Coronavirus & Mental Health

Here we are, well into week 8 of the coronavirus lockdown. I don’t know about you, but the social distancing and lockdown measures are really starting to have an adverse effect on my mental health. Having spoken to some of my friends and family about this issue, I decided to write a blog to create a space for people to read a little bit about mental well-being and hopefully prompt you all to start looking after number one a little bit more.

I’m going to be very honest with you here, I’m pretty positive that my mental health hasn’t been at the low point it’s at now for a long time. I find myself questioning what my purpose is, even though I know I’m doing all I can by staying home and following Government guidelines. I find myself moping around the house a lot, trying to distract myself from my mind which is never a good thing.

Aside the obvious things we can do to make lockdown easier on ourselves like going outside, practicing numerous recipes (honestly, I think I might apply for the next series of the Great British Bake Off once this is all over) and binge watching all the Netflix series you never had time to watch, there comes a point where you need to address your mental well-being.

Photo: Ann Martin via Flickr

For me, looking after my mental health has come in the form of taking up running again. Shocking I know, but running gives me the space I need and the focus required to tell myself “hey, you’re doing alright” and think through what’s going on in my mind, as well as reminding myself that I am doing all I can to protect our absolutely wonderful NHS. Additionally, snuggling up in comfy pyjamas to either read a book or call your friends are also great ways to keep your mentality healthy and happy.

However, trying to come up with a load of ideas and suggestions as to how to keep calm when everything is so uncertain is a bit of an impossible challenge for a 20-year old tea addict. So, for this blog, I asked a few people via my Instagram how they’re keeping their mentality healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.

As I mentioned earlier, I want to make this blog an open space for you all to read and maybe open up either to yourselves or your loved one about mental health, because I think now more than ever it’s so important to check up on others, especially when brushing it off and saying “I’m fine” seems the easiest thing to do.

A common theme throughout the responses I got was that some days in lockdown are good and seemingly productive, but others seem more hassle and energy than they’re worth. Jacob Lewis, an army medic from Neath explains: “Lockdown has impacted me positively to have more self-discipline because I keep wanting to chin off work, even though I know I have to do it. It seems so easy to sit at home and not do any physical activities, but lockdown is pushing me to get on and do it.”

He explains: “Setting yourself a small goal every morning, and gradually setting bigger goals each day can really help to motivate you.”

Establishing a routine can help to pass the seemingly slow-moving hours we’re faced with: even if that includes making yourself a cup of tea and sitting in for a morning of TV listening to Phillip and Holly on This Morning or waking up and doing a skin care routine to set you up for the day.

Alternatively, you could take up meditation. Molly Bird, a student at the University of Lincoln explains: “Meditating more has really helped with my mental wellbeing because it’s made everything clearer.”

Photo: Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr

In these uncertain times, I think we can all agree that clarity is key. An article published by Healthline explains that some forms of meditation have been scientifically proven to give a more positive outlook on life.

The article explains: “Studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults.”

“One study followed 18 volunteers as they practiced meditation over three years. The study found that participants experienced long-term decreases in depression.”

“Inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which are released in response to stress, can affect mood, leading to depression. A review of several studies suggests meditation may reduce depression by decreasing these inflammatory chemicals.”

Perhaps we could all do with introducing a meditation session into our quarantine routines when things get a little overwhelming!

Communication is absolutely crucial in these times. Now, I know I’m not social media’s biggest advocate, but I do agree that it has played a central role in bringing people together. Being told to avoid people is hard. If you’re feeling down about not being able to see your friends (I know I am) don’t panic, they’re just a call away!

Will Aldridge, who has just completed his first year at the University of Lincoln explains: “Talking to my friends a lot is helping to keep my mentality healthy, as is finding a project or something similar that you can work on from home.”

Photo: KaCey97078 via Flickr
(Couldn’t resist including this photo, so cute!)

Whether you decide to become the next quiz connoisseur on your Zoom calls or teach yourself a new skill, there’s plenty of things for you to do to maintain healthy mindset and ensure you’re raring to go once things get back to normal.

This next point is a shift in tone, but it’s something close to my heart and I want to address it. Mental health isn’t the only thing many are dealing with at the moment… imagine the struggle of being in lockdown and battling an eating disorder.

Did you know that there are approximately 1.6 million people in the UK who have been affected by an eating disorder? Whether it’s anorexia or bulimia, each disorder presents an unimaginable challenge for those affected to deal with every day.

Katie Straw, a student at the University of Brighton explains the challenges of dealing with an eating disorder in lockdown: “Some days I find myself eating a lot out of guilt, which is not good for the guilt that comes after eating when you have an eating disorder. Other days I struggle to eat because having an eating disorder can make you believe you don’t deserve to eat unless you have earnt it, which is difficult when the exercise you can do and the time you can spend outside is limited.”

She adds: “Some days, I find myself eating more out of boredom, and the guilt that kicks in later is very hard to cope with. The guilt of eating when I haven’t really done a lot in the day is also very high, leading to intense urges to purge or self-harm in order to cope with the guilt. Ignoring these urges has definitely been the hardest thing for me personally during the pandemic.”

The struggle of having an overpowering urge to harm yourself is something not many people can imagine living with and this is where social media presents a huge issue for many like Katie. She explains: “Social media has become very toxic for someone with an eating disorder during the coronavirus lockdown. There’s so many posts about weight gain in lockdown and people doing home workouts, which are both equally as triggering to people with similar disorders to myself because it reinforces the idea that weight gain is a bad thing, and can make us feel as though we don’t deserve to eat because we aren’t doing as much exercise as others.”

Perhaps we can all use this time to reconsider the effects that social media can have. I know I’ve seen some nasty posts about people close to me recently and I really hope that lockdown pushes these people to re-evaluate that what they write can have a negative effect on the well-being of others.

Anyways, before I round off this blog, I wanted to dedicate this little paragraph to my amazing friend Katie. I am so unbelievably proud of you for continuing to fight your disorder. I know that there are some really low days, but there are also some really good days and I’m sure that one day, every day will be a good one. I can confidently say you are the strongest person I know, and you will get through this. I love you so much!

I would also like to personally thank Jacob, Molly, Will and Katie for their contribution and to everybody else who contacted me: I’m sorry I couldn’t include you all, I fear I’d need to write a book to fit all of that in!

Until next time, stay safe everybody.

Sources

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation

https://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/about/statistics

How to keep calm when the world is in chaos

Before I start, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to my amazing best friend Jess for curing my writer’s block and coming up with this idea. This one’s for you!

I’m aware I’m late to the party when I say that the coronavirus pandemic has basically cancelled 2020, and as much as I would love to skip forward to 2021, I can’t. Experiencing a pandemic as severe as this one is bound to cause some anxieties. So, I’ve come up with five ideas to help you remain calm when the world is descending into what can only be described as utter chaos.

Number 1: Take time to think

Although this probably seems like a minimalistic step, it’s one of the most helpful things that we can do. Often, when there’s a billion things going on around us, it’s difficult to focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us personally. If you’re anything like me, these thoughts will usually catch up with you just as you’re nodding off to sleep…

Taking the time to think about it is really impactful. All too often we find it easy to push these things to the backs of our minds and swipe them away as quickly as the notifications we receive on our phones about the virus. As appealing as this is, it won’t help anyone. Whether you draw a mind map about it or spend an extra 5 minutes thinking about it whilst ensuring you’ve consumed every last drop of the now semi-cold cup of tea next to you, it’s important to fully process what’s happening around you. It’s ok to feel as though you’ve been chucked in the deep end of all of this because it’s such a huge lifestyle change.

Afterall, how many of us have experienced a pandemic as widespread as this one?

I suppose what I’m trying to say is by simply taking the time to think about it, process and understand it in your mind will help to ease any anxieties you may have. And yes, if writing it all down in multi-coloured pens will help (totally not speaking from personal experience…) then you do you!

Ultimately, be selfish about it. There is nothing wrong with taking the time for yourself and putting your mental health first.

Number 2: Talk

Similarly, talking about it is another way to keep on top of the situation. I suppose you’ve just got to look at the whole situation like making a cake (bear with me on this one!). I don’t know about you, but the ‘shove it all in one bowl and hope for the best’ mantra sort of applies here, because no matter how messy things are and how crap it might look to begin with, it always turns out alright in the end.

Quite possibly the only photo I have of a
homemade cake

Now I know referring to a nationwide pandemic as a sponge cake perhaps isn’t very relevant, but it’s the ideology that counts!

Although news of the coronavirus has spread like a wildfire and dominated pretty much every media outlet’s top headline, it doesn’t mean that it’s the only talking point. Simply calling your friends to discuss the latest drama or TikTok videos (shoutout to my uni girls – I miss you guys!) or having general conversations theorising whether what hand you write with determines if you prefer blue or black pens (seriously though, can we put this to the test?) can help to take your mind off the situation.

I’m not saying completely ignore it but don’t let it dominate your conversations. COVID-19 has pressed the ‘stop’ button on a lot of things, but not having a laugh.  

Number 3: Focus on your hobbies

It’s at this point that I am very thankful to have a hobby that I have access to on the daily, because I think isolating without it would drive me to the point of insanity which would make Pennywise look tame…

Obviously, it goes without saying that this should be done in accordance with the one exercise a day policy that the Government has put in place. Whether your hobbies include running, cycling, horse-riding or even yoga, use the extra time you now have to really focus on it.

Photo: mhisam2501 via Flickr

There is no better cure to the inevitable boredom of quarantine than working out where you want to be and what you want to achieve in whatever hobby you might have, as well as taking the good with the bad.

Speaking of which, here’s a fun little story to make you laugh on this fine day of quarantine.

Picture this, it’s probably about 9am and I’m casually grooming Annabelle outside of her stable. It’s a fairly pleasant day, and by that, I mean it’s not raining. Then suddenly, WHACK! Annabelle decides she wants to debut the clump of mud on her face and rams my back into the stable door.

After I’ve blurted out a fair bit of colourful language in response to the pain my back was (and still is) in and how rude my horse is, life carried on as usual and I thought “ah that’ll be fine, it won’t bruise”…

Little did I know!

As I’m getting changed out of my yard clothes later on, I notice a rather large bolt imprint on my back.

It’s safe to say that that area of my back is now trying out a shade of colour very similar to when you first experimented with black and purple eyeshadow…

I suppose if anybody would like a semi-permanent, unique tattoo then just buy yourself a snack-obsessed cob!

Number 4: Try something new

Ahh the classic try something new step. Whether it’s baking, learning a new language, reading a book series or watching a new genre of film, trying new stuff comes in all shapes and sizes.

Now is a better time than ever to expand on your skill set and to work out if you’re actually the next Mary Berry…

I suppose I’m inclined to say that there is more to cooking than pasta, but then again I am your stereotypical university student who hasn’t really got the time to be cooking up a roast dinner with a homemade lemon tart for dessert thanks to deadlines.. BUT it’s true.

Cooking up new things and experimenting with flavours in the kitchen could be a great way to fill up your spare time.

Additionally, learning a new language is a great time filler and a fab opportunity to confuse your household by only speaking that language for the foreseeable future!

Number 5: Family time

Lastly, spending quality time with your family (not that we have much choice!) is a good way to pass the time. If you’re like me and you’ve had to suddenly come home from university, it’s always a challenge adjusting back into family life and can be very frustrating.

For me, the biggest thing is not having the full independence I have at university, but I sure do enjoy not having to wash up everytime I eat when I’m at home!

Photo: Mike_fleming via Flickr

Whether you all sit down for a meal together, watch TV or play a board game, spending time with your family is a great way to appreciate what you have. Also, if you have relatives that are perhaps isolating alone at the moment, set up a nightly or weekly phone call to help ease their loneliness at this time.

Sticking together at a time of crisis like this is absolutely crucial and is something that will ensure we get through the worst times.

That’s it for this blog, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and are all doing ok during this challenging time.

Stay safe x

Five Reasons Why I Love Christmas

Now that we are finally in December and the countdown to Christmas Day is well under way, I thought it would be fun to share with you my favourite elements of the Christmas period.

So, sit down, grab yourself a hot chocolate and a cheeky mince pie as I share with you five reasons why I love Christmas.

Number One: The Food

It’s got to be one of the best things about Christmas, let’s be honest. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t consume at least 10,000 calories on Christmas Day I feel as though I have done myself an injustice. In my family, there is no real structure of when to eat the chocolates or biscuits. However, we usually open either a box of chocolates or biscuits before the big day as a “tester” – just to see if they all still taste the same. At this point, it’s just become a Parkinson tradition!

Photo: EXIS via Flickr

This aside, Christmas Day is about consuming as much as you want and not giving a damn about calories. I’m talking chocolate for breakfast among other festive goodies, a huge Christmas dinner with as many roast potatoes as you can consume, chocolate after and maybe some sausage rolls or left-overs for tea!

I’m happy to report that this man v food experience does carry on into Boxing Day… oops

Afterall, life is to damn short to say no to food on the best of days, let alone Christmas!

Number Two – The TV

After you’ve consumed your body-weight in Christmas dinner, it’s time for TV! And oh boy, what a year this promises to be. Not only will the usual Christmas films such as the Polar Express, The Snowman and probably The Grinch be on the TV, but there is a Gavin & Stacey Christmas Day special which I CANNOT wait for. Oh my Christ, I honestly have so many unanswered questions from the previous series.

Photo: http://www.libonotos.com/2017/12/24/the-grinch/

I suppose no Christmas is complete without sitting down, so full of turkey you might as well be clucking, to lose yourself in whatever film is on the TV or what you might’ve got as a present, accompanied by the gentle crackling of the fire.

There’s something so idyllic about that and I think that’s why I love Christmas so much. For me, there’s no other time quite like it in the calendar.

Number 3 – Presents

Ah, the absolute centre piece of any Christmas Day! I am proud to say that at the grand old age of 19, I still bolt down the stairs in my pyjamas after opening the presents in my stocking to find out what is under the Christmas tree.

In our family, my Mum & Dad usually venture downstairs first whilst my sister and I wait at the top of the stairs, full of excitement like children.

However, it’s not so much the presents that make this aspect of the day so special for me. Sure, they are amazing, but seeing people’s reactions is always heart-warming. And yes, this does include the cat. Poor old Sidney, who is now fondly known as ‘Three Fang Fatty’ in our family following a recent trip to the dentist, always kicks Christmas off on a high after he gets to unwrap a catnip mouse… safe to say it knocks him out for an hour or so after!

True love…

I will be the first to admit that I always have that nagging voice of doubt in the back of my mind saying: “what if they hate it?” whenever I watch people open the presents I’ve got them, but I suppose it’s just part of wanting to make everybody happy.

Number 4 – Music

It’s fair to say that no Christmas is complete without a season-appropriate playlist. I’m talking some of the absolute classics, including ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ by Slade, Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas Time’ and the classic ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues. You just can’t beat a good playlist to boost the mood.

I don’t really think there’s a tradition for Christmas Day in my family music-wise, I suppose it’s just whatever comes on the radio if we are on our way to the horses or sitting down over the table for a slap-up Christmas dinner.

However, I can say for certain that after 11 months of silence and a few days defrosting, Michael Bublé usually makes an appearance.

I do realise that for someone my age these music choices aren’t exactly very contemporary, but sometimes the classics are the best.

Number 5 – Family (pets included)

I don’t think Christmas is complete unless myself, my sister and my Mum go to the yard to see the horses. Unfortunately, the Christmas attire doesn’t normally make an appearance, because apparently a mud and snot covered Christmas jumper isn’t in fashion! If you’ve got a horse like Annabelle who is very nosey and likes to make sure she hasn’t missed out on any snacks, you’ll know the struggle to keep your non-horsey clothes clean if you wear them to the yard!

As you can tell, I’m thrilled that my jumper stayed somewhat clean!

This drama aside, Christmas is all about family. Spending time with those you love and having a day of no worries about university, school, work or whatever might be on your mind is priceless. For me, there is nothing better than spending it at home with my family: something that I wouldn’t change for the world.

Just to say…

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and all the others from 2019. This is my last blog of 2019. I hope you will tune in next year for more.

Thank you all so much for your support this year, it really does mean a lot to me. I’ve always wanted to write a blog, and starting one at the beginning of this year was absolutely terrifying. I couldn’t of done it without your support, so thank you for allowing me to follow my passion.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Anna x

The Impacts of Public Perception

All too often, we find ourselves on the receiving end of keyboard warriors. I suppose we can thank the wonderfully toxic world of social media for this.

I sometimes wonder if the ideology behind ‘freedom of speech’ has gone too far and been misunderstood.

Sure, we are all entitled to our own opinions, but sometimes taking to the keyboard in a fit of rage isn’t the best thing to do. Not only are harmful comments public, but they can impact someone’s mental wellbeing more than we might think.

In a society where openness about mental health is ever expanding, it’s saddening to know that there are people willing to bring others down for their own personal satisfaction.

Speaking from personal experience, receiving online hate about the way I look only brings a smile to my face. In a sense, I feel sorry that someone has decided to waste their time criticising me, because I know it will have absolutely no effect on how I see myself because I’m in a happy place surrounded by the best people.

However, the impacts of online abuse can be far worse on an international level.

Let’s take Love Island for example.

Millions of people tune into their televisions at 9pm every night throughout summer to watch this programme.

I think it would be fair to say that this year’s contestants received a plague of online abuse after returning home from the villa.

For example, Curtis Pritchard.

Prior to entering the villa, Curtis and his brother, AJ, had already been on the receiving end of violence. The brothers were assaulted outside a Cheshire night club by a gang of eight. Both brothers were injured, resulting in Curtis requiring surgery on his knee.

When Curtis left the villa with partner, Maura Higgins, after placing 4th on the show, the amount of online abuse he received was shocking. Particularly on this Instagram post:

The comments are awful. It horrifies me to know that people have no awareness that their remarks have consequences. Sure he’s wearing makeup for TV, so what?

Are the suicides of former contestants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis not enough to make people aware of the influence online abuse holds?

This year has been no different. One only has to look at some of the headlines written about Molly-Mae Hague and Tommy Fury to see them littered with claims that they’re “fake.”

Like a lion hunting a zebra, online abuse stalks every post.

Last night, the following post came up on my Facebook feed:

At first glance, I thought to myself “Damn, I wish I could do my makeup as flawlessly as that.”

Then I looked at the comments:

My stomach turned. Honestly if you’ve got nothing nice to say then don’t say anything! Just imagine the impacts this might have on the model.

It’s like having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. The angel encourages us to be kind, but is overruled by the devil of negativity and hate.

(image credit: https://paranormalis.com/)

I am willing to bet my student loan that if these people were on the receiving end of their comments they’d be upset.

Treating people how you’d like to be treated is so important. 

Let’s move on to talk about some of the headlines written about celebrities. For example:

As a trainee journalist, I’m very familiar with writing headlines that captivate audiences.

BUT…

Why does it matter that Michelle Keegan flaunts her “tiny waist” whilst heading to the gym? Why does Carol Vorderman’s figure in “skin-tight leather trousers” matter so much?

Well, these key phrases draw in audiences like a spider on its web. If I were to re-write the first headline: ‘Michelle and Mark go to the gym’ it’s suddenly very boring and dull.

It’s the emphasis on her figure that draws in audiences and opens the door to criticism.

Fact is, Michelle is going to the gym wearing leggings and a crop top and Vorderman is wearing skin-tight leather trousers because she wants to.

Ultimately what I’m trying to say is think before you type. Online comments hold more negativity than we may realise. Online hate is one of the reasons so many suffer from anxiety and a lack of self-confidence.

Public perception kills. You only have to look at the tragic suicides of former Love Island contestants to know this.

It also serves as a notice to be kinder to people because you never know what’s going on inside their head.

***

Sources:

https://www.thesun.co.uk/tvandshowbiz/8077773/strictly-come-dancing-aj-pritchard-brother-curtis-beaten-up-nightclub-attack/

https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/breaking-love-islands-sophie-gradon-12757402

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-47597561

Talent has no gender

In a world riddled with underlining gender biases, it seems that talent is one of the only aspects of life which doesn’t come with a gender label.

With this in mind, I thought I’d write an opinion piece on this topic and why, in some respects, I feel ashamed to be part of a society which still exploits gender biases.

It’s no secret that sexism, sadly, still exists in the 21st Century. Aside from the ongoing gender pay gap which continues to plague many professions, sport has mostly eliminated the idea of gender inequality.

Let’s take gymnastics as an example.

If I asked you to name a few of the great gymnasts of our time, you’d most likely name Max Whitlock, Nile Wilson and Beth Tweddle, to name a few. In a sport which requires precision, balance and an insane amount of core strength, gender seems to be of no importance.

(Photo credit: @nilemw on Instagram)

Gymnastics focuses on the sheer talent of those involved, their perseverance and hard work, instead of making leeway for narrow-minded perceptions that the sport is for one gender, and one gender only.

I admire many of the greats from this sport, I can just about touch my toes let alone do flips and tricks from parallel bars!

It’s refreshing to be able to escape in the world of gymnastics where talent is appreciated, and gender isn’t criticised.

Another sport which supports this ideology is horse riding.

Ah, the absolute art of trying to control a 750-pound animal with it’s own mind. And no, don’t even get me started on the “you just sit there” stereotype – I will personally come and lecture you on the work us riders put in to look flawless and get our horses working correctly.

(Photo credit: @benmaherofficial on Instagram)

Like gymnastics, horse riding is a sport for all. From popular figures such as Mark Todd, Ben Maher and Ellen Whitaker, to those sitting on a horse for the first time, the only thing that matters is the partnership you have with your horse – not what gender you identify with.

Yet, there are some sports which focus on gender, instead of the talent their competitors hold.

Athletics.

One of the most recent examples was the controversy surrounding South African middle-distance runner, Caster Semenya.

(Credit to @castersemenya800m on Instagram)

She caused concern amongst fellow athletes that her condition, hyperandrogenism, gave her an unfair advantage.

Hyperandrogenism is a medical condition characterized by excessive levels of androgens (male sex hormones such as testosterone) in the female body.

Yet, the fact it occurs in the FEMALE BODY was overlooked by the ethical debate regarding Semenya’s biological gender.

For me, this is definitely a face palm moment…

The Daily Mail published in their article: “Semenya, 25, has testosterone levels three times the normal level found in women and approaching those of a man. Furthermore, she has no womb or ovaries, and instead, owing to a chromosomal abnormality, internal testes. As a result, her appearance is startlingly masculine.”

If it’s all about appearance then please start calling me Andy because I probably share “startlingly masculine” aesthetic characteristics with my Dad!

Why must we always look upon gender as the ‘be all or end all’?

Yet (aside from the odd blip) talent remains genderless, and that’s the beauty of it.

Speaking of beauty, the make-up industry is an absolute gold-mine for the celebration of talent. I know I’ve mentioned this in previous blogs, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

(Credit to @nikkietutorials on Instagram)

YouTube is a hub of make-up artistry, from NikkieTutorials, James Charles, Zoella and many others, talent is shared across this platform. Make-up is celebrated for what it is – a form of art open to interpretation and personal preference.

Men and women alike are celebrated on YouTube and other social media platforms for their artistry and talent. That is a real step in bridging the gap between gender stereotypes surrounding make-up.

As a society, I believe we should live and let live, encourage others to follow their passions whilst striving to bring out the best in ourselves.

In sports like gymnastics, horse-riding, rugby and football, where both men and women can compete (granted, in separate competitions/matches) is a fantastic advocate for equality.

Talent is a gift. Afterall, achieving Olympic medals and competing in world class competitions doesn’t happen at the click of a finger and shouldn’t be overlooked by one’s gender.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog! Please note, all opinions expressed are my own!

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperandrogenism

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3740682/Should-runner-allowed-win-gold-woman-Tipped-win-800m-no-ovaries-nearly-testosterone-man-sparked-huge-ethical-debate.html

https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/2568578/caster-semenya-gender-row-hyperandrogenism-iaaf-testosterone-wife-race/

What first year has taught me

As I sit here in my beloved student accommodation bedroom surrounded by a maze of boxes containing various miscellaneous items packed to go home for summer, I decided to reflect on my first year at University and what it’s taught me.

For those who may not know me personally, I have just finished my first year studying Journalism at University. And oh boy, what an experience it has been. I won’t lie, there have been many ups and downs, but that’s all part of the learning experience.  

It’s fair to state that the first year of University isn’t guaranteed to be plain sailing. There have been moments of doubt and upset. But they are far outweighed by the moments of self-assurance and enjoyment that University provides. I guess that’s what makes it all the more rewarding.

Now, I’m not going to lie, University is a huge step up from sixth form/college education. For me, thoughts of “Am I going to fit in?”, “Am I good enough?”, “What if I can’t do this?” flooded my brain like a tidal wave in the weeks approaching my start date.

But if there’s anything I want to emphasise the most, it’s that these feelings are completely normal! I guess feeling nervous about it is a good thing, because (in a way) it shows you care. It signifies that you want to achieve the most you can from your years in education. I suppose I made this transition fractionally harder for myself by choosing a University 194 miles away from home… whoops! But, if I’m honest, you hardly notice the distance.

Why?

Because University forces you to be independent.

You’re put with a group of random people whom you’re expected to live with, you have to cook for yourself, do your own laundry etc. But is that as daunting as it sounds? Heck no! It’s part of transitioning into adult life, and I can safely say I have met friends for life here: both in my accommodation and on my course.

Alongside this, University also teaches you two kinds of confidence.

The first of which is having confidence in your ability.

Think about it like this, everyone is in the same position at University. Everybody starts off University as either a hungover, or non-hungover fresher, just getting to grips with this change in lifestyle. Sure, there’s bound to be people who are better at a certain module than you, but that’s nothing to worry about. I have, and will, continue to stand by the motto that so long as you know you’ve worked as hard as you can, nobody can ask for anything more.

The second of which is being confident in yourself.

In a way, I’m disappointed in myself for going through the majority of my life (thus far) with a “can’t do” attitude which once gnawed away at my self-confidence like some demonic hamster. But believe me, this is thrown as far out of the window as possible once you reach University. There’s no time for that, it forces you into a “can do” mindset which I find I am adopting more frequently – good riddance!

Alongside confidence, University has also taught me patience. I guess one of the flaws of being a millennial and living in such technological advanced times, is that you expect everything to happen at the click of a finger. I suppose my lack of patience in some aspects of life form some of my biggest regrets. And no, I don’t mean regret in a sense of eating the rather ‘hunt the toast’ cheese toastie I decided to make for lunch today… somebody send me some digestion tablets!

Patience is one of life’s greatest lessons. I guess being impatient when it comes to the final 5 minutes before an exam isn’t all bad but being generally impatient never helps a situation. Afterall, what’s the point in getting unnecessarily stressed and impatient about something which will be ok in the end?

The third, and final, thing that my first year at University has taught me is independence. Now, I’m not talking about having to cook for yourself as I briefly mentioned above, I’m talking about the freedoms University provides. Growing up in a relatively small, countryside village has meant I’m not exactly acclimatised to a city environment. However, this hasn’t phased me.

The freedom to be your own individual person is a feeling I can’t put into words. The sense of finding yourself and where you want to be in life is worth more than words can express. University is home to a hub of aspirations. Everybody comes here with a passion to study a certain subject and start their career. In other words, the freedom to choose who you become later on in life is a feeling not even a good motivational speech or song could express.

You see, at University, everybody is original. Everybody has a certain subject they love and want a career in, otherwise they wouldn’t be here! To me, that’s all the inspiration required to bring out the best in myself, free from the prison of self-doubt that held me captive throughout my time at school and sixth form.  

I suppose what I’m getting at is that University allows you to be whatever you want to be; to uncover your potential, passion and enthusiasms in life. I can truly say that University has lived up to every expectation I held and I cannot wait to start second year come September 2019.

The Weird and Wonderful World of the 21st Century

Ok, here goes. I feel that the time has come for me to step outside of the regular instalments of the ‘Lambo Boys’ posts to something a bit more journalistic and opinion-based.

As much as I love writing about the club and its members, it’s time to write about something I initially mentioned in my introduction post – The Weird and Wonderful World of the 21st Century.

I endeavour to make this blog post as interesting and as thought-provoking as possible.

And yes, I am (of course!) accompanied by a cup of tea as I bring you my views on the weird and wonderful elements of our society!

Now, as a Journalist student, this first point is something that baffles me.

Face to face communication.

What is going on there?! I can’t put my finger on it, since when did it all become so hard? As my beloved parents would say, “back in my day…” this wouldn’t be as much of an issue as it is in modern times.

Nowadays, people are fraught with fear at the principle of talking to another human being. Now, I’m not talking about the struggles of social anxiety, as I understand that’s a sensitive problem, I’m focusing on passing somebody you know. Why do we think “oh gosh, it’s them, shall I say hi, shall I wave, is that too much? Shall I smile?”

I mean the questions are exhausting. In a world where we are alive for just the blink of an eye, just say “hello”!

I guess the same issue arises with the rather teenage issue of crushes.

What a drama!

If you like someone, message them. Simple.

Life, unfortunately, is not a Disney film. However great singing your way through life may sound, Prince Charming isn’t going to return your lost Converse shoes, let alone marry you!

Society is brilliant, don’t get me wrong, and by no means am I suggesting that we all have to be in relationships, because life is full of opportunities and experiences to be shared with a number of people. However, I wish simply saying “hello” to somebody wouldn’t be as challenging as figuring out how to phrase this post!

I’m a great believer in the cliché phrase “you only live once”. Why? Because it’s TRUE!

Along with this, is the matter of small talk. Since the introduction of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat etc. many find it hard to engage in small talk because the majority of our communication is done online. I cannot remember every time I’ve asked somebody how they are and get a blunt, single-word response: “fine”.

Where have the days of full, engaging conversation gone?!

No wonder people question why I talk to myself a lot!

The other day, I found I was talking to myself about how we don’t notice when we blink. How random is that?!

The point is, communication skills are decaying. Quite daunting when you consider that there are 7.6 billion people on Planet Earth…

Another ‘weird’ fact that baffles me is trends.

These have become such a prominent part of the online world of the 21st Century, especially social media. Trends seem to determine how ‘cool’ or ‘popular’ someone is. I remember when I was younger the ‘in thing’ was loom bands.

How strange is that?!

We used to sit there with our school pasta pots at lunchtime comparing small, multi-coloured rubber bands, seeing how we’d constructed different patterns or incorporated multiple designs.

Those were the days!

But, nowadays, trends have turned sinister.

The most prominent example being the ‘Momo Challenge’. For those of you who aren’t aware, this is a suicide game that encourages young children to hurt themselves. It originated on WhatsApp but has also appeared on YouTube.

The challenge has parents worried across the country, as children are encouraged to keep ‘Momo’ a secret.

A cruel ‘trend’ that I find absolutely appalling.

Especially since it made headlines again. On February 28, the BBC released an article, entitled “Momo challenge: ‘Freaky game’ described as hoax”.

A hoax?!

Seriously?!

I can’t quite believe that a cruel challenge that encourages vulnerable children to hurt themselves has been branded a “hoax”.

I suppose the way in which you interpret this is down to personal opinion, but I simply don’t see how a cruel challenge which installs fear into our younger generation (and has had tragic consequences) can be called a “hoax”.

Life is not something to be feared! It is a reality to be experienced and cherished.

Which brings me nicely onto the wonderful elements of our society.

Let’s start with the people we meet. I want you to take this moment to think about the people you’ve met in your life. There must be hundreds, right?

For me, I can’t quite describe the love I have for the people I’ve met. My family, my university flatmates, coursemates, lecturers, teachers. I mean, the list goes on!

The people you meet in your life impact you in one way or another.

For example, my old English teacher inspired me to take up Journalism at University level. My family constantly remind me “you can do it”! My flatmates keep me sane with their endless support and ability to make me laugh on the toughest days.

I think one of the wonderful elements of this is the variation of people we meet. Even the ones we may not see eye-to-eye with. And, you know what? That’s ok because we are all individual people!

I know this doesn’t exactly mean a whole lot coming from a Journalist student with a tea-addiction, but if there’s one thing I’d love to pass on from my ramblings, it’s this:

Life is too short to be anything other than yourself, so follow your dreams.

If anything, I hope this blog post has encouraged you to take a trip down memory lane and given you an insight into my views of this rather weird and wonderful society.

But most of all, I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts and opinions as much as I have enjoyed writing them!

The regular ‘Lambo Boys’ blog post will be back next week.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this!