The Collegian
Monday, November 28, 2022

Ask Maddy: When loneliness hits — during Family Weekend

Dear Maddy,

How to deal with loneliness on campus? Also, I wish I had my family here for family weekend.

Dear reader,

I believe that it’s finally that part of the semester. As autumn rolls in, the days begin to blend into one another. The honeymoon phase of college — the first few weeks of the semester when it all just feels like summer camp — is over. Now is the time when our academic and extracurricular activities begin to clash with our desire to create, and maintain, relationships with our peers.

Whether it’s homesickness or a general lack of company, loneliness is a feeling that can be hard to escape in college. At times, it can feel like loneliness has cuffed you around the wrist and it’ll never break its grasp. The solution, moreover, is not an easy one.

Complicated issues call for thoughtful reflection. To combat loneliness on campus, let’s start by defining it.

Humans are relational beings, so much of our mental well-being depends on our interactions with others, according to the University of Richmond’s Counseling and Psychological Services website.

“Making new friends, maintaining our relationships and ruptures in our relationships can have significant impact on our mental health,” according to CAPS’ website. “It is important that we stay active and attuned to our relationships both for ourselves and those we are in relationships with (our families, friends, significant others, etc.).”

A lack of friends or company, it seems, would cause our mental health to decline since humans rely on relationships with others for their everyday fulfillment. That feeling of isolation from friends, family and peers is not good for you.

Now that we have a definition for loneliness, the solution seems almost obvious — go talk to someone. When someone is feeling lonely, however, this is much easier said than done; in fact, it may be the very last thing a person going through loneliness would want to do.

I suggest reaching out to people based on your established relationships with them. Get in touch with the people you’re closest to first — if you’re feeling up to it, tell them that you’re wanting to get back out there. Whether it be family members or classmates, the closest friends are going to be willing to make time for a friend who may be going through it.

After reaching out to those in your close circle, move on to the next tier. Maybe there’s a professor that you could connect with or a friend from high school you haven’t spoken to in a while. 

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Then, move out just a little bit more. No matter what time of year it is, it is never too late to make new friends. In my own relationships, some of my closest friends are ones that I met during my junior and senior years.

If you absolutely do not know where to start, I also suggest reaching out to the CAPS Peer Support Warmline, a non-urgent chat option for UR students who want to talk to a trained peer. While they are also available for professional mental health services, the warmline representatives are great at lending an ear to someone in need of a friend. 

I do have to take a step back and admit I’m an extrovert — one of the reasons I went into journalism is because I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people. I would think, however, that the steps I’ve outlined above may be a little different for someone that identifies as an introvert, or someone who has not yet found their campus friend group. I promise there is still hope for you all as well.

I’d recommend leaning into your interests. You’d be surprised how many people are interested in the same things as you. For the majority of my more niche interests — photography, anime, cooking and rugby — there is a club or group of students that simply get it. It’s never too late to find and join one of these organizations or alliances, many of which could be found on the Center for Student Involvement’s website.

And one final plug — feel free to talk to me!

Warmly,

Maddy

P.S.  If it makes you feel better, my family was also not in attendance this past weekend — the one time the football team wins on Family Weekend during my entire college career!

Contact copy chief Madyson Fitzgerald at madyson.fitzgerald@richmond.edu.

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