Facing and Embracing Academic Social Anxiety

Let’s talk about public speaking.

Are you the student who’s glad to fill worksheets, take tests, and write papers if it means you don’t have to give a presentation at the end of the semester?

Do you check the syllabus to see if class participation is part of your grade?

If yes, we sure have a lot in common.

I think part of my success in school was due to that fear. If I worked hard on everything else, I could limit speaking in front of the class or skip it altogether.

I am by no means over my social anxiety, but since graduating, I’ve taught group yoga classes, led meetings of high-level executives, and started sharing some of my experiences here (on the internet!)

When I learned exposure therapy was the best solution to becoming more comfortable socially, I felt overwhelmed. Luckily there are a few tools that I’ve found make tackling social anxiety head-on a little bit more comfortable.

Self-soothing mantras  

A few examples I like:

“They’re probably nervous, too.” Whether you’re having a 1-1 with your new boss, meeting a friend’s family, or about to take turns publicly speaking with the rest of your class, remember you’re probably not the only one who is at least a little bit apprehensive.

“Just be brave for one minute.” Instead of thinking of the three hours you’ll spend in class or at a work mixer, think of what will happen in the first few minutes. Once you’re there, you’ll likely feel more comfortable than you imagined ahead of time.

“I trust myself.” This is a good one to repeat to yourself before walking into a social anxiety-provoking situation.

Self-regulatory techniques  

How can you bring your body back to the present when your mind is running away from you?

Temperature change. Take a hot shower or place a cool cloth over your face

Breath work. Take long and slow breaths, making your exhales longer than your inhales Move. Hot yoga and running were my favorites for “shocking” my body out of an anxiety spiral

Self-help books  

I’ve found a lot of value in “How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety” by Ellen Hendriksen. You can give this one a try (free on Kindle Unlimited) or choose from thousands of similar books out there.

A quick bonus that may be controversial: natural mood supplements (Ashwagandha, GABA, L-theanine, etc.). I’ve found that in some high-pressure situations, they can turn down the “alarm bells” in my brain enough that I’m able to be present in the moment. Just be sure to consult a doctor before adding supplements to your routine as you could have contraindications.

Do you have any other tips for improving social comfort in school or the workplace? Send me a note on my contact page. I’d love to connect!