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To Students With Social Anxiety on Your First Day of School

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This is the time of year when your parents are dragging you out of the house to buy school supplies and pick up nice, new outfits for the upcoming school year. You sigh at your parents’ words.

“It’ll be fun! Come on. I’ll get you those shoes you wanted!”

Reluctantly, you go, although you are excited about that new pair of shoes and maybe those new pens. While you’re in the store trying on those shoes, the idea of school doesn’t seem so terrible. You think maybe it will be easier this year; maybe things will be different. Optimism replaces the dread that fills your mind.

Suddenly, though, the days are shorter and school is just a few days away. Your stomach takes its usual form of knots, and your palms take up their yearly game of sweating. Your mind races, thinking of all of the things sure to go wrong on that first day. You sit in your room, letting the thoughts consume you and teach you their ways of fear. Your heart aches for peace, and you are absolutely positive life cannot get any worse.

I have felt that feeling every single year of my life before a new school year. I have been in those exact same places you are right now. It is terrifying to wonder who will be in your classes and what they will think about seeing you again.

Then comes the question: Who your teachers will be? The things you have heard about them swim around your head. Suddenly, you remember someone telling you Mr. John Doe randomly calls on students during class. *Cue the dread settling in.* Every scenario of that surprise attack and your face turning bright red crosses your mind. For students with social anxiety, this can be the worst possible thing.

Personally, I always used to have an intense fear that my outfit never matched and my hair wasn’t perfect. I would switch shirts at least three times before leaving for school and go through every hairstyle I knew how to do. Finally, begrudgingly, I’d headed out the door. I was so stuck in a thought cycle that told me everyone was going to look at me and judge me based off these things. That’s social anxiety at work, controlling your thoughts.

The car or bus ride to school was even worse. I felt like I was going to be sick or get off the bus and run back home. I was absolutely desperate to get off that bus, leave school and go home to my nice, safe bed. I missed many days of school because I stayed in my nice, safe bed. I even took online college classes my junior year of high school solely because I wanted to get off the high school campus and escape all those anxious feelings. I don’t regret taking those courses. I’m entering my second year of college now, just months after graduating high school. Yet, I let those feelings win me over when I feel as if I should have stayed and fought them.

Here’s the main point: No matter what grade you’re entering, I want you to know you are strong enough to fight these feelings. Even if that stomachache is so intense and you feel as if you’re going to throw up your breakfast, you can do it. You can survive the school day and every single one after.

Any thoughts that enter your head, telling you this school year is going to be awful, push them away. Tell those thoughts they do not control you. This school year can be whatever you want it to be.

I know it’s not always so easy to push those thoughts away. Even now as a college student, I have to constantly remind myself, it gets easier after the first day. The first day is always the hardest. While it still won’t be easy for me and you to go to class every day after, it will be OK. I am strong, and I have gone through and survived this exact same thing every single year of my life. If I can do it, you can do it, too.

Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: August 16, 2016
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