Often people come to see me worried that they are going crazy, or that things are out of control. Despite considerable health promotion efforts, the sense that I get is that there remains a considerable stigma about mental health concerns, particularly for some cultural groups. Often when people walk into the therapy consult, they remain worried that they are going to be judged, minimise their problems and as a result don’t get the help they need. The step that people take to decide to come along is a huge one, and sometimes this gets minimised. You see for psychologists and GPs talking about mood, coping and depression is something that happens every day, so sometimes we forget just how hard it is, if you have never had to talk about it before.
How do you know if it would be helpful to have therapy?
Lots of things happen in our lives that make them difficult. In fact, I am yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have any difficult things happen in their lives. Sometimes we manage them well, particularly if they happen one at a time, and we have lots of space and time to process whatever is going on. But, generally what happens is that things don’t happen to us one at a time. In fact, in my experience there are always lots of dimensions to our stressors, and
sometimes trying to balance these become very difficult.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by what’s happening for you, or you are feeling that your mood is a little flat, if you become anxious or worried about things that you have not been worried about before, if you’re sleeping patterns have changed or you have lost interest in things that normally make you happy these are all things which are suggestive that things are becoming harder to manage. Like most things in life, it becomes easier to engage in help when things are starting to get hard, rather than waiting until you feel completely overwhelmed.
Often therapists are happy to chat with you about what you are concerned about, and whether they think therapy would help before you commit to coming along.
Other than therapy, what can I do?
Some of the things that will make you feel better, are the things that you normally stop doing when you start feeling flat or overwhelmed. One of the best things that you can do is to get your routine back on track, start eating well, and probably most importantly, start doing some exercise. All of these things help manage you mood, bolster your coping strategies and generally help you feel better. In addition to this, the thing to help you manage is to take time for yourself to do something that will make you feel better. It could be easy, it could be a treat or it could just be as simple as taking a nice long shower. But taking that one thing and prioritising it, can make a huge difference to your mood, even if it doesn’t feel like it at first.
However, if things are not feeling any better after you try these things, then you may need additional support. Often talking with your GP in the first instance can give you an idea of what might be helpful. If at any time you feel suicidal or have thoughts about harming yourself, then you need help straight away, and so the best option to the call the community mental health team in your area (easy to find if you google it!) and they can make contact and
engage support very quickly.
It’s tough being a young person. Some people would argue that it always has been difficult to be a teenager or a young adult. I would argue that it seems to have gotten quite a bit harder. For instance 20 years ago, people weren’t connected to devices almost continuously. Most people see that this is a good thing, and it is in lots and lots of ways. But, there are downsides. It’s harder to disconnect from social pressures, people can contact you all of the time, and your online self is almost as big, maybe even bigger and more important than your actual self. Some people manage these challenges really
well, but like everything in life, sometimes this is harder to manage.
Do you ever find yourself struggling to know who your real self is?
It’s very tempting to put pictures of your idealised self out there. Everyone knows that you only use the photos where you look awesome for FB pics right? However, sometimes if you are looking at your pics, and they all seem to be terrible, and your mates all look stunning, skinny, buff, hot, interesting, and popular it’s easy to feel really rubbish about yourself. Although, I am willing to bet that your friends are doing exactly the same thing as you.
There is a really cool exercise from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy which is called the 80th Birthday card. The idea is that you imagine it’s your 80th birthday and people are sending you cards and gifts. What would you like the cards to say? Would you want them to say that you are really hot and popular on FB (hint: at 80 generally neither of these things will be true – esp. about FB. It will be about as popular as blacksmithing is right now). Instead would you rather that people would feel that you are genuine, interesting, engaged, caring and loving? Perhaps the answer to this might be a direction to who you are, rather than the way you portray yourself to the social media world.
It’s ok to have a social media self. We all have them. And we have lots of selves. Like, our school self, work self, house self, parent self, friends self. And some of these will be the same, but maybe some will be quite different. It’s just another aspect to balance of yourself. The problems come when the social media takes over you, and you are feeling completely at a loss as to how to manage it. Some people might suggest that you just delete your account and disconnect. You can do that. But then you get to miss all the good things that social media brings, like relationships with your friends, interesting events and silly games that eat up hours of your life (self-confessed Pet Rescue addict).
Perhaps instead it’s about balance, and making sure that your social media self isn’t taking over everything. If you do feel like that’s happening, you can get support by talking with your friends, parents or even a counsellor. Often talking to someone else gives you more ideas about what to do, then letting things go around in your head, as it’s really hard to see an answer when you are stuck in the middle of a problem.
How do you keep your social media self under control?