Ambassador voices: How to combat loneliness at Christmas as a student

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I’m Jay and I’m a member of the Youth Representatives panel at The Mix. I work together with my team to hear the voices of young people and use their opinions to improve services and make them diverse.

Christmas. A time of presents and festivities, family and home. With the days getting shorter and the temperature dropping, a time of rest in December is welcomed by almost everyone. But for some students, it is the loneliest time of the year.

Loneliness at Christmas as a student

They say that Christmas is a time of year to be spent with family and loved ones. But for some university students, this is not the case. Research from Togetherall in 2019 found that some 750,000 students stay at their university accommodation over the Christmas period; that’s as many as one in three. There are many reasons for this. Maybe they don’t get on with their family, maybe they can’t afford the travel, maybe they’re working and can’t get back in time, or maybe they’re ill and cannot travel.

Spending Christmas at university

At the best of times, University can bring about feelings of social isolation, even if you have friends and live with other people. Being away from home, having to take care of yourself, with the stress of getting a degree can make you feel distant and alone. This is especially true if most of your friends and housemates go home for the holiday.

In my student house, festivities start early. While my housemates put the tree up and douse the whole house in tinsel, I cook gingerbread, and then we drink hot chocolate and have a Christmas movie marathon. Christmas Day is not 25th December, it is the last day we are all in the house before some of us go home for the holidays. We have a huge Christmas dinner; turkey, pigs in blankets and all the trimmings, usually cooked by me. Then we open our presents and play games. Just generally enjoying each other’s company for the last time that year.

Normally, this would have happened on the 14th or 16th of December, but in 2020 due to Covid, our Christmas Day was December 5th. Then we all leave, one by one, except my friend who stays all alone. So Christmas ends on our Christmas day, because none of us can bear to say Merry Christmas through the phone. His face when we return after New Year is always one of immense relief. 

The pandemic obviously made this worse for many students. After adjusting to changes in teaching, less resources and facilities, and enduring a second lockdown away from home, a Christmas away from loved ones, alone in their accommodations, really is a harrowing end to a difficult year.

This is why I offer up my top tips for battling Christmas loneliness at University (tried and tested by my very own housemate!).

Tips for coping with loneliness at Christmas

  1. Plan your days – Have a plan of action for each day, even if it’s only one thing you want to get done today. This gives you structure and a nice sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. 
  2. Take advantage of the empty campus – With most students away and most campus facilities staying open right up to Christmas Day, finding a study space has never been easier. Bonus – Ever wanted to take a nice picture of that beauty spot on campus, but there’s always people in the way? Perhaps even an Instagram photoshoot without an audience? Now’s the time!
  3. Keep in contact with the people you care about – Whether it’s family or friends, talking with the people who make you happy always helps with loneliness. Talk on the phone or video call rather than messaging if possible.
  4. Volunteer – Many charities need extra volunteers over Christmas. Does your local homeless shelter need some help? Or maybe the local rescue shelter needs more dog walkers? Whatever it is, it’s a great way to keep your days busy and give you a great feeling of giving back. 
  5. More space? More fun! – For those who live in shared accommodation, now that your housemates are away, take advantage. Longer showers, wash up when you want, movie marathon in a den in the living room, turn the music up louder and dance like crazy, sledging down the stairs? Great! (Maybe don’t sledge down the stairs though, it’s more dangerous than it’s worth). 
  6. Exercise – I know, winter isn’t exactly the perfect season for exercise. But whether it’s going for a walk or doing a 10-minute YouTube cardio routine, exercise helps release endorphins which help to lift your mood. 
  7. Christmas day, your way – Not a fan of turkey? No problem. Your Christmas dinner could be your favourite meal, or even a brand-new one you’ve never cooked before. Start your own Christmas Day traditions – it’s a bit of fun for this year and you can carry it forward every year with you too. 
  8. Learn a new skill – Now could be the perfect time to be creative. A new language, how to make origami birds, drawing. There’s so many things you could learn, and so many great ways to learn them – Google is full of amazing guides for almost everything. 
  9. Join a community – There are loads of online communities – even here, on The Mix’s Community, there are loads of pages and people with similar interests to you. Why not have a look and talk about what you enjoy? 
  10. Reach out – If you’re feeling lonely, it’s likely there are other lonely people at your university too. Try reaching out to others still at university to check in on them, and you’ll find you both feel a little less alone.
  11. Finally, if you need support, access it – While being at university over Christmas can feel lonely and isolating, you are not alone. Universities often have support for students at Christmas, maybe even activities or people to speak to. And beyond that, there are so many amazing resources you can take advantage of such as 24-hour phone lines and texting services and support forums. If you need support this Christmas, please access it. 

There is no doubt that Christmas can be a lonely time for many students, but hopefully with these tips the holidays won’t be so isolating and everyone can enjoy the festive season a little more.

If you’re feeling lonely this Christmas

Read The Mix’s guide to coping with loneliness, or head over to our Discussion Boards and connect with our friendly community.

Read The Mix’s guide to looking after your mental health during the holidays.

Get in touch with The Mix’s team who are there to listen and to talk.

Next Steps

By Holly Turner

Updated on 27-Jan-2023

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