Self-care tips for student loneliness at Christmas
A recent study published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that students and young people fall into the loneliest category in the UK. Those aged between 16 and 24 were the loneliest age group, experiencing feelings of loneliness “often/always”.
Young people experiencing loneliness often suffer in silence, as it’s almost always associated with elderly people. The stigma may be greater than ever, but we believe it’s time to dispel this stigma: “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.
As Christmas approaches, emotions often become intense: students and young people are faced with forced cheer imposing on their personal space, the stress of additional expenditure and not to mention foreign exchange students spending Christmas away from home and their family.
Katie, a writer from Counselling Directory talks about how we can challenge those feelings of loneliness from turning to feelings of despair, particularly for students who aren’t able to get home this Christmas.
Now is the perfect time to build your own family and friendships with students in the same boat as you. Particularly important for foreign exchange students who can’t get home for the holidays or don’t celebrate the festive season. Reach out to these groups via Facebook, the SU or the campus Radio and create your own ‘Spanish-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.
If uni life is challenging, immersing yourself in the local community at Christmas time is a great form of escapism. Volunteering at a local charity, often understaffed in the holidays, allows you contact to a whole new friendship group and keeps you preoccupied with a new purpose - not to mention a Christmas outing with new friends!
Katie spoke to student counsellor Quintus Farrell for his expert self-care tips this Christmas.
“Amidst the business and stimulation of daily life, people feel neglected, ignored and unloved. Loneliness and solitude are different from each other. Some people love to be on their own while some people can feel lonely amongst others, even those they have a close relationship with.”
Not everyone celebrates Christmas or has a bustling home to go back to. For those of us who feel lonely, winter can be a very low time. Here are a few ideas to help cope with those feelings:
- Plan. Plan something for each day and try to involve others if you can. Even if it’s just running an errand or going out for a coffee; having an activity to look forward to will break up the day and keep your mind focused on something other than feelings of loneliness. Your university will also have a calendar of events that can help connect you to other students.
- Speak with friends. Instead of sending a text message, speak to your friends in real time. Technology has made this a lot easier for students today with FaceTime/Viber/Facebook video message/Skype.
- Visit. Read a book, visit an interesting place or, if you’re so inclined, a church, mosque, synagogue, temple or community centre. Trying something new stimulates the brain and gives you a rest from the vicious circle of negative thoughts.
- Volunteer. Offer your help to a charity, they will be very grateful for your support - and, in return, can support you. Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose.
- Go outside. Even if the weather is terrible, go for a walk. Exercise really helps release endorphins, the feel-good hormone triggering positive emotions in the body.
- Get creative. Cooking, baking, painting; any hobby that gives the mind some breathing space is essential to combat feelings of loneliness turning into feelings of despair.
Oxford University offers Nightline, a trained volunteer-led listening service that operates from 8pm to 8am every night in term time. You can get in touch online via http://oxfordnightline.org/ or call on 01865 270270.
You can also contact Samaritans who offer round the clock support, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This number is FREE to call and you don't have to be in complete despair to call them.