How to Tackle Loneliness at University
Before starting university, I had so much excitement about meeting new people, making new friends and having an amazing social life. Perhaps this was because I had friends who had started university life a year or 2 before me and told me that I’m going to have the time of my life, but I was embarking on a new chapter of my life, so why shouldn’t I be excited?
Freshers week was undoubtedly an amazing experience for me, it was an opportunity to get to know my flatmates in halls and even mingle with other people living in my block. I got to experience Brighton nightlife and found a sense of freedom that I was not used to living at home with my family. I felt on a high!
But things began to spiral quite rapidly once freshers week was over and the reality of university life set in. My flatmates were spending less time socialising in the communal areas, which meant I also resigned to my bedroom. Even though I had made friends and got on with everyone in my flat, I felt lonely sat in my room of an evening. To fill the emptiness, I would catch up with friends and family on the phone, but these phone calls only last so long, I would eventually be sat on my own, in silence.
What I began to learn is that I didn’t enjoy my own company, I wasn’t used to sitting in my bedroom alone, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t feel confident enough to knock on my flatmates’ rooms and ask them if they wanted to hang out and definitely didn’t feel close enough to any of them to tell them how lonely I really felt.
I was yet to get involved in a sports team or a student society; and at this early stage I didn’t really speak to my course mates outside of lectures or seminars. I had a crippling feeling of isolation and didn’t know where to turn.
I let my emotions escalate, and feelings of loneliness turned into anxiety and depression. I didn’t let on how I was feeling to anyone and looking back, that was my mistake. I should have taken the courage to share how I was feeling with those around me, I waited until 2nd year to have an honest conversation with my university tutor who encouraged me to utilise the wellbeing services that were offered by the university.
The first step I took was speaking to the business schools Student Support and Guidance Tutor (SSGT), Stuart. As I was talking to him I remember thinking: “Ahh, he’s going to think I’m so stupid”, but Stuart reassured me that I’m not alone in this and provided support and advice on how to manage some of the stress and anxiety I was dealing with. As extra support he advised I spoke to one of the university counsellors.
Initially, I was reluctant to speak to a counsellor, I wasn’t sure how helpful it would be, and if I would really gain anything from it. Surprisingly, I found the counselling sessions really helpful, they allowed me to open up and explore why I felt lonely and depressed, looking at my relationships and my own personal issues. After the 6 sessions, I felt more in control of my life and felt empowered to work on myself and to begin to love and appreciate myself.
What I’ve learned is that university isn’t all about partying and making lifelong friends, we spend this time learning about who we are as people and sometimes this can be a really tough process. There are some things you can do if you feel lonely and isolated at uni:
Join a society – This can open you up to a completely new social network and if it’s sports related then even better, as sports has been proven to be good from your brain, releasing endorphins that can perk you up.
Exercise – Even if it’s a small jog around the block, a cycle, or a 10-minute yoga session, exercise gives your brain a break and can help re-energise you.
Get out of your room – The longer you sit in your bedroom alone, the more lonely you begin to fill, force yourself out of your room, a change of scenery can do you the world of good, try visiting a quaint coffee shop for some you time, or if you want to me productive try and get yourself to the library, anyway where you are not deafened by your silence.
And please remember you are not alone, there are plenty of people and students who are in the same boat as you, going through the same wave of emotions. If a sense of loneliness begins to overwhelm you please talk to someone, whether that be a close friend, relative or the wellbeing services provided by the university.