As we muddle through the third national lockdown, everyone is feeling affected in one way or another. The challenges for university students are numerable, but for an existence that is usually centered around social engagement, students are struggling with the lack of interaction.
My peers and I have all felt a lowered interest and determination for social contact, and many people, especially in our age group, feel their social batteries are depleted. This isn’t surprising. The national lockdowns have produced an onslaught of difficulties, but being the third time, an increasing loss of hope is apparent.
With no clear idea when this lockdown will end, it is becoming harder to look positively to the future. Memories of last year resurface; the first UK positive Covid-19 case being almost 12 months ago – it seems that this fractured way of life will continue forever.
the proportion of adults experiencing loneliness is highest amongst young adults aged 18-24
The bizarre loneliness has become the harsh reality of the ‘new normal,’ and this is distressing. For us students, who should be living the ‘best years’ of our lives, it is incredibly hard. Whether you are living at home, or at a half-full university halls or house, life at the moment feels surreal.
Evidence suggests that amongst the general population in the UK, the proportion of adults experiencing loneliness is highest amongst young adults aged 18-24. This was to be expected – it could be argued that this age group faced the largest shift socially.
Due to months of distancing from friends and family, social burnout is starting to creep in. After repeating the same conversation over and over, phone calls and Zoom now seem tiresome and dull. The lack of excitement in our personal lives is projected onto our social interactions – they are becoming draining. How do we make life, and communications with our peers, more stimulating?
The same well-being advice is tedious and out of touch. Drink water, do exercise, engage with friends; we all know the drill. What the lockdowns have taught me is that everyone needs to do what is right for them, and their relative circumstances. What helps one person won’t help the next. However, here are some general tips that have helped me to navigate the ever-changing reality at the moment, and to recharge my social battery.
Try to look positively into the future
In order to combat the current lack of hope, write down the things that you are excited for post-lockdown. Whether that is going on holiday, or hugging your grandparents again, write it down. Hopefully this will motivate you to get through the dull every day. Tell your friends and family what you are excited for – maybe it will pull them through a bad day.
On a walk to Wollaton earlier this week my housemate cheerfully anticipated the summer; ‘Imagine. Picnic on the grass, the sun is just setting. All our mates are here. Everyone’s laughing, finishing a beer.’ The glimpse of better times made me smile and helped me through the rainy day. It is of paramount importance to hold onto these fleeting visions of the future, to allow us to get through the challenging present.
Celebrate the small wins…cliché as it sounds!
Take life day by day
While looking into the uncertain future can prove unrealistic and difficult, it might be easier to take each day as it comes. With no social commitments, life at the moment has a unusual lack of structure to it. Make a checklist for what you want to do the next day. Small, manageable tasks which are easy to tick off are best. Celebrate the small wins…cliché as it sounds!
Try to factor in small amounts of social interaction. Rather than a long FaceTime that you will dread, just text your Mum back, or call that friend you were meaning to, even for five minutes. You might be helping someone else by doing these small acts.
Work out what makes you happy
Not everyone will thrive off an early morning run, or an all-day library session. Try to work out what makes you feel content. Designate time for things that you enjoy and that promote productivity. However, create space to be still and do nothing. Don’t feel guilty for not feeling up for engaging with friends, everyone is experiencing the same social fatigue. We all need time to rest.
Whether it is trying a new recipe for dinner, or attempting a new skill; incorporating change into your life will make you feel refreshed and energized
Try something new. In another attempt to break the solitude and boredom that social distancing brings, try to change your frame of reference by learning something new, or trying something different. I was sick of my unchanging daily routine (or lack of one!), so I decided to try something I had never done before – writing this article! Whether it is trying a new recipe for dinner, or attempting a new skill; incorporating change into your life will make you feel refreshed and energized.
I am positive you hear it constantly, but get outside. This is something, I believe, that can have a beneficial effect for everyone. A change of scenery breaks up the monotonous uniformity of being inside. As well as this, a fortuitous encounter with an unmasked stranger on the pavement might just remind you of life before Covid. This unplanned social interaction is less wearing than a Zoom call. Even if it is for a short ten minute walk around the block, try to leave your home.
So; don’t beat yourself up for not being socially determined or motivated. Try and do the small things that allow you to feel content. Smile at the stranger on the pavement, text your friend and take each day as it comes. Don’t forget, once again you will be surrounded by friends, laughing in the park, as the sun sets. Imagine it.
If you still find yourself struggling, here are some numbers that can give relief and advice:
Nottingham University Counselling Service: 0115 9513695
Nottingham Nightline: 0115 9514 985
Mind: 0300 123 3393
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