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An anonymous student looks at the ways to combat loneliness this summer.

As soon as the Easter holiday ends, it seems as though everyone in any sort of education is dreaming ahead and counting down to the best time of the school year – summer. It is reminiscent of the scene at the beginning of High School Musical 2, people excitedly making plans for festivals and holidays, relishing the upcoming freedom.

The very concept of summer is romanticised as a glittery, carefree time, filled with the best memories and characterised as the epitome of happiness. So if you aren’t happy during the summer, when everyone seems to be at their best, it is easy to feel very isolated.

Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have dreaded the summer holidays. The vast expanse of time with no direction or purpose fills me with anxiety, with depression often finding a way to worm itself in to all the extra unoccupied brain space. It can be a very lonely time, if most of your friends are from university and not local when you go home, or if you have a bad home situation to which you are returning.

Often there is a stark contrast between term time, which is filled with impromptu socialising, independence and the constant juggling of priorities, to the holidays which can seem like a metaphorical wasteland in comparison. This is further exacerbated by the length of the summer holidays at university, with some subjects having a three to four-month gap between their last exam and freshers’ week.

As I’m very aware of how difficult I find the summer months, I’m usually mulling over in the back of my brain how I can make it better from as early as January. Maybe if I cram the whole holiday with plans, there’s a chance that it will be okay?

But, as with many things related to mental health, it can be more helpful to try and change thought patterns than drastically change what you do. I can spend summers counting down the days to when university starts again, instead of appreciating the present, which only leads to more worry when there’s so much time still to go.

Summer holidays can be the perfect time to focus on more personal goals

There are a few things which have, in the past, made the summer holidays more bearable for me, and could help you if you find yourself in a similar position. The most important thing for me is trying to see the summer as a positive time, rather than letting negativity influence my experiences from the beginning. Summer holidays can be the perfect time to focus on more personal goals and devote time to hobbies that don’t get a look in during the term. Whether it’s starting a new sport, brushing up on a language or taking classes in art or photography, all the free time of the summer can be a real opportunity to pursue your interests, which can have positive impacts on your mental health.

It can also be useful to organise things to look forward to periodically throughout the summer, to break up the months into smaller chunks of time. Instead of looking forward to the end of the summer, you can look forward to seeing a friend, or going on an exciting holiday or day trip instead.

Perhaps the smallest—but often the most difficult—thing to do is to confide in a friend or family member. If someone else is aware that you find the holidays hard, they will be looking out for you too, which could make all the difference!

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