How to Cope With Loneliness in Graduate School

When I first decided to move half way across the country, I felt a burst of explorative energy. I’ve lived (three hours) away from home for the last five years during undergrad. I’ve traveled 11 hours+ across the world to study abroad for four weeks. I’ve always been the independent one who prefers to be alone and dig my own pathway. So, I just knew this wouldn’t be a problem. Then I came to graduate school a 14 hour drive from my hometown.

I’m not going to lie. The first month went by and it seemed like I didn’t really live here. I mean, I really live here now? Like, I have a lease that demands me to be paid every month or else.

Well, I guess I really do live here and loneliness lives here too.

I’ve found some friends in my program which has helped. But being away really makes you realize how much you appreciate the people you have and the places you’ve been.

So often, we’re so in love with the idea of “getting the hell out of here” that we don’t really consider how going somewhere else is or isn’t going to make us happy. I’m happy here. I’m grateful for the experience. But it does make me realize how much people matter to me. Being a first generation student, I feel like I’ve been out trekking on this journey alone. But, I’m not. My family is here with me. My friends and mentors are here supporting me every step of the way. Although I may be here, without them. I live in a new city filled with others who are also like me, away from home hoping to start something new. You and me, we’re not alone. I hope to remind anyone out there who is dealing with the same thing to talk about it. Graduate school is a challenge in itself. Adulting is an entire experience I’m not ready for yet (hence me being in graduate school :).

Some of the things I’m learning to do is to seek counseling. I’ve dabbled in counseling in undergrad, but I seriously think it’s something I’m going to have to invest in during my time here and likely from now on. It helps to have someone to talk to about personal issues you may not feel comfortable sharing with people you just met. To have someone to discuss issues that maybe only make sense for someone in a certain environment or maybe to just have someone who doesn’t know you and not feel the pressure of being judged when you talk about the fact that you’re struggling with a class or worried about how you’re going to afford your education (things you may not want to share with your family and friends because you’re supposed to have it all together, right?!?!).

I’m still working on getting in the gym and exercising but I hear that’s a good one too.

Cooking. And I don’t mean just eating out all the time. I really enjoy cooking. It really is a stress reliever. I stress a lot about money and I love to eat but I hate eating out all the time because then I stress about not using my money responsibly. Sometimes I try to skimp out on necessities so much, it makes my experience less enjoyable. (I literally haven’t had WiFi at my apartment until this week. Don’t do this.) Quit worrying about money that’s already been budgeted to be spent. You’re here now. (Talking to myself). Don’t go crazy, but it’s okay to spend money to take good care of yourself which means buying quality food that will keep you energized and excited to come home to at the end of the day. Also, investing in internet so you can do your homework at home on really sucky weather days.

Listening to rain sounds helps me sleep! Waking up stressed about whether or not I was productive enough today and not wasting time (sleeping well is not wasting time!), makes it hard for me to sleep. I can be really hard on myself which is something I’m learning how to not do, but when you have anxiety, it kind of just spirals into a never ending circle so learning how to sleep well is very important to me. I’ve found that playing a rain sound playlist really helps. I put it on my speaker and just let it go all through the night. I wake up well rested and much more ready for the day.

Stepping into a new environment is challenging. I’m understanding why everyone was so stressed after graduating from undergrad. It’s literally an entirely new experience. Even though I’m still in school, the dymanic is just different. These are some of the things I’ve found that help me deal with my stress. My loneliness will come and go in it’s natural way but finding friends to hang out with and doing things to take care of myself when no one is there to entertain me is important.

But what about you? What are your fears? What have been your challenges? How have you coped with lonliness after making a big move? How do you deal with graduate school stress?