A guide for uni students

Social anxiety is NOT weakness. It’s strength.

“You’re too sensitive.”

“Why do you always stay inside?”

“It’s just a small thing. You’re overreacting.”

“What, are you going to cry again?”

Imagine this situation. You’re at a party. You’re alone. Everyone else is in their tightly clamped circles. They’re smiling and laughing, mentioning names you don’t know and places you haven’t been. They’re better than you. Quickly, you try to walk up to some people. You try to start a conversation, and as you talk, your brain rips into you. The anxiety tells you’re awkward, you’re awkward and you’ll be alone tonight. They don’t like you. Why did you say that for? You messed up royally. If you just stayed at home, you’d be able to watch Friends repeats instead of being trapped here.

And it doesn’t stop there. You’ve noticed that instead of concentrating on university work, you’re fixated on all the other students. It takes you an extra three hours to complete a simple task. All you want to do is sleep.

People might dismiss you as being overly dramatic and weak on the outside, when you open up to them for help. But on the inside, you’re strong.

It takes a lot to deal with a relentless self critic every day. And there’s a reason the social anxiety is so potent: you just want to get better socially. In a way, it’s like fighting for something you care about. Channel all that energy into beating the anxiety, instead. If you’ve put up with social anxiety thus far, you’ll have the determination to overcome it. Are you going to keep putting up with the crap anxiety gives you?

You should give yourself some credit!

Signing off,

Polaris

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Eating lunch in the toilet: unhelpful beliefs and thoughts

Hey there! I hope you’ve been fighting that anxiety!

Before I want to jump in to a coping strategy for this blog post, check out this familiar scene in Mean Girls:

That sort of crushing loneliness during lunchtime is familiar for a lot of people with Social Anxiety. For a solid year and a half in high school, life was like that for me too. I had thoughts running through my head, that I was worthless, that I’d never properly make friends, that I was ugly, and so forth.

Just like Cady in the end of that video, I’d hide somewhere out of sight because I believed people would think I was a loser.

Even though that’s a tough predicament I found myself in, those sorts of thoughts and beliefs were unhelpful. All that negativity in my head was preventing my situation from becoming better.

Pinpoint Unhelpful Beliefs

First recognise that unhelpful beliefs are those that aren’t realistic. Maybe you believe that you’re unlikable.

Such beliefs are driven by unhelpful thoughts (for example, that you think others are uncomfortable around you).

Challenge the belief

Ask yourself: is it rational? And above all – is it helpful?

In my case, I’d question the thought that I’d never properly make friends. Here are some things I rationalised:

  • Socialising is a skill like any other. I will fail and I will get rejected a lot. But I’ll eventually get better.
  • Opportunities never run out. If I didn’t try, I’d be friendless in the first place!

Then I’d think about if it was helpful (it wasn’t). Why do I need to let a thought like that give me crap then?

Give that stuff a go for a week. I know it’s going to be hard. But be kind to yourself.

Let me know how you go.

Until next time,

Polaris

Hey

You’re at a lecture. You look around, and see plenty of people socialising around you. But you’re alone. All of a sudden, your mind races: do I look like a loser?

“Oh my god, I need to hide. I have to get out of here. I can’t find in! Blablablabla…”

These sorts of thoughts can occur in a range of situations: presentations, making friends, phone calls – you get what I mean.

It’s a familiar feeling to me. I was diagnosed with social anxiety back in high school. But I’ve mostly overcome it. Fear and panic does strike sometimes though. And even now as I’m typing this, my palms are sweating.

But you know what? Screw it! I decided to start this blog, this campaign, because I couldn’t find anything on dealing with social anxiety in college or university. And it’s pretty common too. One study, Phil Topham, places social anxiety at about 10% in universities and colleges.

But that statistic could be much higher! That same study points out the likelihood of it being a hidden disorder – it’s often mistaken for extreme shyness and it’s stigmatised. A lot of people can also hide it well.

So my plan of attack is to be the first resource for coping with social anxiety in uni students. I want to share what’s helped me tackle it, and be a place that people can relate to.  I want to defuse misconceptions and stop the stigma of mental illnesses like social anxiety.

But even if you’re not sure if you have SA, if you’re just shy, if you’re not in uni, or whatever, this blog can still be right for you! I’m sure there are plenty of anxiety inducing situations that annoy us all.

And on Sep 20th (Australia time, it might be a day early or late if you’re anywhere else) I’ll be putting up a short animation! Anyway, till next time,

Polaris