It’s been a while hasn’t it! I wrote this yesterday having finally kicked the writers block I’ve been suffering from as of late. It’s a tad rambly, but it’s all about my attempt to have a more structured life, as this tends to make me feel a lot better mentally, through trying to spend time in different places and cutting down on the amount of time I spend on my computer / phone / anything that has a shiny screen and an internet connection.
I haven’t blogged in ages, and I’m not really sure why that is. It might be because I’ve been busy with lovely 9-5 lecture days or having to spend my spare time applying for jobs, it might be because I’ve been trying to spend less time on my laptop / any form of electronics because I realised that there were actually very few moments in the day when I wasn’t staring at a screen. It might be because I still find the idea of strangers reading the random thoughts that run through my head a rad bizarre (I’m nearing on 4000 views for my little slither of the internet and that in itself is quite mind boggling. It might be that there just hasn’t been anything jumping out at me to be written about.
I think it’s the latter of these possibilities if I’m honest. I’ve had a serious case of writers block – there hasn’t been anything I’ve been dying to get off my chest.
My life has been lacking structure recently. I’m currently in the midst of a 3-week break between lectures and workshops because third term in the life of postgrad is quite different to that of an undergrad. There aren’t any looming exams I need to revise for – all if my exams are out of the way now (bar one exam result that I’m waiting on – knock on wood). The 2000-word report I have to write for August is what many would refer to as ‘a bit of a doss’ that won’t take long at all so has no sense of urgency around it. And the many job applications I have been submitting have just been getting more and more tedious – I’m quite sick of having to write about myself (ironic, right?).
So seeing as I have quite a bit of spare time on my hands at the moment, I’ve been struggling to know what to do with myself. I’ve kept finding myself in either one of two places – my bedroom or my kitchen – and I’m getting a bit sick of the sight of them because, if I’m honest, I don’t think it’s necessarily a healthy thing for me, mentally speaking, to be in the same two places day-in-day-out.
A few months ago, when I started seeing mental health mentors and therapists, I was introduced to a weird concept I had never come across and which sounded seriously weird when I first heard the name: it’s this thing called ‘sleep hygiene’. It essentially revolves around this idea that in many instances, out sleep patterns can be affected by the fact we don’t always treat our bed / bedroom as a place for sleep, often using our bed and bedroom as a workspace as well. We’ll type away on our laptops whilst sat in bed, spend hours a day surrounded by the same four walls, the same environment, and when it comes the time where we need to rest and sleep, our body just can’t quite realise this as well as it could. “Why are you sleeping where you’re meant to be working and being alert?” it might ask.
The idea of sleep hygiene extends to our phones and other varying gadgets. How many of us can’t resist checking our phones whilst we’re lying in bed trying to get to sleep, or fall asleep whilst watching Netflix or YouTube? I know I’m guilty. Cutting down on our screen time is something which many believe helps our mental wellbeing, so I’ve been giving it a shot.
I’ve found that the times when I try to have separate spaces to sleep, eat and work are the times when I feel like my life has a structure, and in turn makes me feel like I’m treating my mental health better. Whilst I’ve been trying to separate these aspects of my life more and cutting down on my screen time, there have been many times when it’s been difficult.
1. Student life doesn’t lend itself to this very well
Seriously overcrowded study spaces, particularly at this time of year, mean it can be difficult to not have to work from your bedroom. This can particularly be the case it, like me, you find the idea of finding a place to work in a busy, under-resourced study space incredibly anxiety-inducing. The rare occasions that I have worked in bust libraries have been the times when I’ve gone there with friends – I can’t remember a time I ever actually went on my own because for very irrational reasons, I found it very stressful. Some days I’ll be up for it, like right now, as I’m currently curled up in the PG Study Space in my Business School, but there will be other days when the idea of having to leave my flat and find a place to work just isn’t going to happen.
2. Why bother?
There are times when it seems silly to leave somewhere where you know you have all your resources, your creature comforts, your kettle for those all-important cups of tea.
3. British weather (this one’s a bit petty)
This king of relates to my previous point – going out in the rain is a lot less motivating than going outside in the glorious sunshine which we’ve had recently. It tends to put a (no pun intended) dampener on your mood.
4. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
Electronics are ridiculously addictive. When I wake up I do what I’m sure most people do – I check my phone. Emails. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. The News. Games apps. (Probably Facebook and Instagram again if I’m honest). It’s like I have a serious case of FOMO. I’ll be checking my phone all the time throughout the day, because what if I miss something?! It’s like FOMO and anxiety combine to create an electronic-obsessed monster, which becomes very distracting and before I know it I’ve wasted a countless amount of time doing what is really not that important in the grand scheme of things. In such a fast paced, instant world, tiny amount of time can contain a huge amount of ‘things’ that you ‘just mustn’t’ miss.
I think student life can, just by its nature, sometimes have a negative impact because of how easy it can be to stay curled up in a little bubble by yourself. The amount of your life which can revolve around a desk in your bedroom. The feeling that everything you need is here so why bother going anywhere else. Everything you could want to know being a few clicks away on a screen, from news stories to chatting to friends.
The thing that I’ve noticed over the past few weeks, from not spending all of my time in one place, from meeting friends face-to-face rather than talking through the internet, from going out and exploring, is that it makes me feel a gazillion times better than when I spend my days walking backwards and forwards between a kitchen and a bedroom. The days when I don’t do these things, when I allow myself to remain in my bubble, are the days when I just feel a bit rubbish. They’re the days I know I could be better is I just pushed myself out of my comfort zone that little bit.