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Self-Help Leaflets

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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.

 

Relax

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.

Keep Active

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.

Eat Healthily

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.

Becoming comfortable with who you are

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.

Keep in Touch

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.

Watch your Alcohol Consumption

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.

Talk about it

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.

Afraid? Anxious? Worried?

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.

 

So what is fear?

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?

  • Fears expressed by students may include the fear of failure, disapproval and rejection. This results from associating one's self-worth with external success, expecting oneself to be perfect, failing to take into consideration one's own needs and wants, assuming responsibility for others' feelings and harsh self-criticism.
  • A fear of competition and success can also often be experienced by students when competition is viewed as a means of comparing oneself with others and not as a challenge and motivation to do one's best.
  • Fear of change may also be experienced when there is an overestimation of the chances of disaster. Change is perceived as a threat rather than an opportunity to have new experiences. It also relates to self-esteem being bound up in one's surroundings.
  • A fear of intimacy can also be an issue for many. This usually stems from negative early experiences, for example an abusive environment, which discourages closeness in the present. It entails associating vulnerability with weakness and inferiority. This in turn can lead to attempts to either control or avoid people.

 

How can we cope better with fear and anxiety?

There are several methods for coping with the physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural responses to fear. These include:

  • Dealing with the physical symptoms of fear including the use of relaxation and breathing exercises.
  • Assertiveness training.
  • Controlling those aspects of the fearful situation that can be controlled. This may include, for example, the choice of a 'task' that matches the individual's preferences and talents, dealing with procrastination, preparing material thoroughly or sharing experiences with friends and associates.
  • Dealing with fear-provoking thoughts.
  • Counselling may help you to develop strategies to manage your fears. It may also help you to understand and process any underlying issues or meanings of your fears.

 

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.

 

  1. Make a list of all your current life situations which trigger fear. Rank the fearful experiences in order, from the least to the most fear-producing, on a scale from 0-100. For example, "being alone at night because your flatmate is working late" might be ranked 55 points, and "making a presentation in class", 70 points. Start with the least fearful and construct a vivid image of it.
  2. Record your fear-producing thoughts. Write down your thoughts about the event, including subjective assumptions, beliefs, judgements and predictions. Record what you say to yourself about your worth.
  3. Dispute your self-talk, what you are saying about yourself. Look for supporting data of your fear-provoking thoughts, from direct experience, indirect experience and rumour. Ask questions such as "Where is the evidence for this idea? Where is this written? Is there any support for my belief?"
  4. Imagine the worst case. Ask questions such as "What is the worst thing that could happen? What are the worst consequences if the worst thing happened? How tolerable would the consequences be? How likely is it that the worst will happen? What good things may occur?
  5. Replace the statements you recorded under task 2 with more reasonable, objective, statements. Work on writing a list of coping thoughts for the following four stages of coping:

 

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.

What are the symptoms associated with low mood?



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:

  • Depressed mood (feeling sad, blue, being tearful) or sometimes irritable mood or 
  • Loss of interest or pleasure (feeling 'flat' or 'empty') in all or almost all activities s/he used to enjoy.
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain when not dieting, or decrease or increase in appetite 
  • Sleep disturbance - either trouble sleeping or sleeping too much 
  • Feeling restless or slowed down 
  • Decreased energy or feeling tired 
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach or inappropriate guilt 
  • Diminished ability to think, concentrate, remember or make decisions 
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt, or a specific plan for committing suicide.

Features also include headaches and other aches/pains, digestive problems, sexual problems, anxiety and excessive worry, feeling pessimistic or hopeless.

What are the causes of low mood/depression?



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:

  • People with a family history of depression & low mood have an increased probability of having depression because of individual make-up including body chemistry or because of certain early experiences
  • Distressing events and surrounding circumstances can contribute to depression & low mood. For example, if we are alone and friendless and have many other worries we may get seriously depressed whereas in happier times we can cope
  • Depression & low mood are a common accompaniment to physical illness, especially those which are life-threatening like cancer or heart disease. Similarly depressive episodes appear to occur more often in individuals with a history of drug dependence and certain psychiatric conditions
  • A person's deeper beliefs and assumptions can predispose him or her to depression& low mood. In effect, people's thoughts include three key elements:
    • a concept of themselves as in some way worthless, failed or to blame for their own or other people's plight
    • a view that the world is devoid of pleasure or gratification and that immense barriers block access to goals
    • a view that the future is hopeless.

 

Depression & low mood in College



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:

  • changes in the balance between the capacity for independence and availability of emotional support
  • over-reliance on external standards of success at the expense of one's own ideals, abilities or health.

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 I think I may have depression or low mood, where can I get help?

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.

What treatment is available for depression?



There are two approaches to treatment; these can be combined or used separately.

  • Counselling/psychotherapy: this involves talking about your feelings to a professional therapist who listens, understands and helps you explore the possible reasons and manage your depression.
  • Antidepressant medication: this is prescribed by a doctor. When the depression is severe or of long duration, antidepressants are very effective and need to be taken for a period of four to six months. Antidepressants have some side effects that may last for a short period of time and are not addictive. Consult fully with your doctor in relation to this treatment.

What else can I do?

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.

  • Daily exercise, spending time outside in nature and in the sun, and eating healthy foods can also help you feel better.
  • Get enough sleep. Try to have consistent sleep habits and avoid all-night study sessions.
  • Your counselor may teach you how to be aware of your feelings and teach you relaxation techniques. Use these when you start feeling down or upset.
  • Avoid using drugs and at least minimize, if not totally avoid, alcohol.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, and do what you can as you can; try not to do too many things at once.
  • Try to spend time with supportive family members or friends, and take advantage of campus resources, such as student support groups. Talking with your parents, guardian, or other students who listen and care about you gives you support.
  • Try to get out with friends and try fun things that help you express yourself. As you recover from depression, you may find that even if you don’t feel like going out with friends, if you push yourself to do so, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself more than you thought.

Remember that, by treating your mood, you are helping yourself succeed in college and after graduation.

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.

What causes social anxiety?

  • Almost all of us experience mild anxiousness, nervousness at some point in our life. For example, when attending a meeting when you might not know everyone present.
  • Social anxiety can often be related to low self-esteem or a poor opinion of the self.
  • It ‘typically’ starts in childhood or the adolescent years and can progress onto adulthood.
  • Some people are naturally more anxious than others in social situations and have learned to worry in social situations.
  • However, sometimes social anxiety can be a result of being bullied, a critical parent etc.

This can result in a person avoiding social situations completely.

Social anxiety in the body:

Below are some ways that you can identify how social anxiety manifests in the body when placed in a social situation.

  • Heart racing/pounding
  • Chest feeling tight/painful
  • Tingling/numbness in toes/fingers
  • Having to go to the toilet
  • Dry mouth
  • Breathing changes
  • Blushing
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating

 

Social Anxiety in the mind:

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.

  • You may think you are acting in a way that is embarrassing to others
  • You may feel fearful of social situations, and also know that your fear is unreasonable.
  • Thinking you are making a ‘fool of myself’, ‘I am boring’, ‘I am strange’, ‘if I get it wrong people will not like me’ etc.
  • Creating a negative self-image and thinking that this is how everyone else will see you e.g. my friends see me as ‘boring’, ‘weak’, ‘timid’, ‘uninteresting’, ‘foolish’ etc.
  • Before you go into a social situation you are fearful, and thing that it will go badly.
  • After you come from a social situation you think ‘That was awful. I will never do that again’

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.

 

Ways to overcome 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.

  • Understanding Social Anxiety- how it manifests in the body and mind
  • Reducing negative thoughts/beliefs by challenging your usual thoughts/behaviours
  • Deep and mindful breathing and relaxation- this works with tackling the physical symptoms of social anxiety
  • Creating a ‘small steps’ plan, and take little steps to tackling the behaviours you usually use to ‘hide’ your social anxiety. For example, if you usually eat lunch in your office/room, try going to the canteen.
  • Reminding yourself that this is a long-term plan, and don’t feel bad when symptoms don’t go away overnight.
  • Reducing how much you focus on yourself.
  • Seek further help if having problem/looking for advice on any of the above.

 

How else can you help yourself?

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.

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

Healthy relationships require work and need to be maintained. There are a number of characteristics essential to a healthy relationship:

  • Mutual respect
  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Support
  • Fairness/equality
  • Separate identities
  • Good communication
  • A sense of playfulness/fondness

 

This applies to all relationships; work relationships, friendships, family, and romantic relationships. While in a healthy relationship you:

  • Feel you can communicate openly together
  • Maintain and respect each other’s individuality
  • Maintain relationships with friends and family
  • Enjoy shared activities
  • Also have activities apart from one another
  • Are able to express yourselves to one another without fear of consequences
  • Are able to feel secure and comfortable
  • Have the option of privacy and personal space
  • Trust each other and be honest with each other
  • Respect boundaries; sexual and otherwise
  • Resolve conflict fairly

Unhealthy relationships

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:

  • Put one person before the other by neglecting yourself or your partner
  • Feel pressure to change who you are for the other person
  • Feel pressure to quit activities you usually/used to enjoy
  • Pressure the other person into agreeing with you or changing to suit you better
  • Notice one of you has to justify your actions (e.g., where you go, who you see)
  • Notice one partner feels obligated to/has been forced to have sex or refuses to use safer sex methods
  • Notice arguments are not settled fairly
  • Experience yelling or physical violence during an argument
  • Attempt to control or manipulate each other
  • Do not make time to spend with one another
  • Experience a lack of fairness and equality

Emotional dependency

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.

How to handle a break-up

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.

 

  • Talk to someone about how you’re feeling
    • This can be a friend, family member or a professional. Acknowledging your feelings will help you come to terms with the end of a relationship.
  • Try to get some space away from your ex.
    • Removing their number from your phone or unfollowing them on social media can make a difference in how you handle the change in your relationship.
  • Try something new
    • Make new memories, try that course you always wanted to do, visit that place you dreamed about, explore.
  • Remind yourself you’re ok
    • Think about your achievements, your friends, things make you laugh, and the positive things people have said about you.

Toxic friendships

 

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

  • Your friend criticises you regularly.
  • Communication is a one way street- they do all the talking and never ask about you, your life, or your opinion.
  • You feel stressed when you are with him/her.
  • They are inconsistent in their interactions with you.
  • They lack empathy towards you.
  • They are ignorant to events in your life.
  • They break your trust.
  • They do not appreciate things you do for them.

 

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.

  • Some friendships will fade away when communication wanes. This can involve not answering texts, not returning phonecalls. Making fewer plans to meet-up or spending less time together can also lead to a fading of a friendship. This is particularly effective if you are the one who calls first or the one who arranges plans.
  • Sometimes you will need to sit down with the person and let them know that the friendship is over. This is a pretty tough option and requires a lot of courage from you. There a few things to remember if you feel this option is best for you.
  • Think about (or write down) what you are going to say.
  • Try to use ‘I’ statements to avoid the potential conflict that can come with ‘You’ statements.
  • Time it right- avoid special occasions or important events.
  • Try to choose a neutral venue rather than one of your houses.
  • If your friend is bullying you or pressuring you, you don’t owe them anything. Their behaviour is not okay, and you have the right to remove yourself from their company.

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

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.

Why do people self-harm?

  • Helps them to deal with bad thoughts and feelings
  • Surviving emotional distress
  • Re-creating earlier experiences
  • A means to communicate abuse
  • To try and get people to listen
  • Provide meaning to negative experiences
  • Release of tension steaming from anxiety, grief or anger
  • To relieve feeling of guilt or shame
  • To gain control over one's life

Myths about self-harm

  • Self-harm is a suicide attempt
  • Self-harm is a form of attention-seeking
  • A person who self-injures is a dangerous individual

 

If you want to help someone who self-harms: 

  • Show them your understanding and support
  • Try to talk to them about their feelings and encourage them to speak about how their thoughts
  • Encourage the person to seek help, you should only offer as much as you can cope with and don't try to take responsibility for stopping them from hurting themselves.

 

Self-help – How to deal with self-harm

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:

  • Having an elastic band around the wrist and snapping the skin with it
  • Using boxing gloves and punching a punch-bag

 

Alternatives to help manage painful experiences:

  • Breathing deeply
  • Tell yourself out loud that you will be ok and the feelings are just memories from the past
  • Having a special item to hold or look at for comfort
  • Distract yourself with an activity you like doing
  • Chat to family or friends
  • Write your feelings down

 

Alternative ways to value your body:

  • Rub your arm or leg with your hand feeling the sensation when your skin touches your skin
  • Stamping your feet until you can feel them
  • Drinking a cup or tea or ice water and focus on the temperature changes in your mouth and stomach

 

How else can you help yourself?

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.

 

What happens when you sleep?

When you fall asleep, you go through different stages – and there are two main ones:

  • Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep

During this stage your brain is very active, and dreaming occurs. This stage comes and goes throughout the night, and your muscles are relaxed.

  • Non-REM sleep

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.

How much sleep do I need?

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:

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Starting to feel low or depressed
  • Worrying about not being able to sleep during the day

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.

How do I know if I have a sleeping problem?

There are lots of different sleeping problems:

  • Getting to sleep – finding it difficult to fall asleep. People can lie awake for hours before they eventually drift off to sleep.
  • Staying asleep – being able to fall asleep but wake up throughout the night. Some people also find it difficult to get back to sleep when the wake in the night.
  • Waking too early – waking up early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep again.

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:

  • Your bedroom is too noisy, too hot, too cold
  • You do not have a regular bedtime routine
  • You aren’t getting enough exercise
  • You eat too late or go to bed hungry
  • Alcohol and drinks containing caffeine prevent you from having a good night’s sleep
  • Anxiety and worry
  • Depression/Low mood
  • Physical problems

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.

What can I do to help myself?

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:

 

Do

  • Make sure your bed is comfortable and your bedroom is not too hot, too cold, or too noisy.
  • Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time each day.
  • Take some time to relax and unwind before bed. Some people find mediation or aromatherapy helpful.
  • Get some exercise. The optimal time to exercise is during the day, and exercising too late may disturb your sleep.
  • If you are worried about something try writing it down before bed, and tell yourself you can deal with it tomorrow.

 

Don’t

  • Don’t drink tea, coffee, or energy drinks close to bedtime.
  • Don’t go to bed until you are tired
  • Don’t stay in bed longer in the day to catch up on sleep.
  • Don’t drink a lot of alcohol. It may help you fall asleep, but will lead to disturbed sleep throughout the night

 

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.

What is alcohol?

  • Alcohol is a chemical substance made of sugar
  • Every drink has different amounts of alcohol in it, and is measured in units. You can easily see how many units are in a drink from reading the bottle or can containing alcohol.
  • Alcohol also has calories, and you are at risk of putting on weight if you drink to excess.
  • Alcohol goes into your blood and affects what you do and how you see things. Getting fresh air, drinking coffee or taking a cold shower will not help your body get rid of alcohol.

Why do I drink?

There are many reasons why people drink, these include:

  • Your friends drink
  • It helps you relax or have fun
  • It helps you sleep
  • It helps you relax when out socialising
  • You are bored
  • You get nervous if you don’t drink
  • You feel low or depressed
  • You like the feeling of being drunk

There are also reasons why people stop drinking alcohol or drink less. Things like:

  • Saving money
  • Losing weight
  • Better sleep
  • Healthier
  • Having more time to spend on other activities

When does alcohol become a problem?

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.

Symptoms of alcohol dependence

  • Increased Tolerance

The person will have a constant need for an increased amount of alcohol to achieve the desired effect.

  • Having Regular Blackouts

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.

  • Euphoric Recall

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.

  • Mental Obsession

The person develops anticipation for and preoccupation with alcohol and their lifestyle changes to revolve around alcohol.

  • Loss of Choice

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.

 

How can I control my drinking?

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.

  • Use a diary to plan when you will have a drink and how much you will have
  • Make a note about when you think it may be hard for you to control drinking (e.g. student nights out)
  • Pick a couple of days you won’t drink
  • Write down what you plan on drinking in advance.
  • Keep track of how much you drink on a night out

Make small changes:

  • Eat food before you drink – if you feel full you may drink less
  • Have a mixer with your drink, or have smaller drinks like a small glass of wine.
  • Try other activities instead of drinking like exercising or going to the cinema and incorporate them into your routine.

 

If someone close to you has an alcoholic problem

  1. Try not to feel personally responsible for their alcohol consumption. Allow them to take responsibility for their own actions.
  2. You can be an influence in the life of the person with the problem. It important to not try to control all aspects of their life, rather try to regain influence.
  3. Do not fuel the addiction through trying to be loyal to the dependent person. Through taking care of yourself and being true to yourself you can work towards getting them help. Do not hide the problem from family and friends by thinking you are being loyal to the dependent person, especially if you value their support.
  4. Ensure you are emotionally supported yourself.

 

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.

  • Many people have realised that hiding their sexual orientation can indeed cause great stress, anxiety, pressure or struggling to find your sense of self/identity.
  • However, “coming out” does not mean telling everybody you meet that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or however you identify.  In essence “coming out” is a process that allows a person to be in touch with his/her sexuality and to express themselves accordingly.
  • When people have discussed how they came out, many use the imagery of a great burden being lifted from them.  But this may not happen initially, as coming out can be a stressful and difficult process, especially when family and friends react negatively, but in time people have said that they are happier after they come out.
  • In many countries around the world coming out is also a political act.  Gay, lesbians and bisexuals who have come out have decided that it is time to stand up and be counted, to be identified as part of a community and to familiarise the broader populations with homosexuality.

 

 

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.

Stage 1

Pre-Coming Out

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.

 

Stage 2

Coming Out

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.

 

Stage 3

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.

 

Stage 4

Initial Relationships

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.

 

Stage 5

Integration

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.

What are Eating Disorders?

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.

  • Eating disorders are not always primarily about food. Eating disorders can be seen as a means to cope with psychological distress, or are a symptom of underlying problems.
  • Eating disorders can affect anyone. An eating disorder is not about food and weight, but also about a person’s sense of self.
  • People can and do recover from eating disorders.

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).

What causes an Eating Disorder?

  • There is no single cause which explains why someone may develop an eating disorder. It is usually a combination of factors (biological, psychological, familial and social) that combine to create a circumstance in which an eating disorder is more likely to develop.
  • Eating Disorder may develop gradually in response to an upset in a person life. For example, a traumatic event, a major loss in a person’s life, bullying and stress. Sometimes, it there is no obvious trigger.
  • Those who have low self-esteem and do not have a strong sense of self may also be vulnerable. People who develop eating disorders are preoccupied with meeting the expectations of other people and are sensitive to other people’s opinions. This is eating disorders are so prevalent in adolescence when sense of self is an issue and opinions of peers is so important.

The Main Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

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.

Warning Signs:

  • Extreme dissatisfaction with body shape/weight
  • Making excuses for not eating and/or preoccupation with dieting
  • Playing with food and/or an obsessive interested in food
  • A sudden avoidance of certain foods
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide thinness
  • Social withdrawal and mood swings
  • Appearance of a fine downy hair covering the back, arms or side of face.

Bulimia Nervosa

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.

Warning Signs:

  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Excessive exercising
  • Weight Fluctuation
  • Unsociable behaviour
  • Black teeth
  • Problems with ones throat, oesophagus and stomach

Binge Eating Disorder

 

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

Warning Signs

  • Lack of control once one begins to eat.
  • Depression.
  • Grief.
  • Anxiety.
  • Shame.
  • Disgust or self-hatred about eating behaviours.

 

Eating Disorders in College

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.

HELPFUL TIPS

  • Prepare in advance: Speak with your friends and family and support network about potential problems and how you can plan to deal with them in advance.
  • If you think you have an issue and haven’t spoken to anyone, it could help to speak to someone before starting college, or find out what supports there are in college for you.
  • Try planning meals in advance for the week and do a weekly shop in line with your planned eating.
  • If you are sharing a house or a student apartment, consider sharing mealtimes so you are eating with someone.
  • If you start to notice changes in your eating habits which are worrying you and you are not happy with, attempt to address this as soon as possible by talking to someone.

 

What do you do if any of the above apply to you?

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.

Why might I want to change the way I eat and exercise?

  • Eating healthier is not about losing weight. It can help you feel better mentally and physically, and feel like you are able to do more things.
  • Some people can find it hard to stick to a healthy lifestyle, especially in college. It can help you to keep remembering why you want to be healthier. You could draw a picture or write a list and use this to motivate you to keep going.
  • People eat for lots of different reasons, not just because they are hungry. Reasons can include feeling bored, covering up feelings, feeling low or because it has become a habit. Write a list of why or when you eat to help you understand why you are eating.

Steps towards a healthier lifestyle

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:

  • Plan your meals and when you will exercise. Be realistic with your goals and use a food and activity diary to track progress.
  • When planning, thing about the barriers and problems you’ve faced before – and what can be done to overcome them this time.
  • Identify personal triggers for eating (e.g. boredom eating, drinking, feeling low) and plan around these.
  • Always bring healthy snacks on the go to avoid relying on buying things from a shop.
  • Eat regularly to avoid skipping meals. Breakfast is extremely important to set you up for a good day (think porridge, wholegrain toast or a smoothie as good choices).
  • Heavy drinking can result in binge eating takeaways after a night out, or eating unhealthily the next day when you are hung-over. Be mindful of mixing your drinks with sugary fizzy drinks – try sugar-free versions or soda water.
  • Set realistic goals for exercising.  A 20 minute fast paced walk three times a week could be a good starting point. You could then aim for 30 minutes 5 days a week. You could also plan to go to a class in the gym once a week.
  • Involve your family and friends – if they are aware you are trying to become healthier they can help by; not bringing sugary or fatty foods into the house, cooking healthier with you or by joining you in exercise.
  • Being healthy does not mean restricting yourself. Eating a little of what you like is ok, just ensure it is not regularly.

Coping with Food Cravings

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.

What is OCD?

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.

What we know about OCD?

OCD can affect people in different ways, it can affect the way people think, how they feel and what they do.

Signs of OCD:

  • Thoughts that frighten you, like thinking you are dirty and that negative things will happen if you are around dirty things.
  • Thoughts that something you have done will hurt people.
  • Images in your head of hurting people
  • Believing things in your life are not in order

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.

The Most Common Types of Obsessions and Compulsions

• 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.

• Worriers

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.

Causes of OCD

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.

Treatment of OCD

Can OCD be treated?

  • Yes, OCD can be treated through relaxation techniques, counselling or drug treatment, or by a combination of all three. Some sufferers find relaxation exercises and using imagery helpful in reducing anxiety that causes obsessional thinking.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy that uses specific tools to help people eliminate of their unwanted obsessions, thoughts and beliefs as well as alleviating their compulsions is a common approach used with OCD sufferers. Within this therapy, individuals learn to identify their specific distressing thoughts and learn how to replace them with more supportive ones.
  • Various types of drug treatment have proven helpful in treating and alleviating symptoms of OCD.

 

 

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.

 

Monitor how you use your time during the week

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:

  • Which of these do you need to spend more time on?
  • Which do you need to spend less time on?
  • Were you surprised at the activities you spent so much time on?
  • Were you surprised at the ones you spent so little time on?

How to plan your time

 

Use a List of Things to Do

This is a short-term planner, covering a 24 hour period.

  • It is better to prepare this the night before.
  • Prioritise the various tasks: A - very important, B - important, C - fairly important.
  • Tick off items when you complete them

Use a Timetable

  • Schedule fixed blocks of time. Start with class time and work time. These time periods are usually determined in advance. Other activities must be scheduled around them. Then schedule essential daily activities such as eating and sleeping
  • Include time for shopping, doing laundry, etc.
  • Schedule time for fun. Fun is important. Brains that are constantly stimulated by new ideas and new challenges need time off to digest them.
  • Set realistic goals: don't set yourself up for failure by telling yourself you can do a four-hour job in two hours!
  • Allow flexibility in your schedule: recognise that unexpected things will happen and allow for them. Perhaps set aside some 'open time' each week.
  • Avoid scheduling marathon study sessions. When possible, study in shorter sessions. If/when you study in long sessions, stop and rest for a few minutes every hour. Also, work on several subjects and avoid studying similar subjects back to back.
  • Set clear starting and stopping times for specific tasks and stick to them.

Use a "Things to do" list for the Week

The same principles as compiling a timetable apply here. In addition:

  • Set study goals for the week, and include some time for recall and review.
  • Monitor your schedule at the end of the day and decide if it needs to be changed for the next day.

 

How to get the most out of time

  • Study difficult subjects first (or at least second) as we are often more alert and receptive earlier on. Also, you may feel more motivated to continue with your work after completing a difficult task.
  • You can use waiting time, such as waiting for a bus, commuting, waiting for the dentist, etc. to complete short tasks. For example, learn or revise formulae and definitions, or listen to tape-recorded summaries and notes.
  • Use a regular study area or the library
  • In most situations we study where we are alert. Therefore, avoid sofas, beds or easy chairs as your body will be getting the wrong signal. Good lighting and low noise levels are also essential features you need to consider for your study environment.
  • Monitor your attention and concentration. If extraneous thoughts impinge on your studying you may decide whether to deal with them now or make a note to do so later. Also, consider the use of concentration strategies.

 

Concentration Strategies

  • Discuss your schedule with your housemates and secure agreement on suitable studying times.
  • Get off the phone. Simply say "I can't talk too long, I'm up to my eyes in a project" or use an answering machine.
  • Prepare certain tasks the night before: references, books, telephone numbers etc. This tactic helps you get in gear faster the next day.
  • Try not to be self-critical. Instead, acknowledge your efforts and accomplishments in taking on this study.
  • Make time for other things that are important, that sustain you and keep your energy levels high. Exercise regularly, cook nutritious meals and spend time with family and friends.

 

 

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.

What causes procrastination?

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.

  1. Having an unrealistic view of how a productive person really functions. Procrastinators often think that successful people always feel confident, have no self-doubt, can easily accomplish their tasks and never endure frustration or failure. People then have a tendency to give up when things get tough. Adopting a "coping model" of success is an alternative to this. This means beginning to view achievement as something which can be stressful, accept that life will be difficult at times and that obstacles and failures are part of the process to getting things done.
  2. Fear of failure is another cause of procrastination. As success is often extremely important to people, they are afraid to risk failing, so instead do nothing at all. If you think that failing at your work will mean that you are a failure in general, this attitude should be confronted and challenged in the light of your accomplishments to date.
  3. Being a perfectionist is an underlying cause of procrastination. Perfectionists believe that they should always do things perfectly and put immense pressure on themselves, and subsequently feel so stressed that they procrastinate. Being concerned about the quality of your work differs from compulsive perfectionism. Being enthusiastic and determined about getting work done achieves a sense of accomplishment due to efforts. On the other hand, perfectionists are often spurred on by a fear of failure and are never entirely satisfied with their accomplishments.
  4. People who procrastinate get in the habit of telling themselves "I really should get started". These "should" statements, are usually ineffective and unproductive as they make you feel guilty, making you completely avoid the task. Every time you tell yourself "I should do…", try to replace "should" with "could" or with a different phrase such as "It would be desirable if I could do….".
  5. One of the most common reasons for procrastination is genuine lack of desire to do whatever task that you're putting off. There will be certain goals and tasks you will not really feel committed to which may result in putting it off. Admitting this to yourself will help you to re-examine why you are putting this off.
  6. People procrastinate because they don't feel like doing them at the time or because they are not in the mood to do them. A common belief is that motivation is required to produce action, whereas in reality it is usually action which causes motivation, which leads to more action. As motivation can be crucial for academic success, you can train yourself for work efficiently instead of waiting until the ‘right mood’ strikes you. Actions which can improve your motivation include establishing a study routine, and rewarding yourself for accomplishing assignments and studying.

 

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.

 

The ABC of Procrastination

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.

  • Affect as emotion can be experienced as positive (e.g. joy), negative (e.g. sad) or somewhere in between. Affect as sensation (e.g. feeling tired, relaxed) can also be experienced as either positive or negative. These emotions or sensations can be over-reactions to events or situations such as heart palpitations when asked to speak in class.
  • Behaviour relates to observed actions . As most behaviour is leaned, one can modify them through practice.
  • Cognitions are the thoughts, ideas and beliefs which depict our view of ourselves, others and the world. They can be positive as in thinking how great it will be when a goal is accomplished, or negative as in thinking about how we could fail.

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.

 

Beat your Procrastination

1. Identify it

Identify one task you are putting off unnecessarily and that you want to start doing.

2. Think about it

  • Using the ABC above method ask yourself what emotions/affect (A) are enabling procrastination. Does the task make you feel anxious/tense? Are you frustrated that you have to do at all?
  • Ask yourself what behaviours (b) contribute to your procrastination. You may be replacing some other behaviour for the one behaviour you need to do. This behaviour may be a behaviour that is easier to do (e.g. watching T.V. instead of going to the library)
  • Then ask yourself what thoughts/cognitions (c) are linked to your procrastination. Do you think that you work well under pressure and so now you will wait until the last minute? Or you could think that you are going to fail so don’t want to try at all.

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.

  • If A (emotions/affect) was the problem, using relaxation and other stress management tools can allow you to deal with the feeling and proceed with the task.
  • If C is the problem, replace your negative thoughts that are causing the procrastination with more positive self-talk.
  • If the difficulty is at B, (behaviour) use rewards to promote the behaviour that you are avoiding, making you want to complete it. For example, allow yourself to watch a television programme only when you’ve finished one topic.

 

Extra Tips for Procrastination

  • Make it Meaningful

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 it down

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.

  • Make an intention statement

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 everyone

Tell your housemates, class members, family and whoever will listen what you intend to do. This holds you accountable for the task.

  • Reward yourself in the right ways

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.

  • Just do it

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.

  • Change your environment

If you always study at home, try the library. If it’s sunny outside, sit in a sunny corner.

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