Stepping Out Of Loneliness

Loneliness

/'l??nl?n?s/

noun

  1. sadness because one has no friends or company.
  2. (of a place) the quality of being unfrequented and remote; isolation.

Above is the Oxford dictionary’s definition of loneliness. People’s understanding of loneliness usually includes all of the elements in this definition. The truth is that if any of those elements is present, a person can find themselves feeling awfully unhappy.

Any of the following typical uni experiences can make us feel lonely:

  • Homesickness
  • Pressure to make friends
  • Not being part of a group or event
  • Expectations of student life
  • Anxiety about work-life balance
  • Not having a trustworthy person to share experiences with
  • Feeling disconnected from your environment

When getting ready for life at university, you were bombarded with advice, checklists and tools to help you plan. For things you couldn’t plan for, you were told to serve up some good old-fashioned resilience. While resilience can help you cope, it needs to be accompanied by solutions. 

While it’s important to learn that hard times pass, it’s also crucial to acknowledge that that no one deserves to be lonely. None of us could really plan for loneliness, yet 46% of students are finding themselves feeling lonely at university.

We can be tough and put up with loneliness, but we also need to start looking out for those welcoming people who will include us. My experience is that when we start looking, we notice they were already trying to get us to join in.

Who you mix with and how often you do so will always be up to you. Some of us are lone wolves and like lots of alone time, but we all get lonely sometimes! If you do feel lonely, when you’re ready to address this, then remember that lasting changes come in individual small steps. If you need someone to talk to, see our Getting Help options below and when you’re ready, look for solutions in the guide we’ve prepared.

We’ve put together this guide of people-loving-people that you can join in with if you’re finding yourself in a lonely place.  You can try as many or few things as you like and be as committed or casual about your involvement as you want.

  1. We have a really active Give It A Go programme with a huge variety of different and exciting things to do.  With the new Buddy Scheme for our day trips around the UK, you won’t even have to worry about not having anyone to go with. We’ve run activities like a Chocolate Lock-in, Pets as Therapy and loads more. If you think you’d like to go to one but don’t know who to go with, let us know! Add Alison Baker SU on Facebook to speak to the programme leader and find out more.
  2. Join Volunteering. The College run Volunteering programmes that are an amazing way to have a positive impact on the world around you and also meet new like-minded people.
  3. Get involved in a Club or Society. They have so many activities to try and attract newcomers!  Societies like Humans vs Zombies, Fem Soc and Gospel Choir are just three examples of very inclusive communities who will welcome you. There are over 120 different student groups that run regular socials and activities, usually listed here. If you have an idea for a student group that we don’t yet have, let us know and we can help you set one up! You can join a group at any point in the year, so you’ve never missed your chance.
  4. Join a Collective! Our eight Collectives are groups of students interested in campaigning and raising awareness for different topics. They are a really great way to get to know people who have similar interests and passions to you.
  5. We will be running a Refreshers Week in January where our societies and clubs will be running a number of taster sessions, so keep an eye out for them too!
  6. The Students’ Union employs over 400 student staff in a number of different areas and skills. Make money and meet new people working at the bar, tech, the Union Shop or Marketing, to name but a few areas!
  7. Speak to your peer guide. Departments have peer guides who are there to support you settling in and to talk through any academic challenges you may be facing. They will have faced similar problems to you, so drop them a message asking if they have any words of wisdom.
  8. Speak to Hall’s Life. They run drop in sessions in the library in the evenings, or you can send them an email to find out when their next social event is!
  9. Get in touch with our multi-faith Chaplaincy. The Chaplains are always happy to talk to students on any topic, regardless of your faith. For some people, faith can be a huge support during times of significant transition.
  10. Speak to one of our advisors at the SU. They can help with any kind of welfare issue, and are impartial and confidential.
  11. Book an appointment with counselling to talk through how you’re feeling and get specialist support.
  12. You can always speak to someone at Nightline or Samaritans.

Getting Help

Some of you might find that you’ve been suffering with loneliness for so long that it has caused you anxiety or depression and you’re now struggling to cope.  This is completely normal and one of the most common reasons people get help from the counselling team at uni.

The university’s Wellbeing team offers a range of services and resources that we encourage you to make the most of.

Mind has some great resources with very useful tips and links.

Helping Others         

Finally, I want to make a plea to all students to use the festive spirit to get into the habit of looking out for one another. We shouldn’t shy away from talking to students we don’t know at the bus stop or in a lecture or from inviting new people along to events and activities. Don’t give up just because someone declined an invitation in the past or wasn’t very talkative. Some of us take a bit more time to come out our shells, but when we do, who knows what we could bring to your life! 

With 20% of students meeting the ‘loves of their life’ at uni, there’s plenty of motivation to expand your network. Ask a person in the queue how they are today, invite a class-mate for a coffee or ask someone sat alone if you can sit next to them in a lecture. 

Finally, with Christmas coming up, look out for people who might have to stay behind during the holidays and stay in touch with them.

Lucy Simpson // Vice President Welfare & Diversity