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Our new guest blogger, Emily Spillane, talks about loneliness at university

1. Loneliness: what it is, why it’s a growing problem, and what can help
2. Our new guest blogger, Emily Spillane, talks about loneliness at university

In my own experience, going to university was one of the loneliest times of my life. Although I was surrounded by people and friends, I could not shake the feeling that I used to wake up to everyday – that I didn’t belong and had an empty disconnectedness with the world around me.

I feel this is something no one prepares you for and it does not get spoken about enough. University is made out to be this great new adventure, which it is, but it also comes with a lot of time being out of your comfort zone and on your own. For someone who has lived in a large family and been surrounded by people all her life to move away from it all and to live in a single bedroom – it is quite a different experience.

I felt as if I were doing it ‘wrong’, why do I feel this way when I am surrounded by all these new people and exciting experiences? Instead, I was waking up empty and wondering what I had gotten myself into.

That’s the thing about loneliness, you can be surrounded by people but still feel alone.

How did I overcome it?

To try to make a change, I made sure I was filling my days with things so that I had limited time on my own when I could be consumed by my thoughts and anxieties.

 I made sure when I was back in halls or in my house that I would be with someone else and that we would keep each other company – whether this was watching a film, playing a game, or just chatting.

I picked up a part time nannying job which kept me busy in the morning and during parts of the afternoon.

 I joined sports clubs which allowed me to meet new people and have something to look forward to each week.

I ensured I had a schedule of when I was going to do my coursework and would often go to the library with a friend.

I had weekly phone calls with friends or family from home and made dates for when I would visit home again.

Finally, I asked for help. I met a counsellor once a week and was lucky enough to be given a mentor who I was able to meet with and talk to regularly.

Talking, I found, really helped me to rationalise how I was feeling and ensure I was finding ways to try to help myself in my day to day. By working through things, I was able to realise that my thoughts were okay to have and that I was not alone in feeling the way I did.

Where am I at now?

I still do get these feelings from time to time now.

Especially in the current situation we find ourselves in. With lockdown and so much uncertainty, it is easier to fall back into coping mechanisms that may not be in our best interest. It is important to remember that what is going on right now is temporary and becoming aware of your feelings can help them be more manageable.

Letting others know how I felt was one of the factors that changed things for me the most. Though I may have a wobble some days, I ensure I let someone know and that alone brings comfort. It also allows them to check in on me which can help to limit the feeling of being so disconnected.

You may be feeling lonely, but I can assure you, you are not alone. Support is out there and reaching out to talk to someone can really help.

By: Emily Spillane, Level 3 Personal Trainer 

See Emily’s thoughts on loneliness as a growing epidemic and how we can help

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