Helping to support yourself and others
Like our physical health, your mental health can be good, bad, or indifferent, and in that same capacity, lead us to being more OR less at risk of developing the symptoms of a diagnosable illness. Like our physical health, small actions and consistent good habits are the way to keep our mental health in check, leaving us feeling prepared to deal with the setbacks and difficult emotions that life will inevitably give us.
OTHER AGENCIES SUPPORT
What is Mental Health?
Broadly speaking, your mental health is the spectrum of your emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Unfortunately, our mental health isn’t something enough of us think about until we’re not feeling our usual self. This is one of the factors that contributes to the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness
Information and advice on specific issues
What is Academic Stress?
Academic Stress can be caused by things such as the fear of failure, difficulty choosing areas of study, managing workload etc. Balancing social and academic lives, meeting expectations, grades and many other aspects can all contribute to this.
What can you do to fight it?
- Study and work efficiently and effectively
- Work when you are most productive wherever possible. (Morning, Noon or Night)
- Remove yourself from distractions.
- Study away from your phone and computer if possible, or stay away from distractions such as social media.
- Listen to music or work with friends if the task does not require 100% concentration or if you work better in this way.
- Work and study in a comfortable environment.
- Make classroom time more productive to save time and energy later.
- Pay close attention and participate/ask questions.
- Take detailed notes.
- Ask questions at the end of the lesson if you are unclear/did not have a chance to ask about something.
- Write all exam dates and deadlines on a large calendar and check it often, keeping it updated.
- Don’t let assignments/exams sneak up on you.
- Don’t rely on cramming, it only increases anxiety and causes confusion.
- Break larger assignments/topics in to smaller, more manageable pieces.
- Stick to your study plan. Try not to break your study sessions for impromptu social events etc.
Set realistic goals
- Recognise your limitations, everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Don’t expect to be perfect every time.
- Set modest, attainable goals. Not meeting large and overwhelming goals only causes more stress.
- Do the best you can within your limits and accept the outcome.
- Avoid procrastination.
Take care of yourself!
- Reward hard work with breaks and treats. Keep yourself motivated!
- Don’t take on more than you can handle. It’s ok to say no to extra-curricular events or friends sometimes.
- Schedule time for recreation and relaxation.
- Eat right, exercise regularly and try to ensure that you get enough sleep.
- Seek help, don’t go it alone.
- Work in groups whenever appropriate or possible. A small group can be a great asset when it comes to bouncing ideas around, thinking of a better way to phrase that sentence or just helping each other out.
Ways to relieve stress
- Engage in physical activity by going for a brisk walk (15-30 minutes), jogging, swimming, dancing or going to the gym.
- Do gentle head rolls, shoulder rotations and shoulder shrugs on a regular basis when doing computer work to prevent neck and shoulder tension.
- Eat healthy snacks while studying to maintain blood sugar levels.
- Watch your caffeine intake! Excess caffeine consumption (over 3 cups of coffee/tea/fizzy drinks per day) can increase heartrate and blood pressure which only adds to the symptoms of stress.
What is anxiety?
Fear, worry and anxiety are natural feelings that everyone has from time to time and can be appropriate reactions to certain situations.
In fact, those feelings can be normal responses to a variety of circumstances or stressful situations. Fear is most easily identified as a response to something specific that is perceived as a clear and imminent threat. When there is something to fear, a person may experience increased heart rate, shortness of breath, muscle tension, and sweating.
Fear can start the fight, flight, or freeze response in a child and can cause them to act out, become extremely agitated, distracted, or withdrawn. At the same time, fear is generally temporary and the reaction calms down when the threat is no longer present.
Worry is closely related to fear. You may have a child who asks lots of questions, like “What if lightning hits the house during a storm?” or “What if I break my leg during football training?” While sometimes hard to differentiate, worry is the anticipation of something bad, the train of thought before the potentially fearful event. Anxiety is also anticipatory in nature and focused on a possible danger, but it is much more intense than worry.
Anxiety is an overwhelming sense of unpleasantness, discomfort or apprehension which can sometimes be related to a specific thought or feeling but often is unexplainable. As a result of an overactive fight, flight, or freeze response o anxiety, a young person may feel very uneasy, complain of headaches or a sore stomach, and perceive a threat which may or may not exist.
Generally, worries and fears that cause significant distress and have an impact on normal daily life may be an indication that your child is experiencing anxiety. Anxiety is a common problem affecting children and young people both at home and in school, causing significant problems personally, socially, and academically yet is highly treatable.
Tips for parents of children over the age of 11
- Be consistent in how you handle problems and discipline.
- Be patient and be prepared to listen.
- Maintain realistic, attainable goals and expectations for your child.
- Do not communicate that perfection is expected.
- Maintain consistent but flexible routines for homework, chores, activities, etc.
- Accept that mistakes are a normal part of growing up.
- Praise and reinforce effort, even if success is less than expected.
- Teach organisation.
- Do not minimise feelings.
- Do not criticise your child for not being able to respond to rational approaches. Rationalisation may not always work.
- If the problem persists and continues to interfere with daily activities, seek help.
What are personal boundaries?
Personal boundaries are limits or rules we set ourselves in relationships. These can be relationships with friends, family or if you’re dating someone. Your boundaries may be strict or relaxed depending on who they are in place with. You can have different types of boundaries depending on the setting or people – you might have stricter boundaries with family, but more relaxed boundaries with friends. Healthy boundaries are being aware of things that are unhelpful to you or make you uncomfortable, as well as being able to speak up or say ‘no’ when you need to.
There are also different kinds of boundaries you can set. Healthy relationships are based on someone respecting each of these different types.
- Physical boundaries relate to personal space and physical touch.
- Intellectual boundaries relate to thoughts and ideas.
- Emotional boundaries relate to feelings.
- Material boundaries relate to money and possessions.
- Time boundaries relate to how someone uses your or their time.
Some people struggle with setting boundaries for themselves, either with specific people, settings or with types of boundaries.
What can I do to promote healthy boundaries?
Know your limits and values. Know what is acceptable to you and what isn’t in different situations. Be as specific as you can. If something is really important to you, make sure your limits protect this.
Listen to your emotions. If you’re always feeling uncomfortable or drained after spending time with someone, try not to bury them. Understand what those feelings mean and try to adjust your boundaries accordingly.
Give yourself the same respect you give others. You are just as important as others, so make sure your own needs are being met. This doesn’t need to happen the expense of other’s needs – communicating openly can help you find the best solution.
Consider long-term relationships. Some days you’ll give or take a bit more, but over the long-term there should be an equal balance. If not, reconsider your own boundaries.
Focus on positive communication. Think about what both you and the other person needs and talk it out. Figure out what is important to you and think about how you can use boundaries and positive communication to protect that, whilst considering the wellbeing of others.
What is bullying?
If somebody physically or verbally abuses a person, that’s bullying. Bullying can be a one-off or it can go on for a long time. And bullying can happen to anyone.
Specific types of bullying include:
- Homophobic bullying based on sexual orientation
- Racist bullying because of skin colour
- Religious bullying because of beliefs or faith.
- Sizeist bullying referring to body size
- Sexist bullying focusing on a person’s sex
- Cyberbullying targeting someone online, often anonymously
- Bullying because someone is different in some way
The affects of bullying
Bullying can make a young person feel isolated, worthless, lonely, anxious, angry and lacking confidence. They may experience some or all of these feelings. Some young people who are being bullied develop depression, anxiety and eating problems. They may self-harm or turn to drugs and alcohol. Bullying in any form is damaging and unacceptable.
What should you do?
If you are being bullied – Ignoring bullying won’t make it go away. You need to tell someone about what is happening.
If the bullying is happening at school – talk to your parents or carers and your teacher. They may have no idea that you’re being bullied, and the school will have an anti-bullying policy to tackle it. If you feel you can’t speak to your teacher, maybe a friend can do it for you. You may also be able to speak to a Listening Service, welfare officer or school nurse.
If the bullying is happening outside school – talk to your parents, carers or even your friends’ parents. Youth workers, sports coaches and group leaders may be able to help too.
If the bullying is happening online – tell your parents or carers, or a teacher. You can report abusive posts on social media platforms. You can also report abuse to CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre).
Keep reporting the bullying until it stops. It may not stop the first time you tell your parents or teacher and they try to stop it. If the bullying continues, tell them again.
Don’t put up with it. No one deserves to be bullied!
This resource can be useful if you are feeling frustrated or worried, or if you’re struggling to work through certain situations.
There are some things that are within our control and some that are not, in-between those lie things that we may be able to influence through our actions and behaviours, but not directly control. It can be useful to establish the differences between these things in order to establish what you should focus on, and what you should try to let go of.
If you struggle to communicate with your housemates, family or friends, it can be helpful to implement a few simple rules for each other to try and adhere to during conversations.
They can make sure that everyone feels heard and can encourage more positive communication, particularly during times of stress or when conversing about issues that trigger emotional responses.
All parties should have input to the rules and agree upon them before moving forward. Some examples could be:
- Everyone takes turns to talk/no talking over each other.
- Each person will take time to consider individual points and try to understand each others perspectives.
- If we are angry/upset, we will take some time to relax before beginning the discussion.
What type of communicator are you?
Good communication is a key aspect of any relationship and in all areas of life.
It is a skill that will always serve you well by allowing you to effectively explain your opinions, problems, disagreements and feelings, while also allowing others to feel comfortable and understood while speaking to you. Take a minute to think about what type of communicator you might be.
Here’s some examples – assertive is what we are aiming for
Passive – Silence and assumption are the hallmarks of the passive communication style. Passive communicators often disregard their own opinions, feelings, needs and desires. Passive communication places one’s own needs and desires below those of others. Passivity takes away one’s power and allows others to decide the outcomes of situations.
Aggressive – Quite often people mistake aggression for assertiveness. Aggression doesn’t hold much respect for others. It disregards others’ feelings, needs, opinions and ideas and sometimes this can compromise the wellbeing of others too.
Assertive – Assertive communication allows us to express our beliefs, feelings, opinions and thoughts in an open respectful manner that doesn’t violate the rights of others. Assertive communicators use actions and words to express their boundaries in a calm manner with an air of confidence.
Remember, In order to maintain good relationships with those around us, we must remember to communicate effectively. We all have conflicts and argue, but being able to take the time to talk about those differences and share feelings to better understand each other’s perspectives is far more helpful than shouting or avoiding the situation.
There are lots of emotions that can affect our mental health negatively. Things like stress, worry or sadness are just a few and if we keep ignoring them, they can become much harder to deal with. It’s normal to experience different emotions from day-to-day.
In order to maintain good mental wellbeing, it’s important that we know how to manage negative emotions so why not try some of the tips below?
Here’s some relaxation techniques
- Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, trying to fill your stomach not just your chest.
- Hold for 4 seconds; exhale through your mouth for 6 seconds.
- Repeat as often as you need too; try 5 minutes at a time.
- Name 3 things you can see.
- 3 things you can hear .
- Move 3 parts of your body.
- You can use lots of different rules like this – find something that works for you.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Starting from your feet and moving upwards.
- Tense different muscles, hold them for 10 seconds, then relax.
- Notice how different it feels.
Understanding your thoughts
Acceptance – Sometimes things happen that we don’t like or agree with. It’s important to recognise the event and accept the emotions that come with it – reflect on what you’ve learnt and what you could do differently next time.
Challenge your negative thoughts – Ask yourself, what is the evidence for my thought? Is there evidence against it? Do I need more information? What would a friend think? Will this matter in 5 hours, weeks or months from now? Can I do something about it now? Use a thought log to help.
Set goals and boundaries – It’s okay to say no if you need to take some time for yourself. Do you need to take a step back and focus on something else? Know what makes you feel good and set a goal to engage in more of it.
Focus on the positives – Try writing down positive things that happened to you or things that you accomplished that day before bed.
Think about your physical needs
Have you eaten something or had enough to drink? Are you getting enough sleep? Have you done some exercise? Have you spoken to someone today?
- Engage your senses – Eat something nice, have a shower or brush your teeth, light a nice smelling candle or spray something scented, watch a movie, listen to some music
- Use social support – Think about who you can talk to, and how you’d get in touch with them.
- Plan your week – Make sure you make time for your hobbies, friends and any other things you need to get done.
If you are experiencing negative emotions, try taking one thing from each category and doing that. Experiment a bit and find out what works for you. Some negative emotions are normal, but if you’re experiencing them all the time and can’t seem to shake them, talk to someone you trust and tell them what’s going on. A problem shared is a problem halved; they might also be able to point you in the direction of someone who can help.
Some things to think about
Dealing with changes and new situations can be uncomfortable, stressful or even scary, but hopefully these tips will help you to deal with and process the changes in your life a little bit more easily.
Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen?
We’re often scared by change due to a fear of the unknown. Think back to another big change in your life; starting high school, learning to drive, moving to a new house. At the time these things may have seemed incredibly scary, but it turned out ok in the end didn’t it? If it helps, write down what you think the best- and worst-case scenarios are, think about how likely it is that each of these will occur. It’s highly unlikely that the worst case will happen. Often during times of stress, we overestimate the danger or risk involved with the change and underestimate our ability to deal with the changes.
Ask yourself how much you can control
When a big change occurs, it’s important to establish how much control you really have over the situation. Understanding your role and how much you can change can help you put things in perspective. Make a ‘to do’ list of the things that you can influence and check them off as you go.
Accept and reframe
If the unwanted change is beyond your control, try taking a reflective approach. You may not be able to control the change, but you can change your perception of it and your reaction to it. Accepting that there are things beyond your control is all part of building resilience and in the long run will bring you greater peace of mind. View the change as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Celebrate the positives
Even though it can sometimes be a big ask, focusing on the positives of a situation can be extremely useful when it comes to managing change. While the positive aspects of a change may not be immediately apparent, it’s worth seeking them out. (No matter how small they might be!)
If the unwanted change is within your control, be proactive in dealing with it. Try some problem-solving techniques or set some goals to actively address the challenges. Focusing on the problem at hand, developing a plan of action and asking for advice are all useful strategies.
Manage your stress
Improving your ability to handle stress will vastly improve your odds of effectively dealing with a change. Try practicing Mindfulness, Meditation or other relaxation techniques such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed if you’re facing a big change, or there’s a lot of change happening at once. Consider asking friends and family for support, or don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you think you might benefit from it. There are always other people dealing with the same situations and professionals available to help.
Here’s a few tips to get you started
- Low or Non-fat Greek yoghurt. Greek yoghurt contains almost double the protein of regular yoghurt and is a great source of calcium. Try to buy plain and add your own fresh fruit to taste.
- Semi Skimmed Milk. All the benefits of regular milk, but less fat.
- Soy Milk. Soy is a great source of low fat, plant-based protein.
- Brown rice. This is one of the healthiest whole grains available, it’s low calorie and unlike white rice, it contains large amounts of protein and fibre.
- Quinoa. This also has all the benefits of brown rice.#
- Wholegrain Bread. Contains much more fibre and vitamins than white bread. It’s also easier to digest.
- Grass Fed Beef. We are fortunate to have access to a large variety of free range meat. Although eating red meat every day is not recommended, it contains lots of protein and is worth eating a couple of times a week if you choose.
- Chicken. A classic low fat/high protein meat that is easier to digest than red meat.
- Homemade Popcorn. Not just healthy but satisfying and fun to make! Just be sure not to add too much salt/sugar/fat.
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetables. Vegetables should accompany both lunch and dinner. Fruit is a great way to get fibre and vitamins. It’s also much healthier than snack bars!
- Leafy Greens (Spinach/Kale). An amazing source of iron and other minerals. Adding just a little bit of unsalted butter when cooking is a great way to make it tastier!
- The NHS have some great resources to help you make informed choices about what and how much you eat.
Financial Wellbeing is about feeling secure and in control of your finances
Poor financial wellbeing can impact our physical and mental health, including loss of sleep, poor concentration and reduced motivation, and can have a detrimental effect on our relationships.
Throughout our lives, lots of things will impact our mental health and financial wellbeing including student loans, buying a first home, having children, job changes and retirement.
Although financial concerns generally decrease throughout our careers, they are still experienced by almost half of the workforce at the age of 64.
If we are faced with a financial stressor, our initial reaction could be shock or panic, alongside feelings of shame or guilt. The rational part of our brain can shut down and even if we would usually be able to solve problems quickly, this becomes hard as the emotional part of our brain takes over.
Avoidance is a natural response to this sort of threat as it can make us feel relief in the short term. Hiding that bill in a draw or ignoring the bank statement puts off the initial period of panic.
However, these are only short term solutions and the issue will usually get worse if left. Tackling the issue that we are avoiding head on is the only way to deal with it, even if it feels scary.
Practical ways to start taking control of your financial wellbeing include:
Creating a budget – look at all your income and outgoings. There are lots of online tools that can help with this. Reviewing your expenditure and budget helps you see where your essential costs are, where you might be able to make savings, and supports you in building savings. Integrate managing your budget into a regular routine and review it, making adjustments in areas that have or haven’t worked.
Make the most of your income – are there benefits that you might be entitled to? Does your workplace have any employee schemes you could be accessing? Do the stores you shop in regularly offer loyalty programmes that would give you money off products you are already buying?
Look at ways to reduce outgoings – shopping around where you can, reviewing your mortgage and stopping unused subscriptions are all ways that you can help reduce your outgoings, freeing up funds that can then be directed elsewhere. You may also be able to cut costs by working with others – having a lift share for example.
Prioritise your debts – group your debts into priority, non priority and debt emergencies. Deal with debt emergencies and priority debts first as these will have the most serious consequences. Non priority debts need to be managed (i.e making minimum payments), but the consequences of not paying the full amount are not usually as serious.
Why it can be beneficial to set yourself goals
Through our lives, many of us will be full of ambition for whatever is coming next in life, whether it’s university, exams, a career move or wanting to excel in your hobbies and extracurricular activities.
A very effective yet underutilised tool to help you fulfil these ambitions, is goalsetting.
There are many misconceptions with goalsetting, one of which is that the process setting goals by itself will make you motivated. This isn’t necessarily true. Understanding the reasons why you have your ambitions will then allow you to set appropriate goals that will lead you to where you want to go.
Are you intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?
This is another part of our ‘why’ that we need to understand. It is widely acknowledged that intrinsic motivation is more sustainable, but those that thrive on extrinsic rewards can still be extremely successful in the pursuit of their targets.
The acronym SMART is used widely in education and business to help individuals and organisations set the right kind of goals. Have a think of the goals you’d like to set yourself, and see if it fits with the principles below.
- SPECIFIC – To your own ambitions, hobby, or your own personal circumstance.
- MEASURABLE – How are you able to see your progress?
- ACHIEVABLE – Is it possible? Being ambitious is great, but if your goals aren’t achievable, it will only lead to you feeling down on yourself.
- RELEVANT – This is like specific, but more orientated to different size goals. Is your short term, two-week goal relevant to working towards the bigger, 1-year goal?
- TIMED – When are you going to achieve it by? This may be dictated by external factors, i.e. exam dates and results, but do your best to make yourself accountable!
What is journaling?
Journaling can be a beneficial technique to assist you in prioritising problems or concerns, recognising positives and achievements or tracking day-to-day mood in order to better identify triggers.
A journal entry does not have to be made each day, but should be done fairly regularly.
An entry should include information such as progress you’ve made towards goals, evidence for or against your self-beliefs, pros and cons if you have a difficult decision to make and one or two good things that happened during the day/week. These could be the smallest things, from a pleasant interaction with an individual when you were shopping, anything that made you feel good.
A huge part of journaling is that it allows you to view this information from a more neutral perspective. Patterns and links are often much easier to see when you write things down and read them back.
Try not to use loose paper, if you prefer to keep a journal in digital format this is also fine, but many people find that purchasing a “slightly nicer than usual” notebook that really appeals to you or grabs your attention is a good way to go.
Try to view journaling as part of your personal or relaxation time. It aids in destressing and writing in a relaxed environment can be very therapeutic for many individuals.
One thing to note, is that a journal should not be used to focus on negative emotions or for reliving upsetting events. Instead its purpose is to aid you in processing the meaning of those events and your responses to them.
Supporting your child
If your child tells you they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning, intersex or asexual (LGBTQIA+), this is perfectly normal and not something to feel afraid of. It may have taken them a lot of courage to tell you about their sexual orientation or gender identity, so how you react to their news will be crucial in making their experience of coming out a positive one.
If your child has just told you that they are LGBTQIA+ the most important thing to think about is how you can best support them. Below are some first steps.
- Emphasise to your child that you will always love them, no matter what, and their sexual orientation or gender identity doesn’t change this.
- Reassure your child that their sexual orientation or gender identity is as much a unique part of them as their eye colour or height. It is not something that they choose or can change.
- Listen to your child – they will be experiencing a range of feelings as a result of telling you about their sexual orientation or gender identity; be there to hear them, and reassure them, when they need to talk.
- Help them find extra support. It’s important to recognise that sexual orientation and gender identity aren’t problems. However, your child may need support around them outside of the family, particularly if they are interested in exploring the gender reassignment process.
If your child has told you that they are LGBTQIA+, you will be experiencing a range of feelings. It may have come as a surprise, or it may be something that you have thought about for a while.
The organisation Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (FFLAG) offers the following advice:
- Although you might be surprised or shocked by your child’s news, try and remember how vulnerable they are feeling.
- Remember that they are still the same daughter or son that you have always known and loved. Their sexual orientation or gender is part of who they are, not what they are.
- If you have a positive and supportive attitude to your child’s news, family and friends are likely to take their lead from you.
- Don’t conceal your emotions. If their news was a surprise or a shock that you were totally unprepared for, it is best to tell your daughter or son this. Say you still love her/him and that nothing has changed that, but that you will need time to adjust.
- Get in touch with a parents’ support organisation where you will be able to talk through your emotions and listen to other parents’ experiences.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, frightening or dangerous event.
It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm.
Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.
Trauma is more common than we think but the term is often misunderstood. Trauma happens when an intense experience stuns somebody, like a bolt out of the blue; it can overwhelm a child, leaving them altered and disconnected from their body, mind and spirit. Any coping mechanisms the child may have had are undermined, and he or she feels utterly helpless.
Trauma can also be the result of ongoing fear and nervous tension.
A traumatic event can include
- a severe fall or broken bones
- something as simple as a scary movie
- a negative interaction, including bullying, at school
- someone close to them dying or being badly hurt
Extreme events include
- sexual abuse
- physical or mental abuse
- witnessing a violent crime
- events such as car accidents, floods, fires and terrorist attacks
- a friend’s suicide
No two people experience an event or situation in exactly the same way, so their internal reactions are as unique as they are. As a result, an event that causes trauma for one person may not necessarily cause trauma for another.
All children experience stressful events that affect how they think and feel. However, sometimes children who experience severe or repeated stress, such as from an injury, the death or threatened death of a close family member or friend, or from violence, will be affected long-term. The child could experience this trauma directly or could witness it happening to someone else.
When children develop long term symptoms (longer than one month) which are upsetting or interfere with their
relationships and activities, they may be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children and teens can have extreme reactions to trauma, but their symptoms may not be the same as adults. They may develop disruptive, disrespectful, or destructive behaviours. They may feel guilty for not preventing injury or deaths. They may also have thoughts of revenge.
PTSD symptoms in children and young people include
Reliving the event over and over in thought or in play
Nightmares and sleep problems
Becoming very upset when something causes memories of the event
Lack of positive emotions
Intense ongoing fear or sadness
Irritability and angry outbursts
Constantly looking for possible threats, being easily startled
Acting helpless, hopeless or withdrawn
Denying that the event happened or feeling numb
Avoiding places or people associated with the trauma
Tips for parents
- Speak to your GP about appropriate support
- Do not think “just getting over it” is possible
- Even if your child doesn’t want to talk, keep reminding them you are always there
- Support wellbeing with healthy diet, exercise and a good sleep routine
- Educate yourself about the warning signs
Some things to remember
The internet in general is an incredibly powerful tool, utilised correctly it can be an endless wealth of information, can be used to improve mood, wellbeing and outlooks and can keep us connected amongst many other things.
However, there is a constant trend of more negative use of social media and recently we have seen a rise in the amount of “fake news” or at the least, information that is not based in fact.
Most people now indulge in at least some time scrolling through social media feeds each day, whether it’s to catch up on current affairs, the latest trends, interacting with friends or a variety of other reasons.
There’s a lot of talk about reducing the amount of time we spend online, however, this isn’t necessarily the answer for everyone. The more important thing here, is what we are doing with that time. It’s worth mentioning though that, young people now average between 6 and 9 hours of screen time each day, with a large portion of this being social media. If we assume a roughly 16-hour day, this could well be up to (or even more than) half of your time spent awake!
So considering what a large portion of our lives that is, surely the content that we look at for that amount of time is going to have an effect on our perceptions of both ourselves and the world around us, and generally on the way in which we think.
This is why it’s so important that occasionally, we step back and evaluate the individuals, accounts and organisations that we follow or interact with.
If an account consistently makes posts that make you feel or think negatively about yourself or your body, unfollow them! Replace them with an account that makes you feel good, teaches you something or just brings you joy!
Here are some great accounts and individuals that can make you feel good, entertain, educate and empower you:
- @POC_IOM (Twitter/Instagram)
- @The.Holistic.Psychologist (Instagram)
- @TheHonestBloke (Instagram)
- @HumansOfNY (Instagram)
- @DitchTheLabel (Instagram)
- @BodyPosiPanda (Instagram)
- @DrJulieSmith (Twitter/TikTok)
- @FlorenceGiven (Instagram)
- @I_Weigh (Instagram)
- @MorganHarperNichols (Instagram)
- @BoPo.Boy (Instagram)
- @_EvryMan_ (Instagram)
- @SatisfyingVideo (Instagram)
- @LizzoBeEating (Instagram)
We do not advocate the use of illegal substances. However, if you do choose to use them, be responsible and be as safe as possible.
While a lot of people may be familiar with a range of illegal psychoactive substances, either from personal experience or being around others that take them, many people will not have been exposed in the same ways that drug culture at university may present.
It is worth remembering that even if you are legally prescribed a medication, it becomes illegal as soon as you sell or give that medication to someone else.
Even if you do have experience with taking certain substances, there are always ways to be safer, or opportunities to expand your understanding of the substances.
Firstly, you do not have to allow people to pressure you into anything if you are not comfortable. If you aren’t ready to experience a substance, then you’re more likely to have a negative experience due to being stressed and worrying. Most people will not try to force someone to take anything, but there is still no shame in sticking to what you’re comfortable with. The same applies to alcohol; know your limits and stick to what you’re comfortable with. Consume at your own pace. People will soon learn your boundaries and they should respect them.
Thanks to various student unions and groups, a number of universities now offer very affordable testing kits in order to ensure the substance you have, is actually what it was sold as.
There are however limitations to these kits, as they may not flag up adulterants and are what are called “presumptive tests”. If your university doesn’t offer these, they can be bought online from retailers such as EZTestKits.com for as little as £3. (They also sell kits to test purity.)
Start small! If you are new to a substance or are unsure of the exact contents of something you’ve bought or been given, such as a pill for example, start with a very small amount. Even as little as a quarter of a pill. Then wait. Wait at least an hour, even if you don’t feel any effects, before taking more. The last thing you want to do is unknowingly double a dose.
Don’t take them if you think they’re going to make you feel happy or fix your problems!
Just like alcohol and healthy relationships, they aren’t there to make you happy. They are there to make experiences more enjoyable. If you are using drugs to self-medicate, you are likely going to experience negative effects. The problems will still be there when you stop, and you will have also disrupted the natural chemistry of the brain.
“Fake” Prescription Drugs are becoming more and more common. A good example of this is Xanax. A prescription benzodiazepine that gained popularity in the US, it quickly made its way to the UK black market. However, due to demand outweighing the supply rate, as well as to increase profit margins; people and organisations began pressing their own pills which often contained more than 10X the expected dose of active substance, as well as frequently being found to contain the extremely powerful, synthetic opioid: Fentanyl (80-100 X more potent than Morphine). The dangers involved with this are quite obvious if you are expecting a standardised, pharmaceutical grade, legitimate pill.
Hallucinogens such as LSD, Psilocybin Mushrooms and DMT are not party drugs. Some experienced users may use hallucinogens in “party” settings; however, this is not for the beginner and would generally not be recommended. If you are going to take a hallucinogenic for the first time (or at any time), make sure you are in a comfortable setting, with people you trust, and a responsible individual should be allocated as a “trip-sitter”. This is an individual who remains sober for the duration in order to step in should someone have a negative experience. They should be equipped with a basic understanding of how to help someone calm down and know who to call in the event of an emergency.
Cannabis is by far the most widely used illegal drug in the UK and even if you don’t use it, it’s highly likely that you will encounter it during your time at university and beyond that. While many people say that cannabis is safe to use, it does come with its own set of potential risks. Regular, long term use can affect memory, concentration and mood amongst other things. Cannabis is also not what it used to be, plants are now bred specifically for their high ratio of THC (the main psychoactive substance in Cannabis) to CBD (a calming, potentially anxiety reducing compound found in smaller concentrations in Cannabis). This higher THC content can cause feelings of paranoia and worry in inexperienced users. If you have a family history of or predisposition towards a psychotic illness or mood disorder such as anxiety or depression, then it’s best to avoid Cannabis as it can exacerbate any symptoms.
Don’t be afraid to call an ambulance if you are worried. Paramedics and Doctors are not there to judge you or to treat you like a criminal. Their primary concern will always be for your safety and wellbeing. If you have the information, tell the ambulance crew what the person has taken as this will assist them with treatment.
If someone is having a bad experience:
- Remain calm
- Try to calm and reassure them – don’t scare them or chase after someone
- Try to find out what they’ve taken
- Stay with them
- If they are anxious or panicky you should try to:
- Sit them in a quiet and calm room
- Keep them away from crowded areas, bright lights and loud noises
- Encourage them to take slow deep breaths
- Stay with them
If they are very drowsy:
- Sit them in a quiet place and keep them awake
- If they don’t respond or become unconscious call an ambulance immediately and place them in the recovery position
- Don’t scare them, shout at them or shock them
- Don’t give them coffee or another substance to try and wake them up
- Don’t put them in a cold bath to “wake them up” – There is a risk of drowning or hypothermia
If they are unconscious or having difficulty breathing:
- Immediately phone for an ambulance
- Place them into the recovery position (On their side, hand under head, chin tilted slightly upwards, away from chest and face angled slightly towards the floor)
- Stay with them until the ambulance arrives
- If you know what drug they’ve taken tell the ambulance crew immediately, it might them get the right treatment faster
There are many resources available online to educate you about specific substances, signpost to services and offer information about what to do if you’re concerned about the habits of a friend or yourself.
Generally, if you want to access drug counselling or addiction services, your GP is a great place to start.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your GP, you can speak to your University’s Student Services or confidentially call your local drug and alcohol service for advice or support.
TalkToFrank.com – Offers good, unbiased information about an exceptionally wide range of substances, as well as advice about accessing support.
Erowid.org – Is a non-profit educational and harm-reduction resource. It contains information on doses and effects, as well as a vast library of user experiences and discussions.
PillReports.net – Offers reviews and lab analysis of a huge range of pills. While this isn’t 100% reliable due to potential ‘counterfeit’ presses of popular pills, it’s often very up to date and can therefore give you an idea of what certain pills may contain if you don’t have access to test kits, or what pills to absolutely avoid.
Motiv8.im – A local Isle of Man based service that deals with addictions and offers confidential advice in a discrete manner.
Self-esteem is how we see and feel about ourselves. Many people will have low self-esteem at some point in their lives.
It can be caused by a number of things – comparing yourself to your friends, problems with family or at school or your health. Sometimes it passes on its own or you can take steps to help yourself feel better. If you tackle low self-esteem early it can help prevent depression or anxiety developing.
You can start to build your self-esteem today with these seven steps:
Step 1 – Understand why you focus on negatives
What negative things do you think about yourself?
When did you start thinking these things?
What happened to make you think this way?
Step 2 – Challenge the negative feelings
Ask yourself if there is there another way of looking at things? What advice would you give to a friend who was having similar negative feelings? Remind yourself about things that have happened which prove these negative thoughts aren’t true. Include things that have happened that prove they aren’t true. Maybe the thing that caused those feelings has stopped. Try writing down a list of these things to keep and bring out next time you feel low.
Step 3 – Focus on the positive
Write down your best feature, the last time you received a compliment, the last time you did something for someone that made you feel good. These might seem like small things, but it is important to recognise all the good things about you, and the reasons why people appreciate you for being who you are.
Step 4 – Find the right people
How do the people around you make you feel? Spend more time with the ones who make you feel good, and less with the ones who don’t make you feel confident about yourself or spend a lot of time criticising others.
Step 5 – Get Active
Think about doing something you enjoy – or trying something new. If you already have a hobby, do it more often. But remember, you don’t have to keep plugging away at a hobby you don’t enjoy, just because you think you have to.
Step 6 – Set yourself some goals
Choose something you know you can already do and challenge yourself – but keep your goals realistic. Achievements can give you a positive feeling and remind you just how much you are capable of.
Step 7 – Tell someone
If you’re really struggling with negative feelings about yourself, talk to someone you trust, like a family member, teacher, coach or GP.
Creating a self-care plan
A self-care plan can be helpful if you’re experiencing a difficult time and need to relax or refresh yourself. You can also use the activities if you need a break from work or revision.
Try to think of some things that you could do. Try to include some quick and easy ideas, as well as some more involved ones for when you want to take a day for yourself.
Here are some ideas to get you started
- Buy an adult colouring book.
- Check out a library book on a subject you are interested in but have never taken the time to explore.
- If your living space is quiet, take a nice shower or bath with candles and some of your favourite music.
- Go for a walk in the park or get out of town for a day (if possible in your local area).
Why sleep is important
Sleep is the universal medicine to better wellbeing. It boosts your mood, allows you to think clearly and make positive decisions, as well as improving your immune system.
It’s easy for us to compromise on our sleep habits during this time, when arguably this is when we need it most. Here’s some helpful tips to get you back on track.
Do your best to avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption, particularly later in the day, e.g. after 3pm
Despite this, make sure you keep hydrated, aim for 2 litres of water through the day. Try not to drink too much before you go to sleep, as this will help stop you waking up in the night, improving your sleep quality.
Try not to have a very hot shower or bath right before you plan on going to sleep
For a quality sleep, you need you and your environment need to be the right temperature, which is usually slightly cooler than you would be normally. Think about the PJ’s you wear, how many blankets are on your bed, or whether you need to open a window half an hour or so before you want to go to sleep.
Avoid high intensity exercise near bedtime
Hard exercise releases the hormones adrenalin and cortisol, which will prevent you from relaxing and feeling ready for sleep. Try exercising during the day, rather than in the evening.
You can try listening to white noise, either while you’re going to sleep or before bed
White noise is simply background noise that minimises noise disruption, which prevents you waking up and makes it easier to fall asleep. Lots of people use ‘rain sounds’ or the sound of waves breaking on a beach for this. This is known to work well for babies and children.
Why routine is important
Try to do the same things before bed each evening, and wake up at the same time each day. Avoid things like bright screens or falling asleep while watching TV as ‘blue light’ produced by these decreases your melatonin, which makes it more difficult to sleep.
Make your bedroom conducive to sleep
Make sure it’s dark enough through the summer months and tidy up a bit during the day so it’s clean and not cluttered. Try to avoid things like working in the bedroom and use it only for sleep.
Try some deep breathing or mindfulness before bed
This induces relaxation, which can help you fall asleep. It also reduces levels of hormones that make it more difficult to sleep such as adrenalin and cortisol.
‘Sleep is as important to our health as eating, drinking and breathing. It allows our bodies to repair themselves and our brains to consolidate our memories and process information.’
Mental Health Foundation
Using social media in a positive way
Be your own person. Don’t let friends or people you don’t know pressure you to be someone you aren’t. Be yourself and don’t pretend to be like anyone else.
Be kind. Always treat people the way you’d want to be treated. People who are aggressive online are at greater risk of being bullied or harassed themselves, too. If someone’s nasty to you, try not to react. It’s good to talk to a trusted adult or friend who can help. Use privacy tools to block anyone being horrible to you and report posts if necessary.
Don’t measure your own life based on what others post. People usually post their best photos and stories online and don’t usually share their negative moments or unflattering photos.
Don’t assume that others have better lives than you do, based on what they post.
Think about what you post. Sharing provocative photos or intimate details online, even in private chats, can cause you problems later on. Even people you consider friends can use this info against you, especially if you fall out with each other.
Passwords are private. Don’t share your password even with friends. It’s hard to imagine, but friendships do change and you don’t want to be impersonated by anyone. Pick a password you can remember but no one else can guess.
Be cautious. It may be fun to check out new people for friendship or more, but be aware that while some people are genuine, others put on an act because they’re trying to get something. Flattering or supportive messages may be more about manipulation than friendship.
Don’t talk about sex. Be careful when communicating with people you don’t know in person, especially if the conversation turns to sex or physical details. Don’t lead them on – you don’t want to be the target of a predator’s grooming.
Avoid in-person meetings. The only way someone can physically harm you is if you’re both in the same location, so, to be 100% safe, don’t meet them in person. If you really must get together with someone you met online, do not go alone. Have the meeting in a public place, tell a parent or some other solid backup, and bring some friends along.
Be smart when using a smartphone. All the same tips apply with phones as with computers along with some extra precautions. Be careful who you give your number to and how you use GPS and other technologies that can pinpoint your physical location. Be sure to secure your phone with a PIN, password, fingerprint or facial recognition.
Challenge yourself to be ‘eustressed’
It’s normal to have variations in our levels of stress.
However, there could be more variation than usual. Many of our plans and holidays have been affected or cancelled, and there’s still lots of uncertainty right now about the future.
Check-in with yourself. How are you feeling?
Eustress is an optimal level of stress!
If you feel like you sit on the left hand side of the curve, feeling underwhelmed and in need of some motivation, make a plan for the day. It makes you feel purposeful, gives you a structure, and a sense of accomplishment as you move through the small tasks you set yourself.
Equally, if you are sitting on the right-hand side and everything is feeling a bit much, planning can still help. Writing down the tasks you need to complete on paper can help you see problems from a more neutral perspective, give you some mental clarity, and allow you to prioritise your tasks and allocate time to improving your headspace.
If you currently feel on top form, make a note of why you think this might be. This could be useful for a time that you aren’t feeling your best, to reflect and understand what it is that makes us tick.
What does being ‘mindful’ really mean?
Mindfulness is the state of being conscious or aware of something, whether it’s our surroundings, a movement, or our own thoughts.
A common misconception with mindfulness is that it needs to revolve around a meditation, yoga, scented candles and relaxing music. Many are already experiencing the benefits of a mindfulness practice but don’t realise it. It’s important to acknowledge this to break down any barriers to the many benefits that mindfulness can give to us all.
Can you think of an activity that facilitates you to be aware of your own movements, thoughts and emotions?
For many, this comes from hobbies such as drawing, painting, physical exercise, or playing a musical instrument. If you make the time for these activities every day and they leave you feeling calm and clear minded, you may not see the benefits of a direct mindfulness practice.
It’s important to understand that there are many ways to get the same outcome and benefits that are promoted through mindfulness practices. A great comparison is dieting, there are many techniques and methods to become a healthier version of yourself.
If you know there is a certain activity that leaves you feeling calm and clear minded but you can’t access it daily, do you have the opportunity recreate this environment in a different way to find the same benefits? This can take some trial and error, but it’s worth investing the time for your wellbeing.
The reason mindfulness practice through apps and other guided breathing practices has become so popular is that the barriers to participation are so small. You can do this type of practice pretty much anywhere, at any time. We recommend trying one of the free guided meditation apps, such as ‘Calm’ or ‘Headspace’.
It is important to acknowledge that this type of practice doesn’t need to be about ‘treating an issue’. It’s to allow you to be the best version of yourself and feel on top form as much as possible.
We have lots of resources on our YouTube channel to help you with mindfulness including an audio called ‘Guided Visualisation’ to help you feel calm and clear minded.
Find out more about how we support you