Monday 10 June 2024

Navigating loneliness and finding community

The Editorial Team are raising awareness during Loneliness Awareness Week and sharing their experiences and tips from university.

- Student Minds Blog Editorial Team

⭐ Leaving college/school to start university in September ⭐
by Taylor

This is perhaps the trickiest stage of university. I felt such nervousness when starting university about leaving behind everything that I'd known for years and joining a completely new environment where everything worked differently and I knew no one. The thing that brought me the most comfort though was that we all shared a lot in common and I wasn't alone in my worries. Making new friends isn't always easy but we've all got things in common... everyone's starting something new and everyone knows no one. It's all about getting out there, finding your people and making the best memories. 

⭐ Moving back home over the summer
by Emily

This is a poignant one for me as, after 7 years in my University Town, I am moving back home... but not. My family moved away from my home town whilst I was studying at University so my new home isn't really a home I know. I'm a bit worried about feeling lonely, moving away from a network I have built over the last 7 years but I'm determined to keep in touch with as many people as possible and maintain strong connections with those that I love. It's important to remember that those who want to stick around will always find a way - it's sometimes a blessing in disguise to move out of the area and strengthen your real crowd from afar!

⭐ Graduating from university ⭐
by Madeleine

Graduating from university brought up a lot of mixed feelings for me. Alongside feelings of accomplishment and pride that I'd made it to the end, I also felt a little lost and scared about what the future held. All my friends were now scattered across the country, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next. What really helped me was acknowledging that everyone is at different stages and has different priorities. Despite conflicting schedules, I made an effort to stay in contact with close friends while applying to jobs in my family home. I also think it helps to take comfort from those with you in person, whether that be your parents and siblings, or childhood friends. Despite feeling lonely when I first moved out, I ended up making lovely friends where I worked in my first job after graduation, so if you're feeling a little lonely after graduation give it some time and put yourself out there, you'll find your people!

How are you getting involved during Loneliness Awareness Week? Share with the team - we'd love to hear from you!

Find out how you can get involved with the Student Minds Blog this Loneliness Awareness Week.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

What is wrong with me?

Hannah shares their experience of loneliness during university and since graduating. They discuss the stigma associated with loneliness and share their journey of self-acceptance. 

- Hannah

How do I share that I’m lonely? 
How can I be lonely as a young person? 
What is wrong with me?

These are all questions I asked myself persistently both during and after university. The notion of loneliness can feel incredibly embarrassing and stigmatising because it appears that everyone else around you is happy and content in their friendships and you’re the only one struggling. Loneliness is often associated with older generations, with a lot of information and support tailored to ‘befriending’ people who are elderly. It seems inconceivable that someone of a younger age could be lonely. There are so many chances to meet people whether this is through education, work or hobbies however, it is much easier said than done and I’ve spent too much time berating myself for struggling so much with it.   

University was going to be a fresh start for me: new city, new course, new everything. I was going to be confident and make lots of friends… spoiler alert this didn’t happen. The culture of drinking and partying seemed so new and exciting but in reality, this led to cycles of overthinking and self-loathing for me personally. I put so much pressure on myself to be like other people and to modify myself in accordance with the interests and behaviours of those around me. This, however, wasn’t an authentic version of myself. Consequently, I couldn’t maintain this persona and ended up becoming quite isolated throughout my time at university.   

Since graduating I have learnt a lot about myself through therapy, but also through a lot of self-reflection. I have become more accepting of myself as an individual, and of my difficulties making friends due to my own struggles with mental health and neurodiversity, rather than blaming myself for not being like other people. Self-acceptance has been a huge breakthrough for me in terms of loneliness, and it has allowed me to assess what I need to prioritise in my life in order to stay well. I have realised that I actually really value quality time on my own, and in fact, require this time in order to function.  

I have a small number of friends, they are important to me and I know I could call on them if I needed to. Sometimes I still reflect on our friendships and compare them to what is on social media, and wonder why I don’t have a huge group of friends that are constantly out socialising. I try to remind myself that that isn’t what I want and need all of the time.  

Despite this, I still recognise that connection with others is vital for my mental health, through volunteering for a charity on a weekly basis and attending virtual journaling sessions I have been able to make connections with like-minded people in a way that is comfortable to me.   

The key for me has been the journey of self-acceptance. It’s been focusing on what I enjoy and what makes me happy, rather than basing my interests on what other people like. Having the ability now to adjust to the unrealistic expectations of myself and generally just being a lot kinder to myself, has also helped on this journey. This has been a long process; this didn’t happen overnight. Therapy has been really beneficial in allowing me to explore these difficulties further and realise that I’m not alone and it’s really common to feel lonely, regardless of age. 

For anyone who has felt this way or is still feeling this way, know that you are not alone and that things do get better. 

Find out how you can get involved with the Student Minds Blog.

I'm Hannah (they/them), I struggle with my mental health and I'm neurodivergent. I wanted to share my experience of loneliness at a time when I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to be like other people. I'd love it if this blog could help someone going through something similar, to not feel so alone and ashamed.