Friday, 1 February 2019

Find a Purpose to Drive Your Self Development

Ethan shares how self-development can improve our self-worth and mental wellbeing. 

Self-development is something we all strive for. The hope that, one day, we will be in some ways better than our current selves can be instrumental in helping us to endure the hard times and come out better on the other side. However, unless our efforts for self-development are rooted in goals that are close to our hearts, our attempts can often prove to be futile and demotivating.

One example of this is regular exercise. Despite the well known and limitless benfits it has for both our physical and mental wellbeing, many of us can find it very difficult to maintain regular exercise and settle for an on-again, off-again relationship with the hobby. Just the promise that something will make us better isn’t always enough to drive us.

During a time in my life where I was beginning to question everything that I formerly understood myself to be, I tried lots of different hobbies in a desperate need for something, or someone, significant to cease any further decline in my self-worth. But I often failed to find enjoyment in these activities and became further demoralised by the day.

It was around this time that I met my girlfriend of a year and a half. I was very hesitant to let anyone into my life at this time, when any love for myself did not appear to be on the horizon. Furthermore, having come out of a relationship somewhat recently at the time, I was busy trying to focus on loving myself before allowing myself to love anyone else.

When I did begin to let my guard down, I started to see a person who I thought deserved the best; from life and from a partner. As much as I wanted to be the kind of partner that I knew they deserved, it took me a long time to realise that I could. Now each day I work a little bit harder to be better for this person. Having someone to love is a powerful driving force in motivating us towards self-development; it’s the one thing I think of when I am expressing gratitude for the potential I’ve harnessed and the self-love I’ve developed since.

Finding something, or someone, that you love is imperative in discovering our purpose. These hobbies or people, friends or otherwise, may already be in your life, but you may have overlooked them. Alternatively, there could be something just around the corner and, with a little bit more patience and hope, it will arrive. To accelerate this process, encourage yourself to try new things, in search of finding an activity that you will find fulfilling and worth putting your time into. If you are instead someone who finds value in spending time with others, perhaps begin this search amongst societies and clubs within your University, either to try something new or explore an old love of yours; if the activity doesn’t interest you, the people you meet might. Finding a purpose that motivates you each day and that drives you to better yourself, produces the best results when it comes to learning to developing self love, the values that are important to you, and the life that you are living.

Hey, I'm Ethan! Having not found the past few years a breeze, as few people do, and struggling along the journey to know myself and where I'd like for my life to take me, I thought I'd share my experiences and the lessons I've learnt from for others going through similar struggles, in hope that you also get a better idea of how you want to experience life.
I'm currently studying Philosophy and Politics at UEA

Click here for more tips on self care 

Monday, 28 January 2019

What to remember if you have had a tough day at university

Niraj gives four tips for managing difficult times at university. 
Niraj

Sometimes things can get overwhelming and feel impossible to deal with whilst at university. I have certainly felt pushed to the limit many times, have often felt under pressure and faced a lot of difficult days and times whilst at university. However, despite this I have managed to develop my mental strength and resilience. In this article, I share four things I have learnt which have helped me significantly.

1) Difficult days can help you develop as a person
University is challenging. Every student has to manage constant deadlines, career planning, finances, as well as other responsibilities and commitments. As a result, you probably will be pushed out of your comfort zone, which will lead to some days being extremely demanding and difficult. However, by reflecting on these difficult days and finding strategies to overcome them, you will be able to learn a lot, and develop as a person. In my specific case, even though I have faced several challenges and difficult times regarding my mental health, this has also helped me build my ability to be resilient and adapt to tough situations.

2) There is always something good in every day
Sometimes when things are difficult, it is very easy to think that the world is against you and it is impossible to see the bright side. However, one thing that has helped me to deal with my current challenges recently is positive thinking, and trying to see what went well in the day rather than focus purely on the negatives. For example, this could be making small progress towards a long-term goal, something simple such as making someone smile, or even learning from a mistake that you have made. Not every day will be amazing, but thinking about all the good things that have happened in the day as well as what you have learnt will help you stay determined and motivated.

3) Taking things one day at a time can be so beneficial 
Remembering to take things one day at a time can make such a difference, especially at times when you feel overwhelmed. Previously, one of the biggest mistakes that I made was expecting my mental health to magically improve overnight and beating myself up when it didn’t. Nothing extremely fulfilling in life happens overnight, and sometimes it’s how you deal with the journey that can make a big difference. A simple yet effective way to deal with bad days in a positive light is to think about ways you can make the next day better and remembering that even making small progress and improvements every day will accumulate in the long run.

4) The rewards are sweeter if you have overcome challenges  
You have all achieved so much already that you should be proud of, such as getting into university, learning new skills, becoming more independent as well as so much more. None of these achievements were a walk in the park, and you have had to overcome many barriers to get to where you are today. We all have goals and aims that we want to achieve, and it is expected that we will face setbacks and tough periods. It is sometimes easy to lose perspective and beat ourselves up, thinking that we are doing something wrong whenever we are finding things hard. Life isn’t plain sailing, and being able to stay motivated despite the constant challenges, and thriving as a result is what will make the successes and rewards even more worthwhile. Furthermore, you can grow from the struggles and challenges that you have faced, which will serve you well in the future.

For more advice on looking after your mental wellbeing at university, click here

Hi, I'm Niraj! I am a third-year student from the University of Warwick studying Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics. Having suffered from anxiety issues whilst at university, I know about the various mental health issues that university students face, and how tough it can be. I, therefore, want to raise awareness on different aspects of mental health and wellbeing, and help as many people as I can by sharing my own experiences.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

The one word that dictates how I spend my time

In this blog, Ethan discusses how to find fulfillment in university life, and how he keeps his mental health in check. 

When we don’t feel like we’re getting enough from our lives, or are putting enough back into them, it can become easy to over-indulge in escapism, believing that it will take hard work to find satisfaction. But enjoying ourselves shouldn’t feel like hard work, and once we find beneficial ways of spending our time, it will become easier to repeat these activities.

When starting University, it is easy to succumb to the lifestyles that are expected of us as students. We assume that attending society taster sessions, drinking with strangers, or going clubbing will inject happiness into our lives. For many, these activities aren’t enjoyable. Just because we expect to enjoy these things does not mean that we will, nor that they will provide us with much satisfaction.

As someone who had never done any of these things before University, I found myself confused as to why I was not enjoying the same activities that everybody else seemed to be enjoying; I ended up feeling alone and worthless as a result.

However, when I really thought about not just the activities that I enjoyed, but why I enjoyed them, I discovered a goal to strive towards: fulfillment. The reason that I was not enjoying the activities that I had expected to was because I was not fulfilled. I was spending time with people that I didn’t genuinely connect with, and filling my time with things that didn’t truly make me happy.

Now, a couple more years into University, I am filling my time with things that leave me feeling fulfilled, and like I am doing something purposeful with my potential.

For me, this include going out less with friends and spending more time just chatting with them instead; writing, reading or playing guitar rather than scrolling through YouTube; wasting less time napping and listening to music to increase my energy instead; and dedicating myself to more fulfilling causes, such as mental health, rather than the interests of societies that I feel I ‘should’ be involved with.

If you are not feeling fulfilled, it does not mean that all that you do is futile. You’ll already be doing things which fulfill you, but it the things that don’t which can leave us feeling lost. Take some time to really think about what makes you happy, and how you can be exploring the causes that mean the most to you, not just things that you think you should care about.

A good place to start can be the hobbies that we enjoyed as a child, and the things we used to spend the days dreaming about. These are often forgotten as we get older, and we begin to care more about what we should be doing, or what is cool. Take inspiration from lost hobbies, and find activities that you can be doing now which will satisfy the same imaginative desires that you had as a child. Also look at the ways in which you have developed since then, and the interests that have been introduced as you’ve grown up. Filling your life with the things that make you truly happy is the ultimate way to find fulfillment.



Hey, I'm Ethan! I'm currently studying Philosophy and Politics at UEA. Having not found the past few years a breeze, as few people do, and struggling along the journey to know myself and where I'd like for my life to take me, I thought I'd share my experiences and the lessons I've learnt from others going through similar struggles, in hope that you also get a better idea of how you want to experience life.


Sunday, 13 January 2019

When University gets too much for your mental health and ways in which you can look after yourself

Niraj talks about coping with university pressure. 
- Niraj

We all get told on how university is meant to be the best years of your life, and how we have to enjoy every minute of it. And I do agree that university can be a wonderful experience due to the people you meet, the endless amount of opportunities that come your way and the level of independence and freedom you get. But we have to consider both sides of the picture. For a good number of freshers this will be the first time that they have lived away from home and they now have to be responsible for things that are generally done for them at home, such as cooking, laundry and budgeting. Moreover, students from later years face the pressure of having to balance an increased workload, house bills, job applications, commuting to university every day as well as a lot of other things. Suddenly, university doesn’t seem like the perfect fantasy that we were told it would be. With a lot of things to balance at the same time, everything can hit like a truck.

I am personally someone that can relate very closely to having too much to do at the same time. Will I get everything done? Am I doing enough? What else do I need to do? These are questions that enter my mind at a regular basis. Alongside a very intense and challenging degree, I have several other commitments and responsibilities that I have to juggle at the same time, some of which are very time consuming and difficult. Not only does it cause a lot of stress and pressure, it sometimes feels like a pressure bubble has formed in my head which I can’t get out of. 

I see my friends from other degrees that face similar problems. On top of lectures, those studying maths related degrees have multiple assignments and problem sheets a week. Those studying humanities degrees have long essays to grind out at a regular basis, not to forget the hours of reading that goes along with it. Those doing science degrees have full days of intense and gruelling lab sessions as well as lab reports to complete. That’s just a handful of degrees I have mentioned, and people in other degrees experience equal difficulty. Clearly, managing a degree on its own is hard enough. But when you add in things such as commuting and dealing with overcrowded buses, multiple job applications, never ending problems with landlords and even making sure that your housemates clean the dishes, it can seem that everything is impossible to handle. I know people that have dismissed this as something that you are expected to deal with easily at university. But it is not as simple as that. When this pressure you are faced with becomes unrelenting and never ending then it can trigger feelings of anxiety and can have a detrimental impact on your mental health. And sadly, this is becoming more and more common at university, with more students than ever disclosing a mental health condition.

However, despite all the challenges you face at university, there are solutions that you can regularly implement in your routine that can go towards improving wellbeing. There are the obvious and well-known ways that provide effective long term solutions to improve your wellbeing such as seeking counselling and wellbeing services at your university. But it is worth noting that this may not be the best solution for everyone, and that there are other ways in which you can take care of yourself. Activities such as sports and exercising have been scientifically proven to have a positive impact on your wellbeing, and it is something that may help you if you have the capacity to do so. But even small things which don’t require a lot of effort and time such as treating yourself to a meal out, making time to do a hobby that you love or even going for a walk can have a massive impact. Personally, I have always enjoyed socialising and I use that as a way to destress, but everyone has different things that work for them.

Furthermore, if there was one specific piece of advice I would give you, it would be to keep things in perspective. There is a lot that we have to do as students at university, and there are times where it gets too much to handle, but your wellbeing and mental health is very important. In the moment it can feel like the essay deadline or exam that you may have is the only thing that matters right now, and that everything else doesn’t matter. This can make it extremely easy to lose perspective, as your mental health is something that will have a bigger impact in the long run than any essay or exam. It is important to realise when the pressure at university is getting to a point where your mental health is getting affected, as your mental health is something that cannot be neglected.

Hi, I'm Niraj! I am a third-year student from the University of Warwick studying Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics. Having suffered from anxiety issues whilst at university, I know about the various mental health issues that university students face, and how tough it can be. I, therefore, want to raise awareness on different aspects of mental health and wellbeing, and help as many people as I can by sharing my own experiences.






For more information on how to cope, check out this link.

Staying Focused During Recovery

Martha explores the difficulties of recovery, and how people can sometimes struggle with staying focused during recovery.
- Martha Lee

Ever since hitting rock bottom and beginning to receive help, all I have ever hoped and aimed for is recovery. I have been lucky enough to have amazing people in my life who have allowed me to see that a future free of mental pain is possible. Therefore, during the darkest times I have always had something to look forward to – a goal motivating me to keep going. But since coming so far in recovery, I have realised that, for me, choosing recovery was the easier part. It is having the strength to keep going in recovery that is hard. I know now that I will be faced with this struggle of keeping moving forwards, even when it can feel so much easier to revert back to old habits. I have found that mental illness can almost become a safety net, and a part of your identity. 

The sad truth of the matter is that sometimes it can take getting to crisis point to get help or sympathy. As you begin to recover, slowly some of that help might get taken away again. People can assume you’re recovered mentally just because you look physically recovered. They think that you no longer require the support that, over the last few years, has become so important to you. Yes, you may have come a long way and yes, you may be getting somewhere in recovery, but that doesn’t always mean you are recovered. 

You may almost find yourself wishing that you were back to that point in order to get help and support. You might feel like you don’t know how to live without your illness, which has almost become a part of your identity. You know deep down that you don’t want to go back to that dark place, and you will do everything you possibly can to stop yourself slipping back. You know that you have come so far and have to keep going. But keeping going is unbelievably exhausting and hard and gruelling. On the one hand you see how far you have come, you see your achievements, goals reached, happier days. But you also see the struggles that still haven’t fully gone away, the reminders of the past, the unhealthy coping mechanisms that oddly helped and provided some comfort.

But I tell you now; keep going. You may feel things would be easier if you slipped back to old ways but I promise you they won’t. You have to try to ignore those feelings. You have come so far in your recovery and you shouldn’t listen to the lies your head is telling you. Yes it may be a struggle, but fighting through the struggle takes strength and courage. You are beautiful and amazing for everything you have achieved and you don’t deserve to go back to that place of pain and suffering after all the work you have already put in to come this far.

For information and advice on finding support, click here. 

I'm Martha, and I'm currently a student at Nottingham University. During my recovery I have found it important to open up, and writing has become a key way to explore and cope with my difficulties. Through sharing my own writing, I hope to inspire and help others and allow everyone to see that there is hope at the end of the darkness.

Friday, 11 January 2019

A Journey to Diagnosis

Daisy speaks about her experiences of mental illness at university and eventual diagnosis of autism.
-Daisy Shearer

I’ve suffered from anxiety for as long as I remember but it all came to a fore when I turned 16. With GCSEs over and done with, I started the transition into 6th form and struggled socially. Constantly self-criticising and feeling as if I did not fit in meant that I spiralled into a depression. At this point my body decided to manifest my stress in the form of shingles, giving me a good excuse to not attend school… for 10 weeks. This didn’t help me face my social anxiety and exacerbated my depression. 

I scraped through A-levels and miraculously got offered a place on the physics BSc course at my first choice of University. I had applied for the MPhys course and was on the fence about whether I should take up my place as I had started to doubt whether I was cut out to be a scientist. I decided to go for it.

Moving away from home was hard. I had to learn to look after myself and no longer had the comfort of the routine I was accustomed to back home. My depression worsened and by the end of first year I was considering dropping out. Luckily one of my friends took me to the university counselling service. Although I didn’t realise it, I had become depressed and wasn’t looking after myself properly. I needed a helping hand from somebody who wasn’t in my head to acknowledge that I needed help. I was offered 6 sessions but didn’t go to all of them as, at the time, my anxiety often prevented me from leaving my room. At the end of second year I got the grades to transfer onto the MPhys which I had originally applied to; I began to think that I could be a scientist after all. 

The MPhys included a year-long placement in industry and I chose a placement close to my family home. With another big change my depression got a lot worse, but this time my family was immediately around me for support. My mum accompanied me to the GP where I was prescribed antidepressants and referred to a psychiatrist. At last I was diagnosed: I had generalised anxiety, recurrent depression and mild OCD symptoms. 7 months later, I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

I applied for Disabled Students Allowance for my final semester and got examination adjustments plus a specialist mentor. My mood began to stabilise, and I developed techniques to manage what I now recognised as sensory overload. The adjustments made a huge difference to my results and in July 2018 I graduated from my MPhys with first-class honours! I was also offered a PhD project at Surrey. Now I’m a PhD student I have psychodynamic therapy fortnightly and prioritise my mental wellbeing. I’m more confident, self-assured and have fewer invasive thoughts as time goes on.

So, what should you do if you find things aren’t going to plan and you feel helpless?
Take opportunities that come your way 
Seek help if you can
If you can’t bring yourself to access support services, ask a friend to accompany you, or seek out online counselling
Never give up! Managing mental health conditions can be an uphill battle and takes time
Build a support system- this can be family, friends, mental health professionals etc.
Use online resources like Student Minds- read other people’s stories and explore what support is available.

For more information and advice on finding support, click here

Hi, I'm Daisy. I'm a first year PhD student in physics studying quantum technologies and spintronics. I graduated with an MPhys from the University of Surrey in 2018. I've suffered with anxiety and depression for many years and was recently diagnosed with autism. I wanted to share my experience on the Student Minds blog to help raise awareness about the support available to students.


I'm always happy to help discuss mental health as well as accessibility, equality & diversity so feel free to get in contact with me @DaisyShearer on Twitter or @notesfromthephysicslab on Instagram

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Taking time for yourself - even when you don’t feel like it

Charlotte shares her thoughts on why studying less may improve your grades - and your mental health.

Have you ever had that feeling that you have no time to do the things you enjoy because of the looming pressure of studying? Maybe you’d love to watch a movie, hang out with friends, or just lie in a hot bath, but you can’t make space for it in your schedule. When you are struggling with your mental health, this feeling of taking time for yourself can feel even less deserved. For some, makes us feel guilty for doing anything other than university work, and can seriously impact our wellbeing and our productivity.

When I started Brunel University as a fresh-faced 18 year old, I told myself that I didn’t have time for any clubs or societies. I was going to focus on my education and get a kick-ass degree! Things didn’t exactly work out that way; because I had no hobbies, and nothing else to dedicate my time to, I spent way too long studying in the library, or late into the night. One of the biggest regrets of my university experience is that I didn’t take the time to make friends through clubs and societies. I didn’t find that social outlet that I needed to help with the isolation and loneliness that living away from home can bring.

This guilt over ‘me-time’ got worse when I studied for a Master’s degree at Bristol UWE. Being a distance-learning course, I had even more of an opportunity to isolate myself due to the lack of a campus community, and the content of the course being completely online. I started to worry if I began working later than 9am. I wouldn’t give myself a lunch break longer than half an hour, and I completely neglected the need to exercise or just chill out.

Of course, this didn’t make me any better at studying. In fact, I spent most of my time worrying about studying and generally being inefficient, because studying was all I thought about. This resulted in me developing an anxiety disorder and unhealthy work habits that have stayed with me to this day, over a year after finishing my studies. According to the American Psychological Association, ‘excessive or inappropriate guilt’ is a key symptom of clinical depression, so it’s not surprising that a lot of students with mental health issues feel guilty for taking time off from studying.

One of my fellow course mates had a part-time job, a netball coaching job, and various other hobbies and activities that she indulged in, always managing to spend time on her studies as well. That girl eventually really DID get a kick-ass degree!

As counter intuitive as it seems, taking time away from studying and spending a healthy amount of time on self-care is THE BIGGEST tool for success and wellbeing that there is! Everyone needs to recharge their batteries regularly. So, have a think about what you like to do to relax and unwind. Is it reading a book? Going for a run? Something that has really helped me is having a list of things that I know I enjoy readily available to me to look at when I feel I need a break. Another helpful tip is to make yourself clear, realistic, small goals every day. Something like: ‘today I will read 2 journal articles’. And then when you complete those tasks, don’t be tempted to give yourself more. You’ve done what you set out to do!

Too much studying can have a really big impact on our health and wellbeing, and can give us a distorted view of how much our grades mean in the grand scheme of things. Be kind to yourself and prioritise that me-time as much as you need.

Hi I’m Charlotte! I work at the London School of Economics looking at refining and improving the student experience in my department. I graduated with a BSc in Psychology in 2012, and an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology in 2017; these university experiences alerted me to the debilitating effect anxiety and depression can have on young people, as it was something I struggled with. Coming across the Student Minds blog made me wish I’d found a resource like this when I was studying, so I want to give back to the community by sharing my experience.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

My Experiences of University as an Autistic Student

Niraj writes about the challenges of being at university with autism, and gives advice on settling in, making friends, getting involved, and finding support. 
Niraj

As someone diagnosed with autism, I have faced many challenges at university. However, I have learnt from my experiences and made a lot of good memories. Here, I give my advice on managing four areas of University life as an autistic student.

1) Living Out and Settling In
A good proportion of autistic students aren’t fond of change. Therefore, the prospect of having to live out and be away from their parents can seem extremely nerve racking. Even if you are living at home and commuting, there is still a lot of things you have to adapt to. Luckily, my university allowed me to arrive 2 days early which allowed me to adapt and settle in before things got busy with Arrivals Weekend. However, it can take time to settle in to university life, and you will make mistakes initially– this is completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of, and one thing I always advise to any upcoming fresher is to give this process time. You will learn from your experiences and mistakes as you begin to settle in, which will help your personal development. 

One thing I would also highly recommend is to visit the university beforehand, so that you can get a feel for the environment and the surroundings. I visited the university twice before I started, and it certainly made things easier when I moved in. 

2)     Making Friends
Before university, I had massive doubts over whether I would be able to make friends due to my autism. However, despite my worries I went to university with an open mind and ensured that I made an active attempt to meet people and initiate conversations. And that worked extremely well for me! On my very first day at university I met someone from my course who also moved in early, and we are still really close friends today. This put me immediately at ease, and after meeting lots of people I quickly came to realise that everyone you meet is very understanding of autism so I didn’t need to worry about whether I would make friends just because I had autism! The advice I would specifically give to autistic students is to just be yourself, and don’t try and change your personality just to “fit in”; if you be true to who you are and give yourself opportunities to meet people, you will make real friends that accept you for who you are!

3) Extracurricular Activities and Getting Out of My Comfort Zone
University can throw many challenges for students with autism, but at the same time it also offers a lot of highly rewarding opportunities to get out of your comfort zone and grow as a person. Whilst at university I have joined several societies, including the Hindu Society, Krishna Consciousness Society, Badminton Society, which have allowed me to try new things and gain new perspectives. I have also been fortunate enough to have taken 3 different society committee positions and volunteered in India, all of which have allowed me to develop many soft skills and expand my comfort zone. My advice to autistic students would be to keep an open mind and take every challenge that comes your way as an opportunity to engage, enjoy and thrive at university. Getting out of your comfort zone can be challenging but the rewards are certainly worth it.

4) Specific Support Available for Students with Disabilities
There is lots of support that is available at university for autistic students. Before fresher’s week, I visited the Disability Services support team at my university and they were extremely helpful in ensuring that arrangements were put in place to guide my transition into university, such as allowing me to arrive 2 days early. Throughout university, they have always been easily approachable whenever I have needed something.

It is completely up to you whether you want to disclose your autism to your university. But if you do, you can be assured that it is against the law to be discriminated against due to your autism. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the university wants you to do well, and they are willing to help in any way they can.

Remember that autistic people have unique qualities that enable them to thrive and succeed at university. Good Luck!

For more advice on looking after your mental wellbeing at university, click here

Hi, I'm Niraj! I am a third year student from the University of Warwick studying Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics. Having suffered from anxiety issues whilst at university, I know about the various mental health issues that university students face, and how tough it can be. I therefore want to raise awareness on different aspects of mental health and wellbeing, and help as many people as I can by sharing my own experiences.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

FOMO and how to deal with it

An anonymous student from Bath University shares their experiences of dealing with FOMO and the effects on mental health.

Ah, FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out. Might not be a technical term, but it means a lot to a lot of us. I used to get it bad, to the extent that I no longer knew if I was going to parties and events because I actually wanted to or whether I was going to avoid FOMO-induced Instagram scrolling.

FOMO made me feel terrible. It was almost debilitating. If I wanted to stay at home on a Friday night and watch Hocus Pocus while eating a tagine, I should have been able to without feeling boring. And most of the time, I didn’t feel boring. I was OK with my decision – until the next day when I looked at my phone and saw 6-second clips from the R&B room in Bridge. The only thing that could make me feel better at that stage was a 6-second video from Zero Zero – no one wants to be in Zeros, ever.

And that’s when I realised that the articles and headlines we see everywhere are right – it is because of social media. Dealing with FOMO first and foremost comes down to how much time you do or don’t spend scrolling after a ‘big night’ (i.e. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday). It’s simple – the only possible reason you can think everyone else has more fun than you is that you look at pictures of everyone else having more fun than you. Or what seems like it, anyway.

But social media fun is exactly that. It’s fun – on social media. It’s a snapshot; a millisecond during which a bunch of people quite literally position a bunch of other people and props under perfect lighting. To prove they have more fun than you.

I know I’m guilty of doing it. I know you probably are, too.

What changed everything for me was one pre-drinks I went to. I’d seen these girls’ pictures every Saturday night, so I chose to go this time because I knew if I declined once more I’d never be invited back.

It started off well. I shuffled into a seat around a table of twenty, and the drinking games started. Ring of Fire and all that. Decent chat and good music.

But within 5 minutes, the games stopped. The group of 20 had sectioned themselves off into 3s before starting their snapping process. And this is when I realised how far what I saw online every weekend was from what really went on.

It was a big revelation for me – I was now seeing the real-life version of what I’d been scrolling through. And it was so different. What looked like epic fun turned out to be small clusters of friends and randomers holding phones above their faces for 2-minute time slots at angles that would hide all signs of a double chin.

I know I’m writing the obvious, but this one pre-drinks made me realise that I’d been missing out on nothing at all. I’d been fretting and talking myself into my lows for no reason.

So what am I suggesting?

Next time you have FOMO, firstly go to that party. But instead of trying to convince yourself that you’re enjoying it (although if you are enjoying it, great!), take a big (but subtle) look around and observe the sh*t out of everyone. Watch people’s actions and expressions and judge whether or not that picture you see tomorrow morning is what you’re seeing at that exact point in time. Because you probably don’t realise that you’re talking yourself into feeling FOMO so much that you’re not thinking about what’s actually in front of you.

The more I look around me, the more I see people starting to take a break from their phones. Snapchats are almost non-existent and Instagram posts are becoming fewer (though Stories are definitely on the up), which means there’s less to compare yourself to. Friends don’t whip out their phones as much, we (try to) put our devices away at the table, and we leave computers up in our rooms when we cook. There are signs of improvement.

And now, there’s ‘Screen Time’ on iOS. I shocked myself into spending less time on my phone in general by looking at Screen Time, and I suggest you do the same.

But before actively trying to spend less time on your phone, first admit you get FOMO. It’s normal to care about what people think. It’s normal to want to seem ‘fun’ and ‘outgoing’.

And then, go to a party and watch people take photos. I hope it gives you the same revelation it did me.

This article has been reposted from Student Minds Bath

Student Minds Bath are currently running two major campaigns: "Look After Your Mate" and "Time for Tutees". The former was run nationally a few years ago. Bath's campaign feels this still needs work at the university, hence aiming to encourage students to open up to their friends and support each other's mental health. The latter campaign revolves around personal tutoring and improving the system for both students and staff with regards to mental health. Not enough students feel they even can open up to their tutors in the first place and those that do are often unsure of what they can expect from their tutors and/or where the boundaries between them and their tutor should be.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Nothing Compares to You - The Harmful Habit of Self-Comparison

It is important that we have a sense of self-worth that exists beyond our relation to others.

- Harry 

In everyday life, we constantly make comparisons. Putting one thing against another enables us to notice differences, make choices, and make sense of the world. However, when it comes to comparing ourselves to others, this can be very problematic. Although a competitive instinct and a desire to be the best can be a good motivator, basing our self-worth on how we relate to those around us is a precarious source of self-esteem that can have significant effects on our mood, our concentration, and our wellbeing. This is especially the case at university, where academic assessments, sports, job applications and other occasions for comparison are common. It is therefore crucial that we become aware of the intimate connection between self-comparison and mental health.

One of the most common factors that we compare at university is our intelligence. Surrounded by other talented people, it is easy to obsess over where we rank and make judgements on our own intelligence accordingly. Personally, my academic ability was always the source of my self-esteem. I came to university having done well at school and assumed I would be just as successful in higher education. However, I soon discovered that I was just one among many intelligent students. Although my grades weren’t bad, I was concerned with the fact that others were doing a lot better than me both academically and in terms of managing their workload. In comparison, I felt like I was failing. By relying on how I compared to others to discern my self-worth, I found myself feeling worthless and eventually this led to difficulties with anxiety and depression. If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with how others were doing and realised that I was doing perfectly fine, my mental wellbeing would have been much better.

Social media also has a large part to play in our tendency to compare ourselves. We are now so much more aware of where people are and what they are doing, which means that it’s easier than ever to compare our lives to theirs. If you’re feeling down or having trouble in your life, then scrolling through your news feed to see these artsy photos of friends smiling and having fun is likely to make you feel worse. What’s more, we often forget that these photos have been edited and framed, with the specific intention of depicting people in the most positive and flattering way, making our comparison to them all the more damaging to our self-esteem.

So what can we do to prevent self-comparison and take care of our mental health? I am not trying to say that we shouldn’t notice what others around us are doing or that we shouldn’t use social media; having an online presence is almost inevitable nowadays and seeing the achievements of others can be inspiring. But it is important that we have a sense of self-worth that exists beyond our relation to others. Setting personal goals, recording progress when learning a skill, and knowing what you want to achieve with your time is key and provides a much healthier source of self-esteem. As for social media, while reducing the time you spend online will lessen its impact on your wellbeing, maintaining a sense of what is real and what is manufactured is more crucial if you want to use social media in a healthy way.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, good moments and bad moments. It’s about time we put less energy into thinking about the lives of others and more effort into nurturing and recognising the talents and value that we have to offer.


Hi I'm Harry! I'm a fourth year English and French student at Durham. University has been a brilliant experience from the very beginning, but it as brought about some very difficult times for me too, forcing me to confront issues with anxiety and depression. Getting through these times would not have been possible without the family, friends and other support offered to me, so I want to help develop the community of people talking about mental health and finding ways to support one another.

You can find more support on starting university here and how to maintain your mental wellbeing during exam season here