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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Generation Anxiety

Everything’s our fault, right? Whether it’s the fact we’re too lazy, too liberal, too promiscuous, or like one article I saw, not all of us youths have seen a cow, we’re constantly at fault it seems. I don’t like the idea of such distinct groups e.g. Millennials, Y, Z – so I’ll band us together for this one piece. Those between let’s say, 16 and 35, seem to bear the brunt of the bad news, and it’s no surprise that cases of mental health illnesses, including anxiety, are on the rise.

Is Anxiety new? Of course not. So why does it feel new? Why is it that anxiety is only now being recognised as a serious illness and divided into the subsets that it deserves? Like other mental health problems such as depression and eating disorders, anxiety is simply now more talked about, more open, and in times of such turmoil and stress, it’s arguably more severe. 21% of people rate their levels of anxiety at 6 or above, and the consensus is that anywhere between 10-30% of adults suffer, or are likely to suffer from anxiety at some point.

I’m not as open with anxiety in the same way as I am with my depression, and I suppose that’s because of the anxiety itself in a way. Many of us experience anxious feelings in some way, whether it’s simply difficulty concentrating or a full-blown panic attack, and it’s most definitely on the rise amongst young people. Rachael Dove highlights this, saying that 57% of female university students experienced episodes of overwhelming anxiety, and it reflects the issues many young people have in what is essentially the most important periods of their lives.

We know what older people will say, “Oh it’s technology, social media, they need to get off their phones”. Is it really that simple? There’s evidence for and against that statement. As highlighted here, four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young people’s mental health, with Instagram the most damaging. Of all the main social media websites, only YouTube was judged to have a positive effect on young people. Why is that?

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The Art of Productivity

The art of productivity, is complex, and for so many, fruitless. We all have days where we simply cannot get going. Our procrastination is off the scales, the documents stay blank, and episode after episode of our favourite shows get watched. Whether it’s at home, at university, at work, we all have busy lives, and let’s face it a productive day is incredibly rewarding. So, what are some of my tips to turn those dead days into peak productive periods?

The Art of Lists
I absolutely love lists! I understand that it’s easy to get overawed by them, seeing all the tasks laid bare you need to complete. For me, lists should also be a planning tool, something to show you a clear path to success. On your lists break up your tasks into manageable chunks, clear steps that will help you to reach your goal, and they will be completed, and scrubbed off even quicker. Seeing the number of tasks falling quicker will also help to build up morale, which helps up productivity.

Attack the Mornings
I understand – people love their lie ins. But the mornings are when we are most productive, and they must be utilised. Mornings are when the distractions are less common, our brains are most active, and more gets done! Also, make sure you have a proper breakfast; your brain, and your body needs fuel, and it gives you the energy to make a great start in the morning. Also, the more you get done before lunch, the more you can relax for the rest of the day.

Shut off the Devices (not necessarily the phone)
I’ll first highlight that I’m not one of those people who say you must turn off your phone to be productive. For some it works, but for most, including me, it’s very possible to be highly productive without putting the phone away. There are some devices that are a big no however: TV’s and games consoles are not needed. Also try working with some music in the background, not too loud however, just enough so you’re not working in silence.

Learn, Adapt, Re-position
Everyone has their own methods that work for them, and this also fluctuates over time. You try new methods, you see how successful they are, and you adapt from this. Maybe music doesn’t work for you, bin it. Maybe a certain type of list helps you, change to that. Maybe you were distracted by something else, find something to counter it. Over time you can put together a routine, a schedule, a plan that works for you, and this is when you start reaching peak productiveness.