Thursday, 18 January 2018

Graduation Nerves: What's Next?

Lucy shares her advice for 3rd year students going into their final semester of university, and fearing ‘what’s next?’ once they graduate.
- Lucy

Rewind a few years ago, I never thought that the day would come where I would be finishing my undergraduate degree, let alone starting a Masters. The past few years have been a complete whirlwind, with every plan that I've made regarding my future, falling apart when something else comes up instead. 

Although I am the type of person who loves to plan and has some sort of idea what the future may hold, I've enjoyed the unexpectedness of how each year has played out for me. It has made me realise that sometimes it's better to take a step back from trying to control every aspect of your life and let fate take the lead. It has ended up allowing me to take up some of the most amazing opportunities and experiences of my life.

It can be incredibly daunting to be a 3rd year student going into the final semester. I remember feeling exactly like that last year when I wasn't sure what I wanted to do once I had finished university. I knew that I wasn't ready to leave it behind and I still had so much more to learn, but I still didn't have the faintest clue of what to do next.

It can be incredibly tempting to spend your final semester planning every aspect of your life for once you graduate, but this can be unhealthy. It can make your final few months pass so quickly without giving you chance to fully appreciate them. Although some degree of planning is needed, as you may have to send off applications or figure out what kind of career you want, you must not let it consume your final semester.

It doesn't matter if you don't have your whole life planned out. It doesn't matter if you don't know what kind of job you want or whether you want to extend your education for a little bit longer. Nobody expects you to come out of university and suddenly achieve every dream that you had originally set out to accomplish, so you shouldn't put that pressure on yourself either.

Finishing university can feel like you're finally stepping into the huge and scary adult world, where you suddenly need to grow up and get a lifetime career. Although a lot of people do jump into careers they have been working so hard for, this doesn't have to be the case for everyone.

Leaving university doesn't have to be a scary time: it can be exciting too! It's down to you to make it that way. 

There is no rule book that signifies that you have to leave university and immediately start working towards your long-term career goals. Instead it can be a chance to do everything you never had the chance to do before you headed off to university. Perhaps you always wanted to take a gap year and go travelling but had never had the confidence before. Now is your time to try it! Maybe you just want to get a short-term job and experience living in another city for a year. Now is your time to try it! Or maybe you want to further your education and get a Masters in the topics that interest you most. Now is, also, the time to try it!

Whatever it is that you really want to do, you should give yourself the chance to finally experience that, completely guilt-free. Graduating from university doesn't have to be the start of that mature adult life, where you feel like you need to suddenly grow up. Instead, it can be a continuation of how you've spent your past three years at university - a time to have some fun and find out who you are as a person.

Don't let the end of university be consumed with fear and pressures to suddenly pursue the career you've been working towards. Let it be a celebration of what you have achieved and take the next few years to do the things you've always wanted to do!

Hello! I'm Lucy, a Clinical Psychology Masters student at Anglia Ruskin University! Through studying Psychology and experiencing life as a student, I have become incredibly passionate about mental health and helping to make a positive change. I have been volunteering for Student Minds for the past 2 years as a Peer Support Facilitator at my university, and have been the Editor of the Student Minds blog since June 2017.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The anxious girl’s first day of work

Niamh outlines methods she has found useful in coping with the anxiety of starting a new job and her first experiences working as a copywriter.
-Niamh Reed

Mental health is being talked about more today than ever before, but we still have a long way to go. It’s a hurdle, but it is scalable. You don’t have to let it hold you back. Living with a mental health disorder can be just as debilitating as a physical disability and people cannot see when you’re hurting. With depression and anxiety, facing the upheaval of your life when university ends can be a mountain too steep to believe you can climb. 

Congratulations - you did it! You finished your degree with the qualification you worked so hard for. To top it off, you’ve accepted a great job offer - except you know nothing about working full-time. You’ve spent your entire life in education and now everything is changing. You think about it and your chest tightens. Doubts, questions and worries circle in your mind. What if no one likes me? What if I’m not good enough? You start to hate, berate and bully yourself. I don’t deserve this opportunity. I’m worthless.

Sound familiar? The unfortunate truth is that for so many, part or all of the above is normal. Excitement is replaced with anxiety and the desire to run and hide. You catastrophise the situation until it becomes too much.

It's okay to be afraid

Leaving university is a time of uncertainty. Suddenly you have bills and responsibilities and you must be an adult. It’s big and unknown, but everyone is, has or will experience it, and they are scared too. You needn’t feel ashamed for being frightened, and things DO get easier.

I felt oddly calm on my first day (well, calm for someone with anxiety, at least). Despite being nervous about not knowing what to expect, I managed to keep my head up and my back straight as I entered the office. The people were very welcoming, even having ‘decorated’ my desk and meeting them wasn’t as scary as I had built it up to be. That’s the way it is- often, the things you build up to be super scary actually end up being fun. 

Imposter syndrome 

You don’t see your value in the workplace or recognise your accomplishments and the longer the imposter syndrome continues, the worse it gets, potentially leading to depression and anxiety. You must tackle it and try to recognise the good work that you’re doing. I’m learning to recognise that my writing is valuable to us – and it is ‘us’, not ‘them’ as I am part of the company now. Try to be open, it won’t hurt to ask how you’re doing; your desire to improve where possible will impress. 

If you don’t know what to do, ask

A symptom of anxiety is the worry that you’re a burden and the overwhelming need to avoid that at all costs. You want to impress, but you worry that you’ll annoy people by asking something. This is not the case. 

On my first day, I had to ask a lot about how to use the programs that I would need daily. My first day at a software company and I couldn’t make a computer work. If I didn’t ask, I wouldn’t be able to work. So, I approached my supervisor and it wasn’t a problem in the slightest. The tightness in my chest began to recede. She told me that she had struggled understanding the software and navigating new programs too. She helped me, and now I’m not as scared. 

Be brave and take the leap

Enjoy your first day of work. It might seem scary, but just be yourself – after all, that’s how you got the job in the first place. If my experiences are anything to go by (and to quote Bob Marley) - don’t worry, because every little thing is going to be alright.

Hi! I’m Niamh, a Keele University graduate, fox lover and budding copywriter at Parker Software. By day I write about technology and my experiences as an intern. By night I draw, play the violin, and hip-throw to my heart’s content in jiujitsu. 

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Time to Rebuild

Michael writes about how a fresh start to the year can help you to focus on your goals.

Michael Rigby

The new year has arrived. Many people will be saying that old quote; “new year, new me”. I wonder how many times we’ve stated that. I’ve been saying the same words for the past few years now actually- I even said it again this year for 2018. Will I be successful this time? I guess I’ll find out in twelve months.

At this moment, I feel a difference. I’ve started the year by signing up for challenges such as treks for charity; I haven’t done anything like that for two years, and even then I’d already lost the love for physical challenges. But this year, as soon as the clock struck midnight and 2018 had arrived, I started rebuilding once again.

I’ve been attempting to rebuild since 2016. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve fallen back down and failed the attempt, each time knowing I will have to pick myself up again. However, this time I feel the hunger. Sometimes in life, you have to get knocked down further than you might want. Everyone has a limit, and I’ve finally found mine. I had enough of fighting with my mind each day- 2018 has to be the year I rebuild. The pieces will never go back into the same spot because my life has changed; I must re-invent myself, and that’s a challenge I’m happy to take on. I get to be the CEO of my own life and decide how I want to live it.

Therefore, I advise anyone who reads my posts; it is a new year and it can be a new you. You just have to make it happen. Whatever the situation you’re in, it can and will get better- don’t let anything negative define your future.

If anyone wants to view my instagram blog based on Mental Health, then follow @walkingtallclub. If you’re wondering what it’s all about, go and check it out.

Hi, I'm Michael Rigby and I study Sports Business and Broadcasting at UCFB Wembley. I have experienced mental illness, including depression and social anxiety since the age of 14.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Think Positive, Be Positive: how positive thinking can improve your outlook and well-being

Emma writes about how positive thinking can improve both your outlook and general well-being.

-Emma Dukes

Before beginning, I would just like to say that it will not be one of those, ‘happiness is a choice’ sort of posts. I am aware that for a lot of us, being happy or positive is extremely difficult and often seemingly impossible. The aim of this post, rather, is to offer strategies to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, thus eventually creating an increasingly positive outlook and making happiness more achievable.

I am probably the worst person when it comes to negative thinking and overthinking. I can make the most normal comment or situation massively negative within seconds. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect, which in itself makes any sort of failure or disappointment a million times worse. But I’ve discovered many different ways to lessen this and make my thought process a lot more positive and manageable.

To begin the journey towards positive thinking, it’s important to first accept the reasons behind your current thought process. Also, remember that you are not expected to be positive all of the time, nor are you going to magically stop overthinking. However, I believe that if you are optimistic and positive, you are more likely to achieve your goals and have a healthier outlook on life.

What does positive thinking actually do?

It is widely believed that positive thinking is a way of life that simultaneously makes us stronger and manifests positive results. The idea is that if you have a positive attitude, this will be broadcast to those around you, making your interactions and relationships stronger and thus encouraging you feeling more confident in yourself. If you go into a situation expecting the worst or thinking negatively, it is likely that you will receive a negative outcome. This is because the stress of overthinking can cause you to not perform to the best of your ability and cause you to lack confidence. Whereas if you tell yourself you will succeed, the positive energy will give you the boost you need to do so. It is also thought that positive thinking has the ability to improve overall health. This is because positive attitudes often allow people to focus on eating well, exercising and avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Positive thinking can improve:

· Self esteem
· Confidence
· Relationships
· Education
· Mental illness

So, how do I get there?

Positive thinking can be difficult, especially if you strongly believe you’re not a worthwhile person or that you’re guaranteed to fail. The best way to begin to replace negative thoughts is to notice them, accept them and then replace them with contrasting ones. Contrastingly, dwelling on these thoughts reinforces the negativity, making it much harder to think of and focus on the positive. For example, if you’re thinking ‘I can’t do this’, tell yourself, ‘I can’. There will be difficulty and the negative thoughts may creep back in, but persistence is key. The more you train your mind to adapt to this new way of thinking, the better results you’ll achieve. 

Positive affirmations are also a great technique. My favourite concept is not saying anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Every day, try to tell yourself 5 things you like about yourself or 5 things that you’re proud of. I find this especially useful regarding body image. If I’m having a bad day, I make myself find 5 positive things about my least favourite parts of my body, for example, ‘I may not like my legs but they’re strong, I like my tattoo and they look nice in jeans.’

The most important step is to be self-reliant and to only surround yourself with people who make you feel good. If you rely on others and they disappoint you, you’re likely to blame yourself and fall back into negative thinking. Remind yourself that you do not need others to make you feel important, you are capable of achieving your goals by yourself and that you are your number one priority.

I’m Emma and I’m studying Journalism at the University of Winchester. I’ve suffered with anxiety and anorexia for a long time so thought I’d share my own experiences to hopefully help others on the same journey to recovery.

Monday, 8 January 2018

What I learned about my mental health in 2017

Emily explores how her experiences during 2017 have helped her to learn more about her mental health.
- Emily Maybanks 

2017 was an important and strange year concerning my mental health. I have written previously about how having ovarian cancer, and the aftermath of this experience has impacted my mental health. However, having learnt a lot from my mental health in 2017, I am entering 2018 with overwhelming feelings of excitement for new opportunities, fear for graduating in the summer and the unknown afterwards, and determination for doing the very best I can. However, there are three key things I learnt about my mental health last year. 

First of all, I received a new mental health diagnosis in 2017, which threw me off course completely. Following a major laparoscopic operation in April to remove a tumour and my ovary, I was diagnosed as being post-operatively depressed in May 2017. I’d never heard of being depressed following an operation before my diagnosis. I felt ashamed about being post-operatively depressed and I didn’t tell anyone about it for months. However, eventually opening up about it and realising that people didn’t think I was completely crazy was reassuring. 

Secondly, I learnt a lot about anxiety last year. Before my operation, I was incredibly anxious and scared. I was afraid of the unknown; it was my first ever operation and it took me ages to realise that it was okay to be terrified and anxious. In the hospital, following my operation, an older lady told me that she’d just had her fourth operation and she still felt scared beforehand. I’ve also been quite claustrophobic for most of my life. I hate crowded places and I rarely go on nights out at university for this reason. In August 2017, whilst working at Reading Festival, I took on a very big challenge of watching Bastille perform on Reading Festival’s main stage. The crowd was massive and I felt quite uncomfortable, but, once I got lost in the music of my favourite band, it was worth it. 

Finally, I’ve learnt that talking and sharing my story is a good way to cope with what has happened in my life. I started writing for the Student Minds blog in 2017 – for their summer and Christmas blog series. I also started editing the Swansea University Students’ newspaper as both Creative Writing Section Editor and Deputy Editor. Sharing information about mental health through the Waterfront newspaper, and the wider Swansea Student Media platforms has been really useful.

My name is Emily (Em). I am currently in my final year studying Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting at Swansea University, where I'm also the Creative Writing Section Editor and Deputy Editor for The Waterfront - Swansea's student newspaper. I wanted to write for Student Minds because I have experienced depression and anxiety as well as other health issues, and I support friends who have also experienced mental health difficulties. I am also a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences - both in helping me to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help others.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Homeless Homesickness

Elise writes about how she manages home sickness at university. 

- Elise Jackson

Before I came to university, I can only remember experiencing homesickness once. It was a week-long residential trip at an activities centre and I was 10 years old. So, getting to university and feeling that feeling again was not only a throwback, but extremely disconcerting.

My parents have always let me be independent. They not only allowed, but encouraged me to socialise, to travel, to have new experiences. I think this is why I never got homesick – I was raised to be self sufficient and to find comfort in meeting people. University, then, should have been a breeze.
Flash-forward to summer 2015. Life goes topsy-turvy. Long story short, we had a death in the family, my mum and step-dad moved out of my childhood home to somewhere half-way across the country, I got in to the University of Nottingham and my friends got in to places all over the country. Within the space of a few months, my life was completely displaced.

As I mentioned, this shouldn’t really have been a problem for me. Aside from the grieving, everything else was well within my emotional capabilities and comfort zone. I love new places and new people! But I hadn’t taken one thing into account: I didn’t have a home anymore. The place I knew as home – the house, the bedroom, the walk into school – didn’t exist anymore. Someone else lived there now, and we knew no one in our new village miles away from a train station.

Homesickness is horrible. But when that option to go home and quell the sickness isn’t there anymore, it becomes something else entirely. Learning to manage that feeling was one of the hardest parts of coming to uni, and one of the achievements I’m most proud of.

So, how do you deal with homesickness when you don’t really have a home anymore? Step one, don’t say you don’t have a home. Instead, think of it like you have several new ones! You have where your parents live, where your friends live, and now, where you live with all these lovely new people. Count your bedrooms – what kid wouldn’t be psyched to learn that one day they would have 3 bedrooms to their name?

Step two, make it comfy. We all know uni halls can be gross and smelly and damp, but in my opinion, there’s nothing some good soft furnishings can’t fix. I got a thick old mattress topper for my uni/camping bed, with a fluffy duvet, blankets and several cushions. I strung up pictures, fairy lights, and put net curtains over my window to make it all feel a bit cosier. My room was (and remained to be in my new houses), the comfiest room of all. Not only will this make you feel more chill, it will make people want to be in your room for cuddles all the damn time, which is a great distraction.

Step three, make new memories. One of the things I did in first year which changed the game completely was have my friends to my new house in Norfolk. As soon as I did that, I went from feeling entirely isolated there to absolutely loving it. After a Christmas, a couple of summers and that wonderful mini-holiday with my friends, that new house has become more of a home for me than my old one had felt like for many years.

And lastly, let go. I once joked with a close friend before that I was over-attached to locations. He told me that I wasn’t attached to the places, I was just attached to the memories and the people I loved that populated them. He’s right – home isn’t a place, it’s people. Visiting friends at different unis showed me this – they’re in an alien city in some strange, draughty house but just being with people you love can make any grotty student haunt feel like home.

Build a home in the friends around you. They’ll be doing the same in you. Once I did that, the homesickness completely dissipated. Now, the idea of coming home means people. It means I wake up with my home; I have breakfast with my home; I go to lectures with my home. It also means that, no matter what, I can pick up the phone and hear home in the voice of any friend, any family member. Home is now something I carry with me, everywhere.

Hello! I'm Elise. I'm currently in my final year studying English Language and Literature at the University of Nottingham. My writings for Student Minds will range from pieces about depression and DPD to coping with loss, bereavement and change during your studies - all the while remaining mindful and getting the most out of university life. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Mental Health over Christmas: Catrin

The Christmas and New Year period often involves pressure to indulge in wintery food or engage in New Year's Resolution health kicks. Catrin explains how she provides herself support and stability through difficult times in eating disorder recovery.
- Catrin Haberfield

1. What do you enjoy most about the winter holiday period?

More than anything, I love the distinct sensory aspects of Christmas: the smell of the tree in the lounge, how bright everything seems when it has snowed, and the smoky warmth of the house filled with candles. It’s crazy how certain smells or tastes trigger such specific memories or feelings of comfort and warmth and family. 

2. What do you find most difficult during the holidays?

Food is always more stressful for me at home than at university, and the winter period is definitely the hardest. Since I’m semi-catered at uni, I have structure imposed upon me for my meals; I have lunch at 12:30p and dinner at 6pm. At home, it’s entirely down to me to stick to a reasonable meal plan, not to restrict or binge or engage in any other disordered behaviour. To make matters worse, keywords like ‘binge’, ‘treat’, ‘cheat’ come hand in hand with Christmas festivities, while both companies and individuals use the New Year as an excuse to reinforce diet culture. Everyone, from friends to family to social media, is banging on about being ‘naughty’ for eating ‘bad’ food, or lamenting the loss of their ‘summer bod’. It’s chaos. Food is not inherently good or bad; it just is. Ascribing value to certain foods and placing more worth on smaller bodies is such a toxic way to view the world, and it’s almost impossible to avoid situations involving food at Christmas.

3. Taking some time out from all the festivities to look after yourself can be really helpful. What do you do to help your mental health during the holidays?

My best friend and I make a point to always be there for each other, and Christmas is no exception. If family time gets too much then I can just pop into my room and call her, and the same goes for her. I also try to find a balance between work, rest, and socialising – the latter two definitely aren’t the same thing! I have a massive amount of work this holiday, and I know I’m useless at working in the morning, so I try to take mornings off and work in the afternoons. 

4. What present would you give yourself over the holidays?

I’d give myself two gifts. Firstly, I’d clear out my entire wardrobe and donate all the clothes that don’t fit me anymore. There are some clothes that I still hold on to on the off chance that they’ll ever fit me again, though I know they never will. Donating them is one way to completely let go of the old, smaller, disordered me. The second gift I’d give myself would be some decent headphones; listening to music lifts my mood, but I know that when my depression gets worse I tend to isolate myself. I bought myself a Spotify subscription three months ago and listening to music on a regular basis has already made an amazing difference to my mood.

5. What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

I know that New Year’s Resolutions can be helpful for a lot of people, but I don’t believe that you need to wait for a new year to make a change. Even when you have a bad day, you don’t have to wait for tomorrow – you can restart your day at any point. I guess that if I had to have a New Year’s Resolution, it would be to continue the upward trajectory I’ve been on for the past few months. Recovery isn’t a straight line – it’s more like a scatter graph, and I want to keep the correlation positive.

Hi folks! I'm Catrin, a third year Medieval English Language and Literature student at Somerville College, Oxford. I've always been super vocal when it comes to mental health; I love pushing boundaries and challenging people's assumptions about mental illness. I live with mental illness, so I know how much both the illnesses and the stigma can affect your life, as well as the lives of others. I'm incredibly excited to be a Sub-Editor for Student Minds, and I can't wait to help other people share their stories!

Mental Health over Christmas: Tazmin

It can be hard to put yourself first sometimes, especially at Christmas. Tazmin talks about how she prioritises self-care, and deals with the pressures of gift-giving.

- Tazmin

1.  What do you enjoy most about the winter holiday period?

I love that it gives you a chance to connect with the people in your life, friends and family alike, who you may not have seen in a while. I always find that it’s the perfect time to catch up with old friends from school and college, and make new memories with your family. It’s also an opportunity to slow down from the busy world, which can get busier during the winter holidays, and connect with yourself – relax inside, cosy up with a good book or movie and have some time with you. It’s a very cosy period of time and there’s nothing better than a warm snuggle with yourself.

2.  What do you find most difficult during the holidays?

I find the pressure of the festivities slightly overwhelming in terms of finances and expectations. I struggled with money all through university and even though I’ve just graduated this is still no exception. Being surrounded by advertisements, Christmas markets, even daily emails surging into my inbox, I can feel a great deal of pressure to buy gifts for the people I love. I also feel like I’m a bad person if I don’t – but for someone who is in a difficult financial situation and trying to get out of it, this added stress must be ignored and put to one side. I try to remind myself that there’s more to this festive period than gifts and if the people in my life fail to understand that, it speaks more of them and nothing of me. This holiday is about spending time with people you love, playing in the snow like children again, laughing and enjoying the company of yourself. Spend time to reflect on the year and all you have achieved, rather than thinking you’ve come up short.

3.  Taking some time out from all the festivities to look after yourself can be really helpful. What do you do to help your mental health during the holidays?

The world is a busy place, especially during university, and there are always so many deadlines fast approaching or just flying straight past. Friends to see and catch up with, and family engagements to participate in. But sometimes it’s nice – and necessary – to have some time out: sit back, get cosy, and enjoy being you for a little bit. It can be truly uplifting for your well-being to be surrounded by people who you care for and love, but I’ve often found that once you’re on your own again the contrast can bring you down. Make time to bond with yourself in the ways that make you happy; like I’ve said before, I make friends with myself by getting cosy after a good day and spending the evening along with a great movie that I love, usually The Muppets Christmas Carol!

4.  What present would you give yourself over the holidays?

I think the gift I would give to myself over the holidays is a meditative retreat somewhere beautiful in the world such as Spirit Rock in California; a chance to spend some time with myself, heal, and go on an adventure to see another part of this wonderful world. 

6.  What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

I understand the concept of New Year’s resolutions, that they can motivate people to change their lives or lifestyle for the better in the next year ahead. However, I make new resolutions whenever I feel the need for them to be made. I think waiting for the New Year to make a resolution prevents it from really coming true. If there’s something in your life you want to change, never wait – just do it. For example, if you are a smoker and say you’re going to quit smoking in the New Year, don’t carry the bad habit on until then, just start quitting now. Waste no time waiting. Do what needs to be done to ensure you’re happy now and for the future.

If you would like to get involved in our Christmas blogging series, you can find all of the details here.

Hey everyone, I’m Taz. My journey suffering with depression and anxiety has been and can continue to be a difficult one; but I would not be who I am today had I not accepted my illness and work hard to get better. I have recently graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a First in Film and Media Production. I’ve been writing my blog Awareness for over two years and it has been truly rewarding for me. I write about the things many people fear talking about – our wonderfully complex minds. I wish to encourage anyone suffering through university and offer them a helping hand. Happy reading.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Mental Health over Christmas: Emily

As part of our Christmas blogging series, Emily Maybanks talks about the things she likes to do to relax and keep herself emotionally healthy during the Winter months.
- Emily Maybanks

1. What do you enjoy most about the winter holiday period?

I particularly enjoy writing Christmas cards for my friends and wrapping Christmas presents. I also love going home to spend time with my family and having cuddles with my cat, Marmite. There is a lot of good television at Christmastime, and I love curling up in front of the TV to watch the Christmas episode of EastEnders, or Call The Midwife, whilst reading a good book or doing some writing. 

2. What do you find most difficult during the holidays?

I always find it difficult to cope with my mental health during the winter, especially since my Dad passed away in 2012. Celebrating Christmas has felt slightly weird ever since. In the winter, I tend to find myself feeling more emotional, tearful, exhausted, and lethargic, as well as being less able to cope with University work and becoming physically ill with colds much more easily. 

3. Taking some time out from all the festivities to look after yourself can be really helpful. What do you do to help your mental health during the holidays?

I really love to write and I find it therapeutic, so I try to do as much writing as possible, as well as making sure that I meet up with friends while I’m home for Christmas. This year, I think I’ll be even more fortunate that Ill have the distraction of creating content for my University’s newspaper, for which I am both the Deputy Editor and Creative Writing Section Editor.

4. What present would you give yourself over the holidays?

Over the holidays, I think I would give myself some time to myself to really relax. Especially because I am in my final year of University and it has been a little intense and stressful at times during this semester. 

5. Anything advice for other students?

Christmas can be a really difficult time for many students for a wide range of reasons and that’s okay; make sure to give yourself a break, it can be more helpful to you in the long run.

If you would like to get involved in our Christmas blogging series, you can find all of the details here.

My name is Emily (Em). I am currently in my final year studying Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting at Swansea University, where I'm also the Creative Writing Section Editor and Deputy Editor for The Waterfront - Swansea's student newspaper. I wanted to write for Student Minds because I have experienced depression and anxiety as well as other health issues, and I support friends who have also experienced mental health difficulties. I am also a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences - both in helping me to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help others.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Mental Health over Christmas: Michael

Christmas can be a tough time of year when struggling with a mental illness, notably the pressure to 'happy'. Michael talks about how he looks after his mental health during the christmas holiday period.
- Michael

1. What do you enjoy most about the winter holiday period?

Everyone tends to come home for Christmas so I love catching up with friends and family that I don’t see that much during the year. I also enjoy the bit between Christmas and New Year where it is pretty much universally acceptable not to do much uni work, no matter how many assignments or exams you have to go back to in the new term.

2. What do you find most difficult during the holidays?

I think one of the most difficult things I find about Christmas (as ridiculous as it sounds), is the relentless pressure to HAVE LOTS OF FUN AND BE REALLY HAPPY!!! Everywhere you go, there is an expectation to celebrate Christmas and New Year in a certain way, all with lots of people. It is easy to feel very lonely and inadequate if you can’t live up to this, especially once exposed to all the photos, videos and programmes on social media of people being endlessly happy and seeming to have lots of fun together. If you are finding things quite difficult, this can also make it awkward to reach out for help and support. It can feel like there is no one to talk to, that everyone is too busy or that you will only drag them down. Uni friends might be miles away and most specialist support services are unavailable from home or closed over Christmas.

3. Taking some time out from all the festivities to look after yourself can be really helpful. What do you do to help your mental health during the holidays?

The winter holidays can be a pretty difficult time for students because there is often a lot of uni work (or paid work) to do before you go back. It can be difficult to balance everything and look after yourself at the same time. I find it really important to find time by myself, away from the family, for something other than work (even just listening to music works for me). Having said this, of course spend time with friends and family and talk to people about how you are feeling; Samaritans run a text or email service over Christmas. And I always try to make sure that even though my daily routine is a bit different over the holidays, I still get plenty of sleep and exercise.

4. What present would you give yourself over the holidays?

That I can’t really answer this question perhaps suggests that the present I really need to give myself is greater self-awareness of how to look after myself.

5. To conclude:

The winter holidays can, from my own experience, be a trigger point and a particularly difficult time if you are feeling depressed or alone. Please try to keep an eye out for the signs that someone else might be struggling. Be patient and sensitive if they seem a bit down and try to make yourself available to chat if/when they need it. Even just a smile could be enough to make a big difference.

If you would like to get involved in our Christmas blogging series, you can find all of the details here

"Hi, I'm Michael. I'm currently a prospective PhD student at Durham University and wanted to write for Student Minds about my own experiences of depression, anxiety and university life."