Mental Health Awareness Week and tackling loneliness

12th May 2022
A picture of Mental Health Awareness Week and tackling loneliness

National Mental Health Awareness Week (9th to 13th May 2022) is currently underway, and this year’s theme is all about loneliness. Here at Sanctuary Students, we feel it’s important to take this opportunity to highlight some of the things that might support you as a uni student in times of isolation.

There’s a common misconception that you can’t be lonely if you’re surrounded by people, whereas in fact loneliness can be a part of life at any age, and certainly going to university and moving to a new place to study can be a triggering event. Indeed, many of us will have felt lonely in the last two years, as we navigated lockdowns and studying from home.

Read on for some simple, practical suggestions that you might find useful to help you cope if you do ever feel lonely – and remember that all feelings are valid and important, so being aware and taking some small, consistent actions can really be of benefit over time!

1) Talk it out

During lonely times, as much as it might rightly feel like a struggle, try digging deep and talking it out with someone you trust – opening up shows great strength, and being honest and open can help you connect with others through showing your vulnerability. This could be a flatmate, friend, a family member or your GP.

If you feel that there’s nobody in your social circle who you’re comfortable talking to, there are plenty of avenues of support via Sanctuary Students, including our Student Advice Line on 0800 030 5182 from our partners at Health Assured. The phoneline is open day and night, 365 days a year, and no matter what you choose to discuss, it’ll be kept confidential.

2) Develop your interests

Sometimes, simply being around others who share similar interests can be enough to tip your mood in the right direction! How about finding out what’s going on on campus or in your local area? There may be some interesting clubs or classes to join, a park run or walking group, or even a local organisation that you can volunteer with – as long as it aligns with you and your interests, there’s a good chance you’ll end up feeling more connected!

3) Harness the power of nature

You may have read our blog on Earth Day last month, where we suggested some simple actions that can heighten your environmental awareness and also help us feel chilled and connected – and that included getting green-fingered and heading outside, amongst other things!

Spending quality time with nature has been proven to have an uplifting effect on the mind, whether that’s strolling around a local park or tending to your favourite potted plants indoors. It can help you feel more grounded, and is said to help reduce feelings of stress and improve your mental and physical state.

4) #BeKind...to yourself

We hear a lot nowadays about the importance of being kind – and that very much includes showing kindness to YOU! As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup, which ultimately means that coping with life and supporting others is much easier and more generous if you’ve prioritised your own needs in the first place.

So take this as a sign that you can go ahead and spend quality time doing the things that you love in and around your studies, whether that’s chilling out in front of a feel-good film, throwing some shapes to your favourite tunes or getting outdoors! It’s always okay to take life at your own pace and to give yourself a break.

5) Connect virtually

It may not always be possible to connect in person, but even if we can’t see one another in real life, there are plenty of digital means of staying in touch. Phoning or video-calling friends and family, joining an online class or taking part in a virtual meet-up about something you’re passionate about are just some of the ways of nipping that lonely feeling in the bud and reaching out.

Again, if it suits you better to speak with a dedicated line of support, in addition to our Student Advice Line you can find further helplines on the ‘Your Wellbeing’ page of our website.

6) Avoid comparing yourself

We’re all prone to falling into the trap of comparing ourselves – particularly with social media – and this can heighten feelings of loneliness. If you find yourself in this unhelpful mindset, just remember that most people are only sharing their ‘best’ moments, and quite possibly editing and filtering content to enhance it!

If what you’re seeing online isn’t serving you, remember that you can always go on a social media detox for a bit, and you might just find that this takes the edge off some anxiety. Have a play around with your smartphone, such as setting a limit for your screen time or turning off certain alerts and notifications, or even consider turning your phone off altogether or leaving it in another room for a few hours to free you up to enjoy a more calming activity!

By your side

At Sanctuary Students, we understand that everyone needs some support at times, and we’re always striving to do our best to ensure you enjoy the best university experience possible while living a happy, healthy life.

Loneliness is a perfectly normal human feeling, and you don’t even have to be alone to experience it. If the feeling persists, you can end up feeing disconnected from those around you and it can affect your mental well-being. Whatever the reason, there are small steps you can take as detailed above to ease any such negative feelings and, as a result, feel connected to yourself and others.