Loneliness at Christmas

Combatting student loneliness at Christmas

“Loneliness might be the last taboo, but the more we open up and talk to others about what we’re experiencing, the sooner the stigma will end.” Becky Wright, former student.

University is a life-affirming, exciting experience for many students, but it can also be incredibly lonely. When the chaos of freshers week is over, the workload and realisation of contact time has set in, feelings of homesickness and loneliness aren’t uncommon. But you aren’t alone.

A recent study from Sodexo found that at 46%, almost half of UK students feel lonely at university and certainly at Christmas, emotions are heightened and forced cheer is everywhere. It was reported by the Office of National Statistics that adults aged between 16 to 24 years were the loneliest age group, and feelings of loneliness can quickly spiral into feelings of desperation and despair.

Writer, Katie from Counselling Directory details how we can together combat those feelings of loneliness, particularly for students who can’t or won’t go home this festive season and chats to Becky Wright, recent graduate who experienced severe feelings of loneliness at uni.

“One of the most triggering things for loneliness is feeling that I didn’t have a connection with other people, or I lacked the confidence to form connections with people. Self-belief is something I’ve always struggled with, and I think there’s a link between that and my ability to put myself ‘out there’.”

Top tips for self-care at Christmas

Make your own family

Now is the perfect time to build friendships with students in the same boat. Perhaps there are lots of international students who like you can’t get home for the holidays, or you don’t celebrate the festive season: reach out to these groups in October/November and build foundations so when university closes for Christmas, you have a ready-made support network.

Find a community

Immerse yourself in the local community if you’re finding uni life challenging. At Christmas time, charities are often understaffed as people are off for the holidays so try volunteering at a local dog rescue or home for the elderly. You’ll be preoccupied with a new purpose and have the ability to contact a whole new friend group plus enjoy a Christmas outing with plenty of new people.

Do your research

Perhaps the UK isn’t your home turf and travelling home isn’t possible at this time of year. Research groups and events associated with your nationality and try and join/attend an event. You can create your own ‘Aussie-style’ Christmas or even take a weekend trip away with your fellow nationals. Each of you will understand the difficulties and emotions of having Christmas away from home, and it’s a perfect time to bond and support one another.

Go outside

Go for a walk on Christmas Day. You’ll encounter other people and you’ll be able to put the feeling of isolation into perspective. Getting active increases the release of the ‘feel-good’ hormones endorphins, triggering positive emotions in the body.

Keep with tradition

If your family have a certain Christmas tradition that you do every year, try and incorporate this into your home away from home. You’ll feel connected to your family emotionally and skyping/Facetiming them instead of texting will allow for real time connections.

Remember, feelings of loneliness at university are completely normal but if you do find yourself in despair, there is always someone to turn to. Exeter university offers the Student Nightline 07786 209 309, a confidential, anonymous, non-judgmental, non-directional and non-advisory space for all students at the university. The service is open every night during term-time, from 8pm until 8am and is run by students, for students.

You can also contact Samaritans who offer round the clock support, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org. This number is FREE to call and you don't have to be in complete despair to call them.

You can also contact the University wellbeing service, or the Students’ Guild Advice service by e-mailing advice@exeterguild.com

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