It just hit me that I have not smiled or laughed in weeks. I am not exactly unhappy because I am thankful for everything I am given. But instead I definitely do not feel happy. I have a really competitive friend that I spend a lot of time with, as I live alone, and it makes me worried whenever I tell her things for I am afraid she would judge me and use it against me. As a result I have been distancing myself with this person and I am left alone most of the time. Making friends is hard when we are half way through the semester and since I don’t have my family with me I feel very alone.
Thank-you for reaching out to Ask Counselling. It very much sounds as though you are struggling with loneliness, which has been described as the experience of negative feelings when there is a mismatch between the quality of our perceived relationships, and those we wish to have. We’ve all felt lonely at some time, and it is very common among university students, both international and local. It can be especially hard when, like yourself, students are far away from their usual support networks.
Research studies have focused on four main strategies for helping to reduce loneliness. These include improving social skills and social support, expanding opportunities for social interaction, and challenging unhelpful beliefs about social interactions.
In terms of your own situation, there may be opportunities you could explore to make new connections with others. Sometimes this means overcoming initial anxiety about interacting with new people. You might need to practice introducing yourself or making small talk to feel more comfortable initiating conversation with others. Some examples include starting a conversation with a classmate, going along to an interest group, volunteering or getting involved in a university club or society. Each semester, Counselling and Psychological Services also run student workshops on improving social connections.
It may be that there are existing friendships that you could foster or improve. It sounds as though you were worried about being judged, and this caused you to pull back from a previous source of support. The assumptions we make about others can have a powerful influence on our behaviour. I wonder if you think it is worth talking through your concerns about being judged with your friend? Although it might initially feel uncomfortable to discuss relationship issues directly and assertively, you could also see it as an opportunity to potentially improve the quality of the friendship. Some specific strategies for assertive communication can be found here.
Meaningful, mutually respectful relationships can take time to develop. If you have tried a few things and don’t feel as though your mood is improving, you might like to talk things through in more detail with one of the professionals at Counselling and Psychological Services.