Friday 15 May 2015

Post-Election Reflections & Mental Health Awareness Week

- Catriona Duncan

Following Thursday’s General election, I can’t tell if the result caused emotions of delight or anger. But following yesterdays’ confirmation that the former minister for Care and Support Norman Lamb is running for Lib Dem Leadership, I couldn’t help but share my delight. Whatever your political stance, this is good news for the future of mental health in the UK.

In his last position as minister, he was well informed on the shortage of mental health beds, mental health issues in young people etc and was perhaps the most passionate MP on the subject. Why does it all matter? In my mind, at least, he will continue to put mental health at the top of his list, if we back Norman.

If he is elected, he will continue to advocate on mental health issues like he did in his last position. It is of course difficult to know what the future will bring. Nevertheless as Care and Support minister he was a delight to meet in January at a mental health related university event and a genuine person who knew the state of mental health across the NHS. 

While news spreads about his leadership bid, he was advocating that it was MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK. (MHAW). This year, the focus is around mindfulness.

My university has a series of events around mindfulness. To take the definition from ‘Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment, without getting stuck in the past or worrying about the future.’

If I’m honest, as a postgraduate this is a bit difficult to do right now. I’ve got my very last lecture of the academic year today, which in itself shows how fast time has flown. Like many, I’ve also got written assignments rather than exams to complete, an MA dissertation to complete, and job applications to complete. It’s a lot of writing……… 24,000 words in fact. 

I will be lying if I’m not daunted by the tasks ahead. But instead of thinking ‘have I done it right’, what grade boundary is it in or simply ‘did I answer the question?’ I have to pinch myself and remember to be mindful of the steep steps ahead, but break each assignment down into manageable chunks. 

It’s so easy to get sucked into the midst of worry surrounding the exams or writing assignments with a mind-set like the one I described above, (I’ve done it and we all do). Yet with my library on campus now open from 8am to midnight over revision period (now) til the end of exams in June, there is a positive and negative to this: it creates a quiet space to revise, but fuels internal anxiety as you sit in the library watching those around you with their heads in their books looking for sources of inspiration or motivation. And those negative thoughts of failure, anxiety can find their way back.

Should you find yourself stuck in a moment of anxiety or with a flurry of negative thoughts, lacking motivation, do one of the following to practice mindfulness:

  • Listen to your favourite music
  • Walk around campus
  • Enjoy the fresh air 
  • Attend one of the mental health awareness events on campus (such as meditation) 
  • Catch up with friends over tea/ coffee/hot chocolate 
  • Take some hints from the exam survival advice given by fellow bloggers in the recent posts

Or do any combination of these to stop the temporary anxiety from overwhelming you. 

Did you notice? I said temporary… that’s just it. Any worries and negative thoughts you have are temporary. Don’t forget too: throughout your academic life thus far, you have passed numerous exams and completed many assignments. 

For now: leave your revision or your writing. Give yourself a break.  Get yourself a Kit Kat and breathe. Remember a healthy mind = productive mind-set = good results.

Good luck. Happy Mental Health Awareness Week.

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