Why Living By Yourself For The First Time Can Impact Your Mental Health

30 May 2017, 13:24

Young woman alone in her room
Nicky Idika

By Nicky Idika

Taking steps toward independence can have side effects.

Achieving independence is a huge step for young people. Many of us spend our teen years counting down the hours until we can move out of our childhood homes, find a job we love, and live the glamorous and successful lives we imagined for ourselves. 

What people don't usually expect are the difficulties that come along with leaving home for the first time. 25% of university students live with anxiety, this is actually higher than the general population. Living independently is the dream but it's not always easy. 

Living alone comes with brand new pressures that just aren't there when you're a teen.

Things like keeping up with bills, difficult housing situations, and bad roommates can have an adverse effect on your overall mental health. There is a pressure to "be independent" but the reality is that there is a huge learning curve that can make life on your own extremely taxing.

How to adjust to this: 
Ask for help. Talk through the bills, bad housing situations, and anxieties that you may have about your newfound independence. Hopefully you have wise people in your life who can help you come up with strategies for managing the unfamiliar terrain of living alone. It's not a bad thing to ask for advice from the smart people in your life who have been exactly where you are. 

Woman sitting alone looking at her laptop

via iStock

Many people experience anxiety around being on their own during their studies. 

Obviously there is huge pressure for students in higher education. Often times, students take on massive debt to be able to study for a degree that may or may not help them in the long run. Demanding study schedules and the pressure to have a "social life" can leave many students feeling emotionally and mentally drained. 

Many students also support themselves financially so there is an added burden of financial stress that can factor into the university experience. 

How to adjust to this: 

First, see what resources your school has for students in a similar position. Waiting lists for mental health services are at an all time high in the UK. So, if you feel like you need to speak to someone right away there are, often times, professionals on campuses who are there to talk with students about their well-being and how they're adjusting.

Many schools also have grants for students who are supporting themselves financially throughout higher education. Additionally, there is no shame in speaking with your professors and department heads about taking a semester away, doing part of your course online, or just getting additional time on projects in order to prioritize your mental health.

via Unsplash

Living alone can be a more isolating experience than what that you're used to. 

Making the decision to move away from home is huge, especially if you're moving to a place where you don't have the support network of your family and friends. You start to realize how often you got lunch with your pals or went to see a movie with your siblings or just sat around and chatted with your parents. 

Even if you don't think being alone will affect you in a big way, there is always a chance that you could end up feeling lonely in the long run. Loneliness can be a huge trigger for anxiety or depression and it's one of the most common side effects of living alone at first. 

How to adjust to this:
Make an effort to interact with the outside world once in a while. Even if you're an introvert and enjoy being at home, try to think consciously about non-taxing ways to interact with your neighbourhood. Sit in your local coffee shop for an hour, take a walk around the block, sign up for a once a week yoga class. Isolation can creep up on you in a way where you might not recognize it until you're deep in it. 

Reddit user answer

via reddit user jpark170

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