Are you starting your Masters study on campus soon? If you’re experiencing social anxiety, this article will give you ideas on how to overcome it.

It’s important to pay attention to this topic, because social anxiety can hinder students' ability to engage in interpersonal relationships that are necessary for academic success. Being in a group of people you don't know well can be intimidating and uncomfortable, and it can be even more difficult when you’re feeling anxious. That's why overcoming your social anxiety is crucial for creating a welcoming and vibrant learning atmosphere.

What exactly is social anxiety?

Before probing different strategies for overcoming social anxiety, it is important to understand the underlying reasons for it. Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is a disorder that arises from a fear of negative evaluation, judgement, or scrutiny from others. This fear can manifest as an overwhelming sense of self-consciousness, leading you to avoid social situations and potentially hindering your academic progress. This fear can seriously affect work, school, and even other daily activities. It is very important to mention that having social anxiety is not the same as just being shy or worried. Usually, shyness disappears as the person adjusts to their new environment or begins to feel comfortable around new people. Social anxiety, on the other hand, is a persistent feeling.

On top of that, our current global environment can present additional challenges for people who are already experiencing some degree of social anxiety. The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting social isolation have made it difficult for many students to get used to in-person studies again. Much of our day-to-day communication takes place online, which also puts a strain on our ability to interact with people face-to-face. So, how can you successfully deal with social anxiety in this climate?

Recognising social anxiety

The first step in managing social anxiety is self-awareness. Recognising the triggers and symptoms of anxiety can help students understand their reactions and take appropriate measures. It is essential to remember that you’re not alone and that social anxiety is very common. It is very important to seek support from friends, family, or campus resources, which can be immensely helpful.

Creating a supportive network

Creating a strong support network is essential in managing social anxiety when studying for your Masters on campus. Seek out like-minded individuals or join clubs and organisations where you feel comfortable and accepted. Participating in activities that you enjoy can help you build relationships that will reduce social anxiety.

Effective communication techniques

Mastering effective communication techniques is crucial for overcoming social anxiety. Practise active listening, maintaining eye contact, and speaking clearly and confidently. By improving your communication skills, you can reduce feelings of self-doubt and foster meaningful connections with your peers and professors.

Gradual exposure and desensitisation

The hard truth is that to overcome social anxiety during on-campus study, it is crucial to gradually expose yourself to anxiety-inducing situations. Begin by participating in small group discussions, where you feel less overwhelmed, and gradually progress to larger academic and social settings. Consistent exposure to these situations will help desensitise your response to social anxiety triggers. But it is very important to set realistic goals and focus on personal improvement rather than seeking perfection.

Cognitive restructuring

It may sound complicated and scientific, but cognitive restructuring is a very simple exercise to try to manage your social anxiety. It entails challenging your negative thoughts and replacing them with more constructive and realistic ones. Recognise that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s a part of learning. Also remember that judgement from others is often temporary and insignificant. By reframing negative thoughts, you can develop a more resilient mindset, thus diminishing social anxiety.

Healthy lifestyle and relaxation techniques

Another effective strategy is developing a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Regular exercise, proper nutrition, and sufficient sleep contribute to a person’s overall well-being and can alleviate anxiety symptoms. Incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your daily routine can significantly reduce social anxiety. Practices such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and physical activities such as yoga or jogging can help alleviate stress, promoting a sense of calmness and self-assurance in social situations.

Practise self-care

Self-care is another very important aspect that is unfortunately often overlooked. Take breaks when you need them and do something that relaxes you, such as listening to music or going for a walk. This will help you stay focused and reduce any anxieties you may have.

Seeking professional help

And finally, remember, it's perfectly acceptable to seek professional help when combating social anxiety. University counselling services, therapy, or support groups can offer expert guidance and support tailored to your individual needs. Professionals can provide coping strategies and personalised approaches to address the challenges you face.

If you’re a graduate school student, you should always remember that you are capable of growth and change. Overcoming social anxiety during on-campus study requires persistence, courage, and a proactive approach. By understanding the root causes of social anxiety, cultivating a supportive network, honing effective communication techniques, engaging in gradual exposure and cognitive restructuring, practising mindfulness, and seeking professional help when needed, students can navigate social interactions with greater confidence and success.

But it is essential to approach this journey with patience and self-compassion, knowing that personal growth and progress are more important than achieving perfection. Together, as a collective community, we can foster an inclusive and supportive on-campus environment where no student feels inhibited by social anxiety.