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Managing stress, loneliness and homesickness at university

Third year Psychology student Sophie Tupper discusses the ways in which she deals with stress, loneliness and homesickness while at University.

By Sophie Tupper, 3rd year Psychology

Third year Psychology student Sophie Tupper discusses the ways in which she deals with stress, loneliness and homesickness while at university.

If you’re like me, you’ll have gone to university with the expectation of it being the best time of your life; we’re promised a life of wild parties, countless drunk memories and minimal responsibilities. The prospect of moving away from home, making loads of new friends and finally gaining independence, makes university life seem extremely appealing to a rebellious teen.

Now to be perfectly honest, university is pretty much that - plus or minus a few coursework induced-breakdowns and some questionable Taka Taka orders - but not everyone experiences this all the time. Without a doubt, university can be an incredible social experience. However, while some individuals thrive from the get-go, others find it takes a little longer for them to get their footing in university life. Now please don’t worry if you relate more to the latter. Many people struggle with feeling lonely while first staring out at university. Especially because you are suddenly surrounded by a bunch of people that you don’t know, and you are expected to have a great time.

For many, university is the first time in their life that they are living away from their families. We are driven miles and miles away from home in a car jam-packed with IKEA necessities, tinned goods and one too many kitchen utensils. We are forced to live with complete strangers in a new city and not freak out! I don’t know about you, but I found this pretty damn terrifying.

Now don’t get me wrong, going to university is extremely exciting; you’ve got a new room, new flatmates, a new city to play around in and not to mention you can literally be whoever you want to be. This is all great, but in the midst of all of this novelty, it’s easy to miss your routine and home life. I’ve put together some simple tips to help combat feeling lonely, stressed or homesick during uni that can hopefully help you out:

Keep your expectations realistic

In the age of social media, everyone’s putting their highlight reels online and portraying their life to be this amazing and fun thing where nothing bad ever happens. This can be especially true when first going to University. It’s so easy scroll on Instagram and think you’re not having as good as a time as your friends seem to be or that you’re doing something wrong. Don’t forget that social media is just a snapshot of people’s lives and is RARELY an accurate representation of what’s actually going on.

It's not going to be great all the time, that's life.

Get moving to manage stress

Exercise releases endorphins, this isn’t new news to you I’m sure. Endorphins make you happy and decrease stress, so, get outside and get moving! Now, I’m not telling you to go run away from your problems for hours and hours on a treadmill, but you’d be amazed at how much better you feel even after just 30 minutes of exercise. The great thing about exercise is that there’s so many different forms; you can be a gym bunny who lifts weights 6 days a week or become a regular Zumba-goer. Walking is also completely underrated in my opinion. Crack on a banging playlist or an entertaining podcast and go walk around the city for a bit. Sounds simple I know, but it’ll make you feel better to get outside, trust me.

Epigram / Luke Unger

Sleep and Eat well

This is so easy to overlook. People’s eating and sleeping patterns tend to take a hit when they’re not feeling their best. You start to reach for the most comforting foods (that also conveniently tend to require less cooking effort), you might drink more, smoke more, eat less vegetables, you get the picture. There’s literally a direct correlation with what you eat and how you feel. I promise you, eating healthy meals throughout the day will make you feel so much better than living off meal deals and microwave dishes. It also gives you a chance to test out some of those recipe books gifted to you by concerned relatives. Who knows, you may discover a secret talent for cooking!

Join clubs and societies

This is important! I know organised group activities might not be everyone’s cup of tea but have you tried one yet? It’s honestly one of the easiest ways to meet people with similar interests to you and is a great alternative if partying isn’t really your thing. You’ll also find that the busier you are, the less free time you have to think about being homesick or lonely. Yes, joining new things can be daunting, especially if you’re attending alone, but try and force yourself to step outside of your comfort zone once and a while.

Understandably, societies may not be for everyone, and maybe you’re too busy with work to commit to something right now. If that’s the case, try and make an extra effort with the people already in your life – say hello to your flatmates if you see them around, eat meals in a communal area, make plans to see friends and try speaking to students in your lectures/classes.

When in doubt, go out.

There will be times when university work will creep up on you and you’ll find yourself chained to your laptop trying to balance out 3 essays, a presentation and seminar work. Which, unsurprisingly can make you feel very stressed and lonely. It’s easy to say goodbye to your friends and lock yourself in your room until your deadlines are over with, but trust me this will only make things worse. Grab your stuff and go to a library, sit in a café with an instagrammable latte and be one of those people who works in coffee shops, the point is to get out and about in the world and not isolate yourself.

Keep in touch…but not too much!

Whether it’s a facetime call, postcard, text or WhatsApp group chat, keeping in touch with your family and friends back home can make you feel less alone. However, if you’re constantly calling home and communicating with people back home more than you are with university people you’ll probably end up feeling the distance more! Your friends and family will still be there when you go home during the holidays, so try and put your focus and effort on university life for now and make the most of it.

Featured Image: Epigram / Siti Ayesha

How do you cope with stress, homesickness and loneliness? Let us know! Comment below or get in touch!

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