Mental Health in a Busy Life

Juggling work, projects, education, a social life, and finding time for yourself is incredibly tough. When you add into the mix poor mental health, the problems are only heightened, and it’s easy for everything to get on top of you. You find yourself overwhelmed, stressed, your mental health flares, but you don’t have the time to look after yourself. I work full time, have my own place to keep on top of, personal projects I work on, and this really doesn’t leave too much time for much else.

As I’ve written about before here, I am someone who needs to keep myself busy – whether it’s at work or at home. All in all, this is usually a big positive for me and my mental health. The problem is that when I am stuck in a rut and my mental health is a mess, it can be extremely difficult for me to escape terrible thoughts. This then brings other issues including a lack of productivity, and a lack of want to focus on other areas including my social life.

I do struggle with socialising and putting myself out there, and a busy life only adds to that problem. We all have those days where we wake up and say “Right! Today’s the day, a new me”. You imagine yourself becoming this ultra-version of yourself. You’re going to excel at work, take on new projects, pamper yourself, make new friends, and have this incredible social life. Now, usually, by the next day, this has disbanded, and your mental health takes the hit.

Is it even possible to become that person? The one you imagine? No of course not, nothing could compare to that. But here are a few tips to find a better mix and manage your busy life alongside your mental health at the same time.

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A Year in Review

What a year it’s been – both for me, and this blog. When asked to describe 2017, people will think Brexit and the election, and despite watching the news in horror for most of the year, this has at least been good for my blog. I definitely haven’t had a shortage of items to write about. At the start of the year, I set myself the challenge of posting a piece a week, and I’ve kept to that without it (in my opinion) being detrimental to the quality.

So, what’s happened this year in my personal life? Not much to be honest. After the host of changes in 2016 which included graduating, new job, moving into my own flat, 2017 has been quiet. I’ve had a good year at work where I’ve had a raise, took on some side projects, and feel I’m getting closer to a promotion. Outside of work I’ve been involved in a lot of my own projects which I’m excited for, but currently I, unfortunately, do not have the time to knuckle down on them as much as I’d like.

2017 is also a year where my mental health has been relatively kind to me. Bar some low points in the autumn I’ve been fairly in control throughout the year, and I hope that can continue into the new year. One disappointment personally is that I am still very single. I obviously do not want to rush into a relationship for the sake of it, but I have been single for a long time now and am extremely sick of it. So, what are some of my highlights of the year…

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The Loneliness Epidemic – and My Experiences

For a long time, loneliness has been the hidden demon plaguing so many people and only recently has it finally started to become a hot topic. We are living in a more disconnected society than ever, and loneliness has escalated into an epidemic. More and more people are living alone, and people are spending more time alone as well. In fact, we are the ‘loneliest’ country in Europe. The knock-on effects of this are plentiful, and a big issue to be solved because of the close relationship between loneliness and mental health.

Loneliness has been proved to be linked to increased stress, depression, anxiety, addictions, suicides, and even onto physical health issues such as dementia, high-blood pressure, and self-harm. Loneliness among those in work costs employers around £2.5bn a year and is shown to be twice as bad for older people’s health as obesity and almost as great a cause of death as poverty. This increased the burden on an already strained NHS, so it’s vital that the issues are addressed now.

Generally, when the topic of loneliness is raised it is regarding elderly who live on their own, typically after losing their partner. But often those that are forgotten are young people, who tend to feel lonely more often than those over 55. “Loneliness is a recognised problem among the elderly – there are day centres and charities to help them,” says Sam Challis who works for Mind, but for young people, there aren’t the same services to assist them.

So why is this? Is it simply we’re becoming less social? A poll from YouGov earlier this week would suggest so. Millennials are notably less likely to want to engage with others compared to their elders, with 18-34-year olds more likely to avoid talking to others across all scenarios put forward. Of course, this isn’t the issue, as let’s face it not many people like talking to strangers.

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My Self Care Activities

When you suffer from a mental illness, it’s important that you regularly engage in self-care to give your mental health the same attention as your physical health. It’s easy to forget to look after ourselves from time to time, especially when life gets tough and stressful. This is where self-care comes in. Self-care is simply the act of caring for yourself and doing things that you enjoy and benefit from. Whether it’s exercise, relaxing, indulging, introverting, whatever helps you is good!

The first act of self-care is to arguably get to know yourself and learn to spot the signs of when you are struggling to cope. Once you become aware of these signs, it means you can sense them coming, and even plan to combat them. You might find that different activities help with individual situations, and there is not one kind of self-care that fits all for you. Therefore, it’s useful to build yourself a self-care plan, something you can go to. These can be individual plans for specific events, times, and places; you can know what the issues are, and from that know the steps you can take to help make yourself feel better.

Here are some of my self-care activities that may resonate with you:

Keeping myself busy/projects
I am someone who always needs the next project to work on, the next blog post to write, and without that it’s quite easy for me to feel lost. Projects, essays, and lectures at University, loathed by most, was used as a form of self-care for me. Ploughing myself into work was a distraction, albeit not always a healthy one. Even now I like to keep myself as busy as I can whether it be at work or at home.

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The Issue of Graduate Depression

Depression and other mental health issues among students are well documented, and finally, are being discussed and treated more and more. From freshers week to final exams, money worries to exhaustion and loneliness, University is riddled with huge pitfalls for students. But, the problems don’t suddenly end there. Everyone focuses on mental health at University, but no one really focuses on the mental health of students after they have graduated.

Graduate depression is a very real thing, and for a lot of students is unexpected. Dealing with major life-changing transitions after university is tough, and it’s taxing for graduates to cope with an overwhelming mix of emotions once they’ve reached the end of their studies. Statistics show that one in four students suffers from depression during their studies, but the problem is that no official figures exist for those who have just graduated, because once students leave university, they seem to slip out off the radar. 95% of those asked by Claire Dyckhoff, do believe that post-university depression is very real, and 87% say there needs to be more exposure shone on it, especially by Universities.

Finishing university is supposed to be a wonderful time. You are free of the constraints of education, and suddenly you find yourself out and thrust into the open world full of possibilities. After three or more years of demanding coursework and gruelling exams, it’s very easy to suddenly be met and overcome with a feeling of ‘what now?’ as you don’t have concrete plans and may not even be too sure what it is you want to do with your life.

Some students might have graduate jobs already lined up, but for a huge majority, this is not the case. We all know it’s a tough market out there too, so graduate jobs can take time to locate and secure. It can feel as though you’re seemingly applying for dozens of jobs, all of which are incredibly competitive, and it is very disheartening to receive rejection after rejection. You feel astounded that all employers seem to want their graduate candidates to have unrealistic experience for an entry-level job, and when every friend and family member constantly quizzes you on what you’re doing next, you just don’t know what to say.

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The Perfect Image Problem

A significant part of the past 5-6 years of my life have revolved around struggles with body image, and initially my weight. When I was younger I had previously attempted to lose weight a few times without any success, but after seeing some pictures of myself at a Sixth Form event when I was 16, I decided that enough was enough. Over the next few months I lost a lot of weight, and by the time I was 19, I had lost just under 4 stone – around 50 pounds.

Surely that would be enough right? Problem is it’s never really been enough for me. And I feel that’s also a problem for a lot of other people too. Although there were other factors much more significant to the onset of my depression and other mental health issues, I do think that my weight loss and body image issues have considerably contributed towards it. I always feel that I just need to lose a couple more pounds, or lose just a little more body fat, but will it ever be enough?

There’s no doubt that body image issues in guys are becoming more prevalent, and the frequency of these leading into other mental health issues is alarming. There is a whole host of reasons for this, but one of the biggest, as it is for women, is certainly the media, especially social media. As Raymond Lemberg states, “the media has become more of an equal opportunity discriminator, men’s bodies are not good enough anymore either.” There’s the pressure to look as good as the actor that all the girls fawn over or the models on social media; to have the perfect abs, the muscles, the flowing hair, and be six feet plus all with good taste in fashion.

As someone who’s 5’10, has a quickly receding hairline, is fairly toned but without abs, and lacks muscles, it’s very easy to just not feel good enough. I know I’m in good shape, in good health, and I know I’ve made incredible progress over the last few years (see the picture below), but it never feels like enough. Another problem for men is that the “perfect” male image seems to combine being lean and slim but with bulk too, and that’s just ridiculously impossible.

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The Maturity Complex

I often like to write about items that really grind my gears, and today is no different. As an individual, I’m very much an introvert. I’m not a clubber, can’t stand the idea of concerts or festivals, and generally don’t do much out of my comfort zone. My mental health has also played a role in this, but it’s also just part of who I am.

I don’t personally see that as a bad thing. I’m very grounded, well set up in life, it keeps me focused, busy on projects, and means I don’t waste a penny of my money. The problem is, we seem to be living in a culture where for a teenager or young adult to be engaging in such behaviour is weird, or old, or boring.

I see it quite often from people around my age. They may be tweeting that they’re sitting at home on a Saturday night or snapchatting about some new furniture they’ve picked out, and they always seem to see it as a bad thing. They say, “Oh I’m so boring”, “I’m so tragic”, “I’m so old”, and I just want to shout to them to shut up.

I can tell you now it is not boring at all. If you need to be getting paralytic at a club to be having fun then you are really doing something wrong. It’s not old, that’s a stereotype, and it’s incredibly mature to be doing such things. It’s mature to have your finances in order and not waste it at clubs. It’s not boring to be picking out furniture, it’s fun and mature (again) to be creating a pleasant living environment for yourself. And to be honest, if you see some mature and in control habits as ‘tragic’, there’s really something wrong with you.

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