- Feeling anxious about being in a new environment is normal, and we have some tips on how to navigate the stress of the new academic year
- Each week, we respond to a question from our readers, and our team of clinical psychologists give advice and resources you can turn to
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The new academic year has started, but I still haven’t adapted. None of my friends are in my classes, so I have to get used to new classmates and new teachers. But I’m terrified of this new environment. What should I do?
Best, Frightfully Friendless
Dear Frightfully Friendless
We understand that you’re feeling worried about facing new challenges at school without the familiar support of teachers and classmates you already know.
It’s normal to feel anxious about meeting new people and facing the possibility of rejection. This fear might stem from a bad experience, your insecurities, a fear of embarrassment, or just being shy around new people.
Regardless, entering a new environment is a situation that everyone faces at different points in life. Feeling terrified is a normal reaction to facing the unfamiliar. So take it slowly and be patient with yourself.
Even if your friends or old teachers aren’t in your classes, that doesn’t mean you are alone. Reach out to your previous teachers to see if they have tips on your current classes and suggestions for how to get to know your new teachers.
Whether your friends are in another school or just in different classes, seeing each other less often does not mean your friendship needs to fade. From chatting on social media to meeting up on the weekends, you can still keep in touch with them and tell them about your problems.
Spending time with them may help to ease your loneliness and stress. It can also serve as a reminder that you have the ability to make friends because you’ve already done it at least once.
At the same time, keep an open mind towards meeting new friends. Try to learn more about your classmates and see if you share any common interests. Get to know them through working on group projects, studying for tests together or even reaching out to them when you are struggling with an assignment.
Just by being in a class together, you and your classmates already have a shared experience. But you can also see if they are in any of the extracurricular activities you enjoy – if they are, this is an opportunity to get to know them outside the classroom.
In your classes or other activities, you can try taking up additional responsibilities as a way of getting to know more people. Being a section representative, prefect, sport captain or activities coordinator can help you feel a sense of belonging, while also developing your own leadership and interpersonal skills.
Hopefully, our tips are useful for you, but if these worries keep affecting your daily life and you continue to feel terrified in your classes, you may need to talk to a trusted adult about this.
This is especially important if your anxiety is causing you to avoid things you want or need to do for a prolonged period of time (more than two weeks from now). Watch out for physical symptoms of your stress, which can include upset stomach, nausea and sweating. If this is the case, talk to your parents or teachers, so they know how you’re feeling and can offer timely support to you.
For more information, please check out the links below:
YouthCan: Ice-breaking tips
Hope this helps, Friend of a Friend
This question was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under Shall We Talk, a mental health initiative launched with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.