How do we tackle loneliness? We do it together
Packing your life into suitcases, waving goodbye to your childhood bedroom, and feeling lost when your parents leave you in a new building, a new city, with new people. Lots of new students know these feelings.
Fast forward a few weeks. You’ve unpacked and studying has begun. And, all of a sudden, it can hit home that this isn’t a summer camp and you have to survive independently, outside the cocoon of friends and family.
So, what can you do if you start to feel lonely?
Start by getting to know your flatmates
By mid-October of the first semester, it’s common to find you actually don’t know your flatmates all that well, and that in itself can cause loneliness.
My flatmates and I found it best to do the boring things together, to get a chance to hang out and talk about everything and anything. We always say ‘I’m going to cook lunch in a minute if anyone wants to join?’, or ‘I need to do a food shop, anyone want to come?’
Doing tasks like these with new people allows you to break the ice and talk about a variety of things, giving the socialising a much more relaxed feel. Naturally shy? Your flatmates may be too, so asking them to join you will make them feel really included. Who knows, you might just make your next best friend on a trip to Tesco!
Tackle the challenge of independent living
Living without your parents can also feel intimidating. Questions such as ‘Who’s going to wash my clothes?’, ‘Who’s going to look after me when I’m ill?’ and, ‘Will I ever eat a home cooked roast dinner again?’ are all completely valid and understandable. Well the answer is… you!
You’re 18, you can buy alcohol, lottery tickets, and go to 18-rated films, but can you work a tumble drier? Now’s the time to learn.
Embrace the challenge of doing a weekly shop on a budget, washing, drying and ironing your own clothes, and waking up on time in the mornings without your mum shouting up the stairs. Uni is often seen as a time to eat nothing but pizza and go to bed whenever you like, but why not prove this view wrong?
Impress your parents and yourself by cooking your own meals, and generally adulting successfully. You’ll make your parents proud, and you’ll impress yourself with how much you can actually do - and it will help take your mind off feeling lonely.
Support is all around. Talk and find help if you need to.
If you think your feelings of loneliness are more than just temporary, and they’re affecting you day-to-day, it may be a good idea to speak to somebody.
Anxiety and depression as a result of loneliness are common among students, so don’t feel like you’re alone. You’re not. There’s a whole support network there for you if you need it.
Register at your local doctor’s surgery or student medical practice, and book an appointment to talk about how you’re feeling. No matter how small you think a problem might be, your feelings are valid and GPs are there to help. Your uni will also have a dedicated mental health service, run by a team of experienced people who can offer counselling and well-being support.
And try university web forums and chat rooms to see what advice other students have for you. Lots of students have gone through lonely spells before, and knowing how they dealt with it can help you.
Need to talk?
Nightline is a nationwide, free, confidential service run by trained student volunteers to offer support to other students in their area. Services operate from 8pm in most areas during term time, and run through the night. They offer students a safe place to open up without fear of judgement. Find your local Nightline.
Student Space is another great resource that’s available to you. It’s dedicated to helping you through these uncertain times and gives you the opportunity to get free, confidential support via phone, email, text or webchat.