Friday, 3 July 2020

Information Overload: Adjusting to Increased Digital Communication Since the Pandemic

Michael shares his advice for looking after your wellbeing whilst communicating digitally.

- Michael Priestley

Hi everyone, I’m Michael and I’m the editor of the Student Minds Blog. With the shift to studying and socialising online since the outbreak of Covid-19, I’ve been receiving a lot more digital communications than normal. Whilst this has obviously been a great way to stay connected, it can also present some potential new challenges for looking after our wellbeing. I have found it helpful during this time to identify and assert my own needs and boundaries when communicating digitally on different platforms. Check out my advice on the Student Minds website for
- Using social media since the pandemic, 
- Maintaining socially distanced relationships
- Studying online from home, and 
- Managing anxieties or difficulties on video calls.  

Check out Student Minds Coronavirus Resource Hub for further support. 

I’m Michael and I’m the editor of the Student Minds Blog. I am a PhD student at Durham University studying student mental health and wellbeing. I write for Student Minds to share my own experiences of mental health difficulties and to advocate for change to improve the state of student mental health. 

How Managing My Mental Illness Changed My Life After Graduation

Amanda shares her experience of accepting, managing, and seeking support for anxiety.

- Amanda Jerelyn

Ever wondered whether maybe one of the friends you perceive as strong, witty, and charming would not feel the same on the inside? Perhaps they are fighting a battle of their own from within...

Hi, my name is Amanda. And finally, I am at a place mentally, spiritually, and physically that I can accept, I am that friend, or at least was. I have recently graduated from the University of London in the field of Psychology, and during all of my university years, I was trying too hard to be happy, without acknowledging or sharing my own mental health challenges. I was the friend who always tried to make other people feel happy in my presence and be all ears to listen and lend my shoulder to cry on. But when it came down to my own circumstances, I would isolate myself and refuse to see anybody until I had the same positive energy back. 

The irony was that I was a student of psychology and not applying the concepts I was studying to myself. The dorm life and the burden of carrying forced positivity started getting to me. Once it started getting severe so that I couldn’t study and started lacking energy, I realized I needed help. I finally faced the truth that maybe I might be experiencing a mental health issue that needs addressing.

Talk to Someone
My tutor was a clinical psychologist with an understanding of young people’s mental health, so I mustered up the courage and decided that after class, I will talk to him. And so I did. And maybe that was the best decision I could’ve made to get started on the right path of this journey. I went over to him after the last student had left, and with his permission to sit down, I began to talk my heart out. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds now.  I will admit that I felt so vulnerable at that moment as I was crying and shaking, but he listened. And as he listened intently, it became more apparent to him that his genius student had been masking her true identity all along. And most of all, she needed help. Through talking to him, it hit me hard that I was suffering from severe anxiety. 

Acceptance is Key
My tutor was supportive, and I learned that maybe a little ray of hope that somebody believes in you could be a huge help in that fleeting moment of vulnerability and denial. Over time, it became clearer to me that the goal was to manage my anxiety issues that lead to my depressive episodes. My tutor had advised me that the very first thing is acceptance, as it is the key to overcoming my phase of denial. Anybody who has been diagnosed with any physical or mental health difficulty can face the struggle where they are not ready to accept that they are ill. Acceptance is important to find ways to manage the condition. My tutor even suggested that there are courses like ‘Be Mindful’ available online that show positive results in people, reducing up to 58% anxiety levels. I found this helpful, but other support might be more beneficial to other people

Overcoming the Challenges
Consequently, as I accepted that I am suffering from anxiety, I became determined to manage the difficulties I faced. And so I pledged that:
I will no more retreat back to my safe harbor when it is unhealthy to do so.
I will not distance myself from friends when I feel distressed 
I will not keep my feelings inside but instead talk about them to whoever I feel comfortable
I will try to proactively remedy my anxiety, so it does not lead to depression and low mood.
I will take out time to look after my mental wellbeing, meditate, and move towards self-love and positivity.