Imagine you’re floating in a boat by yourself on the open ocean… you’re not in any danger or anything… you’re just, alone. In a boat. Feeling a little lonely. A few hundred feet away, there’a another boat. It is the Party Boat: people are talking, somewhat enjoying themselves and they’re aware of your boat on some level… but no one is exactly throwing you a line to tow you in.
Being in a tutorial when you have social anxiety (like this person) is like being on that boat. Let’s call it the H.M.S anxiety for the sake of argument.
The H.M.S Anxiety doesn’t want to float near the other boat. Even if you want to get there yourself (I mean, tutorial participation is important for the grades) that boat is not budging. And from this place of shyness, let me tell you, getting engaged in a discussion is hard. For me, one of two things happens:
Option one-I ask a question that I don’t actually need answered… and it serves no purpose (for me). It might help others, but it still feels awkward, generally discouraging me from making further attempts to talk.
Option two-I say something, and it has the same effect as, say, shouting “RED” in an awkward silence. Yes, the silence is broken… but at what cost?
Okay. Obviously sitting there silently isn’t really an option either. I want to pass the class, and usually, I have something like this to contend with:
It’s not much, granted, but with great anxiety comes a great fear of failure. Which means, the ten percent counts enough for me to not just kind of forget about it. I can’t just show up. I need to do things to match my unreasonably high standards for myself.
So how does one get the H.M.S Anxiety to sail over to the tutorial boat? How does one get engaged in tutorial when doing so is Very Scary? I have to say, it’s a lot easier said than done. The Anxiety Factor can make saying a few words terrifying – what if you’re wrong, or your contribution is just kind of pushed aside? It’s no one’s fault if it happens, but it feels real bad sometimes.
(Me in tutorials sometime. Actual picture.)
In the spirit of this blog, I don’t actually know the answers to anything – but has that ever stopped me from giving unqualified advice? I think not! So from the Captain of the H.M.S Anxiety themself, here’s how you participate in your tutorial when you’re in that boat.
Listen attentively, and sit near the front. It’s not speaking, I know, but it’s a start. Being engaged doesn’t necessarily mean making a point, so try and be attentive. Maybe, it will give you the inspiration to say something, and voila! Participation!
Remember that what you say… doesn’t really have long-term consequences. I’ve been telling myself this for years: in the moment, sometimes saying something feels very awkward. A week later? You’ll have forgotten completely. Same goes for everyone else, we’re human. We’re allowed to make mistakes when we speak, and no one is going to hold it against you.
And finally, if it’s one of those days when socialization just isn’t happening, then don’t sweat it! Take a day to just sit and listen. It’s okay if, for one or two classes, you take a backseat and let your mental health matter more than school stuff.
Keep in mind that there are literally only benefits to participating in tutorials. Sometimes? It’s going to be really hard. Sometimes, not so much. The point is, if I can do it, you can too! So best of luck, and remember that everything will be okay – even from aboard the H.M.S Anxiety, there’s a way to participate in the scheduled activities on the Tutorial Boat.
P.S. If you’re ever having a panic attack at school, or just feeling really anxious, and you need something to help calm down, here is a link to a list of calming sites and their descriptions. Feel free to use them whenever you need. If you ever want someone to talk to, hit me up in the comments!