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The Death of a loved one is a huge loss to those of us left behind. Bereavement causes a range of reactions and people experience grief in many different ways. The mourning process can take a long time and there is no fixed period after which a person can expect to feel better. This is essential to those who have experienced bereavement as it enables them to adapt to their loss and carry on with living.
So what reaction can we expect if someone we care about died?
The loss of a loved one leaves you feeling sad and lonely. You may suffer deep sorrow that you are without the love and understanding of that person. Losing a partner or a close friend may make you feel especially lovely as you were used to a close day by day relationship and shared everyday activities.
Anger is a frequent experience after such a loss. This comes from a sense of frustration that there was nothing anyone could do to prevent the death. You may also feel angry with the deceased person for leaving you.
Guilt and self-reproach are common responses to loss. You may feel guilty about things left undone, unresolved quarrels, words said or left unsaid. Usually people blame themselves for something that was neglected around the time of the death. To feel guilt is normal but usually unjustified.
Fatigue is frequently experienced, it may take the form of apathy or listlessness. This can be surprising and distressing to a person who is normally very active.
The pain of losing a loved one can often result in a sense of despair and helplessness, which is hard to breathe. This is extremely stressful.
The shock of the death may numb those left behind – leaving them bewildered, stunned and unable to think clearly. This occurs most often in the case of a sudden death. In a way, the shock protects those involved from being overwhelmed by feelings. After the death of someone close, those left behind may have a sense of longing to see, hold, hear and talk to the person who has died.
It is normal to experience a sense of relief when someone dies after a length or particularly painful illness. It is normal to feel relieved after a person with whom you have had a difficult relationship died. Guilt often accompanies this sense of relief, but it is a normal part of grieving.
Physical reactions are also often associated with acute grief and these play a significant role in the grieving process. Some such reactions include tightness in the chest and throat, feeling short of breath, hollowness in the stomach, muscular tension, diarrhoea, dry mouth, headaches, a sense of depersonalisation. If these symptoms persist or become of concern to you, consult your doctor for a check-up.
Certain thoughts, such as disbelief or confusion or preoccupation are common in the early stages of mourning. They usually fade after a short period of time. If they persist, they can lead to anxiety and depression.
Disbelief is often the initial response when hearing of a death. There is a feeling of unreality. This may continue for some time.
You may feel confused or unable to concentrate. It is difficult to get your thoughts in order and you may become forgetful.
You may become preoccupied with thoughts of the person who has died. You may find yourself concerned with how to recover them or have intrusive and distressing images of the person suffering or dying.
You may experience a feeling that the deceased person is somehow still in the current area of time and space. Hallucinations, both visual and auditory, are frequent experiences among bereaved people. These usually occur within a few weeks following a death.
Sometimes particular behaviours are associated with normal grief reactions. They usually correct themselves over time. They may include sleep and appetite disturbances, absentmindness, social withdrawal, dreams or nightmares of the deceased person, avoiding reminders of the deceased, sighing, over activity, crying, visiting places of carrying objects that remind you of the dead person and/or treasuring objects that belonged to them.
Adapting to the loss.
The mourning process enables those left behind after the death of a loved one to adapt to the new situation and get on with their live. It is therefore very important process to complete. There are a number of tasks associated with morning (Worden, 1991). They do not necessarily occur in a specific order, although often a particular sequence does occur. The tasks of the mourning process are as follows:
Accepting the reality of the loss
The first task of mourning is to come face to face with the reality that the person is dead. It involved intellectual and emotional acceptance of the finality of the loss. Many people try to protect themselves from this by denying the meaning of the loss. They may deny that they miss the deceased person or that the person has died at all. Belief and disbelief coexist while trying to come to grips with the reality of the loss. Traditional rituals, such as a funeral, help many bereaved people move toward acceptance of the death.
Working through the pain of grief
It is necessary to work through the emotions, behavioural and often physical pain of loss being experienced. Avoiding or suppressing this pain can result in the development of various symptoms, for example depression or heart disease. Not everyone experiences the same intensity of pain in the same way, but it is impossible to lose a loved one without experiencing some level of pain. Some people try to avoid this by denying the pain, avoiding painful thoughts and reminders of the dead person, and by using drugs and alcohol. This experience must be gone through so that a bereaved person does not end up carrying the pain with them through the rest of their lives. Space to do this is required even if society appears to give the indirect message that ‘you don’t need to grieve’.
Adjusting to a new environment in which the deceased is missing.
Adjustment to a new environment will mean different things to different people depending on their relationship with the deceased person and the various roles they played. It might mean for example, living alone, being without parental guidance and support, raising children alone or managing finances alone. Full recognition of the changed circumstances may take a considerable period of time.
Bereaved people may have to develop new skills and take on new roles. They are often confronted with the challenge of adjusting to their own sense of self. Attempts to fulfill the deceased’s roles may be met with initial resentment. These negative feelings usually give way to more positive ones as the bereaved learns new ways of dealing with the world.
As such a loss can challenge a person’s fundamental valued and beliefs, this may require the bereaved person to adjust to these too. Searching for meaning in the loss, especially where there are sudden and untimely deaths, may mean adoption of new beliefs or modification of the old ones to reflect that fragility of life and the limits of control.
Not adapting to the loss may mean that bereaved people may not develop the skills they need to cope with the new situation. They may withdraw from the world and develop a stance of helplessness.
Emotionally relocating the deceased person and moving on with life.
This entails finding an appropriate place for the dead person in one’s emotional life. It is about evolving some ongoing relationship with the thoughts and memories associated with them in a way that allows the bereaved to go on living effectively in the world. For many, this is the most difficult part of the mourning process. It can be hindered by holding onto the past attachment rather than going on and forming new ones. Later in life, the bereaved person may realise that their own life stopped in some way at the point that the death of their loved one occurred.
An indication of a completed mourning process is when a bereaved person is able to think of the deceased person without pain or intense crying. Mourning is over when people can reinvest their emotions back into life, feel more hopeful, experience gratification again and adjust to new roles.
How can we help ourselves in the mourning process?
Losing someone you love through death is a traumatic experience. A period of healing is needed in order for those left behind to be able to move forward with their lives. Mourning may absorb all our energies initially, but gradually the intensity of the pain will lessen. The process can helped by the following:
Alcoholism is the dependent relationship of a person to alcohol in expectation of a rewarding experience. Psychological, cultural, religious and social factors influence how people use alcohol and the likelihood that alcohol problems can develop in that person’s life. Alcohol dependence and misuse is different for each person in terms of the duration and pattern of alcohol use, the order of the appearance of symptoms, the extent of physical addiction and complications.
Drinking may be a part of student social life and in some situations it cannot be avoided. What is important is that each person recognises how alcohol affects them and takes responsibility for this.
There are many reasons why people drink, these include:
There are also reasons why people stop drinking alcohol or drink less. Things like:
The development of alcohol dependence can be triggered by excessive use of alcohol in the face of stress and personal adversity. On the extreme end of alcohol abuse, a person uses alcohol to survive and feel normal rather than to feel exhilarated. There are also Social Drinkers and Habitual Drinkers. Social Drinkers consider drinking a pleasurable experience with others. The key aspects of this pattern of alcohol use are choice and balance. Their desired end state is relaxation, and feeling more at ease. These drinkers usually avoid alcohol when faced with stress or situations where they are required to be at their best. Habitual Drinkers are alcohol abusers. They use it to get instant relaxation and relief but do not use it to see a massive change in their emotions or personality change. While they are heavy drinkers they would not always be described as alcohol dependent.
The person will have a constant need for an increased amount of alcohol to achieve the desired effect.
Temporary memory loss coincides with alcohol use where the person has been able to function but cannot remember details of behaviour and this happens on a regular basis.
This is a feeling triggered by initial feelings of relaxation when drinking alcohol. This promotes denial in a dependent drinker as drinking is associated with relaxation and fun despite negative consequences.
The person develops anticipation for and preoccupation with alcohol and their lifestyle changes to revolve around alcohol.
Elevated tolerance combined with mental obsession can lead to complete loss of choice. The person experiences loss of control over their drinking and cannot determine their behaviour under the influence. These symptoms lead to growing delusions, or the person becoming out of touch with reality. They account for the person's distorted perception, impaired judgement and inability to recognise the addiction. Additional signs of alcohol misuse are absences from work, lying, mood swings, poor coordination, not taking care of their physical appearance, being aggressive, getting into trouble with the law (e.g. fighting, disorderly conduct), and problems with attention or short term memory.
The way you drink alcohol is a habit, and it is important to identify and break this habit. You could try using a diary to note your drinking.
Make small changes:
If you feel you need help with a problem with alcohol come see UL Éist Student Counselling and Wellbeing during Drop-in hours. Drop-in runs from 10a.m.-11a.m and 2p.m-3p.m. each day during term time. In addition, you can log onto drugs.ie for more information. The HSE Drugs and Alcohol Helpline is a Freephone service (1800 459 459) which provides support, information, guidance and referral to anyone with a question or concern related to drug and alcohol use.
The Development of Sexual Orientation
People with predominately same sex orientation show similar stages of identity development - with individual variations of course. The following model or framework may provide a useful way of understanding this development. Not every individual follows each stage. It is also common for some people to work on the developmental tasks related to several different stages simultaneously.
May people may be uncertain about their sexual identity. Time may be needed to explore this. It is possible that at a conscious or pre-conscious level the child and family members know that even then the child’s sexual orientation ‘differs’. Often the young person feels alienated and ‘different’. Fear of rejection and ridicule create a barrier to the open acknowledgement of homosexual feelings. As a consequence, the person resolves the conflict through the use of certain defence mechanisms such as denial, repression or sublimation. (Sublimation is the channelling of conflictual feelings into socially acceptable behaviour).
The attempts to deny or repress feelings may lead to behavioural problems, psychosomatic illness, depression, low self-esteem and even suicide. Others may sublimate their feelings and become intensely absorbed in some socially valued activity such as school work, religion, music or art - where being alone is not regarded as being strange.
Facing your true identity and fears of being ‘different’ is a healthy approach to adopt. This is the process of “coming out”. It can begin at any age depending on a number of factors including family, personality and friends.
The first step in “coming out” is being true to yourself- acknowledging what you feel and who you are. This first step in identifying yourself as gay, lesbian or bisexual can take many years to complete. Self-identifying is a way of starting the “coming out” process. In a way you cannot fully tell other people you are gay, lesbian or bisexual until you have told yourself. At the same time, sharing this fact with someone else can function as the beginning of self-acceptance.
One technique to help in this process is to look at yourself in the mirror, see yourself for who you are, accept yourself looking back for who you are and say “I am gay”, “I am lesbian” or “I am bisexual”. Say it slowly over and over again. Another exercise is to find a quiet place to go for a walk. Bring a piece of paper and a pen. Write at the top of the sheet of paper “I am gay” or “I am lesbian” or “I am bisexual”. Now, write down all your feelings around this whether they are positive or negative. Keep this for the purpose of reflection- for times of confusion, anger, stress. Remind yourself that these feelings are OK.
It is a completely normal reaction for friends/family to be surprised and for them to need time to digest the news. This does not mean that they have taken the news negatively- but they may not have had the time you have to sit with this news. Encourage them to research or ask questions- this will help the understanding process.
Exploration / Experimentation
This is period of exploring and experimenting with a new sexual identity. There are several developmental tasks involved. The first is the development of interpersonal skills in order to socialise with others with a similar sexual orientation. Having being socialised as heterosexual, homosexual individuals may lack these skills. Secondly, there is a need for some to develop a sense of personal attractiveness and sexual competence. Thirdly, for some there is a need to recognise that self-esteem is not based upon sexual conquest.
The main task of this stage is to learn how to function in a homosexual relationship. The yearning for a more stable, committed relationship can be sabotaged by lingering negative attitudes about homosexuality. It is nice to remember that the person you are in a relationship with may not have had the same ‘coming out’ experience as you. It may have been challenging for them. Respect, support and honestly are key factors in any relationship. It is important to be mindful of yourself and the other person when going forward in a relationship.
This is an ongoing process of development where new feelings about yourself continue to emerge. Reintegration and self-definition takes place. Public and private identities are incorporated into a coherent self-image. Relationships at this point can be more successful.
An ‘eating disorder’ refers to a complex and potentially dangerous condition, which is characterised by extreme disturbances in eating, emotional or psychological distress and physical symptoms.
Behaviours characteristic to eating disorders include self-starvation (fasting and/or food restriction), purging (e.g. self-induced vomiting, over-exercising) and bingeing (consuming excessive amounts of food).
Anorexia Nervosa is a condition characterised by an overwhelming drive for thinness and an extreme fear of being or becoming fat.
A person will continuously attempt to attain and maintain a body weight lower than the normal body weight for their age, sex and height. They may also engage in excessive exercise and purging.
A person will attempt to purge themselves of food they have eaten, sometimes following a binge.
A person may engage in risky health behaviours such as prolonged fasting, excessive exercise and self-induced vomiting. The misuse of laxatives and other medications is also common.
People with bulimia nervosa often maintain a body weight within the normal body range for their age, sex, and height. Therefore, this eating disorder is harder to notice than anorexia.
A person will engage in continuous episodes of bingeing without purging.
They may gain a considerable amount of weight over time.
Binge eating disorder is more accurately characterized by its emotional symptoms
It may be that an issue around eating in school, developed in school years, becomes more prominent in the absence of friends and family. For the some, the change in situation can bring with it new and stressful emotions which you may not know how to cope with. Moving away from home and support can lead to a sense of anonymity, especially when you are faced large new classes and people.
For those who already have disordered eating behaviours the new process of planning meals and choosing food can become a challenge. As with any change, the best way to manage your experience is to get as much information as possible and how to prepare for challenges ahead.
Make an appointment with Eist Student Counselling and Well-Being by ringing 061-202327. The Counselling Service will provide you with support in coming to terms with the eating disorder. Also you can log onto www.bodywhys.ie for more information.
Managing your eating habits successfully means making changes to your lifestyle that you feel you can maintain. Fad diets and herbal teas/supplements will not have long term results. Here are some steps you can take towards having a healthier lifestyle:
Food cravings are often hard to resist and can lead to fast weight gain. By following a healthy meal plan you can beat these cravings. Aim to have planned regular healthy meals throughout the day. This will help keep you satisfied and prevent you getting hungry, making it easier to resist cravings.
Do not skip meals: When you skip a meal, you may snack on sugary or fatty foods. Following a healthy meal plan will keep you full and prevent you from needlessly snacking.
Eat Breakfast: Eat foods which are high in fibre and low in sugar (e.g. porridge, Branflakes, slices of wholegrain toast and a banana.)
Include foods that have a low glycaemic index with each meal. These foods keep you feeling fuller for longer. Examples of low glycaemic index foods are: multigrain bread, brown pasta or brown rice, apples, oranges, bananas, pears, cabbage, broccoli, peas and beans.
Distract yourself from giving into cravings: drink water or a sugar free drink. Delay your urges to give into cravings by; talking to someone watching TV, reading a book, going for a short walk– the craving to eat will pass.
Understand your cravings: Cravings lessen and eventually disappear as time goes on. Be aware of what triggers your cravings and have healthy snacks on hand if you feel you need to eat.
These are normal and understandable responses to stressful situations which we experience as threatening. Such feelings often result from finding it difficult to know what to do or how to cope with what is happening. These emotions can be very useful as they make us aware of danger. Sometimes, however, they appear to be irrational responses as the source of threat or danger is not obvious.
Both anxiety and fear can become disabling when their effects are so intense that they interfere with our ability to deal with day to day events. For example, they may result in panic attacks, generalised anxiety or phobias. Phobias involve fear of things or situations which are not really dangerous and therefore involve an unrealistic assessment of the danger involved.
The 'fight or flight' reaction triggered by fear is a pattern of chemical, physical and psychological changes that prepares us to cope with what we experience as a threatening situation. When we experience fear, adrenaline is pumped into the bloodstream. This can result in more powerful heartbeats, called palpitations, sweating, over-breathing, tension and muscle pain, nausea or fainting. Such effects can be easily mistaken for serious illness by those experiencing them. This in itself can lead to an escalation of these symptoms.
Fear and anxiety can also make us feel confused and scared. This can result from what we tell ourselves about our ability to cope with the threatening situation. Telling ourselves that we can't cope or are going to fail often impacts on our actual behaviour. We may start avoiding things, fidgeting, shouting, stuttering, becoming aggressive or crying.
What are your fears?
There are several methods for coping with the physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural responses to fear. These include:
Becoming aware of our fears - becoming conscious of what we feel and listening to what we tell ourselves about our ability to cope - can help greatly in overcoming our fears and anxieties. Here are some methods to help do this.
Preparation - "I've succeeded with this before".
Confronting the fear situation - "No need to rush", "Take it step by step", "I can do this".
Coping with fear - "I'm only afraid because I choose to be", "Keep my mind on the task at hand".
Reinforcing success - "I did well! It's possible not to be afraid. All I have to do is stop thinking I'm afraid".
Low mood affects many people. Research has shown that 78% of college students will show symptoms of depression in any given year and 46% will seek some form of professional help. The frequency, intensity and duration of symptoms are the criteria to determine whether someone is experiencing low mood or symptoms of depression.
There are at least nine symptoms associated with low mood. Persistent symptoms of low mood can lead to depression, and often this is when people feel like they need to get extra support. People who are experiencing depression will have at least five of these symptoms nearly every day all day for at least two weeks. The symptoms present a change from the person's normal behaviour and ability to function. It is common for people to experience some of these symptoms or low mood without being ‘depressed’. Some of these symptoms include:
Features also include headaches and other aches/pains, digestive problems, sexual problems, anxiety and excessive worry, feeling pessimistic or hopeless.
No one simple factor causes depression & low mood. There usually appears to be more than one reason. They vary from person to person. These include:
Among students, every case is affected by different things. Depression & low mood can occur regardless of the person's family history, background, medical history and life circumstances. The developmental issues in question involve:
Fluctuations in self-esteem usually reflect difficulties in these areas. Instances of depression & low mood in college students are usually associated with recent stressful events. Most students exhibit a low mood associated with feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness and anxiety. These symptoms occur within three months of a clearly definable stress - for example, poor academic achievement, the break-up of a relationship or financial problems. The event upsets the balance between autonomy and connectedness and this, in turn, may impair self-esteem. Sleep and appetite disturbances may occur but the full range of somatic symptoms of depression are absent. Although all the symptoms may not be present, the depression is severe enough to interfere with work and social activity. Treatment is a combination of cognitive counselling with a developmental approach. Recovery is relatively quick.
If you have symptoms that are getting in the way of your ability to function with your studies and your social life, ask for help. Depression can get better with care and treatment. Don’t wait for it to go away by itself or think you can manage it all on your own, and don’t ignore how you’re feeling. As a college student, you’re busy—but you need to ask for help. If you don’t ask for help, things may get worse and contribute to other health problems, while robbing you of the academic and social enjoyment and success that brought you to college in the first place.
Remember, the University of Limerick have a counselling service that provides help with all of the above symptoms. They provide a daily drop-in service (10a.m-11a.m. and 2p.m.-3p.m.), where you are free to talk with an assistant psychologist on how your mood is affecting you. After this, the assistant psychologist will create a plan tailored specifically to you in helping you move forward.
There are two approaches to treatment; these can be combined or used separately.
Besides seeing a doctor and a counselor, you can also help your mood by being patient with yourself and good to yourself. Don’t expect to get better immediately, but you will feel yourself improving gradually over time.
Remember that, by treating your mood, you are helping yourself succeed in college and after graduation.
Whether you are looking to improve your well-being in general or are struggling to cope with a challenging situation in college or your personal life, minding your mental health is very important. Try out some of our tips for well-being and good mental habits, as well as suggestions for dealing with tougher times.
Minding your mental health and maintaining healthy habits on a regular basis can help you deal with bigger problems as they occur.
Making time to relax is essential for maintaining good mental health. Fitting things into your day which help you unwind can help manage stress levels, even if it is only 10 minutes of downtime. While taking time off from a hectic schedule may seem daunting, giving yourself some relaxation time can massively decrease stress and give you new perspective before beginning work again.
Regular physical activity can give your mental health a positivity boost. Find something which keeps you active and which you also enjoy, such as a specific sport, walking, dancing or cycling, and just do it. While this may seem like hard work, it is worth the effort as regular exercise can help you feel more positive.
Eating healthily will not only affect how you feel, but how you think. Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and always carry a water bottle with you. Filling your body with good food will help your body to work properly and more efficiently.
No one is perfect and everyone is different. These different things, including background, gender, race and religion are important to who we are. Everyone is entitled to respect, including you. Don’t be too hard on yourself, or on others.
You don’t have to struggle in isolation. Friends are important, and maintaining contact with the people who care about you can help you feel close and connected to other people.
Excessively consuming alcohol to deal with difficulties and problems can often make things worse. Binge-drinking and consuming drugs will not help you deal with the cause of your problems. Alcohol is a depressant and can lead to reduced positivity, increased anxiety and depression.
Everyone can feel overwhelmed and isolated by problems and difficulties in their lives. Talking about how your feelings can stop bad thoughts from building up in your mind. Talk to someone you trust, or call a helpline – such as the Samaritans; 116 123.
People who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses or images that are experienced as intrusive and senseless.
These obsessions make the person do something to try and put the obsession right. This is called the compulsive behaviour. Compulsions are repetitive, purposeful and intentional behaviours that are performed in response to an obsession. The behaviour is designed to neutralise or to prevent discomfort or some dreaded event of situation. The compulsion is not connected in a realistic way to what it is geared to prevent or neutralise nor it is clearly excessive.
Both the obsessions and the compulsions can cause marked distress and can be time consuming. They can interfere with the person's normal routine, occupation, relationships and general social activity
Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects 1 to 2 people in 100. OCD usually starts in adolescence and young adult life. More males experience OCD at a younger age that females, but there does not seem to be any differences in gender.
OCD can affect people in different ways, it can affect the way people think, how they feel and what they do.
Signs of OCD:
Compulsive rituals provide temporary relief from the distress being experienced. This relief provided by the compulsive behaviours motivate use of the rituals again and again, but they never provide a lasting solution. The rituals usually involve specific sequences or patterns. To end the distress of obsessions, the compulsions must be performed in a certain ritualistic manner e.g. washing each finger separately a specific number of times.
People who have OCD often feel bad they are having such negative and intrusive thoughts. They feel relief by putting things right with their compulsions and this can make it very hard to stop the thoughts coming back or becoming stronger.
• Obsessions of contamination / washing
Washers and cleaners are consumed with obsessions about contamination and dirtiness by certain objects or situations e.g. germs, disease and chemicals. To eliminate contamination they create rituals e.g. washing hands repeatedly and excessively, or cleaning their houses repeatedly.
• Doubt (obsession) / Checking compulsion
People check things excessively in order to prevent a certain bad things from occurring. Common thoughts are checking doors are locked and windows to prevent burglary.
• Repetitive thoughts / Counting
Thinkers and counters use repetitive thoughts or images in order to counteract anxiety provoking thoughts or images – the obsessions. They will try to recall events in detail or repeat a mental list as a way to ensure safety.
• Order and Precision
Everything must be arranged in precise ways, including patterns, and people can become upset if someone else rearranges their possessions. Usually they do not fear impending catastrophe but rather feel compelled to engage in the ritualistic action when things are not presented in the correct order.
These experience repetitious negative thoughts that are uncontrollable and quite upsetting. However unlike those with any of the above forms of OCD, they do not engage in repetitious behaviours such as hand washing or checking locked doors, and they do not have compulsions such as praying or counting.
There are several ideas about the causes of obsessive-compulsive behaviour. One idea is that it is a behaviour which has been learned, in which the person comes to recognise that performance of rituals is accompanied by relief from their obsessional thoughts and this reinforces the ritual.
Another idea suggests OCD is rooted in our biological make-up. This idea suggests that abnormalities in certain neurotransmitters may be involved. Neurotransmitters regulate mood, aggression and impulsivity. Altered levels of serotonin, a type of neurotransmitter, are thought to be an important factor in people with OCD.
No research has proven that OCD runs in families. However, it has been found that relatives of OC's are more likely than the average person to have other anxiety related problems. There is also a strong connection between OCD and depression. It is believed that two thirds of people with OCD will experience depression at some point in their lives.
A person’s psychological processes can also influence the onset and maintenance of OCD. For example, low self-esteem. If a person's self-esteem is low, they are more likely to affected by their own mistakes and put more pressure on themselves to get things right. It is this kind of thinking that can lead to obsessional thought.
Can OCD be treated?
Can regular physical activity improve my mental health?
Absolutely! While the physical health benefits of regular physical activity are pretty well known (including reduced risk of cancers), you may not know that regular physical activity also has significant benefits for mental health.
There is a large amount of evidence to support the positive effects of exercise training, including aerobic exercises, resistance exercises, yoga, and Pilates training to improve anxiety, worry, depression, fatigue, sleep, pain, and cognitive abilities.
What are the recommended levels of physical activity to maintain and improve health?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or an equivalent combination per week for physical and mental health benefits. In addition, the WHO and the American College of Sports Medicine recommends engaging in at least two days of two sets of 8-12 repetitions each of muscle strengthening exercises that target the major muscle groups, including legs, chest, back, shoulders and arms.
What does that mean in practice?
Adults should accumulate 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity weekly and engage in moderate intensity muscle strengthening exercises at least two days per week. Moderate intensity aerobic exercises, like walking, jogging, running, and cycling, normally causes you to breathe harder than normal but you are still able to talk, and feels like a medium amount of effort. For resistance exercise, two sets of 8-12 repetitions should be completed on each exercise at an intensity that can only be completed for 8 to 12 repetitions with correct technique/form. .
How can I achieve recommended levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity?
An adult can achieve 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week by:
• Walking at about 5 kilometres per hour (km/h) for 180 minutes (approximately 14.5 km).
• Walking faster at about 6.5 km/h for 120 minutes (approximately 13 km).
• Jogging or running at about 10km/h for about 60 minutes/week (approximately 10 km).
On campus that means....
• PESS Building to Pavilion (1.3km, 12mins) and back three days a week
• Start at Foundation Building – past ERB building and Millstream – then over the Living Bridge – path down past Thomond Student Village – over the University Bridge – through Dromroe Village, pass Ciaran’s Restaurant – over the footbridge and through car park – back to Foundation Building. (1.8kms, 18mins) four days a week
• Start at Main University Building – down to Student Centre – along road down past Arena – down to the East Gate Entrance – turn right – walk along main road there – down to Main University Entrance – turn right into the entrance – walk along path – turn left at the roundabout – pass Schuman Building on your right – pedestrian crossing – turn right and walk straight back towards Main Building. (2.4kms, 25mins) three days a week.
For further information:
Essentially, procrastination means putting off until tomorrow something that you could do today. This may come in the form of an assignment, studying for exams, making an appointment, or even arranging to meet up with someone. Students frequently report that they would be less stressed and more productive if they could just stop this bad habit.
Difficulties in being productive may stem from various sources and the causes of procrastination may be different for different people. Here are some of the most common reasons that make people procrastinate.
One simple way to improve your motivation is through goal setting. Try the technique SMART.
S- Specific. Set specific goals. Decide a specific time and day that you are planning to do some study.
M - Measurable. Continuously measure progress towards your goal. For example, ticking off items from a "To do list".
A- Action Related. Identify the necessary actions required to achieve your goal. If you have to start an assignment, the first step might be to take out appropriate books from the library. The second step would be to begin reading on the subject, the third to decide on a particular topic and then narrow your focus.
R - Realistic. Ensure that your study goals are realistic and can be accomplished.
T - Time based. A good idea would be to work back from a deadline when planning your study.
We can look at procrastination by examining separately each of the components: Affect (emotions and sensations), Behaviour (actions) and Cognitions (thoughts and beliefs), by using the ABC method.
Although Affect, Behaviour and Cognitions can be examined separately they are all connected as parts of a person as each component is constantly interacting and influencing another.
1. Identify it
Identify one task you are putting off unnecessarily and that you want to start doing.
2. Think about it
3. Look at your own ABC interaction
Identify which component is triggers your procrastination and in what order the other components follow. For example, you may think you will fail an exam and feel anxious about starting studying and then delay looking at your notes. In this case the firing order is CAB and C (your cognition or thought) begins the interaction.
By identifying your trigger for procrastination you can start to change it.
What is important about the task you have been putting off? Make a list about the benefits of finishing it, including how you will feel when the task is done.
Break big, daunting tasks into small ones, for example, if you have readings to catch up on, divide them into two pages sections. Make a list of pages and cross them off as you complete them and reward yourself as you go along.
On a piece of paper, write for example "I intend to cover two topics of my exam by 7p.m". Place this card somewhere you can see it.
Tell your housemates, class members, family and whoever will listen what you intend to do. This holds you accountable for the task.
But only do this if you complete the task, there is no use in giving up and watching T.V. after a few minutes of studying.
Don’t give yourself time to think about the task, just dive right in. Do it now. You’ll often find if you just begin a task, you become more motivated to continue.
If you always study at home, try the library. If it’s sunny outside, sit in a sunny corner.
Relationships have many forms and are an important part of our lives. Relationships can have significant impact on our quality of life. Healthy relationships can enrich our lives and create endless enjoyment. However, unhealthy relationships can cause us discomfort, and sometimes even cause harm. It is important for us to learn to manage our relationships and recognise the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. When we talk about relationships, we are also talking about our friendships, what they bring or do not bring to our lives.
Healthy relationships require work and need to be maintained. There are a number of characteristics essential to a healthy relationship:
This applies to all relationships; work relationships, friendships, family, and romantic relationships. While in a healthy relationship you:
Every relationship will have stressors but it is important to prevent prolonged stress on either member of the relationship. Unhealthy relationships will experience these stressors more frequently and they will become difficult to avoid. This tension is unhealthy for both members of the relationship and may lead to problems in other areas of your life.
While in an unhealthy relationship you mimght:
Emotional dependency is the state or fact of being dependent on someone for emotional support and validation. When we consistently count on others for happiness, reassurance or comfort we can forget to appreciate our own capabilities and take responsibility for our feelings. It is important to maintain your individuality when you are in a relationship. Having interests which are not shared by your partner gives you a space to be yourself, have your own group of friends, and allow you to be true to yourself. Being able to spend time without your partner is a healthy part of a stable relationship and maintaining your sense of self.
Even if you knew your relationship was in trouble, an actual break-up can be a shock. Feeling rejected, hurt and angry are common elements in a break-up. There is no quick fix solution, however there are things you can do to ease these feelings.
Not all relationships are romantic. We have relationships with lots of people in our lives- some positive, some potentially toxic. Toxic friendships look different to everyone but at the core is a feeling of unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Often toxic friendships are accompanied by peer pressure. Peer pressure can be direct (when someone tells you what you should/should not be doing), indirect (what one sees and hears others doing), and individual (feeling of being different/wanting to fit in). This pressure can turn a relationship toxic before we know it.
Recognising a toxic friendship
Ending a toxic friendship
Being an individual means making decisions based on what’s best for us. However you do it, it isn’t easy getting rid of toxic friends. Because each friendship is different, ending a friendship will be different for everyone.
Remember that ending friendships, even toxic ones, can be tough. Set up a plan for things you can do when you’re feeling low, or other friends you can hang out with when you need some company.
Fading out a friendship can change the dynamics of a whole friendship group. Your friend could become aggressive or cruel towards you, and you might lose some of your mutual friends. Keep your other friends in the loop by saying something like: ‘This person and I aren’t friends anymore, but we don’t expect you to take sides.’
Information with thanks to ReachOut.ie, ReachOut Australia & Hall Health Centre, University of Washington
University is an excellent opportunity to get to know other people. You have the opportunity to meet friends from all different backgrounds and walks of life. However, adapting to this brings with it certain challenges. Culture shock refers to a feeling of disorientation or discomfort when subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
Our brains are designed to process information quickly and effectively. To help us do that; we unconsciously create mental short-cuts for understanding the world around us. These are automatic, meaning that we do not have to put any thought into them to ensure their occurrence. However, many of these shortcuts are not helpful. Some common examples of which you might recognise include jumping to conclusions and all or nothing thinking .
These thughts proccess may contribute to culture shock in different ways, but may generally look like perceiving differences in others as "strange". Becoming aware of errors in logic, which causes unbalanced thought can be an integral part of good mental health for lots of people.
That's why, catching these errors will be beneficial to help you handle culture shock and recognise that no matter how small, there are positives to be appreciated.
How else can you manage these uncomfortable feelings?
1) Learn as much about a culture as you can before you make your judgement.
2) Build support networks as soon as you arrive in university.
3) Focus on the positive aspects of the new culture (what’s good about it?).
4) Seek out guidance from similar, like-minded colleagues and friends.
5) Give yourself time to adapt.
6) Retain a sense of humour!
You can read further tips for managing culture shock; here. This is from workshop material we have presented to other students going through the exact same thing. In that, remember, it’s common to feel this way. Especially at the start of your journey, but there are strategies you can use to improve your resilience, help you adapt to the new culture and enjoy your adventure!
Self-harm involves inflicting injuries or pain on one's own body and this can take many forms. The most common form of self-harm is probably cutting oneself. Self-harming can also take the form of a person burning, beating, picking at, biting, scratching their skin, using harmful substances, picking at their nails until they bleed, slapping oneself, drinking caustic substances etc.
It may be helpful to try and identify when, how and where you self-harm. Keep a diary about your feelings and what makes you feel like self-harming. If you know what happens to make you injure yourself, you can try to work out how to change things.
Less damaging alternatives in causing pain are:
Alternatives to help manage painful experiences:
Alternative ways to value your body:
Talking to other people is important, and can begin the process of healing. Talking about self –harm can be painful, so talk to someone who you can trust and who will be sensitive to what your feeling.
For people who self –harm the main goal is to stop. Often the person might need to talk to a counsellor and work through their experiences. Sometime a person will require counselling at the same time as s/he is seeking alternatives to self-harm.
Lots of people have difficulty getting or staying asleep. Having problems with sleep can happen to anyone, and has different effects. Not being able to sleep properly is sometimes called insomnia, and can become a problem as we need sleep to keep healthy.
When you fall asleep, you go through different stages – and there are two main ones:
During this stage your brain is very active, and dreaming occurs. This stage comes and goes throughout the night, and your muscles are relaxed.
Your body moves around more frequently during this stage, but your brain is much less active. Your body is repairing itself after the day, and hormones are slowly released into the bloodstream. You can move between REM and non-REM sleep about 5 times during the night.
The amount of sleep we need depends on lots of things, and is different for everyone.
Most adults need between 7-8 hours, but the amount of time you are sleeping can depend on what you do throughout the day, if you are stressed, or if you are on medication.
But I feel like I never sleep?
The short times when you are awake in bed can seem much longer than they really are. Sometimes you can think you are not getting as much sleep as you actually are.
What happens if I don’t sleep?
Not sleeping well occasionally may cause you to feel tired the next day, but won’t harm your overall health. However, if you are consistently not sleeping well, this can have negative effects:
Lack of sleep can make us feel physically unwell as well as stressed and anxious, and scientists also believe that it contributes to heart disease, premature ageing and road accident deaths.
There are lots of different sleeping problems:
Sleeping problems can cause you to not get enough sleep or feel well-rested, and can result in insomnia (sleeping too little).
There are many reasons for not sleeping well:
Worrying about not being able to sleep can stop you from getting to sleep or not sleeping well. Staring at the clock or lying awake can make you anxious which in turn will affect your sleeping.
Think about what could be causing you to not be getting enough sleep – is there something which is worrying you? Are you drinking caffeinated drinks before bed? If you can discover what the problem may be, it is easier to find ways to make it better.
Remember that not getting enough sleep will not harm you, and you will eventually fall asleep after a while. Worrying about sleep can make things worse and keep you awake for longer.
Take your mind of sleeping by reading, relaxing or thinking about planning something nice, like an outing or holiday.
Some tips that you may find helpful:
Social Anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety and affects both men and women of all ages. Most of us feel shy or anxious in social situations at some point; however this may get more serious for some individuals. Some may find that their relationships, friendships, career and life general can be greatly restricted or affected by this problem.
In brief, people experiencing social anxiety may fear what others think of them (usually that others will see them in a negative light), may believe that others are better than them or that they are being watched closely in social situations. This, in turn, affects the body, thoughts and behaviours. We will go through the effects that social anxiety has on the body and mind in this leaflet.
This can result in a person avoiding social situations completely.
Below are some ways that you can identify how social anxiety manifests in the body when placed in a social situation.
Below are some ways that you can identify how social anxiety manifests in the mind when placed in a social situation. These are some examples of thoughts or ways we may feel that may come to mind when experiencing social anxiety.
As a result, you often end up avoiding social situations completely, creating excuses as to why you ‘can’t’ attend. You may even avoid telephone calls, or visitors.
Sometimes, people with social anxiety can and do attend social situations, but they need something to ‘help them through it’. Quite often people use alcohol, drugs and smoking to ‘mask’ how they are really feeling in social situations. People also offer to help at all social situations so they can keep busy, rehearse what they will say, sit in a corner, plan your exit (by staging calls from family members) in order to leave as soon as possible.
These are avoidance behaviours, and will only help the social anxiety for a very short period of time. There are many other ways to help your social anxiety long-term.
It may be helpful to try and identify when, how and where you experience social anxiety. Keep a diary about your feelings and what makes you feel anxious about social situations. If you know what happens to make you injure yourself, you can try to work out how to change things.
Remember, the University of Limerick have a counselling service that provides help with all of the above symptoms. They provide a daily drop-in service, where you are free to have a chat with an assistant psychologist on how your social anxiety is affect you. After this brief chat, the assistant psychologist will create a plan tailored specifically to you in helping you to manage and overcome your social anxiety.
When someone you care about is struggling, it can be really difficult and you may experience a mix of emotions: concern, disbelief, anger, anxiety, compassion… this is normal and understandable.
Providing support to someone else can be draining, leaving you feeling exhausted. It is important to notice the impact of this on your own mental health and wellbeing. Before you can support them, you need to make sure you are supported and looking after yourself.
Know your limits
Be realistic about what support you can offer and try not to take on too much.
Talk to someone you trust or link in with the student counselling service.
Take a break
Make time to do something nice for yourself.
Listen more than you talk. Ask open ended questions, “how are you feeling?” to encourage them to talk.
Be there as someone they can trust
Let them know you care, spend time with them, chat over a cup of tea- avoid drugs and alcohol
Don’t assume you know what’s best for them
Everyone experiences life differently. Don’t try to “fix things”. Instead, ask your friend how they would like to be supported.
Normalise mental health
Talk about it. It’s ok not to be ok. Make sure your friend hears that.
Encourage them to get support
Make it ok to need help, offer to go with them to whatever support service they decide on.
While it can be frustrating when someone you care about doesn’t want help, there are limits to what you can do. Try to be patient with them, be there, ready to help, but do not push them.
If you have talked to your friend and are still worried, it may be time to contact a family member and tell them your concerns. Attend UL Éist during drop-in hours (Room CM073, 10am & 2pm) and express concern for your friend. Try and encourage your friend to come.
Check out our e-resources and helpline information leaflet for some more support services in the Limerick area.
In an emergency call the Emergency Services on 112 or 999.
Academic success is not simply achieved through constant studying, rather it is achieved by keeping a sensible balance between academic and non-academic interests. On the one hand, you will not want to feel a slave to a rigid timetable, but on the other, if you fall behind with your studies you will have to work even harder than usual to catch up.
A number of time-management techniques are described below. As different people have different time clocks and prefer different time-management strategies, what works for another student will not necessarily work for you. The idea is to experiment with a variety of techniques and discover the ones that suit you best. You can also test and modify a particular plan or compile your own. The first step is to monitor how you can use your time, and then work on planning it.
First, calculate how much time (in hours) you spent on the following activities during the last week: sleeping, eating, self-care, travelling, errands, hobbies, exercise, lectures, homework, study, socialising. Then consider the following questions:
Use a List of Things to Do
This is a short-term planner, covering a 24 hour period.
Use a Timetable
Use a "Things to do" list for the Week
The same principles as compiling a timetable apply here. In addition:
How to get the most out of time
Please note, UL Éist do not:
- Provide certificates for attendance
- Extend assignment deadlines
- Give interviews for coursework
To access the counselling service, you need to come to drop-in first. There is no need to make an appointment for drop-in, simply call in during our drop-in hours.
Drop In: 10-11a.m. & 2-3p.m. daily
Please note, intake forms must be filled out no later than 10 minutes prior to the end of drop-in. You will be asked to fill in some demographic details and a baseline screening questionnaire on an Ipad. You will then meet with an Assistant Psychologist for 10-15mins. Occasionally, drop-in gets very busy. It is possible that not everyone will be seen within the drop-in hour. Should this happen, you are welcome to return at the next drop-in time.
Find Us: CM073, Main Building
Contact No: 061-202327
Ger Hanley - Monday 5-6.30pm during term time Email: firstname.lastname@example.org