I experienced loneliness for the first time this August. I spent most of summer studying abroad with USF, where new friends surrounded me and I rarely spent a moment alone. When the program ended, I stayed with my sister in Paris. She left for the U.S. before me, and I found myself alone for the first time in months.
Unfamiliar with my newfound isolation, I filled the void with museums and independent explorations. Eventually, I felt loneliness rather than independence. I was going full days without talking to anyone in person, and I felt rejected. I avoided interactions because I didn’t feel worthy of conversation. Instead of being my social and enthusiastic self, I was paranoid, sad, and frustrated. I was in one of my favorite places in the world, but the truth is loneliness can affect anyone at any time or place.
Although I figured out ways around loneliness and enjoyed my last few days alone, isolation can have a seriously negative mental and physical impact. In honor of yesterday’s World Suicide Prevention Day, we remember to spread hope and knowledge no matter the degree of loneliness or depression.
Students commonly experience loneliness while adjusting to college. Leaving behind family and long-time friends is stressful and overwhelming, and making new friendships takes a lot of time and effort. If you’re feeling lonely in a new environment, don’t get discouraged. Understand your feelings and help combat loneliness!
6 Steps to Combat Loneliness
- Be patient. It takes time and experiences to establish trust and strong connections. You can’t rush something you want to last forever.
- Get out of your head. You think about yourself and your appearance way more than others. Don’t let your emotions distort your self-perception. Negative thinking reinforces lonely behavior, so remember there is nothing wrong with you and you are worthy of conversation.
- Get involved. Thoughts, feelings, and habits of loneliness will continue if you don’t try to change your situation. Join a club, network, intramural team, Facebook group, church –- anything that gets you involved with something you enjoy.
- Try the Ice Bucket Breaking Challenge. Dare yourself to talk to a stranger before class, at the gym, etc. You won’t be best friends with every person you talk to, but chatting up strangers can improve your confidence and help overcome awkwardness.
- Express your feelings. Writing down how you feel can bring understanding to your experience, but if your anxiety restricts you from meeting new people or improving your situation, stop by the Counseling Center. Expressing your feelings of loneliness can bring comfort.
- Stay in touch. Thanks to social media and cell phones, you can stay connected to family and friends at home. Use them for support and advice while giving time and effort to new friendships at school.