thought of doing first-day icebreakers or raising your hand to answer a question, social anxiety might be the culprit behind your back-to-school blues.

Social anxiety disorder, also called SAD or social phobia, causes extreme fear of social situations, which comes with uncomfortable emotional and physical symptoms. Someone who has it might worry excessively about being judged by other people or embarrassing themselves when in a social setting. The new school year is an extra difficult time for socially anxious people, so if you can relate, GL has you covered with some tips on how to cope.

Go at your own pace...

With school starting up again, you might feel super pressured to jam-pack your schedule with extracurriculars and go to every weekend hangout that your friends plan. But while it's great to make sure that your anxiety isn't stopping you from having a good time, it's also OK to take things slow and figure out what works best for you. Maybe auditioning for the school play isn't your thing, but you'd love to work on the school yearbook. Or you might be too nervous to ask your crush to homecoming, but you're totally cool with asking them about their weekend in math class on Monday morning. After all, small steps still add up to *tons* of progress.

...but don't avoid what makes you anxious.

If you have social anxiety, it may seem easier in the moment to just avoid the things that trigger your anxiety. But sometimes, that's totally impossible (like, if you hate public speaking and your teacher loves assigning huge presentations). Remind yourself that you *can* get through whatever's making you anxious, and that, even if things don't go perfectly, they probably won't be as scary as you imagine. You can also find ways to be prepared. For example, if you do have to give that presentation, rehearsing what you're going to say beforehand might help you feel less worried and more certain in your amaze academic abilities.

Create a support system.

Seeking community is always key. And, even when your social anxiety feels overwhelming, don't isolate yourself from the people you care about. Surround yourself with the besties who make you feel more confident and spend time with your family after a stressful day at school. When you're comfortable enough, you can even open up to someone you trust at school, like a guidance counselor or a social worker, about how you're feeling. If you and your pals have plans to go to that Labor Day Weekend party together, you might want to let your closest friend know if you're feeling anxious. Knowing you have someone to stick with will help you have *so* much more fun—and leave your anxiety behind as the unwanted guest.

Find an outlet.

Ofc, it's important to take time to recharge, and finding that positive outlet for yourself can also help you deal with your anxiety. Keeping a journal is a great way to reflect on whatever you're feeling (or just vent whenever you need to). Plus, getting your thoughts out will free up all of that space they've been taking up in your mind. Exercising also improves mental health, so you might want to opt for a workout class after school (hula hooping to Harry Styles, anyone?). And, at the end of the day, curling up with your comfort TV show and your fave blanket is the me-time you deserve. Whatever you do, there's nothing wrong with taking some alone time to decompress when you need to.

Be kind to yourself.

Dealing with social anxiety is tough, and back-to-school szn is already overwhelming and stressful enough as it is. It's def easier said than done, but don't be so hard on yourself—you're doing your best! If you're struggling to make your self-talk a little kinder, try out some positive affirmations. Creating some positive phrases to say to yourself (i.e.. "I am doing the best that I can.") when you're feeling down is an instant confidence booster.

Reach out for help.

If you feel like your anxiety is having a hugely negative impact on your quality of life and your overall well-being, it might be time to reach out for help. At first, it can seem scary and intimidating to seek out help—but the benefits will be *so* worth it. Find GL-approved resources HERE and HERE.

For similar content, check out these related posts:
✏️ If you struggle with social anxiety, read this
✏️ How to stop social anxiety from ruining your social life
✏️ "How I handled my social anxiety during Zoom classes"

✏️ The introvert's guide to surviving social gatherings

How are you prepping for back-to-school szn? Tell us on Twitter @girlslifemag!

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by Samara Smukler | 8/24/2022