Reacclimating to In-Person Learning With Social Anxiety

by Elijah Arnold on December 20, 2021

Reacclimating to In-Person Learning With Social Anxiety

by Elijah Arnold on December 20, 2021

I was doing school online before it was mainstream, so by the time I started at Arcadia, I had been away from school for over two years. That’s a long time to go without regular social interaction, but, as an introvert, I was pretty okay with it.

At first, when I got into college, I wanted to attend virtually. I was scared to go back to school, as I’ve had a lot of negative experiences with in-person learning. I figured I could be just as productive, possibly even more so, online.

But everyone I came across was so sick of virtual learning. Everyone was excited to get back on campus and back in the classrooms. I suddenly felt that I was going to miss out on things, on making new friends before everyone had already grouped up, as was the case with middle and high school.

Social anxiety manifests itself differently in different people. Physical symptoms include excessive sweating, shortness of breath or hyperventilation, nausea and stomach aches, rapid heartbeat, headaches or lightheadedness, shaking or trembling, etc. Some other symptoms are severe cognitive distortions, such as catastrophizing (i.e. What if I ruin the event for everyone else, and they all end up hating me?); fortune-telling (i.e. I’m going to be awkward and uncomfortable at this event, so I just won’t go); and emotional reasoning (i.e. I feel like I’m annoying them, so I must be annoying them). Some people combat this by isolating themselves—too worried about how others perceive or will perceive them.

Social anxiety makes me feel like I can’t show my face to anyone. After I broke my finger, I was so embarrassed I could barely leave my room. Sometimes I reflect on events that happened a decade ago, picking apart everything I did and said and hating myself for it. It makes me feel that I don’t deserve friends, that I suck at making them, and that I’m going to mess things up. 

Social anxiety can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be crippling. Remember that you are valid in your feelings, and there is help and support for you out there.

- Elijah Arnold

I thought it would be easier to hide behind a computer camera on the other side of the country. Eventually, my therapist and I agreed that I should at least try.

Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, so it’s completely valid if virtual learning isn’t your thing. However, this means that it’s also okay if in-person learning isn’t exactly your “shtick.” It takes time to adapt and adjust, but if you’re just as determined as I was, here are some tips for coming back to campus:

  • Establish a solid support system of friends, family, or mental health professionals. Give yourself somewhere to vent or to just be able to sit in whatever you’re feeling. It’s important to validate yourself and surround yourself with others who validate you. I, personally, prefer individual therapy sessions, but it’s good to spread it out so that you don’t end up with all of your eggs in one basket.
  • Find a quiet spot on (or off) campus. I know that a lot of us have roommates and, therefore, don’t necessarily have enough personal space for some good “me” time. Sometimes I like to hide in the library, on a bench at Easton Pond, or near the creek and just listen to music or do homework. Once you’ve found a spot that works for you— your happy place, if you will—set aside time to go, relax, and recharge your social battery.
  • Develop different hobbies. Easy and inexpensive is best, but there’s no harm in the occasional trip to the nail salon, spa, or mall. I enjoy crocheting and writing poems or short stories, but I also love arcades. If you come across others who have similar interests/hobbies, you could end up joining a fun campus club or organization. I recommend the Knitting Club: It’s such a nice environment! I never felt anxious going in, and time flies as you knit/crochet, listen to music, and chat with a stranger or friend.

Social anxiety can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be crippling. Remember that you are valid in your feelings, and there is help and support for you out there.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
Trevor Project Hotline: +1 (866) 488-7386 or text “START” to 678-678