lifestyle, Mental Health

Freshers In The Light of Mental Health Issues

By Lauren Chancellor

As the term draws to an end many might blissfully think back to their more frivolous uni escapades, otherwise known as Freshers Week. Though, whilst some already count down to their next chance at socially acceptable binge drinking, the Freshers period can be a mine field for those suffering with mental health issues.

Lauren Chancellor bravely and intimately breaks down her troublesome battle with anxiety disorder, giving a rare insight into how Freshers might be not so fresh.

I’m a full time student, diagnosed with GAD, Social Phobia and Panic Dissorder of 4 years.

Freshers week is advertised to students as one of the best week at university. Filled with the promise of meeting new people, drinking games and of course a dreaded hangover. But what happens when you’re riddled with anxiety, to the point where leaving your room simply isn’t an option?

I fell at the first hurdle – meeting new people. The first day I arrived at my university campus I was greeted with open arms by my fellow housemates, only for me to lock myself in my room. I cried for what felt like days. The thought of putting myself out there for everyone to formulate opinions on simply horrified me. I was so scared of being judged by my peers it felt easier to just avoid them.

All the time, I’m sat there thinking, ‘the longer I stay in here, the harder it’s going to be when I leave’ and ‘I look so rude for not interacting with the people in my flat, what if they hate me? What if they think I’m being rude? Am I going to have to explain to them that I suffer with anxiety? If I do that will they think I’m weird? The cycle continues… Most of my days were spent longing to be back home with my friends and family. I wanted to be around people who I knew, who I could relate to and who I felt safe around; staring at the same 4 walls didn’t help.

Isolated, I began to to over-think everything. The few people that I had met, I’d created a thousand situations in my head in which I’d already messed up the ‘friendship’, or they were only talking to me because they had nobody else to hang out with, which put even more strain on my already difficult situation.

Anxiety around meeting new people is something that I tried so hard to make unnoticeable, to which I think I succeeded – nobody came out and asked me directly, ‘do you have anxiety?’.

Then came the evenings, I was expected to ‘dance my sorrows away’. Not the case. Instead, I opted for standing on the side lines, holding peoples drink making awkward dad dance moves. Not my finest hour. I had so many people encouraging me on to join in on the drinking games, hoping that it would bring me out of my shell a little. however unlike in the case of a ‘non-mentally-ill-person’ alcohol doesn’t bring out my confidence, it makes me even more aware of my own anxiety. The sweats and shakes increase, the sickness would become definite and my nervous stutter would get a show of it’s own. This is something I didn’t want to explain to my peers, resulting in me looking like a miserable bitch.

I had never felt more alone with my anxiety. I was surrounded by people having a great time. People were dancing, singing, sharing stories and drinking together – things I knew I was capable of doing, but my anxiety wouldn’t let me. It felt like being strapped to a chair whilst looking at an open door.

Freshers is presented in a light that offers opportunity and an exclusive chance to get yourself on the ladder to successful friendships. It provides chances to get involved with societies and other groups around universities. However, they don’t show you what happens to those students who get left behind.

At every university, there are undoubtable students whose anxiety is just too much to deal with the social pressure and expectations of Freshers week. And we’re still to see a change in the way the first weeks at university is dealt with. Nobody is saying there needs to me an ‘anxiety society’, or an introverts corner, but universities all over the country need to put more effort into the students who simply get left behind.

For any students who feel they have symptoms of anxiety I would recommend speaking to your GP about your options. Also, keeping your university up to date is key to making progression with your anxiety. Faculty cannot help you if you don’t reach out. Anxiety isn’t something you should be ashamed of, it’s a natural reaction to fear. It’s the way you process these feelings that create a certain outcome. There are many different ways you can treat your anxiety. Medication and different types of therapy (usually CBT) are the two main ways for treating anxiety, but there are also free workbooks available online.

Helpful links

Food For Thought, lifestyle, Mental Health

Six Ways To Tackle Stress In The Exam Period

By Lauren Chancellor

Lauren takes the pen to give us all a well-needed advice (or six) on how to deal with the turmoil that is exam stress.

Another term, another set of exams. Your assessment period is a time of stress and anxiety, something nearly every student dreads. With most of your free time spent cramming in extra revision and worrying about your end result, it can be as exhausting as it’s unpleasant.

Here are some simple tips to help you unwind and de-stress from the pressures of exams:

Positive vibes – Maintaining a positive outlook can stop you from losing your head whilst waiting for your results. Don’t waste your remaining days of freedom worrying, think positive thoughts and more important, spread positivity. Remember it is not just you going through the stress of exams, so being a Negative Nelly around other people is probably going to bring them down too.

Hard earned rest – For now, it’s time to say goodbye to the revision time table, the highlighters can go back in the draw and you can return your library books. Now it’s time to calm down and find your inner Zen. Take a nap, take two naps, wake up at midday instead of 9am – you do you.

Socialise – The chances are, you haven’t seen the social hours of daylight in long time. However, now your exams are over, and it’s time to venture into the real world, once again. Sharing downtime with your friends is a great way to relax after the exam period: watching movies, playing sports, going shopping etc.

Accept what’s done is done – When you leave that exam hall the power is out of your hands, and the sooner you accept that the better. What’s done is done, and what will be will be. Allowing yourself to fall into turmoil about what you could have done differently is pointless and can very quickly become exhausting. To avoid this, refrain from talking to people from your class about the exam and just focus on getting your results.

Have a back-up plan – on the off chance things really didn’t go to plan, having a plan of action is a great way to relieve anxiety and to help you continue moving forward with your studies. Make yourself familiar with re-sit dates and where you need to be.

Celebrate – whether it’s with your classmates, housemates or your family – you’ve worked hard over the past month and your hard work should be rewarded. Whether you go out for a celebratory meal or a few drinks in town, get out and let your hair down!

School and university is stressful for the most students, even those who don’t have exams. It’s important to remember that your body needs time to relax and rest. Be aware that your fellow peers may be feeling the pressures from their studies, and be mindful.

Guest Writers, lifestyle, Mental Health

“I Wished I Wasn’t Me” – overcoming self-doubt

Sometimes you have to be completely honest with yourself, and sometimes you learn something new. Helene moved to London and went on a journey of self exploration. Now she shares it with the Skint readers.
Text: Helene Fritz

Some days I wished I wasn’t me. I wished I was someone who wouldn’t worry so much about everything, or needed to overthink every little detail. It is exhausting. It takes a lot of energy to constantly worry. I have always been this way, though I just realised it more recently.

While it was so hard to acknowledge all my flaws, all the wrong turns I’ve taken, there is nothing I would take back. All these decisions I shouldn’t have made, the moments I should have behaved different, and all the little things I don’t like about myself, they all led me to the moment I could finally start to take my life in my own hands. There was a moment where I suddenly did not think “the world is cruel”, or “why is this happening to me” anymore.

At one point I realised I could do so much more than sit around and complain about everything. I realised I am not a victim of life. Though that is how I felt: Like a victim. When this thought is in your head for long enough, you start believing it. It is a long way from being led by life to leading your own life. There was a point I realised I am worth so much more than I thought. I used to think I deserve sadness. And that men deep inside didn’t want me, when they said they did. Or that I deserve people who didn’t really care about me. An endless disappointment. I thought I deserved all this. And I guess that was my mistake.

This past year was not always easy, but it was so eyeopening and I have learned and experienced more about myself than I ever did before.
It all started when I moved to London. I was beyond excited, for this new life, and even though I hoped for much, for the first time, I didn’t put myself under pressure. I tried to take things however they came, and I think this is what made it so easy for me in the beginning.
Whenever you expect, you put pressure on yourself as well as your surrounding. It lies within your emanation and the people you surround yourself with will feel it and act towards it. And I always expect things. From my self, from the people I around me, from life. I have this idea how things should work, and that is my mistake. In spite of my personal perception, this is not how life works. Whenever things don’t turn out the way I wanted it to, I get so disappointed and sad, and it is so hard to not let this disappointment out onto other people. I learned that the real key is to let things be. To accept everything the way it comes. Because life will come, no matter what. I just always thought the only right solution to respond to life is a negative one. A self-pitying, the “glass is half empty”-respond. I never learned that there was a another way to face the bad, (and also the good) things in life. To take the good with the bad.

Maybe this is faith, maybe it is confidence, maybe it is innate in some people, but for me it took a whole lot of time, disappointment, tears and work to finally get to the point, where I believed that I deserved a good life.

lifestyle, Mental Health

5 things to do to help relax your mind

Relaxation is so important, physically and mentally. Physical relaxation often comes more naturally than mental relaxation, physical relaxation can include napping, showering/bathing, sitting on the sofa doing absolutely nothing. Knowing how to relax your mind can be something that needs to be learnt and can seem impossible to achieve, especially if you suffer with anxiety or another mental illness. So to help you on your way to looking after your ever so important mind, here are 5 things that could make your mental relaxation time a little easier and more successful.

 Take a step out – Read a book or a magazine, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Reading is great escapism and the focus can really distract your mind from what you’ve been worrying or stressing about lately.

Focus on your breathing – Count as you breathe. Start by counting to 3 as you breathe in, 3 as you breathe out and from there work out what’s comfortable for you.

Try active relaxation – I’ve recently found that gentle exercise can help your mind settle down tons. Try to find a yoga or Pilates class and if not, you tube have great tutorials and you can great apps as well. Taking a walk at your own pace can also be great, whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour.

Get creative – Writing is a massive outlet for me, I could write for hours and it’s so relaxing. Whether you want to write, doodle or paint whatever you do, try not to worry about the final product, you don’t have to be good at what you’re doing, just try to enjoy it. Lighting a scented candle can help along with creativity and relaxing your mind too.

Listen to music – Listen to your favorite songs, turn the volume up if you like and sing along or dance. Just have fun because once you are, your mind will be transported to somewhere serene, or pop on your headphones, lay down, close your eyes and just listen.

Try to practice relaxing your mind around 4 times a week and if you find one that works well for you, stick with it and you’ll soon see the benefits.

Mental Health, Uncategorized

How Anti Depressants Ruined My Life

Okay so the title might be mildly over dramatic but, it’s how it felt. I was recommended   anti-depressants as part of my treatment, I saw it as giving up and giving in, but still they were pushed upon me. It’s the biggest mistake I have ever made, people can easily become so reliant on them, and I felt less of a person.

But not even that, anti depressants caused an increase in appetite that I didn’t feel capable of suppressing edging me from a size 8 to a 12, and maybe at some points beyond, this ruined my confidence and pushed me further into depression. It all happened so suddenly, and even after taking them the changes that they’d made to my body I can’t easily reverse. Yes it sounds like a sorry excuse for gaining weight, and yes I am going to get my body back to a point I’m comfortable with but that’s not the real point here.

Anti depressants are being prescribed to a worrying amount of young people, in the UK the NHS is stretched more and more each year, with waiting lists for adolescent mental health exceeding a year in parts of the UK. The statistics for young people’s mental wellbeing get worse and worse by the year, with exams getting harder and more pressure being put on them. The real need is NOT for anti depressants to be prescribed, but instead first supporting schools to better support students wellbeing and more funding into therapies and NHS psychologists.

Mental Health, Uncategorized

Things I have learned during recovery

Recovery can be a terrifying concept, change is scary especially if you’ve not been okay for so long. It’s okay to be scared to be worried, I certainly was.

It’s been a few years now since I turned my families lives upside down, suffering from a mental illness not only effected me but all of my family, for so long, and I couldn’t be more grateful for everything they did for me. Now I’m on the other side I can tell you, recovering is weird. It isn’t quick and my God is it not easy. 

You have to force yourself to get up every morning, you know that staying in bed will make you miserable, however much you want the world to disappear getting up and dressed makes such a different to your day.

Everyone is different no two people’s brains are identical, heck maybe not even similar. Everyone recovers at a different pace, and it’s okay to not move as fast as everyone else.

Don’t be so hard on yourself, it’s not going to happen overnight, you’re not just suddenly going to feel okay. A relapse can show you how far you’ve come, and how to push on from there.

Cut out all toxic people, we live in a culture that would would rather be nice than truthful but when it comes to recovery you’ve got to be selfish, you come first and that’s ok. Taking away negative influences from your life and surrounding yourself with positive people makes the world of difference.

Medication isn’t for everyone I know so many people who swear by anti depressants which kept pushing me to continue taking them, but the truth is for me they only made me feel less of a person, I’d rather be me than that. I found what worked best is to constantly push myself, but that could be entirely personal preference.

It’ll get better in the end, I never believed it, and if I hadn’t of tried so hard perhaps it wouldn’t have. But in the last two years my life has changed entirely, sometimes I forget, but I couldn’t be more proud.

These are just my own personal tips and tricks, if you’ve got any of your own leave them in the comments below.

*This post is based purely on personal opinion of someone who’s experienced a mental health issue, not that of a qualified proffessional* 

lifestyle, Mental Health

Radio 2’s Mental Health Week

So this week is Radio 2’s Mental Health Week. Firstly, I think it’s actually massive progress that such big names are holding weeks like this to raise awareness that is absolutely needed. Not enough people see mental health as a real issue that needs to be obtained or as something that can be spoken about openly.

I’m here to say that it can be spoken about and it should be, the more people begin to talk about it the faster developments will be made to end the stigma around mental health. No one should feel afraid or ashamed if they are dealing with any type of mental illness, no matter what your age, help is always deserved.

There are more and more people that are finding out that they have a mental illness everyday, and it needs to be spoken about it needs to be recognised and understood. In Britain mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health disorder. Are people ready to talk about this yet? To address the problem? No, because it’s not taken seriously enough, 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions or help at an sufficiently early age.

If you’re sitting there and are or have been worrying for a while if maybe you need help or may have a mental health disorder, don’t be afraid and ask for help, tell someone, mum, dad, nan, friend? In the long run it will be a lot easier than suffering in silence, speak out!

You can find more about BBC’s mental health week here 

If you’re struggling, the Samaritans are always there to listen.

116 123 (UK)

116 123 (ROI)