By Shout 85258’s Clinical Experts.
The past year has brought a range of unique challenges that have affected university
students across the UK. Filled with expectations of freshers parties, socialising and living
independently, students have instead had to put those hopes to one side and face the reality
of online classes, and for some, living at home with parents. It can be hard to make new
friends and feel connected to your fellow classmates when you can only meet over video
chat, and managing the stresses of life under lockdown while at the same time working
towards your degree can be especially challenging. Take a moment to think back over the
last 12 months or so, and reflect on and celebrate the resilience you’ve shown, despite what
the pandemic has thrown at you. You have already accomplished so much.
Here are some things you can do to manage feelings of stress or loneliness as you continue
your studies online:
If you’re feeling stressed:
Set the right conditions. Create calmness and space by slowing down and setting up the
optimal conditions for you to study. Remind yourself that big goals and the future can feel
overwhelming, that’s normal and okay.
Take some time to think about the type of conditions you thrive in:
Remember that everyone’s ideal conditions are different, so what might work for your best
friend might not be the same for you. Be intentional about setting up the right conditions and
you’ll notice things feel less overwhelming when you start with this step. Progress.
Break it down. Big goals can feel overwhelming and hard to achieve, so start by trying to
break goals or assignments down into smaller, manageable chunks.
Think about what needs to happen today to reach that goal or complete your assignment
and then what needs to happen this week to reach the goal, this month, this year.
You can keep your focus on what needs to happen in the weeks and months ahead, but
keep your focus on working towards what you need to do today, in that moment.
If your goal is, "to attend all my online classes without missing any because of my
depression"... trying to never feel depressed again is going to be too overwhelming for
anyone. Instead, start small.
Maybe that playlist turns into being able to go on a run then exercising every morning before
class for a week.
Little by little, you are chipping away at your goal and making progress.
Ground Yourself. To counteract stress, we can use grounding techniques. Grounding
techniques are scientifically proven ways to bring your thoughts back to reality. They work
even in our most distressing moments. These coping strategies help reconnect you with the
present. They have the power to bring you out of a distressing emotion like stress or anxiety.
They help separate you from the distress of your emotional state or situation.
Here’s one of our favourite grounding techniques you can try anytime anywhere when you
feel a wave of anxiety or unwanted feelings come up:
● Take a deep breath and think about 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3
things you can smell, 2 things you can taste, and 1 thing you can touch. This will
bring you back to the present moment. Keep repeating this exercise until you feel
If you’re feeling lonely:
Seek connection. As human beings, we are designed to be around other people. Try
reaching out to those you love virtually – they will welcome your contact.
Join an online community or society around a topic that interests you. If you can’t find one,
why not set up your own? You could set up a Whatsapp group chat with your classmates, or
contact your students’ union about setting up your own society. If you are feeling lonely then
it’s likely others will be too, and they will welcome you reaching out. You may need to step
outside of your comfort zone but it could lead to you making new connections and new
Go outside. Try taking a walk around your local park or to your high street. Just being
around other people has an incredible power to lift your mood and make you feel less alone.
Exercising can also boost your endorphins, and help you feel more energised and less
Offer to help others. Think about volunteering opportunities to support others. You can find
a lot of virtual volunteering opportunities online, or you could do something to help someone
in your community, like cooking for an elderly neighbour. Volunteering is a great way to meet
new people and helping others can make you feel more connected.
Celebrate the small wins. If you are feeling isolated but also worried about stepping out of
your comfort zone, ask yourself: what outcome would you like? What’s a small change you
can make today to help this situation so it feels more manageable? Send that one email, or
send that one message, and then pat yourself on the back for these small wins.
It is key to take time to pause and reward yourself for all the resilience you’ve shown up to
this point. Take time to stop, reflect, and check in. Show gratitude to yourself and keep
monitoring your progress. Repeat the strategies outlined here if you ever feel off track or
If you need any support, you can text SHOUT to 85258 for free, at any time of day or
night. A trained Shout volunteer will message you back and forth and listen to what’s
worrying you. Visit giveusashout.org for more information.
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