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Feeling lonely at university?

Posted at 01 April 2019 in Health & Wellbeing

Take advice from the experts who know

We never want our residents to feel lonely at university, but we know it can happen and we’re here to make sure you know that just because you feel lonely, it doesn’t mean that you’re alone.

Whether you’ve struggled to make friends with the people you’ve met [check out our cringe-free guide to making friends for some top tips], you feel you haven’t met people with similar interests, or you think it comes down to poor mental health, we decided to club together with the experts to provide a little relief!

After all, as Sophie Phillipson – founder of student support site, HelloGrads – told us, “you can feel almost claustrophobically alone even when surrounded by hundreds of people.

Keep reading for some insight when it comes to overcoming loneliness at university.

Address the issue - if you can’t be honest with yourself, who can you be honest with?

During our conversation with Sophie Phillipson, she explained to us why a new environment could make us feel isolated and distressed. Sophie said that it comes down to believing everyone else is having an incredible time and you, alone, are struggling:

“In reality, even the most confident people will be struggling to deal with the change and feeling very self-conscious.”

Instead, Sophie recommends taking small, unintimidating steps towards finding a connection with others, and remembering that, “humans thrive when they are socially connected; it’s how we have survived as a species”. Don’t forget, everyone else wants to make all the friends they can get, too!

Make sure not to close yourself off – as tempting as it can be

Clare Bradshaw is the executive manager of UniHealth, and she is dedicated to providing solutions that will improve the health and wellbeing of UK university students.

It struck a chord with us when Clare detailed the vicious circle between loneliness and mental health problems. In short, it seems like both can contribute to the other, so try not to be hard on yourself if you find it difficult to break the cycle.

Clare recommends focusing on not alienating yourself and spending time in communal areas, even if you’re simply reading a book, and making the most of technology:

“Call, instead of a text.

“These days it’s so tempting to type a quick message instead of calling someone, but choosing to call instead and hearing the voice of a friend or family member can help us feel more connected and strengthen relationships. Video chat is even better and can be great fun.”

Plenty of us here at Campus Living Villages are millennials or Gen Z and we totally understand if you normally lean towards another way of chatting to your mates or your mum, but your world can feel quiet rather quickly without the occasional chinwag.

Take each day as it comes and stay active – even if a run round the park seems like the worst idea ever

While we’re on the subject of mental health, we also spoke to the team over at Kalms, who reminded us that each day is a step on a journey and that looking too far ahead can make our anxieties worse. They then recommended taking up some kind of exercise:

Students are considered by many to be sedentary beings, but that needn’t be the case!

“Whether it’s going out running or cycling, or joining a university sports society, exercising can effectively help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.”

Not only will this give you the chance to be around new people – whether they become best friends or someone to chat to in the changing room! – you might get a new sense of purpose to boot.

Speak about how you feel – you might be surprised by how comforting it can be!

Reckon telling someone will be really awks?

As unique as we all like to think we are (right?), you’d be surprised how easy it can be to find one or more people who will agree with your most “embarrassing” thought.

Luke Harris, who works for Party Hard Travel, has been there, done that and he now has an undergraduate degree in psychology and criminology and a postgraduate degree in psychological wellbeing. Here’s what he said:

“The best way to overcome these feelings is to talk.

“Talk to your new friends in your home from home, after all you're going to be spending the next year together. Talk about how nervous you might be feeling and feel yourself relax when they say exactly the same thing!”

Be kind to yourself above anything else – you should be your own first priority

Siân Duffin is the Student Support Manager at Arden University and when we asked her about loneliness and isolation at university, our favourite part of her advice was to “watch how you talk to yourself”, and if you find yourself thinking negatively, challenge it:

“For example, if you think ‘no one likes me’, challenge that with evidence of existing positive relationships.

“Loneliness can often stem from missing a person, a place or experience. Once you know the root of that, change it. Write a letter to the person, plan to visit the place or to repeat an experience that has been positive.

“Having things to look forward to helps when the loneliness seems overwhelming.”

If all else fails, reach out – there are people just waiting to help you

Feeling lonely from time to time is completely normal, especially because these days we’re constantly scrolling people’s highlight reels on Insta (no one’s life is THAT #blessed), but there’s definitely a limit to what you should have to cope with.

If things are getting too much and your day-to-day life is becoming very difficult, there are people just waiting to help you. Contact our partner in mental health support, Rethink Mental Illness, to get advice and find support that’s local to you, or head in to see you GP – they’ll do their best to help you get to the bottom of bad thoughts and low self-esteem.

We hope this little guide came in handy. Loneliness might not disappear overnight or with reading one article, but it could just be your first positive step. Remind yourself, as Siân Duffin said to us, “every friend starts out as a stranger that you got to know better”.

Jump back to the #YouGotThis hub for more student-friendly advice.​

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