When someone says the words ‘self-harm’ or ‘self-injury’, it feels like something that is big, scary and uncomfortable. The thing about self-harm is, it’s actually a whole range of behaviours on a spectrum that are usually done because we are hurting emotionally, we want to feel differently, but we’re not sure how to cope with the negative feelings.
It’s estimated that around 1 in 5 people will self-harm at some point in their lifetime with this often beginning in adolescence. Self-harm can either be self-neglect or self-injury; self-neglect is where we fail to meet our basic needs, and self-injury is where we hurt ourselves intentionally. The kinds of behaviours often associated with self-neglect are over or under sleeping, over or undereating, not maintaining personal hygiene, isolating ourselves or engaging in risk-taking behaviour. Self-injury is a term that is used in more clinical settings and involves things like cutting, burning, banging, hitting or scratching ourselves.
For those who haven’t ever felt the urge to engage in these behaviours, it can be difficult to comprehend why someone might engage in such behaviour as it goes against our basic evolutionary drives to protect ourselves from harm.
So why do people engage in it?
If we look at the behaviour in its most basic form, it’s a coping strategy – it’s something individuals do to help them manage how they’re feeling. Like all coping strategies, it provides us with an outlet, releases endorphins and provides some control over our feelings and thus makes the individual feel temporarily better.
What it’s not is an attention-seeking behaviour which is why it’s so difficult to stop. If we take away the self-harm behaviour and don’t replace it with anything, the individual is left without a coping strategy so when they subsequently feel difficult emotions, it’s easy to fall back into old habits.
Finding out that someone we love or care about is engaging in this behaviour can evoke many difficult feelings. . This can potentially mean that we respond the individual concerned in a way that isn’t helpful or could have a negative impact. It’s important to remember that as human beings, it’s understandable that we will feel worried, sad or uncomfortable because we care.
So how can we channel those feelings to support someone who is self-harming?
- Recognise that self-harm is a coping strategy. This helps to reduce the stigma of self-harm and of mental health more generally.
- Respond with care and compassion. This helps promote a sense of trust and respect between you and the individual which might help them to open up and seek help. It also reduces the stigma that surrounds the behaviour, which in turn can help the individual to change it.
- Thank them for telling you. If someone has told you they are self-harming or injuring, this won’t have been easy and demonstrates they have trusted you with this sensitive information and that is a privilege.
- Ask what you can do to help. This might be things like looking for alternative coping strategies that can help them. It might be regular check-ins. It might be by helping to keep them safe.
- Signpost them to other support services. The Calm Harm app is one that helps us ride out the urge to self-harm, and you can also recommend websites, telephone or messaging services or face-to-face options, like their GP or counselling.
Self-harm is often thought of as this big, scary secret – it’s only by talking about it that we can change that. This self-injury awareness day don’t be afraid to ask the question if you’re worried about someone. If you are struggling with self-harm, please reach out to someone you trust.
What is motivation?
It’s that little (or big) internal buzz that gives you the boost to get out of bed, go to work, accomplish goals and seek out specific emotions such as happiness and fulfilment. In the simplest form, it’s how much you want something.
Let’s be honest, it’s impossible to be highly motivated all the time. Life happens and consequently motivation fluctuates due to many aspects – global pandemics, daily stressors, illness, careers and education to name a few, and sometimes it relies heavily on sheer willpower. Simply put, some days you will want to achieve things more than others; this can be down to several factors – how you manage your time, changes in the weather, a lack of sleep and tiredness, procrastination and feeling like the task at hand is just too big.
So why is motivation important?
Motivation is a key part of achieving success. From mastering specific skills to attaining new knowledge, stepping out of your comfort zone, and achieving big goals. Going to bed on time and choosing the right foods to eat – these all require the desire to seek change and of course, vast amounts of motivation.
Sometimes, the drive to get up and go is motivated by nothing but enjoyment, and the opportunity to better yourself, or socialise with friends and family. Other times, it may be because we’re being told what to do with minimal flexibility or opinion. Either way, motivation is an important factor in our daily lives to aid us in getting on with the tasks we need to get done.
Motivation Tips for Students
Right now, with the closure of schools to all but the children of essential workers, students are bound to be struggling with a loss in motivation, but what does this mean?
A lack of teacher interactions and peers can mean falling out of a routine and not sticking to timetabled lessons, and with exams being postponed and/or cancelled, it can make it easy to fall into a trap of thinking “What’s the point?”
What can you do to help yourself?
Develop a routine that works for you! This could help you to enhance your motivation and stay upbeat about learning:
- Wake up on schooldays at the time you normally would and go through your normal routine (breakfast, showering, etc) whatever that may be.
- Create a workspace that is comfortable and free from distractions.
- Try to stick to your school timetable including taking regular breaks and time out to eat lunch.
It could also be helpful to do some of the following:
- Arrange video calls with friends so that you carry out your schoolwork together – this way you can all support one another when motivation might be dwindling.
- Catch up with tutors when required.
- Consider the ‘5 minutes rule’ – Work on a task for just five minutes, with the understanding that you can quit after five minutes if you wish. Often, you’ll be motivated to keep going.
- Celebrate the small ‘victories’ and reward yourself with something that really puts a smile on your face. This could include heading out for your once-a-day exercise, watching a film, your favourite snack, or challenging yourself to try learning a new skill.
Keep in mind what it is that you want to achieve from completing your schoolwork. Do you have a specific goal career in mind? Note it down and keep in sight during the school day – it can really light the fire in your belly to keep you driving on.
Motivation Tips for Working From Home
Working from home has become the new requirement for the majority of us and it comes with an array of obstacles that affect motivation. These can include juggling parental responsibilities with the demands of what your employer expects of you during this time or creating a routine that works for you; maintaining some structure can be useful.
Consider – what does the working day generally look like, and how can that be incorporated into your home environment?
- Create a work setup that is comfortable and works for you.
- To do lists – prioritise the most important tasks, whilst outlining exactly what it is that you wish to achieve from that working day. This can help you stay on-track and focused and ultimately impacting your motivation.
- Break the bigger tasks into smaller actions, taking each one step at a time. This can help with feeling potentially overwhelmed, which can often lead to procrastination.
- Stay in touch with colleagues be it through emails or phone and video calls. Talk to your line managers if you’re struggling to help them understand your situation. Benefitting from supportive networks around you can positively influence mood and motivation to fulfil targets.
- Divide your time effectively and don’t sit for hours mulling over tasks – take regular breaks.
When you find your motivation and positivity is waning, it can help to bring your mind back and focus upon what inspires and makes you feel good; reading, watching a movie, exercise or whatever it may be, it won’t benefit any of us to sit and engage in negative thinking; look after yourself, stay connected virtually and stay safe.
We are living in very challenging and uncertain times right now and none of us can predict exactly what is going to happen over the coming weeks and months, and so it is important that we accept that we are bound to experience a ‘rollercoaster’ of emotions and with that, a continuous wavering in our motivation. And when this happens, we need to remind ourselves that it is okay to experience lulls in motivation from time-to-time – they are perfectly natural; a fundamental part of life in fact, especially when faced with challenges and change that our outside of our control.