Alas, Christmas is approaching, I am welcoming it gladly and ’tis the season of giving. Giving I think is seen as this really selfless act which is fantastic, it’s literally celebrated and yes can be really lovely and I won’t get into the whole ‘is it selfish to feel sefless’ blah blah spiel. But perhaps this year, be a bit more selfish, look after yourself and give yourself the opportunity to do that.
November is nearly over which means that so is Movember – but there’s still time to donate and raise if you can. Though sometimes I worry that amongst all the fundraising and comedic effort we can lose the real drive behind it – men’s mental health, arguably one of the most stigamatised topics. But it’s nearly 2020, lets leave toxic masculinity in this decade. Because 1 man committing suicide every minute, globally isn’t good enough, when all it could take is a conversation to save someone. Men – break the stigma, have those conversations and reach out because humans and particularly men can be very good at hiding what is really going on. It’s a fantastic cause and charity so please do what you can, get involved even in these last few days, but keep those conversations open and flowing throughout the year. (Shout out to Exeter for raising over £60,000 already) Read more or donate here!
Talk to your bros
Actually, the words ‘be selfish’ is something I’ve been saying more and more to people recently. Whether it’s because they’re putting too much pressure on themselves, living by the terms of someone else or just not generally looking after themselves enough. And it’s something I need to hear more of as well, I think to an extent we all do, it just depends the context in which we’re saying it – gluttony is of course different to generosity.
Within the time and climate we live in, there is inevitable a plethora of pressures. Work, uni, familial, social you name it, it exists. And as much as we are arguably breaking down stigma of these pressures by talking about them more – they’re at least talked about in PSHE at school now – we still often bend under them. Even when you’re preaching to someone else to ‘take a break’, ‘look after yourself’, ‘talk about it’, we often are the last people to follow our own advice. I certainly am. I’ve been wishing and asking my friends to talk to me if they’re feeling pressure, if they’re struggling and it’s the one thing I don’t do. And because of the exact reasons they don’t want to talk about they’re issues: the fear of burdening people, the lack of time to talk about things, seeing it as a ‘waste’ of time but also, and perhaps the most frustrating reason, not actually knowing what’s wrong or what they’re feeling but just knowing, instinctively, that it’s not right.
And for all these reasons, we do push them to the back of our mind, to the bottom of our priority list because it’s easier, it means we can compartmentalise and crack on. But is that healthy? I mean, no is the obvious answer. No it’s not healthy to pent up how you feel. But if you do do it, know it is completely normal. And what’s more normal is not knowing how to open up.
I’ve always really appreciated the environment my parents fostered when I was growing up and I do increasingly appreciate it as I grow up because it’s provided me with the ability of openness. Perhaps sometimes, too much openness it must be said I’m strikingly candid when I talk. But emotionally, I’ve never had too much of an issue in opening up to people about how I’m feeling. But when you’re in the microcosm that is University or something of the sort, you are constantly in a pressure container from work, from other people etc and it can really play on you. I have honestly found myself retracting my want to talk about how I feel so that I don’t add to the relentless pressure me and my friends are surrounded by. And the times I have done that have just led to a bigger outburst of emotion and anxiety in the long run to my friends.
What I’m trying to say in my long winded, exemplified way is bottling up doesn’t work. Because that bottle will inevitably burst, of course it will. So releasing that pressure more regularly in a more controlled way just makes things more manageable. And I promise you, your friends will be so much happier to hear how you’re feeling more regularly than to have a sudden and unexpected outburst with no context.
There is always someone to talk to.
I think where people get lost as well is who to talk to. You may not feel like you have people or a person to talk to but if you are in an institution like uni, you do have many resources outside of friends. Wellbeing centres at universities are becoming increasingly better as they’re being more utilised and I’ve heard good things from people at a range of universities. Something that really gives me hope about my University amongst all the strike action, something I completely support (if you don’t know, read about it, it is so important) is when I first came to uni, they openly tell you, they’re not so worries if you miss lectures etc that’s your own problem. What they do care about though is where you are and whether you’re okay – and they will check in on you! But because they’re concerned about your mental health and making sure you’re okay. A lot of universities also have great societies or even local groups which can provide leagues of support through various reasons. Some great support networks though are:
University society/guild pages
University wellbeing services this is Exeter’s (searching student support and your university will usually come up with the website)
Mind charity and support service who have a lot of great resources for helping yourself and others
Stand Alone for Estranged People
7 cups which is a great community based service to talk to people
Coming up to Christmas is always an extremely stressful time for everyone whether you’re a student or 40 years into your career for whatever reason. But it is meant to be a time of relaxation and enjoying yourself. So please, make sure you do that, you relax and you give yourself a break.