Forty per cent of young adults often feel lonely. How do you deal with loneliness? And how can you help a lonely fellow student?
Bianca de Vries specialises in loneliness. ‘Loneliness means missing a close bond with others, feeling abandoned or experiencing emptiness around you.’ De Vries, a student psychologist at Hanze University of Applied Sciences, identifies three main characteristics. ‘Lonely people often have little access to a social environment, they have few social skills and they often have a negative view of themselves and their surroundings.’
Talk about it and connect
What can you do when you feel lonely? ‘You may tend to withdraw’, says De Vries. ‘While talking about it and making contact with others is actually important to reduce loneliness. For example, you might consider joining a student club to meet like-minded people, people with whom you can undertake activities together. Or joining a team sport such as football, dance, padel or handball.’
Keep in touch with the people you are attached to
‘Keep in regular contact with family, friends and other people you are attached to. You can call them or send them a message. If that’s possible you might go back to your parents every now and then. Or invite friends and family into your own living space.’
Take good care of yourself
‘It is important to continue to take good care of yourself. Give yourself time to think about your feelings. Try to eat a sufficient amount of healthy food, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. This can help you feel good about yourself again.’
Loneliness is an elusive thing
You probably have a fellow student who seems to have everything in life in order and does not face such problems. But that could be a sham. ‘Loneliness is an elusive thing. There are many young adults with rich social lives who are fully engaged in life and yet feel lonely.’
What do you do if you suspect a fellow student is lonely? ‘If you feel that someone is withdrawn and keeps to themselves a lot, you can ask how they are doing or if they would like to go somewhere with you. For example, you could suggest going to the Forum Building in the city centre to study together.’
Help from peers helps
‘When you want to help a fellow student, don’t get discouraged too quickly. Someone who is lonely does not want to be a burden to anyone. Take the time to get in touch, it can help someone experiencing loneliness immensely, especially if that help comes from peers.’
It can be nice to be able to tell your story to someone who is not in your own circle. Staff members of All Ears can offer you a listening ear. You can call, or walk in to the Energy Academy on Zernike Campus (you don’t have to make an appointment).
Photo (fragment): Warren Wong