Ask Nicole

Dear Nicole,

I’ll be a freshman this year and I’m really nervous for orientation. I suffer from social anxiety, and being in a new place with new people can be really overwhelming. 

Ice-breaker games are terrifying. I’d love to make new friends and kick off college right, but I’m worried that I’ll be panicking the whole time. 

Do you have any advice for the more introverted students on making it through orientation?

Sincerely, 

Anxious 

Dear Anxious, 

As a fellow anxious introvert, I sympathize with your feelings toward all the new upcoming social activities in the weeks to come. Social anxiety can be a real thief of joy, but it shouldn’t have to be that way. The best way I’ve found to combat my social anxiety is to recondition myself mentally — to change the ways I think about things, and even though I have a naturally nervous personality, it can really help.

Having social anxiety can make you feel small when you feel like everyone else in the room is perfectly put together. 

Dear sufferers of anxiety: your thoughts are fake news. We are all nervously hiding our embarrassing behind-the-scenes stories while observing the highlight reels of others. It is helpful to realize you are not alone; many people feel the way you do. I use this knowledge to create less internal attention and project a more external focus. I focus less on how nervous I feel, and try to find ways to make those around me feel less nervous and more welcome. 

Open up a warm conversation and ask someone questions about their life with genuine curiosity and encouragement. 

Social gatherings are unavoidable for the rest of our lives, so it’s good to practice facing your fears and enjoy the rush of overcoming them. Even if you feel scared now, orientation will be a blast if you allow it! Just be yourself and embrace the opportunity to try something new. How else would we grow? 

You can go back to all your comforts when the social event is over, so enjoy living in the moment while you’re there.

Nicole Duke is an advice columnist. Follow her on Twitter @nicole_duke18.