Student life can be an amazing experience; a first time away from home, new opportunities, greater freedom, relatively little pressure and responsibility. And if all goes well, at the end of it, you have a degree, life-long friendships, and a step into the career of your choice. Who wouldn’t want to be a student?
And yet, there is increasing evidence that among students there is a high level of mental health issues; from anxiety to depression, to sleep and eating disorders. Away from home. Away from the comfortable and familiar. Away from the networks built up over nearly two decades. Life can be tough. Really tough. And if you add to this the fact that students are now leaving university with an average of £50,000 in debts, and a lack of certainty over career options and choices, it is no wonder that some are sinking under the weight.
Add into this the experiences of Covid-19. How this has affected those already at university and those preparing to attend. It’s been very different times for so many.
The answer is complex. How many students are at university because this is what they want, and how many are there because this is what is expected of them? If you’re not yet there, ask yourself if this is what you really want. Take your time. It is a momentous decision which will affect over 50 years of your life. There is, therefore, no hurry, despite what some would have you believe. And if you’re already there, seek help. Talk to people. Get support. Learn how to overcome the challenges. Take it one step at a time.
And, irrespective of where you are, build your resilience. Learn to be strong. Develop the techniques. Use the strategies. Change your processes. Because resilient people are happier, and happy people are more resilient. It all makes sense, doesn’t it?
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. At least, that’s how the saying goes. And I guess that there’s nothing really wrong with trying again. There is, though, everything wrong with trying again, so let me explain.
There will be times when we do something that we’ve not done before. It may work out fine the very first time that we do it, and that’s great. If, however, we get a different result to the one we wanted, what do we do? If we try again, we may simply repeat the same erroneous steps, and end up with the same result. We may give up, consoling ourselves with the notion that “at least we tried”, and giving ourselves a false sense of achievement. We are at least better than those who did nothing, yet we are still so far from those who actually did it.
Instead, think about it another way. Decide to do it or decide not to do it. Be bold and resolute either way. If you decide to do it, commit to doing it. Leave the trying for others, and be the one that does it. If it works out, celebrate what you’ve done. You decided to do it and you did it. If you get a different outcome, don’t try again. Stop. Work out what worked and do more of that. Work out what could have been better and do it better. And then do it. And when you’ve done it, celebrate what you’ve done.
Of course, you may reach a point where you just cannot get to where you want to be. In which case, celebrate your progress. Celebrate all that you have done. Celebrate all that you have learned. Celebrate that you’ve moved forward. Remember, there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. Then decide what you want to do next. And do it! You can do that, can’t you?
The vast majority of us have no choice but to go to work. After all, living is not free and we all have bills to pay. If you’re fortunate enough to love the job you have, the chances are your days will mostly end on a positive note. However, whether you are in your dream job or not, the article by Abby Wolfe “4 Simple Ways to End Each Workday Happy” provides four great ways to ensure that your workdays do end well.
All four suggestions are great, and the first really stood out for me. We frequently forgot to praise what went well and all too easily slip into the criticism of what didn’t go as planned, allowing this to overwhelm us. Taking a few moments to review all of our accomplishments, however small, is a real boost.
Read the article. See what works for you. Try them out for 30 days and see what a difference they make. If they make your great job even better, that’s brilliant. If you realise that despite everything you do to find the successes, it’s still not the job for you, then it’s time to make some changes. Work out what you want, set some goals and go for it. You can do that on your own or with help, can’t you?
We are, as I write this, progressively moving out of the restrictions which have been in place as a result of Covid-19 and back into some form of normality, whatever that means for each of us. For some it is a time of excitement whereas for others a time of apprehension, and it is important to recognise what we are feeling. It is becoming a time of reflection, looking back on what life has been like for each of us during the last year or so.
Looking back will not, though, change anything. Instead, now is a time to take stock, to establish where we are, what’s working and what’s not working for each of us. And it is a time to consider next steps. Are we simply going to revert to life as it was before, pre-Covid, or do we want something more, something better, something differently?
Once you’ve decided what you want, you need a plan to make it happen, a plan for today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and so on. Plans that take you forward one step at a time to where you want to be. And you can imagine how good it feels as you are exactly where you want to be, can’t you?
It is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme this year is nature. As we become increasingly aware of the importance of mental well-being, so frequently neglected in the past, it is crucial to see mental wellness as essential as physical wellness. It is equally crucial to recognise the symbiotic and circular relationship between the two; good mental wellness helps improve physical wellness, and good physical wellness improves mental wellness.
The theme this year is nature. And there is so much evidence of how reconnecting with nature improves our mental well-being; from enjoying and embracing time in parks and woodland, gardens and allotments, from houseplants to the wildness of open spaces, it all helps. It all makes a positive difference.
As with so much in life, making changes and embracing nature can be done in one swift move. It can take time, one step after another. The key is to start with the end in mind; an end which includes the joy of the natural world as part of our daily, weekly, monthly and yearly routine, time to renew and refresh. And you know that you can do it, don’t you?
There is a plethora of self-help books, articles, websites and the like out there, and many perpetuate the myth that it takes 21 or possibly 30 or possibly some other random number of days to embed a new habit or behaviour. The truth about embedding change is somewhat different.
In 1960 Dr Maxwell Maltz published “Psycho-Cybernetics” in which he shared his views on behaviour change. This included his observation that change took a minimum of 21 days to embed. This was not a random number, but a number based on his observations of how long his patients took to adjust to surgical changes to their bodies as well as his own observations of how long it took him to change behaviour.
With the passing of time, the minimum of 21 days became 21 days or 30 days or another number of days. The reality is we are all different. Some changes can and do happen instantly. Some happen more quickly, whereas others can take time. The important first step is wanting to change and then knowing what that change is. If you can do that for yourself, do it. You also know that you can seek help because it’s all about becoming the very best version of you, isn’t it?
I’ve read a number of articles in recent times about how companies spend time and money to rebrand and repackage, driven by a changing consumer market, a desire to be more environmentally friendly, and a need to adapt to survive. And it is fascinating how creative and resourceful companies can be when the pressure is on.
We’ve seen much the same during this coronavirus-affected times, which has affected our personal, professional, family, and social lives in so many ways and on so many levels. Some of us have adapted and developed, reinventing ourselves in ways we would previously not have imagined. Some of us have struggled, unable to see beyond what used to be and what is no longer now.
Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to make our own decisions. We are in control. We know what we want and what we can do. We can take the first step. We know we can rebrand. We know we can repackage. We know we can reinvent. And we know when it’s the right time to take the first step, don’t we?
I read a lot about happiness, what it means, and what we can do to be happier. One of the recurring themes is the importance of planning and setting goals. Plans and goals for everything from the everyday to the life-changing. Not only does having plans and goals make us happier, it can reduce anxiety and stress, and make us more resilient.
Some will argue that we can plan too much, be too focussed on the future, too obsessed by achieving, and that by setting plans and goals we lose our sense of spontaneity. And I would agree if having plans and goals becomes the plan and the goal. By knowing what we want and when we want it, we know the direction to take as well as giving purpose to what we are doing now. It also means that when now becomes chaotic and disorganised, somewhat out of our control, we can remember what we want from now as it takes us one step closer to fulfilling what we set out to do.
So when you’re feeling a little lost, anxious, unhappy, stressed, take a moment to think about your next step and the one after that and one more for good measure. Know what you want for now, for this year, for this decade, for this lifetime. Notice as you focus on the plans and goals, how you are in control, feeling stronger, resilient, happy, calm, relaxed. And suddenly, you are on your way, aren’t you?
As I write this, the second Covid-19 vaccine is being rolled out. It is being hailed as a milestone in our collective efforts to control the virus and another step in our endeavours to return to some semblance of normality, whatever that means for each of us.
I have read and heard a lot about how vaccines are usually developed, the timescales involved, and how the vaccines for Covid-19 have been created in record time. And not, it would seem, because corners have been cut or unnecessary risks taken. It appears that the difference is one of commitment. Commitment to overcome barriers and obstacles. Commitment of time, energy, expertise, and money. Commitment to achieving the goal.
It’s amazing what we can all do when we commit and focus on succeeding. It’s amazing what we can achieve when we find ways to overcome the barriers and obstacles. It’s amazing how quickly we can reach our goals when we dedicate the right amount of time and energy. And the most amazing part of it all is that deep down, we know this already, don’t we?
Anxiety can range from a sense of mild apprehension to an overwhelming feeling of paralysis, stopping you from doing anything at all. It is all very well in these situations to tell yourself to keep calm and do whatever you have to do, so easily said and yet so difficult to actually implement.
Two articles, “10 Ways to Cope With Anxiety” by Robert L. Leahy, and “Surprising ways to beat anxiety and become mentally strong – according to science” by Olivia Remes, both provide some excellent ideas on how to overcome anxiety and get on with, well, just about anything and everything.
NLP provides some excellent tools to help people overcome anxiety. Time Line Therapy™ techniques work by establishing the root cause, taking positive learnings from that first experience, and then applying the learnings to all subsequent negative experiences. Anchoring can be applied in various ways, from embedding positive emotions to replacing negative, unwanted emotions with positive, forward-looking ones. And, of course, coaching can help you set the goals to take you from your current anxious state to one where you are in control and achieving your goals. You know that you can do this, don’t you?