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Thursday, 7 November 2019

Simple Ways You Can Be More Sustainable and Green

Nikola Jovanovic | Unsplash
Environmentalism and sustainability are increasingly becoming areas of concern. Being a student or if you work, this often conflicts with your conscience. You support the need to reduce actions which have negative consequences on the environment, but your job requires you to work on a computer all day or deal with stacks of paperwork, for example. There are people out there who will criticise you for being a 'hypocrite' for doing so.

There's too much of 'If you are really that eco-conscious then you can't do x, y, or z'. Of course, we all do things that harm the environment in one way or another, regardless of how big or small that impact may be. Instead, we should focus more about doing what we can as individuals which can then collectively have a positive impact in reducing harm caused. We should be promoting each other to be eco-conscious awareness in our behaviours rather than slating others for not doing enough since that only seems to deter others from making positive changes.

So, I'm going to provide 10 very simple things that everyone can do, with a few student-specific examples and tips.

Recycle, Recycle, and Recycle
I know you get told this all the time, but I can't do a post like this without including recycling! The truth is, recycling can take more effort that some people would expect. You can't just go around throwing anything plastic in the recycling bin, or anything you think is recyclable. You have to always check, because if you contaminate your recycling bin with something that cannot be recycled (such as food or drink waste), you'll ruin the whole batch. Check the labels and if you're unsure ask someone or do a quick Google search (I do think labelling needs to be clearer), don't be too lazy to walk to the recycling bin, wash out your cans and jars before you recycle them to avoid contamination, and please don't line your recycling bin with a plastic bag... I guess the main take-away points here are: don't be lazy and always double check!

Try Using Cruelty Free Products
This one is slightly more difficult as there does seem to be several blurred lines when it comes to judging whether a product is cruelty free or not.

  • Cruelty-Free does not mean the product is vegan.
  • Some brands are technically cruelty free, but they sell to China which requires that foreign goods much be animal tested by law (this does not apply to Hong Kong) so will not be cruelty-free certified.
  • Some brands don't test on animals or sell to China but are owned by a 'parent company' which does take part in animal-testing.
  • There are also brands which partake in animal testing, but also have a cruelty-free range.

The difficult thing here is that everyone will have different opinions of whether a product is cruelty-free or not, which is why you may receive different answers by different cruelty-free certification programs and blogs. There's loads out there, but here are a few:

    Mitzi Mandel | Pixabay
  • PETA has a list of brands which test on animals and a list of those which don't as well. You can download these and keep them on your phone for easy access as you're shopping.

  • Leaping Bunny is the only internationally recognised program. Verified products will have the Leaping Bunny logo (some will say that they are more reliable and selective than PETA) and they have an app to!

  • Cruelty-Free Kitty is a blog with lists of cruelty-free and non-cruelty-free products. There are also posts on there focusing on common mistakes and misunderstandings we may make when it comes to looking for cruelty free products.

  • Hazelnut Musings blogs about cruelty free products. Kayleigh (the owner of Hazelnut Musings) has really helpfully compiled a list of cruelty free brands noting whether they sell vegan products and if the parent company of the brand in cruelty free as well. You can find it in the 'menu' of her blog!

If you're really unsure, send an email and ask. Sometimes the replies can be wishy-washy, which probably means that it's best to avoid for the time being.

Invest in a Canvas or Sustainable Bag
They will last forever (okay, maybe not literally forever in some cases) but they will last for years so it's completely worth it. Also, the plastic straps won't dig into your hand so that's a bonus when you're carrying your shopping back to your house or accommodation for a long distance.

Turn Off Electricity Sockets
I think that many of us forget that regardless if your lamp is turn on or off, if the socket it turned on, electricity is being used. Don't leave sockets on if the appliance is not in use. This is something that's easily done. If you're a student living with other students, just do some regular round checks to make sure that there aren't any sockets on that don't need to be, but be careful to not accidentally turn a pre-heating oven off!

Reduce Water Usage
This point is pretty self-explanatory. Turn off the taps when you're brushing your teeth or shampoo-ing. It is a very simple way of saving water and it will save you on the bills to! You'll be surprised how much water goes down the drain when it's running for a few minutes!

CC0 1.0 | Pxhere
Cut Down on Meat and/or Diary Consumption
I'm not telling you to completely go vegetarian or vegan (that's your choice alone and some people can't because of dietary requirements) but you can definitely think of cutting down your meat and/ or diary consumption if you are able to and especially if you are aware that you eat a lot of meat. A lot of people find that it's actually a lot easier to do than they had originally anticipated. People are quick to judge, so be open-minded about vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. You can't really criticise until you have properly given it a go and have made the effort to explore the option. Some pointers:

  • A few vegetarian/ vegan days a week
  • Reduce the portion of meat in your meals (swap out some chicken with tofu for example)
  • Try alternatives (don't just try one and assume you won't like any of them!)
  • Experiment with vegetables (they're the easiest thing to prepare!)

Reduce Food Waste
They work for some people, but meal plans have never worked out for me. This may be difficult to do as a student if you don't have a set schedule. One day you may finish lectures at 7, 10pm if you have society commitments, other days you'll be done with contact hours before 12pm. However, what you can do is make a rough weekly outline so that you don't end up buying more than you need. For example you may decide to plan ahead and properly cook a meal when you have limited work and contact hours that day, or have food on hand that you can quickly prepare (like vegetables and pasta) if you know that you have lots to do, and on the days you finish late you may want to take out a pre-prepared cooked meal that you have frozen (my Mum has made me enough so that I have one per a week set aside until the end of term!) or something from the freezer to shove in the oven. Lunch, on the other hand, is easier to prepare. Make sure to check expiry dates and eat food that is due to go off sooner.

bady qb | Unsplash
Get Yourself a Reusable Water Bottle
They can hold more water than a plastic water bottle, reduce plastic waste, save you money and you won't make a load of noise trying to open it in the middle of a lecture! I know that in some places it's advised to not drink water straight from the tap. One thing I do is to boil water in a kettle and transfer it into a heat resistant jug which you can keep on your desk to pour into your cup or bottle. It's a great way to track your water intake to!

This ranges from helping out garden centres, to going out to plant trees and bulbs, and helping to maintain woodland areas and flower patches. Warwick Volunteers has opportunities like these running all throughout the year for Warwick students.

Buy Second-Hand Books (and other stuff)
You don't need new textbooks. They are so so expensive and they will end up getting creased no matter how hard you try to maintain them. I have never had a problem with second-hand books - they always come as if they have barely been used or brand new! They are cheaper, more sustainable and you can re-sell or donate them afterwards if they are left in good enough condition. Universities often hold second-hand sales for student essentials such as pots and pans to, so it's worth keeping an eye out for these as well.

Remember that food banks need to be filled and that many people go into charity shops to seek out clothes and toys. Don't just throw it all away if someone else can benefit from your unwanted items.

Invest in a Whiteboard
Students - you will understand my guilt when it comes to printing. However, you can try and make up for some of this during exam season. I have been loving using my whiteboard to recall information instead of writing it down on pieces of paper that are going to be thrown away anyway. Of course, this won't always be an efficient method as you will probably want to have a physical copy of handwritten, timed essays to go over, for example. Nevertheless, make use of the whiteboard whenever you can!

🌱 Think about what small changes you can start making today! 🌱

 If you have any more ideas, please share them!

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Am I Good Enough?

"You know yourself better than anyone else"

To what extent is this phrase true?

When I think about this, there are 2 main contrasting ways you can see this:
  1. Sometimes other people see you in a way you can't see yourself. The phrase "I wish you see in yourself what I see in you" is often used here.

  2. On the other hand, there are times when you know that the way others see you isn't representative of your qualities. This may be in relation to negative traits or lack of skill.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the way I view myself and how much of that is derived from the way that others view me, or my interpretation how others may view me. This has mainly in regard to ability but can also apply to personality traits to. It's a battle we're all familiar with.

As lost as I sometimes feel at university, it's also made me become more aware of my strengths, or at least my ability to be able to build on my weaknesses.

Of course, this doesn't apply to my whole university experience, but this is something that I feel like is emphasised within the Psychology Department. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, buy my lecturers are very keen on promoting the process of learning and gaining experience regardless of where you are this present time. They are genuinely keen on helping you make progress.

This is contrary to school, where you would constantly be reminded of your weaknesses, told to work on them, but not actually be given the opportunity to do so. Even just thinking about it fills me with that feeling of pure frustration. Just to clarify, I did have some lovely teachers, but in general (and it's something you probably see in most schools) there was a bias towards those pupils who were classed as 'intelligent' or who were more outspoken and confident. This bias also appears extremely apparent upon the way that peers judge and treat each other as well.

This was something I touched on in my 'Every Mind Matters' post, but if you weren't seen to be intelligent or socially confident and outspoken, there was a barrier put up against you when you wanted to take on opportunities to enhance your weaknesses or perhaps to prove that you're not as incapable as people perceive you to be.

It's funny if you think about it because getting good grades doesn't automatically make you good at everything else. Neither does being outspoken make you good at debates or public speaking.  Despite that, that's how some people seem to think it works. I used to constantly hear comments along the lines of "It's always X who gets the opportunity to do Y..." by other pupils who longed for the chance to partake in activities they were interested in but were never given the chance because they weren't granted to be "good enough" purely on the basis of others' assumptions about their abilities. The majority of the time, these assumptions were inferences derived from factors that were completely unrelated such as what set (for classes) they were in.

Gerd Altmann | Pixabay
The problem here is how can anyone make progress if they're not given the chance to and why do we make inferences that someone isn't adequately competent without having given them the chance to prove themselves? All these opinions essentially turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy as a result. Is it at this point where we start losing confidence in ourselves?

The scenario I have just described  is a reason why we may eventually realise that what we thought were our biggest weaknesses, actually are our greatest strengths. The only reason why we believed that they were our weaknesses in the first place is probably because of others' opinions or our evaluations of what they think about our abilities.

A personal example is that I've come to realise that public speaking, delivering  presentations and leadership are strengths of mine. The irony of this is that if you have a casual conversation with me you probably wouldn't see me in these kinds of positions. If you don't know me in person and only read my blog, it may well be that you will get different impressions about what my personality and skills are. To give you some context, I was known to be the "quiet" girl in school, and I don't like being in large crowds. I also started off being in the lowest sets for every single subject in secondary school and was still going through my phonics in Year 3 because my teachers thought I didn't know them (I did... let's just say social communication was a struggle).

Initially, I don't seem like someone who would do well presenting in front of an audience or is "tough" enough or confident enough to be a leader either. However, given the opportunity, I can do it. Of course, being in front of large crowds makes me incredibly nervous no matter how many times I do it, but no one would even realise unless they speak to me afterwards and get to know my personality a bit more. Likewise, when I am put in a position where I have to be assertive and I have to communicate with and organise a group of people, I will efficiently get the job done.

However, up until the past few years I had always thought that these were my weak points. Knowing this, I tried to take up opportunities to build upon these areas but was usually denied. The last year of primary school I threw myself into the deep end and decided that I would try out for a narrator role in the Christmas play. Everyone was given the chance to read an extract, except from me. Simply on the basis that I wouldn't be good enough just because I was a shy child. There was also an instance where I had volunteered to be a form rep because no one else wanted to, and as soon as I did my own peers huddled up and started encouraging each other to volunteer because they didn't want me in the position. Why? Because they didn't believe that I had to qualities to do so for the same reasons as I've already outlined. Someone even indirectly told me that I should look for other university options because the likelihood of me getting accepted into Warwick was low. What was that on? The basis that they didn't think I had the academic intelligence to get an offer (possibly based on my past academic record). The admissions tutor obviously thought otherwise and I'm doing so much better academically now than I was in sixth form so that doesn't matter anymore.

If we don't start giving people the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to explore their abilities, we're denying them the chance to recognise their potential. Your opinions don't provide sufficient evidence to tell people that they're not good enough at something without having given them the chance to show you what they can do. They may not be amazing to start off with (as we all are) but give them the time and support and they will show you that they have potential. Other times, things just don't work out and that's okay as well, as long as we allow the individual to figure that out for themselves.

If you have found yourself in similar situations to what I have, you will understand how tiring it is to try and break down those barriers. Even more so when you are in this constant cycle of breaking them down only for them to be put right back up again.

Even if you had previously had faith in your own potential when others didn't, peoples' opinions of you eventually catch up. Especially after suppressing them for so long, there becomes a point where others' opinions of you start to matter more and it causes you to doubt yourself. They begin to weave into how we think about ourselves, no matter how many times we try to convince ourselves that "we don't care". They may even transmit into us believing that people who haven't even met us already have the same opinions, when really, they have no idea who you are or of your capabilities.

Bruce Mars | Pexels
This is what I'm currently trying to battle through. After years of trying to prove other people wrong, I now need to prove to myself that I am just as capable as anyone else. Those voices in your head telling you that you're not good enough are made up from the same degrading comments from the past. You managed to fight them off before, so don't let them put you down now.

How you see yourself - your self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth - it matters.

See that you have potential because you DO. Forget about those (probably now irrelevant) people who told you that you couldn't, because they're wrong - you CAN. There are people who believe that you can as well. As for that voice inside your head - take every opportunity you can and don't let it stop you, even if those applications fall though. If that voice inside your head is telling you not to because you're not going to be good enough or because you're going to embarrass yourself, that's more reason to go for it. I can tell you that I've sent through way over 20 emails and applications for numerous volunteering and other experience-y related / career-directed positions over these past few months, but those rejections will equate nothing to the moment when the right ones come by to help me find my ground.  

Accept what you have done and what you can do rather than criticise what you haven't.

Give yourself the opportunity to exceed your own expectations. Take inspiration from your child self who replied "yes I can" when one of your classmates told you that you couldn't. You didn't let other people stop you then, so don't let yourself stop you now.

Patrick Tomasso | Unsplash
I know I’m not the same person I was just over a year ago. I’ve changed. Some for the better, some for the worst.

I'm at a stage where my self-esteem and confidence play a vital role (more than they ever have done before) in not only my personal development, but also in the direction I take next in terms of my education and career progression. Sure, there are things that we don't have control over, but there are also things that we do have control over, and we need to realise what those things are to better ourselves against every other event that sets us down that we have no control over.

I want to go back and have just enough confidence in myself so that I can fight those comments that have been integrated into the little voice in my head telling me that I’m not good enough, because I have the ability to work hard and progress. I want to be able to feel proud of my achievements again, even the minor ones. I want to be able to see myself in the positive light that those who support me do.

Eventually, I will.

I know that building myself back up is going to take time. Months. A year. A few years even. There are going to be some awful days that I won't be prepared for, but hopefully it will all be worth it.

At this moment in time, I know what I need to work on and I'm taking it as it comes.

If you're feeling the same way: We can do this.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Every Mind Matters: WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY 2019

This post is being shared a day later than usual to line up with World Mental Health Day.

What Is World Mental Health Day?
World Mental Health Awareness Day first took place in 1992 founded by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) and supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It's now annually observed on October 10th with the aim of fighting stigma surrounding mental health, opening up discussions about what more could be done to combat the negative perceptions of it, and how we can all support those who may be struggling with their mental health. Since 1994, different themes of focus have been set by WFMH each year. The symbol for mental health awareness is the green ribbon which can be ordered from Mental Health Foundation's website.

In this post I'm going to address how you can support yourself and others when it comes to mental health.

Firstly, I want to address a common misconception that I have seen too many times:

You don't have to have a diagnosed mental health condition in order to support or be an advocate of mental health.

Because you don't have a diagnosed mental health condition, it does not mean that you shouldn't be able to share your support and thoughts. Mental health exists within everyone and covers social, emotional and cognitive functions, which we all experience. Don't feel like you aren't able to or don't have the right to speak about mental health without a formal diagnosis. Don't let others tell you that your experience carries less value as a result. Everyone deals with mental health. Everyone has felt like they have hit rock bottom at one point in their lives. Everyone has also had moments of complete elation. Most of us have felt mentally and physically drained and have found ourselves really struggling in certain situations.

However, this isn't the only concern many of us face:

We also fear the stigma brought with labels.

As much as we don't want this to be true, one of the biggest struggles when it comes to mental health are the negative associations that come with it. This is probably one of the key reasons for not seeking support when we are struggling with our mental health. We're scared of how those around us will use specific labels against us or how it may damage our reputation. Of course, this shouldn't be the case, as having a mental health diagnosis or bad mental health every now and then doesn't make anyone less capable than anyone else. The same tasks can be performed, but perhaps with more willpower and effort than usual.

David Mark | Pixabay
I don't talk about this much because it still makes me feel very uncomfortable, but this is a personal example of how some of us may accidentally use labels in the wrong way.

If you have read some of my blog posts, seen me do a presentation, a speech, a performance, or maybe showing you around school, I seem very confident both socially and with the knowledge that I'm sharing. That is further from the truth. I never fail to always get audience members come and speak to me after a performance (or similar) only for them to comment about how surprised they are to realise that I'm quite the opposite as my 'natural self', so to speak.

When I had managed to push through that barrier and when people gave me the benefit of the doubt, I exceeded their expectations. It always shocked them that I had the ability to be able to stand up in front of an audience and deliver a strong performance or presentation. Despite my anxious tendencies, I have learned that (ironically) presentations and speeches are one of my biggest strengths.

The point here is that:

Someone's state of mental health does NOT define who they are.

Someone who suffers from anxiety for example may have no problem with standing on a stage in front of a large audience. Take the likes of Emma Stone, Adele, and Johnny Depp as key examples. Many well-respected people such as Ellen DeGeneres, Emma Thompson, and J.K Rowling have suffered with depression and are still able to create incredible careers for themselves. The same goes for David Walliams who has been diagnosed with bipolar and Justin Timberlake with ADHD and OCD. Imagine if they had let others' negative judgements of mental health dictate their abilities to do well. Fighting against general labelling or negative; over-generalised  associations of mental health is a constant battle for many people.

Alexas Fotos | Pexels
This is way it's APA (American Psychological Association) regulation that the individual ALWAYS comes BEFORE their diagnosis. There's no such thing as 'the anxious/ depressed participant'. However, to say 'the participant, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia' is acceptable as this way the individual is put in centre focus rather than the diagnosis itself.

It will be a massive step in the right direction if we were able to rewire ourselves to think in the same way as that APA guideline suggests. We shouldn't be drawing lines. Everyone should have the same opportunity as everyone else does to prove themselves or take part in activities they want to, regardless of the labels that are put upon them.

That one thing that you deprive someone of could be the one thing 
that keeps them standing. 

It could be the one thing that boosts their wellbeing, esteem and confidence. If they don't get that chance, they will never know.

There's been a lot of talk about preventing the rise of mental health through spotting warning signs. Back in the Summer, Theresa May even suggested an initiative whereby teachers should be trained to spot the signs of mental health issues. There are articles which make sign spotting seem like a breeze, when in reality it's not.

Don't beat yourself up for not being able to spot the signs 
of someone in need of support.

Often, signs are extremely subtle or even invisible. Other times they only appear apparent when the individual admits that they are having a tough time or if they (or someone else) explicitly lets others know what has been happening. Whilst we all have a responsibility to support those around us, please don't hold yourself accountable for not being able to spot signs as they can be very well hidden.

Even as individuals we tend to be in denial when we experience symptoms of bad mental health.

This results in in pushing them to the back of our minds and ignoring them. Here are a few examples:
  • Social - isolating oneself; loss of enjoyment when it comes to social gatherings.
  • Cognitive - loss of focus, finding it more difficult than usual to understand information; decline in problem solving or decision-making abilities.
  • Emotional - loss of self-esteem or confidence, extended periods of low mood; feeling overly tearful or sensitive, increased nervousness, irritation or any other emotion.
  • Physical - feeling sick when there's no physical cause, fatigue, decreased pain tolerance; headaches.

This is why it's important for us to keep an eye out on ourselves and keep an eye out for the following (copied and pasted from a previous post that I wrote):
  • Ensuring that you are eating well and enough.
  • Checking in on how you are sleeping (too much or too little).
  • Making sure that this isn’t having an impact on your studies or work.
  • Reflecting on your behaviours (especially those avoidance behaviours which are so easy to get into).

A really good idea is you get yourself a diary and keep a record of how you are doing with the above points daily. Rank how you've been feeling throughout the day on a scale between 1-10, record how long you have slept. Include your thoughts and feelings if that helps you. If you've had a particularly bad day see if you can pinpoint why. If not, it's okay note down that you don't know to. I'm still working on this myself.

Supporting someone else

Priscilla Du Preez | Unsplash
Some of us don't know what to do when faced with someone who confides them about their mental health and that's reasonable. If so, they don't expect you to do much but offer your support and a listening ear. There's no need to do a speech or quite massive paragraphs about their achievements or how much you appreciate them. Whilst the odd compliments are beneficial, the more you do it, the less value those comments will have. It's the simple little acts of kindness can mean the most.

  • Check up on your friends every now and then. Text them once a week (or more often!) just to ask how they are. Schedule a weekly phone call conversation with them for a catch up. Make them aware that you're available as someone who they can talk to.

  • If someone you know wants to seek help but they're too afraid to speak to their tutor for example, offer to send an email for them, ask if they would like you to speak to their tutor for them, or accompany them to the meeting.

  • Ask if there's anything they can do to help. Give some suggestions such as going around to their house and sitting with them for a while.

  • Allow silences. It gives you both time to think and reflect on what has just been said.

  • Be patient. Allow them to decide how much they want to tell you. 

  • Talk through some general coping strategies: drawing, music, writing, or anything that lines up with their hobbies and interests. Maybe join in with them!

  • Give them a hug (with permission, of course!). Small acts go a long way!

There are also things that you shouldn't do if someone confides to you:
  • Don't immediately pressure them into speaking to someone. Chances are, you will scare them.

  • Don't reject their feelings in any way or tell them to "not worry". This can cause them to close up about how they really feel. Try to be understanding and accepting.

  • Don't give them reasons for them not to feel the way they do. They have probably already had that talk with themselves and it will add on extra guilt.

  • Remember that you are NOT a trained medical profession. Don't offer any diagnoses or start talking about medical or psychological treatments that could help them. Leave that to those who are trained to know what the best way forward is.

There are some really good websites which can provide you guidance if you want to support yourself or another person who may be struggling with their mental health.

Useful Websites and Resources:

As well as the following links, be sure to check out the links to the World Metal Health Foundation, WHO, and WFMH in the first paragraph of this post to.

Mind - There's so much information under the 'Information & Support' tab and it's all very neatly organised to! The language makes it easy to understand, so it's very accessible. Under this tab you can find lists of various mental health conditions if you want to educate yourself on some of them, guidance on how you can help someone who is struggling with a specific problem, information on treatment options, and important helplines you can contact as well.

Student Minds - focuses on common mental health difficulties commonly encountered by university students. Resources on how parents can support their child from a distance, a guide on how to introduce a conversation about mental health, and workshops run for students at uni to name a few.

Samaritans - Samaritans provide a free phone call service which you can use to speak to someone about any adversities you're facing or if you want to speak about supporting someone else in need. It's open all day, every day. They offer email services to. This is great for those of us who find it uncomfortable speaking to someone who we know about difficult situations.

Time to Change  - Aimed at challenging the negative prejudice and discrimination surrounding mental health whether that be in schools, in the workplace, or in the local community. On their website there are free resources to help combat negative attitudes, as well as personal blog entries from individuals who have dealt with such issues.

Wellbeing Support Services - This self-help page can be accessed by non-Warwick students also. They have some really good info and advice on so many difficulties you may be experiencing including self-esteem, failing well, time management, mindfulness and a whole lot more. They also provide links to podcasts, videos, and articles. I would really encourage you to check it out as there's so much there!

Friends, family members, colleagues, personal tutors, teachers/lecturers, school counsellors; your university's wellbeing services are there to support you as well.

There's no requirement to who you choose to speak to or what resources you access. You may want to research your options first. Don't worry - no one will be looking through your browser history! Choose to do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable at this stage and work your way up if you feel you need to.

Finally, my goals for you...

  • Contact 3 of your close friends and check in with them. Ask them how they are doing or what they've been up to.

  • Perform 1 act of kindness this week. This could be as minor as giving someone a compliment.

  • Challenge the way you think about mental health. Are there any changes which you can make in terms of your attitudes towards mental health?

  • Take a break and do something for yourself!

Thank you so much for reading. I hope the rest of this week treats you well!

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Quotes of the Month: September 2019

This is a new segment of my blog!

Rather than using my academic planner as just for academic purposes and scheduling any other work-ish related activities, I have decided to also use it as a resource to keep track of myself because I seriously need to get better at doing that. It's kind of like an academic planner mixed in with a bullet journal but an extremely simplified version. As much as I would like to take some time out to draw pretty pictures and all that fun stuff, knowing me I would spend half the day doing so, and a student doesn't have time to do that every day.

I'm planning to do a post about how I organise my academic planner pages sometime in the next few months or so.

Part of this is to aim to write down a quote a day. These usually relate to how I've been feeling that day or any random thoughts that my brain happened to be thinking about. They can range from the comedic ones to motivational life lessons, and those ones which are quite though-provoking. On here, I will be sharing with you 5 of my favourites at the end of each month.

As you can probably tell from the quotes I have picked out this month, it was a bit of a rough one, but it will get better! 🤞

Anyways, here are my September 2019 Quotes of the Month!

I had a conversation with my friend about why a lot of us feel the need to keep on supporting others and offering them assistance when we get nothing in return. Even when they don't give us the respect we give them. When we know that others use us when it's convenient for them, only for them to shut us away in a box afterwards, then get us out when they want to. It's because of our value in kindness and being able to use what we know to help others in need. People may not value your actions, but to be able to hold onto the value that you have on kindness, support and respect says a whole lot more. There probably should be a line drawn somewhere, but we all eventually work that out, and when we do, it's to retain our self-value. People may not give in return or necessarily get along with you, but you still need to respect yourself and not let others take advantage of your worth.

There's something about seeing carefree children running around and doing their thing that makes me feel emotional. In a happy way. I think that once we get pushed into the idea of adulthood, there's this constant focus on doing well in education, our career, ensuring that we can financially support ourselves, and all those other adult duties. Whilst it can't be denied that those points are important, so is releasing your inner child every now and then. Sometimes it's drilled into us that we need a set plan and we need to stop being 'childish'. However, like children do, it's so important to keep an open mind. It's great to have direction, but it's also beneficial to give ourselves the opportunity to be curious and explore. We all need to relax from the stresses of adult life to, so watch a Disney movie every Friday night if you wish to! Laugh and have silly conversations with your friends! Doing whatever makes you happy is not childish.

 The feeling of being completely lost with yourself and out of touch with the environment around you is a feeling that can't be described. It's one of those ones which you have to have had experienced in order to understand. Although growth and change are what we need to get ourselves out of that position, it's very difficult. It takes effort to try and grow when you feel surrounded by uncertainty or a loss of identity. It's even more intimidating to attempt to induce changes. Despite that, those are the two things you need to get out of feeling completely at sea. Changing the sails can set you in a new direction. There may be setbacks, but at least those setbacks will allow you to grow away from other places where you don't feel quite right. It may not get you exactly to where you want to be straightaway, but it's better to discover that than to stay stuck somewhere which definitely won't do you any good.

This is a motto I'm currently trying to follow by. My self-confidence has probably been at the lowest it has been in a very long while. I'm learning to build myself backup and celebrate those little success, whether that be managing to put in an application for a certain role, making that dreaded phone call, and so on. One of the biggest hindrances is fear. Building the will power to combat that is mentally draining. However, I'm learning to fight against that so that I am at least giving myself the chance to be successful. If it's unsuccessful, that's fine. At least I have made an attempt and there's no loss. Not giving myself the chance to take up an opportunity on the other hand means that I could lose out on an experience, which could be vital for personal and academic growth and exploration. By no means is it easy, but we're working on it and I'm trying.

You know when you get to point where you feel like you have hit rock bottom and that couldn't feel any worse, but you get through it and then something else happens and that makes you feel worse than how you did previously? Maybe it happens again and again and again. Whether you feel like you have barely scrapped through, if you needed some help getting past it; if you're still going through some tough emotions, you are going to get through it like you have with everything else. You're still standing. It's at times like these were we realise how strong we really are as individuals. Life can tear us apart so much but even from those moments we learn. We learn so much about ourselves and those around us. We become more understanding. We open up to all these different perspectives that we couldn't see before. Those moments may not leave you. They will cause pain. Although it won't seem possible at the time, over time we can find as much strength in those moments just as pain

🌈 A special bonus one this month 🌈

At the end of July in my PAT post, I introduced you all to my 2 beloved piggies.
Those of you who are close to me will know that I lost both of them within less than a week of each other at the end of August. I miss them so so much. I know that anyone who has ever had a pet will know how much joy they bring into our lives. To some people, they are just living furry balls, or maybe scaly long/ round creatures. To us, they are these wonderful living beings who have personalities, who are our best friends; who provide us with so much more love and loyalty than we could ever imagine. Losing them leaves a massive void in our hearts, which I don't know if we ever come near to fully recovering from. That being said, the time I spent with them was so precious. I miss the goodnight cuddles and kisses. I miss the good morning squeaks. I'm going to miss talking to them as I'm doing revision for exams! I know that they were happy. They gave me as much love as I gave them. That's what matters the most. So, Bubbles and Squeak, I hope you are back together now and still happily running around. I hope you're eating all the grass, veggies and fruit you want over Rainbow Bridge and that you're making some new piggy friends as well 💕.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Fearing "I Don't Know..."

The plan was to post my plans for 2nd Year, but that's not sorted yet. Sooo... I don't know what to write. Ironically, this post is titled 'I Don't Know' because what better chance is there for a post like this?

Before I came to university this phrase was always seen as a negative phrase to say and that you should avoid saying it. Here are some common examples:

  • Not knowing your next steps or career path especially during sixth form/ college meant that teachers pressured you to need to have something in place right now.

  • When you're not feeling good and when you're asked why you reply that you don't really know what's causing it, to which the person you're talking to replied "I can't help you then."

  • Not having an answer to a question and then being called "useless" even though the person asking has no clue either.

  • Not knowing the answer to a question is class to which your teacher exclaims that it's "simple" or telling you that you can't look at your notes because you "should know".

  • Not yet having mastered a skill but wanting to, only to be shamed and told that it's "basic" to know.

I will assume that you have experienced many of these yourself. A lot of us, whether we like it or not, are afraid of not knowing. However, who are we all to judge others for not having yet gained certain skills or knowledge? After all, everything we know right now is known to us because we initially didn't know and were open to discover the answer to the unknown or made an effort to master a skill.

To put it forward (and I've said this before): we need to be ignorant to learn. That requires us to firstly admit our ignorance. Therefore, to say "I don't know" should be a good thing, right? If we all pretend to know everything then we wouldn't learn anything new.

As shown from the examples listed above, this isn't the case. Instead of it being used as an opportunity to pass on your knowledge or to teach a skill which could be of great benefit to society and the individual, the response from saying this phrase elicits a feeling of shame. I guess the fear of such negative responses stop us from gaining as much understanding as possible.

In school, I was given the impression that to not know is not good enough. We had no choice but to know. There were several times where I would be in a class when a peer had been asked a question and instead of admitting they didn't know they would ramble on and on until the teacher picked up a point that loosely answered the question. Really, this pupil had no idea what they were talking about and would confess to their friend after class that they "still don't understand the answer".

On the other hand, we've all been in an uncomfortable situation where we haven't been able to answer a question (even after being promoted) but the teacher insists that you know it and won't let you go until you give the correct answer. Doing the first saves the embarrassment of holding up your peers. Yet how much do we learn from doing that? I presume not very much.

I also did a mock interview once and there was a segment where I spoke about my work experience in a reception class. I mentioned about a multi-cultural day I helped children learn words of animals in Spanish. The interviewer asked how I knew how to help them with a language I wasn't familiar with, to which I told them that I had Spanish lessons in primary so basics such as animals and colours came back to me quite easily. To my surprise they responded back by saying "Oh, that's good. Otherwise you would have had to pretend to know what you were doing".

It's no wonder why so many of us find it difficult to admit that we're lacking in skill or knowledge. It makes us seem incompetent. Probably more so than we are. It can damage our self-confidence and the way that others perceive us.

However, being at university now I have been very fortunate that my lecturers have made the experience of saying "I don't know" much more positive. They use it as an opportunity to promote learning and understanding. They don't make exclamations such as "you should know this" or "this is easy. There should be no reason why you shouldn't understand it" that make us feel embarrassed. If we go up to one of our academics and tell them that we don't understand or know how to do or work something out they always tell us that "it's okay" and will ask us specifically what we need help with. If we can't pinpoint it ourselves, they are happy to sit with us and work through the material to help us get to the bottom of it.

I mentioned this in this post but I have asked some questions which I was so so embarrassed that I have even asked my lecturers in the first place. Despite that, they have never been received negatively. Thinking back, I shouldn't have been embarrassed for asking. My lecturers had no problem making clarifications and explaining things to me. If I had never asked, I wouldn't have known the answer and that would have implicated the way I went about the remainder of my studies.

I've even had moments where I have needed to talk to someone but haven't been able to give a reason as to why I'm feeling a certain way, and as hard as it makes it for them to be able to give us direction with such limited information, they have always managed to open up a conversation to help me work it out.

They have also encouraged us to come as speak to them about work experience and career options if we are feeling lost with that to. This came as a surprise to me as I had always been told that "it's up to you. No one else can help you with that". Rather than being pressured by the need to know what direction we're heading in, there's more of a "We have time. We'll work it out together" kind of response. There's no fear or shame placed onto us this way.

It's given me a completely new perspective. The staff in the department have made me feel so much more comfortable in being able to send them and email or knock on their doors and ask for help. This is something that I previously found so nerve-wracking to do. They have taught me that there is no problem with saying "I don't know" as long as we are willing to turn the 'I don't know' into 'I know'. Maybe not a complete "I know" to begin with, but it shows that we are attempting to at the minimum. The same goes for direction whether that's career wise or personal development. I have no idea where I'm heading in a few years' time or even next week. It is so stressful but there are people there who can help me to explore all these different options and open my mind to ones which I may have never thought of beforehand.

It's okay not to know a piece of information, how to do something, how you're feeling, what you want to do in a few years' time, whether you're studying the right course, and so on. However, we do need to give ourselves the opportunity to say "This isn't right. I might not be sure why, but it's completely fine that I don't". These are generally the steps I take:

  1. Fully acknowledge that you don't know what you're doing.

  2. Try and pinpoint exactly why you're unsure (maybe it's a new experience that you have never encountered? Is there a specific bit for information that you can't work out to be able to gain a full understanding? Could it possibly be a process of elimination and experiencing several routes).

  3. Break it down into smaller sections and work through it slowly to help with the above.

  4. Try and figure it out independently. Use the resources around you (create a mind map, a list, do some research on Google, YouTube; leaflets if possible).

  5. Still struggling to figure it out? Need help with gaining resources to help you out (as usually the case with work experience!)? Ask. You can go onto a related form and post questions, ask your friends or family member and see if they know; ask your teachers or other people you know who may have greater knowledge if you're looking for a specific answer. Someone you know will have an answer or know someone who can help.

  6. Acknowledge that whatever it is you're seeking the answer to is reasonable. There's no need to feel embarrassed. You are willing to work things out and that that's all that matters.

People might judge you, but like I have already said, whatever you're asking them is something that they also didn't know (how to do) once. Someone else taught them and you're asking them to teach you or to use their knowledge to support you in figuring whatever it is out. Remind them of that.

Therefore, we need to be aware of giving others the opportunity to take from us when they are feeling a bit lost to. This is without them feeling embarrassed that they need to ask, because there's no problem with not knowing.

We are constantly learning throughout life. Out of general curiosity, the need to know essential skills, to reach is certain goal; to get to know ourselves better. We have to remember that we know what we know because we have learned with the help of other people, whether that is someone writing a textbook, information booklet, creating a video, physically showing you how to do a task, or even just by having a conversation.
Keep being curious. Keep asking questions. Keep up with giving yourself the chance to explore new experiences. Finally, keep sharing your skills and knowledge and using it to help others because there is nothing better than finally feeling like you have taken a step forward in the right direction or the relief of being able to master a skill that you need to or would like to without someone making negative judgements. 

That is what we should know.