How taking a break from your phone can help your mental health
Adam talks about how taking a break from your phone can really help your mental health
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As Mental Health Awareness week comes to a close, I think we should ask ourselves, what is it all about? What can we learn from this week? And most of all, what is it to the youth of today?
Talking about mental health
Firstly, the fact that we are now having this discussion is amazing. Only five years ago it was still quite a taboo topic in most of the country. The turn out to the events all over the country were amazing. We, as a nation, are now ready to open-up to this aspect of life that has always been kept quiet, something that was to be ashamed of, shrugged off and come out with, “ah sure look, I’m grand, you know yourself.” We have all either said it or know someone who has said it. That’s not to say that we’re set now. This is only the groundwork for what can and will be a great future for the people of Ireland.
Growing up today is a unique time to grow up in. We are often painted by the older generations, and even by some within our own, as the “snowflake generation”, a word we are all very familiar with. However, let’s break that down. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information all day every day, what effect does that have on the brain, on your mind? Look at your Instagram feed and all you’ll see are images upon images of beautiful, idealistic people living beautiful, idealistic lives. The drive for perfectionism has sky-rocketed in today’s society, followed by a lack of a sense of self, especially at this age.
When leaving school or university the future is daunting and vast yet narrow and specific. There is an idea of a perfect life, perfect job, perfect partner. It’s almost impossible to see what our own idea of perfections is when it’s shown to us everyday beneath these glass screens. We are the first generation to see the lives of thousands each day, their happiest most posed moments. It is very easy to forget that on the other side of the screen, they too fight with their partner, friends and family, get upset, get angry, get lost, get sick, experience moments of low mental health, because we are all human.
Do you remember as a kid, you’d sit down on a Saturday and watch The Big Big Movie at half six in the evening? No matter what it was you would look forward to watching it. Today you sit down on a Saturday evening, with thousands of shows and films on Netflix and you think, “God there’s nothing to watch”. Our expectations have shot through the roof, and with that so have our expectations of ourselves.
I am in my final year of university. I knew that I eventually would get to this stage, but it was not until I reached this stage that I realised, “Oh, I really did get to this stage”, and with that came a massive wave of panic and pressure. How could I not know what I want to do yet? It was immensely frustrating to me that I didn’t even know what direction I wanted to take. After a year of studying and working in different countries it felt like such a step backwards coming back to university in Ireland, being a student again. After a year of what I call a Celtic Tiger regarding mental health, I began to feel it slipping away. The anxiety of being a final year student began to kick in. It took me about a month to actually snap out of this moment of sheer frustration and anxiety.
Prioritising my mental health
I realised that I needed to prioritise my mind and my mental health before everything, including work, university, relationships or friends. We need to prioritise our mental health. I guess, the question is, but how? How can we do that today?
I recently attended the Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit in Dublin. At the Summit they talked about how we need to try and create more of a distance between ourselves and our phones, even if its as simple as not taking your phone out when your mate goes to the bathroom, or on your break at work, and definitely not when you are out for a drink or food with friends or family. We need to fall back in love with reality. People are losing interest in it more and more every year.
Small steps to look after my mental health each day
Every morning I take an hour to myself before classes or work where I workout and then do some meditation. Now meditation is not what some of you might be thinking, sitting with your legs crossed, omming away. It can simply be sitting in silence with a mug of coffee or tea, no phone, no one else around, just yourself and your thoughts. It can be whatever interpretation you like, as long as it is just you and your thoughts for a few moments every day, it works.
Finally, mental health and well-being is never a quick fix. It is a lifelong process that we are all going through, some more than others, but all of us nevertheless. It is important not to forget that what we see on our phone is entertainment, and nothing more. Just like you wouldn’t take a film seriously, try to take what you see online with a pinch of salt. Be your own validator. Take responsibility for your own life. Get up and get going, the world is waiting.
If you are not sure what path you want to go down, if you want to do an undergraduate degree or masters degree, take some time out. It is something that not many parents or teachers encourage, but if you take that time and use it well, it could be the best thing you ever do. Travel, meet new people, experience new things that you would never do. For me the most important thing is to never let yourself get comfortable in your surroundings. There is always more out there, more to learn, to see and to experience. It is scary, sure, but the best things in life always are. Excitement and curiosity have always kept me going and I will forever swear by them as a key to life. Happiness does not come, it is up to you to go and find it. Find what it is to you. We all have our own individual ways to happiness.
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