Chloe posts

Swimming in the Deep End

New opportunities are exciting but frightening. We’re all familiar with that uncomfortable feeling of over-fullness when you eat that extra cookie despite feeling completely stuffed, or when you opt for a greasy take away on a Friday night, overdo it a little, and then regret it the following morning. I’m learning that sometimes opportunities in life can be like that.

You jump in head first because the opportunity is all too exciting to let go, or the cookie looks too tasty to leave on the side, and then later you worry that your eyes were bigger than your belly, and you might’ve bitten off a little more than you could chew. I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks, about how to manage your thoughts when you feel like you’re overstuffed and overflowing; like you’re swimming in the deep end and you’re a river about to break its banks. Here are some tips for the times when you’re drowning in to-do lists, and you’re struggling to keep your head above water:

1. Remember that you’re only a human, and not a superhuman-superhero-wizard.
Everybody makes mistakes!

2. Stop comparing yourself to others, try to stop worrying, and stop bullying yourself for not living up to impossibly high expectations. We all learn at different paces and in different ways, and that’s perfectly okay. Remember that nobody’s life is perfect, and you only ever know what people choose to tell you. Worrying about not being good enough will only make you feel more negative. It can be useful to ask yourself ‘is thinking about this problem and analyzing it helpful, or am I going around in circles? Is the problem within my control, or out of my control? Are there any practical things I could do to solve this or ease my anxiety? Is this problem/task as big as I am making it out to be?

3. Be in the present moment – be as observant as possible and keep your eyes and ears open. Try to bring yourself back to the task at hand if you find yourself falling into a spiral of anxiety and worry.

4. Set high standards but be compassionate with yourself if you don’t meet them. Remember that you can only do your best.

5. Practice gratitude, celebrate small achievements, and try to find the silver lining to every situation. It’s rarely the case that absolutely everything went badly. What went well in your day?

6. Remember that we all go through peaks and troughs. No flower blooms all year
round (or maybe some do but…who cares about those flowers anyway? Maybe
they’re hiding something…)

7. Remember that even if things don’t work out, you’ll be okay. Life is full of positive experiences to look back on fondly, and negative experiences that teach us things. Experiences, good and bad, are all part of life’s rich tapestry. Sometimes we take on new opportunities that make our life feel bright and cheery, and at other times, they leave us feeling bleak, despondent and dull. Sometimes it’s a mix of the two. It’s important to be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new, even if it doesn’t work out exactly how you’d first hoped. If something doesn’t go to plan, try and find the lesson from the situation and learn from it, instead of regretting it.

September can be a time of new opportunities and adventures for many of us. September sees the end of summer and the start of autumn, the start of a new academic year, and for some, it symbolizes hope and new beginnings.

At the cafe last month, we also did something a little bit different and new. We made the most of the heatwave and headed for a picnic in the sun. We had a brilliant time drawing and painting, and we enjoyed sitting in the woods and chatting. We then headed back indoors and had fun playing with FIMO (a type of modelling clay). Here are some of the wonderful pieces of art that were created by the cafe’s talented attendees last month.

 

Chloe posts

Coping with Stress

Few of us cope well when we are stressed. The most put-together, organised person may still be prone to crumbling under pressure. Stress occurs when the demands of the situation are greater than our perceived ability to cope with it, and none of us are immune to the effects of stress. It can weaken our immune system and cause stomach aches, colds, and headaches, yet we still persist with work and projects that trigger our stress responses. Though it is practically impossible to avoid stress completely, there are many strategies we can use to try and cope a little better with it. Here are a few tips and techniques to try:

Problem-focused coping vs avoidant coping

Distraction techniques such as having a bath, relaxing, and doing something you enjoy can be helpful, but they can often lead us to avoid the stressful situation, rather than face it. In the past I’ve found that when I cope with my stress by avoiding it, the stress reappears as soon as I’ve stopped distracting myself. For example, if I’m stressed about a difficult assignment, and I spend the day socialising to avoid thinking about it, the stress will come back once I’m on my own again. Problem-focused coping means thinking about the root cause of your stress and identifying steps you can take immediately to solve the problem. If I’m stressed about work, I’ve found it’s far better to be pro-active by writing a plan, e-mailing my tutor for help, or getting started on it, rather than distracting myself and pretending that the work doesn’t exist. However, when we are incredibly overwhelmed and stressed, thinking of solutions to the problem can seem an impossible, insurmountable task. Distraction techniques can be helpful when we feel this way, because they allow us to improve our mood so that we feel able to get started.

Avoid taking too much on

Having high standards of ourselves can be wonderful, because it means that we’re challenging ourselves. However, there is a fine line between pushing yourself, and taking on more than you can handle. If you find that you have more things to do than time to do it all in, it can be useful to remove a few activities from your to-do list so that you can quickly reduce the number of things you are worried about. If this is difficult, try thinking about your values and the things that matter to you most. It can be helpful to make a list with 3 sections: things that I must do, things that I like to do occasionally, and things that I do not like to do. You might find that your life is very cluttered, and you are wasting a lot of time doing something you do not enjoy (scrolling through social media, getting distracted by the television…). You may realise that you could swap the half hour you spend scrolling through social media in the morning, for something more enjoyable and productive. It’s important to remember that it’s completely okay to be assertive and say no to things that don’t appeal to you/activities you don’t have time for. It is your life and your time to spend how you please, and protecting your mental health will always be more important than pleasing other people!

Think about the situation from another person’s perspective

It’s easy to become our own worst enemies, and this can become even easier when we’re stressed. It’s easy to beat ourselves up about all the things we said we would do but didn’t do and ruminate about everything we are worried about. But this style of thinking isn’t productive for anybody, and it only serves to attract more negative thoughts. Thinking about what you would say to a friend if they were in your situation and practicing self-compassion can be useful to combat these thoughts, and it helps us to stop being so hard on ourselves.

Focus on what you can change

There are some stressful situations that we can change. We can cancel going to a social event that is worrying us or change jobs to one that won’t stress us out so much. We can control how we react in situations, where we work, what we say, and how we act. There are other stressful and worrying events that we are powerless to change. We cannot control the disturbing events on the news, what other people say about us or the way that they act, so it is pointless to spend lots of time worrying about these things.

 

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