How to get through freshman year with social anxiety

FOMO is real, but so are panic attacks


Freshman year of college is a glorious time when we’re all expected to put ourselves out there, make lifelong friendships and have the best four years of our lives. This is a daunting set of tasks for anyone, whether they admit it or not.

For those with social anxiety, however, freshman year can be overwhelming, over-stimulating and often debilitating. If you get a knot in your stomach at the thought of a frat party or find yourself rehearsing your words before being introduced to someone new, this freshman year survival guide is for you.

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Follow a routine

College disrupts a lot of the comfy routines you likely developed over time at home, but you shouldn’t let it get rid of all of them. Get outside and breathe some fresh air every once in a while. Netflix is great, but staring at a glowing screen for hours on end can make your eyes hurt. If you find yourself getting stuck in your own head, it’s time for a walk outside or a yoga sesh on the quad.

Your brain in particular has a habit of absorbing tons of detailed information constantly, so it’s no wonder it gets exhausted sometimes. Make the active choice to turn off your brain for awhile. Read a book, go for a run, get some sun, or do some adult coloring.

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Schedule your alone time

As a social anxiety sufferer, you have to inject energy into being social. You, more than anyone else, needs to consciously plan alone time in order to recharge your batteries. One of the scariest aspects of college is the fact that almost every ounce of your personal privacy is ripped away from you. You share your bedroom and bathroom, and you eat in a loud cafeteria for every meal.

Find a place on campus where you know you can be quiet and relax. Hint: this may not be your dorm room, especially if you and your roommate don’t jive well. Maybe it’s a cozy corner of the library, a quiet coffee shop, or on the elliptical at the gym.

Let friendships happen organically

You won’t necessarily make those lifelong friends by joining 35 clubs and partying every night. I made the mistake of thinking that if I didn’t meet all of my friends in the first weeks of school, there would be no more friends left to make by the end of the year. As I found out, this is not how friendships works.

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Invest your mental energy in activities you find rewarding and you will meet people who feel the same way. If you know you love to sing, join an a cappella group. You’ll find yourself with a group of like-minded people to come to whenever you need them.

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Protect your boundaries

Nobody on this planet, especially some twerpy freshman you just met at orientation, knows your body and brain better than you do. No one is allowed to talk you into drinking, trying some crazy drug, or going to some sketchy club if you don’t feel comfortable with it.

Our guts make decisions before our brains do, and it’s our job to listen to them. If you get a nervous knot in the pit of your stomach every time your friend asks if you want to smoke with them, you might consider listening to the message your gut is trying to send you.

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Learn to listen to your brain and your body

FOMO is real, but staying in some nights to recharge your batteries is a must. Skipping a frat party to watch Netflix every once in awhile never hurt anybody. Don’t worry. You’re not actually missing out on much. Just the same bunch of drunk frat guys throwing up on each other in a crowded, sweaty basement.

There will be times when you won’t feel like talking to anyone. Even making eye contact  and smiling at people will feel exhausting. It’s OK to sit in the cafeteria alone and scroll through Instagram for 40 minutes. It’s not your job to be a social butterfly 24/7.

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Taking care of yourself requires you to be selfish. Plus, people would much prefer meeting the more relaxed, recharged and happy version of you anyway.