Loneliness at University: re-adjusting expectation

Being lonely is something that we tend to associate with pensioners who live alone. How could a student – youthful, free-spirited, surrounded by like-minded people – ever feel lonely? Well, studies show that loneliness amongst students is actually extremely common. 46 per cent of students in the Uk reported feeling lonely at some point during the course of their degree. We are constantly bombarded with the phrase “the best years of your life.” Whilst this may certainly have been the case for some people, just as many others feel extreme pressure to live up to this statement, experiencing a deep sense of failure if they do not have the exhilaratingly happy time they had anticipated. “If university is supposedly so great, why don’t I enjoy it? There must be something wrong with me” is an understandable thought process given these expectations. Often, the stereotype of the carefree student just doesn’t apply.

Many factors can contribute to feelings of loneliness. Arriving at university is daunting enough in itself: having to make new friends, always having to be on good form, and constantly worrying that you’re missing out. These are concerns that everyone faces in the first year and beyond. Work stress, mental health issues, or even just general everyday issues can have a detrimental effect. Realistically, not every phase of life can be totally positive or totally negative. University is just one such phase. It ebbs and flows, it has its ups and downs. Life can’t just be one fun-filled party.

What’s more, it’s easy to imagine that others around you are having the best time. Who hasn’t experienced FOMO when, having decided to get an early night, you scroll through Instagram and are confronted with reels upon reels of your peers seemingly having the time of their lives? Social media has a lot to answer for in this respect, but it is important to remember that lives are filtered and highlighted through what is chosen to be shared. Instagram is not an accurate representation of the nuances of someone’s whole existence. So, take a step back and trust that there are others feeling just as you do.

So, what is there to do if you are feeling lonely?

Take each day as it comes. Lower your expectations – not in a bad way, but, not every day can be brilliant. We have to learn to take the rough days with the smooth. Sometimes, the bad times can make us appreciate the good times a little bit more.

Try and get out of the house. Even if it is just to meet someone for a coffee, or go for a walk, you will benefit from the fresh air and movement. Once you’re out of the house, at least there is the chance of making new friends. Inside your bedroom, there is pretty much a guarantee that this will not be the case.

Join a society or a sports team. It can be nerve-wracking, but just remember that everyone is in the same boat as you. What’s more, each person is worrying about what others think of them also and no one has time to think badly of anyone else, especially not you!

Above all, please know that you are not alone. So many people experience loneliness. It is normal and nothing to be ashamed about. Talk to someone. If you are consistently feeling lonely, please seek help. Edinburgh has several different avenues accessible to students.

Student Counselling: https://www.ed.ac.uk/student-counselling

The Chaplaincy, regardless of religious affliation.

Nightline: 0131 557 4444 https//ednightline.com/

Outside of the university, chairities such as Mind, https://www.mind.org.uk/, and The Mix, for under 25s, https://www.themix.org.uk/get-support also offers various forms of support.

Image: Fran_ via Pixabay

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