The first time I stepped into a University lecture hall I was terrified.
Not for my class, not because I was worried I couldn’t keep up, not even because I did not know where to sit.
It was just so big – the lecture hall, the number of students, the screen that my Professor used to start up his presentation. Instantly my anxiety skyrocketed. I couldn’t breathe properly; my hands shook and I had to leave early. I felt embarrassed, confused and even more nervous as the tape of the chronically anxious played over and over
“What if It Happens Again?”
Since that first lecture, over two years ago I’m doing better. I don’t skip lectures for anxiety based reasons. I feel proud to speak up when the Professor asks a question, and I can focus – which means I can learn.
So here are my tips for Lecture Hall Anxiety, I hope they can help!
1. Identify Your Anxiety – When I first asked this question I thought the answer was simple – I have anxiety disorders. However, this just means that I’m more prone to anxiety. My anxiety still has a root cause. For me, it was the adjustment from a class of 30 being a huge class to classes where the students range in the hundreds. Once you understand the cause of your anxiety you can begin to unpack it.
2. Find What Works – From stress balls, to progressive muscle relaxation and (my personal favourite) box breathing there are tonnes of ways you can reduce your anxiety without causing a scene in a lecture hall. Spend some time finding an area of the lecture hall where you are the most comfortable (for me it’s the very back) Try taking a mug of decaf tea, or a cosy sweater to your classes, though it may take a while to find the perfect combination, you’re worth the time to figure it out.
3. Practice Kindness – Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend, little sister or child. Positive self talk, gentle reinforcement and patience, patience patience. You are not going to get everything “right” all the time, sometimes you will “fail” and that is going to be okay. Practice realistic thinking, a great example of which can be found in this chart
4. Set Small Goals – Overcoming Anxiety is a monumental and sometimes lifelong task. By setting small goals, you can reward yourself for the HUGE steps you are taking. Start small “I will attend my entire lecture today” and work your way up to things like “I will participate in class discussion” Don’t forget to reward yourself! Buy yourself a fancy coffee drink, a new notebook or a scarf, that way you have a double reward for the work you have done to move forward.
What are your experiences with anxiety at University or College? How did you combat them?