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What They Don’t Tell You About Uni…

Having just finished uni myself, there is a LOT I’d wish I’d known before. If you’re about to go to uni, or even if you’ve been, I’m sure you’ll relate to some of these…

  1. You don’t need to spend hundreds on the books that they recommend.

I remember in my first year of uni feeling so overwhelmed with the amount and the price of the books that my lecturers were recommending everyone to buy. The average price of an academic textbook can be between £30-60, and when you’re doing 3-4 modules over the course of the year, it all adds up! Oh and another thing, I also wouldn’t recommend doing the TONS of reading that they set. throughout my degree I didn’t buy a single book, take a single book out of the library – it’s too time consuming, and to be honest, lecturers are wanting current knowledge not something from a library book that has been sat on the shelf for 50 years. Academic articles and the WWW is your new best friend – use it and abuse it!

2. If you’re not a big drinker, you’re going to feel it.

What came first? the alcohol or the fresher?! :’) Freshers week is a fun time to be at uni, everyone is up for socialising, it’s exciting and you’re guaranteed to have a laugh. BUT, a lot of these social events involve alcohol, which is fine if you’re up for it, but if you’re not don’t feel peer pressured into drinking. I remember my first week at uni as a fresher I went out every night of the week, and went to all my lectures – it was exhausting but worth it! Then you’ve got the ‘returners’ – freshers doesn’t end after surviving your first week at uni, it begins again every year no matter what year you’re in. I’m not a big drinker myself, and would often go on night’s out sober and get questioned as to why on earth I wasn’t drinking. The truth is, I always have been a very health conscious person, and there is nothing that will change this – not even the binge drinking culture at uni. Alcohol is the most relied upon thing in freshers, it’s like everyone is dependent on it and can’t socialise without it – it’s a coping mechanism more than anything.

3) You won’t get as much freedom as you think will with your 3rd year dissertation.

I’m speaking on behalf of my own uni and my own experience when I say this, but it’s one thing that surprised me the most about my final year. I had spent most of the summer research an idea and planning how I was going to carry it out (like they recommend you to). However upon meeting my supervisor, it was obvious this idea wasn’t going to happen :’). In the end it was probably for the best, as my supervisor was very helpful due to it being a topic he was familiar with, but I can’t help but wonder If I would have enjoyed it more if it had been a topic that I originally wanted to do?

4) Homesickness hits hard.

Even the most unlikeliest of people will experience this at some point. It’s only to be expected when you’re used to the easy life at home and then you’re fending for yourself. I was homesick for a good while at uni because I felt so out of my depth. I eventually got over it, but It took me a while and many trips back home on the weekends to get accustomed to it! But the point is it takes time, and before you know it you’ll feel settled and content again. Also, homesickness is something people experience at different times. It can be within the first week, month or even 6 months! It’s not a sign of weakness or that you haven’t yet cut ‘the apron strings’ I actually think it’s pretty normal and it means that you’re out of your comfort zone. I have done a post more in depth about this, and how I overcame it which I will link here.

5) House hunting is stressful.

I’d recommend starting this before you break up for Christmas, and ideally secure one so you can avoid the rush when everyone comes back. Oh, and be prepared to lower your standards. I went to many a dodgy house viewing, one of them we got trapped inside a bedroom, as the door handle fell off from the inside…I’ve never seen an estate agent look so concerned :’) All part of the fun! Try and visualise what the house will look like without all the student mess everywhere, as difficult as that may be…

BUT…other than that I do think the experience of going to uni sets you up for a lot of things in life. I also think its not the be all and end all – think wisely before you go and thoroughly research all your options. I don’t regret going, as I know I have developed so much as a person, but I am thankful that it’s helped me realise that academia is not for me. Through uni I have found the path I need to take, and that is what I value most from my experience.

Thank you for reading,

Jazzy B ❤

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Self-image – From a psychology students perspective.

If you’re frequent user of social media you’ll be no stranger to the negative comments and feelings of inadequacy that can come about through using it. A few people I follow have used the platform to expose some of the comments they receive on a daily basis, and the harmful effect it has had on their confidence and self-esteem. This made me think about self-image and just how fragile it really is.

According to Self-perception theory, as proposed by Bem (1972), self-image operates on both an intrinsic and extrinsic level. We learn about our own attitudes, beliefs and emotions through observing our own behaviour and thoughts (intrinsic). These beliefs are then reinforced or challenged by the feedback that we gain from others (extrinsic) – it’s here that the vulnerability arises. Depending upon certain factors such as resilience, confidence and self-esteem will determine the extent to which we allow the feedback of another to challenge the view we have of ourselves.

Self-perception is more like a process as opposed to a fixed state, and so naturally we will encounter individuals throughout our lives who can be detrimental or beneficial to our self-image. The view of ones self is particularly fragile amongst adolescents, as this age group is more vulnerable to the effect of poor self-image and regulating irrational thoughts (O’Keefe & Clark-Pearson, 2011). There is also research to highlight the negative effects of self-image, and they’re pretty serious! For example, a frequent negative self-image amongst adolescents has been linked to symptoms of depression, social anxiety and even suicidal behaviour (Savilahiti et al, 2018; Schreiber , F., & Steil, R. 2013; Sitnik-Warchulska 2016).

Furthermore, there is research that directly links social media to contributing to a negative self-image (Mclean et al., 2015). Social media provides the perfect environment for challenging a persons self-perception. You chose to put yourself out there and so you will inevitably be judged (or even scrutinised) by others, potentially challenging the current view of yourself, leading to mental discrepancy.

It’s obvious from the research that a negative self-image can have detrimental effect on mental health, so whats the solution? To me, I feel it comes down to resilience. It is easier let the views of another tamper with something as fragile as our self image, but first we should consider a few things. Start by questioning the intentions of the person who is giving you their opinion of you. How much do you value their opinion? Nine times out of 10, you won’t know the person nor their intentions, and so in this case ignore their viewpoint. Why should we even consider letting someones view on ourselves be tampered with when we don’t know why they have said this comment in the first place? I’m not saying to disregard everyone’s opinion and views on yourself, but instead give yourself the power to be selective about who’s opinion you let influence your self-image.

Be resilient, believe in yourself and If all else fails…there is no better feeling than cutting out the haters from your life :’)

I could write so much on this, but I wont give you an essay to read this time 😉 If you’d like me to write more posts in this style just let me know! Thank you for reading,

Jazzy B ❤

References:

Bem, Daryl J. “Self-Perception Theory.” In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. Vol. 6, edited by Leonard Berkowitz. New York: Academic, 1972. Print.

O’Keeffe, G.S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). Clinical report: The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, 127(4), 800-804. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0054

Savilahti, E.M., Haravuori, H., Rytila-Manninen, M., Lindberg, N., Kettunen, K., & Marttunen, M. (2018). High beck depression inventory 21 scores in adolescents without depression are associated with negative self-image and immature defense style. Psychiatry research, 263, 61-68. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2018.02.040Get rights and content

Schreiber, F., Steil, R. (2013). Haunting self-images? The role of negative self-images in adolescnet social anxiety disorder. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. 44(2), 158-164. Doi:
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2012.10.003

Sitnik-Warchulska, K. (2016). Self-image and suicidal and violent behaviours of adolescent girls. Healthy Psychology Report, 4(4), 303-314. Doi:
https://doaj.org/article/367ae2de3ede4f55a0ad21a7e36c84e8

McLean, S.A., Paxton, S.J., Wertheim, E.H. & Masters, J. (2015). Photoshopping the selfie: self photo editing and photo investment are associated with body dissatisfaction in adolescent girls. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 48(8), 1132–1140. Doi: 10.1002/eat.22449 h

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Live In the Now.

Recently I’ve been thinking about my motivation towards university, as admittedly it’s been a lot lower than what it usually is. Although this doesn’t worry me, because I know my determination will see me through, it made me question why I feel the way I do.

The other day on my Instagram I read a quote which made a lot of sense to me;

If you are depressed you are living in the past. 
If you are anxious you are living in the future. 
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”


― Lao Tzu

I think there is a lot of truth in this, especially as I have been feeling anxious recently due to deadlines, dissertation uncertainty etc (all things which concern the near future). When relating this back to my own motivation levels, I think it can be said that I’m living in the future, instead of appreciating where I’m currently at. I’m so excited and ready for what the next chapter holds after uni, that sometimes it negatively affects how I’m viewing the present moment.

Living in the future is something I think we all do at times, especially if you’ve been in full-time education for what feels like a lifetime! As much as I have enjoyed my degree, I do believe that our education system encourages anxiety due to the silent pressure and expectation placed upon students to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives upon graduating. I’m very much somebody that when I have a goal in mind, it’s all I think about. Although this can have its benefits, it can also cause anxiety and a lack of appreciation for where I’m at now.

Of course, living in the future doesn’t just relate to education, it’s far broader than this. Every year most of set new years resolutions (goals which we believe will better ourselves or another in the future), we work hard and save for something we want in the future, we do so much to benefit our future selves.

But what about now? 

It’s so important to stop, take time out, and reflect where you’re at now. Having goals and a future incentive to work hard in the present is great for motivation but we have to know when to stop living in the future. A little appreciation for where you’re at now will go a long way! This is exactly what I’m trying to do – I have a clear plan for what I would like to do when I graduate, and I’m so excited to get to work on making this a reality, that I feel it’s becoming a distraction to what I’m currently trying to achieve.

Just live in the now – you never know what will happen tomorrow or next week and that’s the beauty of it. The future might not be all that it cracks up to be, and then you’ve set yourself up for a lot of disappointment, whereas right now we have the power to make each day exactly what we want it to be. Look forward to the future, cherish the past, but most importantly live in the now…

Thank you for reading,

Jazzy B ❤

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Comparison – the thief of joy

I think this is something we are all guilty of…

It’s so easy to open up Instagram and compare yourself to the first person that comes up on your feed. You may not even notice you’re doing it, I think half the time this is something we do subconsciously, and then wonder why we don’t feel any happier after spending half an hour scrolling endlessly through our feeds.

For me, I believe social media is great depending on how you use it. Of course, you will feel like you’re not working hard enough on your goals if you’re comparing yourself to a model on Instagram who does this for a living. It’s no wonder social media will make you feel inadequate, in turn lowering your self-esteem and self-confidence. It begs the question, why do we continue to use it in this way?

I am all for social media, apart from its tendency to encourage self-scrutinizing comparisons. I think it’s a great way to connect with others and open yourself up to many opportunities, however, I do feel strongly about the way in which we use social media. By becoming more optimistic users I feel we could reduce some of the issues and feelings that Instagram and other social media can cause. For example, optimistic use could be using it to provide yourself with inspiration, motivation, and connectivity. When you know how to use it in the right way, it really can be an amazing community to be part of.

Moreover, I think another crucial step is to have a social media cull and ask yourself do the accounts that you follow make you feel good and provide you with motivation? If no – bin them, you don’t need the unnecessarily high standards on your timeline giving you ammunition to alter your self-image.

Yes, there will be days where you compare yourself, even to those accounts that you find inspiring, but I think this is an inevitable risk we take by signing ourselves up to social media. My main point here is to be aware of how you use social media, and if you need a break from it – take one. Ultimately, you are in control of the way social media makes you feel and that there are solutions to overcome this. We are all on our own journies, we are all doing enough, and we all need to focus on our own personal growth and stop the comparison. You are who you are, irrelevant of likes and followers, and you should embrace every part of you.

Thank you for reading,

Jazzy B ❤

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How to Overcome Homesickness at Uni

This is something that I really didn’t think I would experience.

I am so independent, and I couldn’t wait to get to uni to have my own freedom to live exactly the way that I wanted to live. BUT in the first few weeks, I felt so homesick that I seriously considered quitting uni altogether. I would get the train back home every weekend, and would absolutely dread it come Sunday when I had to travel back. It’s when you are put in a situation like this that you appreciate all the things and people that you feel lost without.

In my opinion, starting uni is one of the hardest things to do as you become so accustomed to having a long summer off, doing what you want when you want, allowing you to get somewhat complacent, then suddenly September comes and so many changes arrive all at once. It’s not just the moving to a new area, it’s all the things and loved ones you are forced to leave behind, the new friendship groups you have to make, getting accustomed to how uni works (making sure you don’t miss the dreaded 9am 😉 ) and getting involved with that uni lifestyle. On top of this, you have freshers week which as fun as it is, it is very exhausting …sleep deprivation and homesickness definitely do not go hand-in-hand!

To me, homesickness is not a sign of weakness and I think everyone experiences it to a degree when they first start. I think that is where half of the problems occur as people don’t know how to deal with it, and will often turn to other coping mechanisms (especially alcohol) in hope to overcome this, but that is the worst thing to do! I think it’s best to acknowledge it, accept it, and understand it – you will feel like this at times, it’s perfectly normal when going through a major life change such as this.

I’m now in my second year, and I haven’t felt like this at all! I always feel a little lost when I first start uni after summer, due to the extreme contrast of seeing loved ones every day and then suddenly once every three months…But I learned last year how to deal with these feelings and I’d like to share them with you ❤

1. Home is everywhere

If you truly look and are mindful of your surroundings then reminders of home can be found everywhere. I came to uni with stuff that would help me feel connected to home such as photos, ornaments, candles etc, anything that will make you feel grounded.

2. Stay Connected with your Family

I think students think when they come to uni they have to paint a perfect picture to their loved ones that everything is okay, but that is simply not the case. I certainly didn’t, I made it very clear to everyone how I was feeling and they all helped me so much and made me feel very anchored. My mum actually sent me up a mindfulness book to help me overcome this. I was always Facetiming my family, friends, and my pets :’). Use whatever social networking helps you, I used Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat and these all really helped.

3. Talk to your flatmates.

Everyone is in the same boat as you! When I felt bad I would always talk to my flatmates about it. However, I think the key thing here, is that you don’t compare your experience to another’s – we all experience the same event differently, and just because someone may not be feeling as homesick as you, it doesn’t mean they don’t feel it at all.

4. Go home

Failing all of this, then go back home and visit those who you love! Touch base for a few days and you will feel so much better and refreshed on return. Uni will certainly make you realise how much you value your family and friends (and a nice home-cooked roast…make sure you binge on them before you come to uni because they will be very missed :’) ).

Although overcoming homesickness is mostly about finding what works for you, I hope you can adapt some of my tips to help you out! Uni is a great thing to do and it will open up so many doors and opportunities for you – make sure you enjoy every moment, as it will go by quicker than you think.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this was helpful.

Jazzy B ❤

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The Impact of Diet on Mental Health

Yes, food really does affect your mood.

When you think about what effects your mental health, the typical answers are stress, self-esteem, and relationship issues, to name but a few, however, we often underestimate the impact that food has on our mental health. When you consider the science behind it and the growing evidence that food has a greater effect on our mental health than we give credit for, I think we could all check what we are fuelling our bodies with.

There is no doubt that what we eat has an impact on our mental health, this link has been proven repeatedly. A review of studies looking into the issue of diet and mental health found that regular consumption of a Western diet (a diet consisting of highly processed and sugary foods) increased the risk of depression (O’Neil et al., 2014). Moreover, a poor diet is proven to impact biological mechanisms that are commonly associated with depression such as impacting the immune system and altering the levels of certain brain proteins potentially leading to depressive symptoms (O’Neil et al., 2014). This further strengthens the link between diet and mental health.

Moreover, some of the factors that contribute to poor mental health, such as stress, have been proven to influence food preferences. For example, a study by Kandiah, Yake, and Meyer (2006) found that when participants were not exposed to stress they made healthy dietary choices 80% of the time compared to when participants were exposed to stress, which they made healthy food choices only 33% of the time. This highlights an issue, the fact that something like stress can lead to poor mental health, yet when we experience stress we tend to eat unhealthier options, also negatively impacting our mental health. Therefore, healthier dietary choices could break this cycle as evidenced by Ansari, Adetunji, and Oskrochi (2014) who found that when fruit and vegetables weren’t consumed on a regular basis, there was a greater association with experiencing more depressive symptoms for both males and females.

Although there is little research on a diet that has been proven to reduce the likelihood of depressive symptoms and promote better mental health, there have been studies conducted on specific foods. For example, the following foods have all been linked to better mental health when in their raw form; carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy greens like spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit (Brookie, Best & Conner, 2018).

I hope you found this an interesting read,

Jazzy B ❤

References:

Kandiah, J., Yake, M., & Meyer, M. (2006). Stress influences appetite and comfort food preferences in college women.  Nutrition Research, 28(1), 118-123. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2005.11.010 

Ansari, W.E, Adetunji, H., Oskrochi, R. (2014). Food and mental health: Relationship between food and perceived stress and depressive symptoms among university students in the United Kingdom. Central European Journal of Public Health, 22(2), 90-97.

O’Neil, A., Quirk, S.E., Houseden, S., Brennan, S.L., Williams, L.J., Pasco, J.A., Berk, M., & Jacka, F.N.(2014). Relationship between diet and mental health in children and adolescents: A Systematic Review. The American Journal of Public Health, 104(10).

Brookie, K.L., Best, G.I., Conner, T.S. (2018). Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(1). doi: https://doaj.org/article/956172bb66c747b1a3efbf9a4a4d9023