Eight Tips for Managing Loneliness at University

How common is loneliness in university students? Factors such as being away from the family and adapting to the environment have an influence on this feeling. We suggest how to understand and manage it.
Eight Tips for Managing Loneliness at University
Isabel Ortega

Written and verified by the psychologist Isabel Ortega.

Last update: 29 August, 2023

Loneliness at university is a challenge many students face. Indeed, this transition sometimes involves leaving behind the comfort and familiarity of home, as well as separating from friends. It’s a period loaded with new experiences and responsibilities that sometimes have an impact on the student’s emotional health.

Academic pressure and the demands of university often make it difficult to create new social connections. In fact, feeling lonely at university is a more common problem than you might think.

A study published in Inclusions Magazine reports this fact. According to this research, 60.4 percent of the university students surveyed exhibited feelings of loneliness regularly and 26.4 percent with a high frequency. Let’s learn more about this situation.

Students and loneliness 

Loneliness at university and the feelings of isolation that some students experience can be due to several aspects. In the first place, they’re separated from their family and friends, as a result of the move that the change of stage implies, marking distance from their support network. As a consequence, they start to feel lonely, at least at first.

Another cause of loneliness is the inconvenience of making new friends. In a new and unfamiliar environment, it can be difficult to develop strong social connections.

Further reasons are stress and academic load, derived from the demands of study programs that consume a great deal of time and energy. This can isolate students, especially if they’re struggling with their subjects. Moreover, some university students don’t find a sense of community and/or belonging.

In short, loneliness results from the lack of meaningful social relationships, life changes, and individual differences. Social media might also be responsible. For example, a study published in Información Psicológica found that university students with a greater addiction to social media demonstrated greater loneliness.



Managing loneliness in university students

Although most people crave social connection and meaningful relationships, some individuals enjoy solitude and find satisfaction in spending time alone. They take advantage of these moments to reflect, recharge, focus on activities they like, or just enjoy their own company. They also have strong social relationships and maintain meaningful connections.

However, it’s essential to differentiate between enjoying solitude and experiencing unwanted and distressing loneliness. When it’s positive, being alone consists of a personal choice and is based on individual satisfaction. On the other hand, negative loneliness harms the individual’s emotional well-being.

Although managing loneliness in university is sometimes a challenge, there are strategies for dealing with it in healthy ways. Here are some tips if you’re in this situation.

“Social acceptance, ‘being liked’, has so much power because it holds the feelings of loneliness at bay.”

~ Rollo May ~

1. Accept your feelings

Acknowledge and accept that you’re experiencing loneliness. Validating your emotions allows you to address them more effectively.

2. Communicate with others

Look for opportunities to talk or connect with other people. For instance, call a friend you haven’t seen in a while or send messages to someone close to you. Maintaining communication with those people close to you alleviates feelings of loneliness.

3. Do activities or find a hobby

Join groups, clubs, or activities that interest you. This gives you the opportunity to meet people with similar interests and build new relationships.

4. Use social media in a healthy way

Social media is useful for connecting with others, but it’s important to use it properly and consciously. Limit the time you spend online and focus on meaningful interactions, rather than those that invite comparisons or are superficial.

5. Seek professional support

If loneliness persists or affects your well-being, consider professional help. A psychologist can provide you with specific tools and strategies to address your feelings and improve your emotional state.

6. Cultivate activities and hobbies that you enjoy

Spend time doing activities that make you feel good about yourself. This can include reading, exercising, doing art, listening to music, or whatever gives you satisfaction.

7. Volunteer or help others

Giving back to the community and helping others brings a sense of purpose and social connection. Look for volunteering opportunities or perform acts of kindness towards others.

8. Take care of yourself

Prioritize your physical and emotional well-being. Maintain a healthy sleep routine, a balanced diet, and regular exercise. Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, to manage stress and promote your mental well-being.



A positive look at loneliness 

Although loneliness is often associated with negative feelings like isolation and sadness, it can also provide you with opportunities for personal growth and introspection. Whether at university or in other spheres of life, when you’re alone you have the freedom to explore your interests and express yourself without restrictions.

However, if loneliness turns into constant feelings of isolation and sadness, don’t hesitate to seek the help of friends, family, and/or mental health professionals. A study published in the Magazine on Childhood and Adolescence emphasizes the importance of psychological strengths as key tools to mitigate this sensation and its negative effects.

Finally, remember that we all need meaningful human connections and the support of others. Managing loneliness at university is a process that’s unique to each individual and can take time. If you’re in this situation, be kind to yourself, be patient, and seek support when you need it.

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The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.