20 December 2019

STUDENT BLOG: Coping with loneliness at Christmas

STUDENT BLOG: Coping with loneliness at Christmas

A photo of Evie Connell

 

Evie Connell is a second year Marketing and Business student. She has a blog at https://everything-evening.com/

Everyone hypes up university as the best years of your life. You can move away, reinvent yourself and become more independent. With social media, everyone is determined to show that they are having the best time. For many people that’s true, but it can also be difficult.

As we approach Christmas, an occasion that is all about joy, celebrations and spending time with your family. It can be a difficult time of year for a number of different reasons, one of them being loneliness. Something that has a stigma attached to it since we are in an age where we are always connected to other people.

So I want to talk about how loneliness affected me as a young adult.

In 2017, aged 20, I made the decision to move across the country for university along with my boyfriend. We moved to the city where his university was, and I made the decision to commute to my uni from there. I had commuted to college every day so I didn’t think it would be too hard. I also had to move jobs when I moved cities, I stayed with the same company but went from a small store to a supermarket.

At the first university I went to, which wasn't Abertay, I struggled to make friends. It was a big university with 18,000 people in attendance and around 500-600 people in lectures, sometimes the lectures had to be run twice that day so everyone could attend. Each class I had, had different people in it. It was hard to recognize people and most people stuck with their flatmates. I figured it would be okay as I was not spending too much time at uni, I was more interested in making friends in the city that I lived in.

I hoped to do this through work as I was quite close to the people I worked with at home. However, when I moved to a supermarket I was in a department where I was heavily on my own. I barely spoke to anyone for the whole shift and it just didn’t work out the way I hoped.

Loneliness hit me the hardest as we were coming up to Christmas. Everyone around me was talking about what they were doing with their families and it started to hit me harder that I no longer lived near mine. Working in retail like most students do I had only a couple of days off where I could see my family and friends. I felt like I wasn’t giving everyone the time I wanted to within these few days. I felt guilty about spending time with my friends instead of my parents or grandparents.

Regardless of Christmas working in retail hindered my relationships at home. I was working weekends when most of my family and friends worked Monday – Friday. I felt like I only spoke to my now fiancé and my Mum. As much as I love them it wasn’t easy having them as my only form of communication.

My mental health began to fall. I went from being a really sociable extroverted person to not knowing how to talk to people and wondering why at 20 I couldn’t make friends. It completely knocked my confidence.

I failed my first year at uni and began to dread going to work. This was when I decided something had to change.

I chose to turn my whole life around. I changed jobs and I transferred to Abertay.

There are now 40 people in my year on my course. It’s the same faces in every class, my lecturers know my name and my course is full of constant group work so we get to know everyone.

Moving jobs also worked out for the better. Despite still working weekends, I ended up in a department where I constantly spoke with other people and although I no longer work there, I have made friends with girls that I still talk to and meet up with.

Of course, during this, I still had friends from back home that I now make sure I find time to take a day once a month to go for lunch or dinner with them. It doesn’t always need to be weekends it could just be a random Tuesday night after they’ve finished work.

Although drastic this was necessary for my mental health. Loneliness can be debilitating, and it can be embarrassing to admit that yes I am only in my early 20’s but I’m lonely.

Most people focus on the elderly being lonely, but actually, young people are more likely to be affected. A study in 2018 found that 40% of those aged 16-24 felt lonely often or very often compared to 29% of those aged 65-74.

Loneliness is something that we can change. It doesn’t need to be as drastic as my experience of changing everything within your life, it could just be reaching out to someone you love and trust and saying ‘hey can we go for a coffee?’

Failing that, if you don’t feel like you have someone to reach out to there are counselling services available at Abertay. It’s really simple to sign up for and the waiting time is never too much.  As someone who has benefited from the services, I’d highly recommend it if you feel you need it.

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