People are social animals—relationships with other people are central to our happiness. Connecting with others may not come easily but is a skill we can learn.

Relationships with other people are vital and influence your life, your choices and how you feel about yourself. How well connected you feel to the people around you often determines your level of satisfaction with your life.

While you are at university, the number of people you have relationships with is likely to increase. Alongside your existing relationships with family and friends, you will be meeting a whole host of new people—fellow hostel dwellers, flatmates, lecturers, tutors, classmates and new friends.

Making new friends

Making new friends at university is not automatic and may be something you’ve not had to do for many years. It can be hard to make new connections or break into a new social group, but there are many opportunities to build new relationships.

  • Lectures and tutorials—you have an immediate point of connection with people who share your courses. Make a point of talking to the people sitting next to you.
  • Suggest forming a coffee/study group with people in your courses.
  • Get involved in orientation activities.
  • Find out what your faculty offers in the way of study and non-study activities.
  • Join a social sport group through Victoria Recreation.
  • Check out the VUWSA clubs and societies to see if there is anything you’d like to get involved with.

If making friends is something you find difficult, it may help to get some professional support and advice from Student Counselling.

When relationships end

Losing a relationship we value is one of the most common and painful of human experiences. It can leave you with a range of reactions including:

  • Feeling helpless, fearful, empty, despairing, angry, lonely, restless, and wanting to withdraw from friends/family.
  • Loss of concentration, hope, motivation and energy.
  • Changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and sex drive.

These reactions to loss are normal and part of the healing process. Below is a list of ideas that may help you to manage the strong emotions that go with loss.  These strategies won’t necessarily stop the pain that you are feeling, but they will help you get through it.  Using a combination of these strategies is a good approach. 

Physical activity

Physical activity is great way to let your body release tension and is a proven mood lifter.  Aim to do half an hour of physical activity every day—if you can do it outside, even better!

Try any of the following: walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, stretching, taking an exercise class, joining a sports team, gardening, or cleaning.

Express your feelings

Find ways to express the feelings you are experiencing rather than bottling them up or shutting them down. Trying to keep your feelings inside sometimes create more problems.  

  • Crying, yelling, laughing, sighing loudly, singing
  • Writing them down—writing a letter, keeping a journal, writing poetry or song lyrics
  • Creative outlets—drawing, creating something (baking, sewing, knitting, model making…)
  • Talking with trusted friends/family members/a counsellor.

Develop routines

During times of loss it is normal to feel disconnected from your life and the things that are usually important to you. Keeping some sense of routine going will help you through this time. Routines act as anchors you can hold on to when you feel lost or overwhelmed. Routines provide a sense of structure when your inner world feels chaotic. Students who have dealt with significant loss often say that continuing to attend their university classes helped them to stay connected to day to day life, even if they found it hard to concentrate at times. 

Take time out for yourself

Experiencing loss can be extremely stressful, so it is important that you prioritise looking after yourself. Eating regular healthy meals and snacks, and getting enough sleep are vital in enabling your body to cope with stress. Some ideas for ways to reduce stress include:

  • Doing something creative
  • Listening to or making music
  • Having a bath or warm shower
  • Having a massage
  • Playing with pets
  • Enjoying nature—going for a walk at a park/beach/river
  • Relaxation—yoga, meditation, relaxation exercises

Seek support

You don’t have to go through loss alone.  Most people find that they feel better after talking about how they are feeling.  Some people find it particularly helpful to speak with someone they trust who has gone through a similar experience.  Others find that speaking with a counsellor - who is ‘outside’ the situation - can be helpful.  

Abusive relationships

No one needs to tolerate abuse in a relationship.  Whether it is physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, financial or social abuse, you can get help.  If you are not sure whether what you’re experiencing is abuse, it can be helpful to talk about your situation with someone at Student Counselling.

If you are concerned about your immediate safety, or the safety of someone else, please contact the Police on 111.  If the situation is not an emergency please contact Student Counselling or another support service.