Monday, 15 August 2022

Dealing with social pressures as a student

This August, the Editorial Team have taken the opportunity to share their thoughts on the social pressures they've faced while being university students.

- Student Minds Blog Editorial Team

The blog theme for August is Social Pressures. This is a topic that the Editorial Team felt needed some light shone onto it, especially as a new wave of students being their university experience.

Thoughts on social pressures from the Editorial Team:

Natalie (Student)
  • Prior to going to university, I heard countless times that uni is the “best years of your life”. Whilst my time at university has been amazing and filled with wonderful experiences, there have undeniably been more challenging moments as well. 
  • I’ve experienced this pressure to make it seem like I’m having fun all the time, but now I just remind myself that life has its ups and downs
  • University is not just 3 or 4 years of your life that have been sectioned off just to have a good time. It’s an important time of life for changing and growing and this can look different for everyone.

✨ Luke (Student) ✨
  • Social media and social pressures can be the biggest thief of joy and shadow your potential. When you begin to see what people post and compare your life to theirs you begin to lose perspective on what you have achieved in your life. Remember people only post and tell you what they want you to see/hear. 
  • Leaving university and finding a job is the biggest challenge you will face as a student/graduate. Some friends will find a graduate job immediately with a decent wage and you may be sat still looking for jobs. Stay true to your passions and your goal in life and the right opportunity will find its way to you! 

✨ Martina (Graduate) ✨
  • University presents a lot of pressures and as students, we each live them in a different way depending on our social context personality etc. 
  • I personally found I was often comparing myself to others: during lessons and exams I would think my performance wasn't up to standard, and outside of University that I wasn't participating enough in societies or making the most of the experiences it offered. It was the pressure of giving 100% to every aspect of my life as a student. This led to anxiety and overworking myself. 
  • I think this is an issue that many students face, and has increased exponentially with the use of social media. It was only with time and talking to lecturers about this, that I have learned that sometimes "good enough" was perfectly acceptable and that prioritising was more important than aiming for perfection at expense of my health. 
  • Sometimes, you just need to disconnect from social media and simply take time to focus on your own goals, to gain some perspective.

✨ Caoimhe (Graduate) ✨
  • I think the biggest pressure I have ever encountered is the daily pressure to be performing 100% in every aspect of my life, university, job and personal life. This pressure led me to experience emotional exhaustion during my final year of university. 
  • I overcame this pressure by realising I was putting my own self-worth in the validation of others. This mindset is toxic. After a year of being out of education, my mental health is in a much better place. I am looking forward to starting my postgraduate education.

Preksha (Student) ✨
  • I think that, unfortunately, social media has raised our own expectations of ourselves. This has blurred the lines between social and self-pressure. Herein what we observe of the social world around us is often internalised into demands and pressure on ourselves. 
  • For example, Instagram has created unrealistic beauty standards and a face that is considered perfect by many. Meanwhile, LinkedIn makes it seem like everyone has been matched with perfect jobs and careers, and are excelling in all aspects of their lives. 
  • However, the reality is very different. People very rarely share their struggles on social media and there seems to be a new conformity pressure on our generation to be like those around us in every aspect - looks, professions, social life and more! But please don't believe what you see on social media because that is only a small proportion of the reality. Ignore what you see around you and instead of comparing yourself to others, compare your own previous achievements to yourself. This is what will help us differentiate between social pressure and self-motivation.

✨ Rosanna (Graduate) ✨
  • University can sometimes be quite a toxic environment in terms of social pressures and it's easy to be convinced that you have to do it a certain way. We need to challenge the idea that university is always the best time of our life - full of wild nights out, making loads of new friends and pulling all-nighters to finish our assignments. This is the stereotype of student life which people still seem to want to portray on social media. 
  • There's nothing wrong with that student experience, but it's not the only one. No matter what people tell you, you don't have to drink, join a society or hang out with that group of people who make you feel uncomfortable. You don't even need to stay at university if it's not for you. 
  • All of your decisions are valid and starting a university course doesn't mean you have to behave in any particular way. You are valid and lovely as you are.

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Written by the Student Minds Editorial Team. Find out more about them here.

Monday, 8 August 2022

Another successful chapter!

Tayyibah reflects on her achievements over the past few years.

- Tayyibah Hussain 

Reflecting on the past couple of years, I have achieved more than I thought I would have been able to.  I finished my L3 Extended Diploma in Children's Play, Learning and Development in 2020 with a DDM proving my Sixth-Form Head wrong. Furthermore, I proved that I am capable by achieving5 unconditional offers from all my chosen universities.   

However,  lockdown and COVID-19 struck soon after.  Throughout the pandemic, whilst being in college, I launched ‘Asafeplacex’. Through Instagram, I spread awareness for anyone, especially students, who are struggling with mental health. During COVID-19, simultaneously, I could observe the struggles of reduced human interaction around me. I believed that it was difficult to be online, and have fewer people to confide in.  Hence, I thought this would be a great way to promote positive mental health.

I posted daily reminders and useful information, advice and resources.  I became a Student Representative for the Early Childhood Studies degree. Through this role, I was able to help support others, gather feedback and ensure that voices are heard. I was especially active in posting messages for students during mental health awareness week. This was a role I was very unsure about to begin with, especially since I was struggling with my mental health and lacking communication skills. I did not think that I would be able to go ahead and take on a role like this. However, I managed it and will be the senior student representative in my final year.  

I worked with Hannah within One/Third Project for University Mental Health Day to ensure that students know that they are not alone. Whilst being in University I have seen so many students struggle with mental health and wanted to spur some change and really make a difference. I have completed online courses within the domain of mental health, including Psychological First Aid, Special Educational Needs, and Mental Health Awareness by FutureLearn. Moreover, I completed a course about suicide prevention by Zero Suicide Alliance. This was also a great opportunity for me to build on my current knowledge about mental health and expand on my own experiences with mental health. Later on, I went on to write a quote book. Unexpectedly, I was nominated for awards as well I also launched my own podcast which will be fully running soon. I have been supporting YoungMinds since 2019 when I first started struggling with my mental health and was unsure what was going on at the time. Since then I have raised money over the past 2 years for them.  YoungMinds has also been excellent in supporting so many young people like myself with quotes, tips and awareness. Through university, I have also been supporting Student Minds by writing blogs for them based on my own experiences of mental health and words of advice for other people. I have even moved on to gaining a role with Beyond Charity as their ‘Youth Board Member’.  I also collaborated with Championing Youth Minds as a Volunteer to help launch something exciting around mental health within the education space. I have been recognised and thanked by many students, staff and young people for the support and work I do in general and since launching ‘Asafeplacex’. 

Achieving all of this has had a positive impact on my mental health during university. The journey has not been easy. During my first year of University, I lacked confidence, communication skills and self-belief. However, I made an active effort to improve on this by taking on the role of a student representative. This helped me develop both courage and skills. Presenting to peers was a difficult thing to do but knowing I had peers cheering me on I managed to achieve it and even come out with a first something I would have never thought about. Even now I’m able to liaise with staff and students and speak confidently - something which would have really scared me earlier! There are times when it is difficult, but remembering that I got through that, and accomplished the small achievements motivates me. 

I am proud of myself for reaching this far. This is a sign that even if you are struggling, everything will start to improve. You are not alone and you are cared for… you matter! I believe that we all go through something that hurts us but also changes us to make us stronger. Life knows we can fight it so lets us make this our reason to live, to keep going, to recover, grow and heal. Why? Because I promise you, it's worth it in the end. 

Whether you are looking for support for your own mental health or supporting a friend, help is available.

Tayyibah Hussain is currently a student at the University of Derby studying Early Childhood Studies. She is interested in Mental Health, Adverse Childhood Experiences, and supporting others and hoping to inspire them to have self-belief and faith in themselves.