I am always looking out for new ways to spread mental health awareness and I think fiction is an area I often glaze over. However, I’m starting to see just how beneficial reading fiction can really be. Recently, I was invited to take part in the book tour for ‘The Year I Didn’t Eat’ by Samuel Pollen – my interest was sparked by both the focus on mental health and the fact that the target audience is young teens…
As we make our first tentative steps into the second month of the year, talk of New Year resolutions is starting to simmer down. The flurry of people proclaiming they will have more of some things (motivation, exercise, books on the read shelf) and less of other things (drunken nights, weight, empty cigarette packets) has subsided. And here we are, a month into the year: have all those commitments stuck? The likelihood is probably not.
We all do it, whether we like to admit it or not. All of us set goals we don’t ever reach. This is frustrating, disheartening even. In today’s pressurising world it can feel like we fail because there’s something wrong with us. Perhaps if we just try harder we’ll find success.
Around this time a year ago, I was not considering applying for physical university. (For those of you who don’t know, I was studying with the Open University, a distance learning institution, at the time). I didn’t see it like this in the moment, but looking back I think I had almost written the whole idea of attending university off. It seemed so inconceivable to me, for many reasons, and that led to a total dismissal of it all.
Now, heading into my second term at uni, I thought it might be a good moment to reflect on that experience, and those feelings, in the hope that it might reach someone else going through something similar… So what was the main issue then?
Hey, you made it through the first term of university! Can we have a pause for applause, please?
Yes, you’ve cried. Yes, you’ve had days when leaving your room took more than a couple of thoughts and deep breaths to achieve. Yes, anxiety hasn’t decided to fully retire to The Bahamas, never to be seen by you again (yet). But you have persisted through these feelings and honestly, they’ve been rather fleeting for the most part. More like occasional-dandruff-to-brush-off-the-shoulders level, a minor inconvenience, rather than taking-a-few-days-out-because-of-flu level.
When I was first contacted by Thrive, a company that develops therapeutic software, my curiosity was spiked by the sheer breadth and depth their app Feel Stress Free seems to promise. Allow me to explain: having used various tools for managing stress and anxiety before, I’ve often headed down a path of declining interest, as I get stuck in a rut of repetitive activity. However, Feel Stress Free’s unique characteristic seems to be the huge variety of ways it offers for managing stress and anxiety – which have actually been created by psychologists/psychiatrists and are clinically proven to be helpful. I thought this could be a remedy for my tendency to lose that spark of interest.
The other main advantage I can see from the layout of the app is the possibility for personalising the ways of dealing with stress and anxiety, which is something I feel passionate about. I don’t think all methods work effectively for everyone, but that’s not a problem here; I picked up on five key areas of managing negative emotions that Thrive are striving to help with. I thought I’d outline these below and talk about how you can implement these things in your own life – both with and without the help of your phone.
I think a lot of people aim to be flawless. Or at least, they’re on a mission to become ‘perfect’ (whatever that means). It’s no surprise really, it’s an ideal pushed on us at every opportunity: the copious amounts of photoshop on magazine covers, the endless adverts for whitening toothpastes/mascara/weight loss products, the ‘top 30 under 30’ and ‘youngest billionaire’ lists designed to make us feel inferior… the list goes on and on and on.
It is pretty crazy, when you stop to think about it. There are so many things out there encouraging us to carve ourselves into smooth, marble statues of perfect proportions, beauty and purposefulness. And if you’re not everything, you’re nothing.
At school I was always the kid hiding a furious blush behind a curtain of hair, desperately hoping not to be noticed. Whenever a teacher threw a question out into the room like a knife-edged boomerang, I became painfully aware of the chair jamming into my spine as I attempted to disappear into the plastic. In short, some school days felt like being led to slaughter (in front of a cheering crowd). So not too pleasant, really.
I’m not saying I hated everything about school, I actually liked plenty of things about it. But I did find it extremely difficult to be part of a group and to interact with people I didn’t already know very well. Understandably, when I left college at 18, I did not want to go to university; I took a bit of time out of education to figure things out and, perhaps naively, hoped I would be able to fully overcome these awful feelings.