What to do if you are feeling lonely at university - some self-help tips
Going to university can be incredibly exciting. You have the opportunity to live independently, embrace your newfound freedom, make friends, and pursue a subject you are passionate about.
However, it can feel daunting, especially at first. It might be the first time you have been away from your home, family and friends. This - coupled with an unfamiliar city as well as new pressures and expectations - can leave you feeling understandably lonely and homesick.
It’s important to understand that these feelings are entirely normal and you’re not alone. Here, we provide some self-help tips to help you get back on track, and make the most of your uni experience.
Realise that everyone is in the same boat
It’s easy to think you’re the only person who’s feeling lonely and homesick, but it’s actually really common. Everyone who moves away to uni for the first time is likely to feel out of their comfort zone, and miss their family and friends.
Reach out and talk to someone
If you’re feeling lonely it can be easy to bottle it up and withdraw from other people, but this is one of the worst things you can do. Try reaching out to a new flatmate, or someone on your course. You’ll probably find that they feel exactly the same, and you can support each other. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ after all.
Set realistic goals
Set yourself a target of speaking to someone new each time you go to a lecture, arranging to go for a coffee with one of your flatmates, and going on a certain number of social events every week.
You can then build up to bigger targets such as joining a club or society, or starting a new hobby…
Join a society or club
Universities are bursting to the brim with social activities, clubs and societies, and one of the best ways to combat loneliness is to get yourself out there!
If you played sports at school or college, why not join a team? If you play a musical instrument, try joining an orchestra. Nothing is stopping you from taking up a new hobby either.
You can usually find out about your uni’s clubs and societies on their website or at the ‘Fresher’s Fair’ which normally happens in the first few weeks. Joining a society is a great way to meet people with similar interests, become part of a community, and broaden your social circle.
Stay in touch with family and friends
While it’s important to engage with your new surroundings and reach out to new people, one of the best ways to boost your mood is to speak with your friends and family. This is why it’s so important to stay in touch - pick up the phone and call your parents, siblings or friends from home as often as you need to.
A really important way to keep a healthy mind-set is to fill your life with positive activities. Try and eat healthily, make sure that you exercise, and create time for doing relaxing things you enjoy.
Establish a routine
While it may be difficult to create a routine in the busy first few weeks of uni, it’s important to establish a healthy pattern when Fresher’s has finished. Try to go food shopping or go to the gym on certain days of the week. Little steps like this can help you feel more settled in your new university life.
Take a break
Sometimes, the best thing to do if you’re feeling lonely or homesick, is to take a break and go home for a while. We wouldn’t advise doing this every week, or to the extent that you’re missing lectures, but going home during holidays, reading weeks, and some weekends could do you the world of good. Taking time out in a familiar environment can help you to relax, spend time with your family and get a good dose of your home comforts.
Believe in yourself!
It’s so important that you don’t blame yourself for feeling lonely or isolated at university. Be positive; tell yourself that things will get better and believe that you are going to have a great experience – the chances are that you will.
When to seek professional help
For some, the feelings of loneliness and homesickness can run a bit deeper, and may not improve over time. It may cause other symptoms to develop, such as panic attacks, and mental health conditions including depression and anxiety.
If you find that negative emotions seem to dominate your life, and you’re feeling low most of the time, it’s really important that you get some professional help.
All universities provide access to counsellors, so make an appointment to talk to someone about your struggles. Alternatively, you could go and speak to your GP about how you’re feeling (whether this is a GP at home or at university), who will be able to provide you with advice on next steps. You can also get in touch with Priory. We can provide you with access to expert psychiatrists, therapists and other mental health professionals, who will be able to support you with your challenges.
Another option would be to make use of charities such as Samaritans who are available around the clock to talk to you about any problems that you’re having. You can call Samaritans on 116 123.