University’s an immensely social affair, which can be very difficult to get used to. And when you do manage to be appropriately social, you need to then make very sure your study doesn’t suffer because of it – it can be a tricky situation, and it can be very easy to feel a little lonely and stressed at times. Your mental health is incredibly important and needs looking after; both for the sake of your degree and for the sake of yourself.
Thing is, a lot of people get lonely sometimes, and very often at university – you’re having to leave friends and family behind all in order to work very hard towards a degree, whilst all the while borrowing more money than you’ve ever seen before. It’s a difficult time, and a big step, and it’s no small wonder why many students get lonely and a bit depressed during their first few weeks of university. With all that in mind, here’s some advice on avoiding loneliness as best you can, and what to do if you do end up getting a bit down.
Social media is a great way to talk to people you’ve met and to stay in contact with people you may otherwise forget about.
Try to get Facebook or Twitter before you go to university. We’re aware that the vast majority of you will already have an account and will be wondering who on earth we’re trying to communicate with here; but if you don’t have an account, get one, you’ll only be estranged if you don’t.
Make friends with your housemates or the people in your halls of residence – they’ll be the people you’ll be spending most of your time with, and they’ll probably be the people you end up living with over the coming years. If you’re not confident enough to dive right into the deep end (fair enough), fake it, and it’ll come to you. Weirdly, that appears to be how confidence works.
First impressions aren’t everything, but they certainly help – try to make as best and as interesting an impression as you can, without overdoing it too much, and that will help immensely with making friends in the long term and getting to know people in the short term. Seriously, just be as confident as you can be and people will be encouraged into wanting to get to know you better.
Friends and Family
One of the main reasons so many people feel a little lonely when they start university is the sudden distance between their friends and family, who for a lot have been around since primary school. This loneliness is entirely understandable and is absolutely nothing to worry about. Don’t forget that anyone you want to talk to is never really that far away with the use of technology. We recommend downloading Skype and setting up group WhatsApp messages with your mates before you leave.
Don’t be embarrassed for wanting to call your friends or family – everyone wants to occasionally, and sometimes it can be really comforting to catch up with an old friend and talk about developments at university; or to just be scolded at by mum for drinking too much/eating too little. There’s nothing wrong with taking the time to adjust slowly to what is an entirely new lifestyle; remember that.
If you still feel a little lonely after this, it may well just be because you’re just a bit bored – try to distract yourself by preferably doing something social, even if it is just watching a film with somebody; or, failing that, by going for a walk or even doing some university work. It’s your call, but there’s almost certainly something that needs doing that you could better spend your time on than just wondering what your friends back home are doing.
This article works as a decent distraction in itself, but it won’t last forever – find something cool to do; it’ll be worth it. If you are at a university which boasts about their student union then you may have already heard about societies and sports clubs? If you haven’t go and check out your union’s website as most of them do offer these clubs. Students can join societies and sports clubs to socialise with people who have similar interests to them, and even if your interests are specific, I bet there is still a society for it!
When people end up feeling lonely or down about something or other, their physical health tends to suffer at the same time as their mental health. One can very much have an effect on the other, and it’s important to remember to eat healthily and get at least a little exercise each day. This helps much, much more than people realise, and even a hot shower and a morning walk can have enormously positive effects on somebody’s psyche.
Explore the town you’re going to be spending a few years in and work out what you are and aren’t interested in – find a good bar you can show off to people, or a decent restaurant, or just a nice spot – all of which will be fondly looked back on in your later years. Just getting out and about is great for the mind, and a breath of fresh air is sadly very much underrated.
And if none of the above is much help to you and you still feel down after a few weeks of adjusting to university, it might be time to seek some help from another source. Almost all universities have a health and well-being centre for students to talk to unbiased people who are happy to help if you feel bad in any way, and will refer you to a therapist if you feel you need it.
Remember that everybody gets sad and lonely occasionally, but if this is a symptom of a bigger problem, there’s nothing wrong with talking to someone and airing some issues – everybody needs somebody to talk to at some point, and it can be immensely helpful to even have a brief conversation with someone about what’s getting you down. Consider it – it really could help a lot and definitely isn’t going to be a hindrance.