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 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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Spotting the Signs

Depression can turn days, weeks, and even months into a blur as it races by. It can meddle with thoughts, increase anxiety, and trivialise the most complex of feelings. When this is the case, how are we to tell when things have got worse? How am I meant to clearly sense a drop in mood and an increase in depression? After a while, there are some individual signs you can learn to look out for, but at times even these can be hard to sense and pick up on.

One key sign can be times or places, or even particular events that can be catalysts for a drop in mood. Once you become aware of these, it means you can sense them coming, and even plan to combat them. Around these times you can implement more of your personal self-care activities and make sure you are taking care of yourself. More common now are self-care plans, and it can be a very good idea to set up individual plans for these events, times, and places. Know what the issues are, and then know the steps you can take to help to lessen the effects.

These events and times can also change as you get older and life moves on. Throughout University, I actually felt that summer was an incredibly tough time for me, as I used to struggle with suddenly not having too much to do. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m someone that likes to be incredibly productive and work on various projects, so in those summers where I had nothing to do, it was quite common for me to feel quite lost; I needed something to work on. In the winter when things got tough, projects and University was a great way for me to keep busy and self-care.

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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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22 Things at 22

On the 28th, I turn 22, although I feel older, and I thought I’d do what is becoming quite a common piece for any blogger having a birthday. I feel that living on my own in a big city, being a graduate, and working full time has given me plenty of hacks and tips to pass on. Here are my 22 exclusive tips as I turn 22…

  1. Get up early

Make the most of your mornings. I’ve written about this in full here, as they can be a great opportunity to get stuff done and enjoy the rest of your day.

  1. Organisation is your best friend

It’s important to get yourself a planner, set it up in your own unique way, and use it! Set up a google calendar for yourself, and buy yourself a whole load of stationary. Get your life running like a fine engine.

  1. Self-care comes first

It’s important to look after yourself – mental health is just as important as physical health. Take some time off to recover, have a relaxing bath, listen to some soothing music, and take care of yourself.

  1. Set up a desk space

This area should be for any work or personal projects you have going on. Keep this area free of phones, distractions, and procrastination.

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