When I get to the point in my presentation that involves creating an action plan to develop connections, I ask three questions: “What am I good at? What do I like to do? What do I have time for?” Some students tell me that when it comes to the last question, they don’t have time for anything. Students often share how stressed and busy they are. Thanks to parents, friends, and society at-large, many students believe they must take part in many activities to achieve success in life.
While I speak on loneliness and helping people find a sense of belonging, I am also aware that for many college students the alternative is all too true. They take part in more groups and clubs than they can handle. They’re also supposed to study and do work for school. They may even have a job on the side as well.
To develop deeper connections with others, it’s key for students to fight back against the stereotype about what college must be. What’s more important is our well-being. And part of that involves ridding ourselves of the things that cause us stress.
What I tell students is two-fold. First, I wasn’t involved in any on-campus activities and yet I did okay in college and was able to get in to two grad programs. In fact, I spent a lot of my time at college off-campus, with friends at other colleges. And I also spent a lot of time by myself, pushing people away. Mental illness constantly followed me around. So not joining many clubs is not a death sentence for one’s future.
The other thing I tell students is to focus on one or two things they enjoy the most: perhaps it’s a club or activity on or off campus. And let the other activities go. It’s important to experience many different things as we try to figure out what we like to do in life. Yet it’s also key that we follow the activities we enjoy the most. In my case in college that meant going to concerts and shows. I wanted to develop the relationships I found there because music is where I found I fit in and felt accepted—as much as that was possible.
College students today have an enormous amount of pressure placed upon them by those trying to help them succeed. But nothing is more important than one’s well-being. I’ve never heard anyone who was happy stressed out and involved in more activities and organizations than they had time for. Yet, when people found time for what they actually enjoyed, they often excelled in those areas. In doing so they found genuine connections with others as well as opportunities that helped them in life. Nothing is perfect, but it is, more often than not, a healthier way to live.
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This blog is an exploration of the subjects of belonging and loneliness. I also look at mental health issues. I seek to provide content to my readers that is informative and helpful. If you don't want to miss anything, sign up for my email list.