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New UFlourish workshop tackles social isolation and loneliness among post-secondary students

By Sweta Babladi, February 12 2024—

Student Wellness Services counsellor Thomas Ambrozaitis has developed a workshop as part of the University of Calgary’s UFlourish Exposition that provides insight into the importance of meaningful connections and methods to tackle social isolation and loneliness at the post-secondary level. 

The workshop will take place on Feb. 14 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Gallery Hall in the Taylor Family Digital Library. Students can register for the workshop on the U of C website at the event posting. The workshop is a speed-friending workshop and event that is meant to teach students how to develop what Ambrozaitis refers to as social courage. 

“In the workshop, we’re teaching about common things that get in the way, fears and worries that get in the way of just taking that first step of trying to meet the new person,” said Ambrozaitis. 

As a counsellor, Ambrozaitis developed this workshop in response to the multitude of students on campus who have struggled with feelings of loneliness, isolation and disconnectedness. 

“According to the US General Surgeon Report, we’re seeing a sort of increasing trend of people feeling isolated, lonely, disconnected,” said Ambrozaitis.

As social creatures, a lack of social connection can quickly become a cause of depression and anxiety in students who are already facing the demand for a post-secondary education. Ambrozaitis remarked that this in turn can impact a student’s success in their academic life as well as their overall mental and emotional wellbeing. 

“As human beings, we want mental stimulation, intellectual stimulation. But we also need social stimulation.”

Ultimately what he hopes students will take away from this workshop is that developing social courage comes down to the willingness to lean into discomfort and letting action ease fear instead of avoiding it. Students will also gain insight into how to reflect on emotions such as fear and avoidance.

“How do you push through those initial worries, fears, anxieties? And how do you evaluate when you should listen to them and when most of the time you probably don’t need to listen to this sort of avoidance?” asked Ambrozaitis.

Ambrozaitis especially emphasizes that emotions such as anxiety, shame and the fear of rejection are far more universal than many people understand them to be.

“Ultimately, these are thoughts and feelings that just get in the way of us doing what we want to do, which is to connect with people,” Ambrozaitis said.

Whether the first step to developing social courage is asking a classmate to get coffee or as simple as saying hello to a cashier, the goal of the workshop is to aid students in becoming self-sufficient with how they develop social connections and deal with the fear of unfamiliar territory. 

Students can register for the workshop on the U of C website at the event posting.

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