Too quick. Now in my third year of university and back in England, the life I once created for myself earlier this year seems like a distant memory. As much as I hold onto the memories, I am excited for the future. But for now, adjusting to (what feels like a whole new life… ‘back to reality’ and all that) life again is pretty dismal if I must say so.
Its strange though, I am not sure if the final year of my studies is the busiest, but it certainly is the most difficult. For a bunch of reasons too. It is not just the big step up in work, but it is the energy that I am severely lacking to finish something I was so excited about a few years ago. It seems that everyone talks about how university will be the best years of your life (and damn, my semester abroad may well be) but they rarely if ever talk about the detail of the stress and anxiety it causes.
I’m not just talking about the little stress over leaving your work to the last minute, or anxiety about a singular grade. I’m talking the kind that slowly eats away at you until you have nothing left. Somehow though I am still fighting, but fit and fight… I am not so sure? I am ‘COPING’, I guess. I am like that hamster who keeps running around his stupid cage, or that boxer who keeps getting up after each knockout. I do not seem to know when to quit.
University is probably not the best thing for me now and I honestly cannot tell you how excited I am to finish right now. It is ironic really, as I think it has been a journey that I needed, but now I really could do without. The day I finally graduate will be a milestone, for a range of reasons. But mostly for the mental strength that has got me this far.
I think we are all guilty of being too hard on ourselves at some point in our lives. For some like me, it is a constant struggle that can go unnoticed or forgotten as we are so consumed by live moving by awfully quickly. The stress of everyday life or important tasks can build up and there is also a lot of social pressure and competition that many people of all ages face. This means we can form such high expectations and eventually exhaust ourselves with the constant thinking and worrying if we will meet these expectations.
Depending on the context or circumstances there are a range of ways to handle yourself so that you are not too hard on yourself. I think what is most important for me and possibly a lot of other people is AWARENESS. I am referring to the ability to recognise the problem at hand, but also to acknowledge where we are at currently in our lives in comparison to where we have been. When you have been at rock bottom you know just how bad it can be. I have tried to use similiar negative experiences to this as a means of pushing myself forward. It makes me want to work hard so that I can grow and not be in bad places. If you are able to acknowledge the past like this but not dwell on it, then I think it is of incredible value to your self-growth.
I would like to think that the majority of people are striving for the best versions of themselves, but any kind of progress is progress really. If you are moving forward at your own pace then you are doing something right in my opinion. Make realistic goals for yourself so that you have an idea of what you are working towards but do not get too upset if things do not work out the way you had planned. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. There is time to adapt and change, there is time to grow.
Don’t think that you have to do EVERYTHING the ‘right way’. Be realistic and stay true to yourself. There are likely to be setbacks but you are incredibly strong and can do this in your own time. Focus on the most important things that will bring you immediate happiness so that you can get started on the right foot.
I am into the last two weeks now of my adventure to Sweden. The place I have called home for the past 7 months will soon become countless memories. This upsets me enough as it is as I have grown so comfortable being here and I am enjoying the many sights, cities and towns I have visited. Summer is ending though (evidently so with the changing colours of the leaves) and soon it will be time to return and continue my studies back in England.
An issue I am really struggling to come to term with is a 14-day quarantine that is mandatory for returning to England from Sweden. The reckless approach to the Covid-19 pandemic from my host country has cost me this freedom. I suppose this can be rich to say, considering I have had a lot of freedom these past few months because of no lockdown… But my feelings still exist. It is difficult to go from living the time of my life, to being practically locked in my room for two weeks.
I am an ‘outdoorsy’ person, especially in the summer and warmer months. I want to experience what I have been missing back home and to see friends and family. These are people I have not seen in the flesh for over 7 months now. To go that long is difficult enough but to be so close to them and to have to wait two weeks to see them is straining. I genuinely do not know how I will survive inside for so long without going a little crazy. I know for sure I have plenty I could be getting on with, but knowing there is no freedom and I am basically forced to do that is upsetting.
I think the most frustrating thing is reading about all this rule-breaking and bending back home. All of the mass gatherings happening and politicians breaking rules. I guess just about anything that has happened that does not respect the government guidelines. Even things like thousands going to beaches, or people going to the pubs. There are no doubt thousands and thousands of people who are not scared of or are taking the virus seriously in England (amongst other countries probably). Whereas I am someone who is not thinking of pub visits or visiting hotspot areas. I am simply a student wanting to see his friends & family and catch some easily socially distanced semi-professional football games.
But no, I am just a person coming from ‘high risk’ country. Why is there no exemption for a student returning from his studies, who needs to be back for his next year of study? I am just being classed in the same group as holidaymakers, who are brave or stupid enough to go on holiday during a pandemic. Is this fair? Who even knows. I guess I had my chance back in June… June 8th I think was the deadline for no quarantine when returning to England. That was a long time ago though and I thought the situation would get better. I hate the thought of quarantine but I will never regret my decision to stay and experience Swedish summer. A truly unforgettable experience.
To those reading this: Have you had to experience quarantine, whether you were a returning traveller or because of a lockdown period in your country or area. Please share me with your thoughts and how you managed to survive.
Many people discuss the harmful effects or concerns around drinking alcohol from a physical perspective. But in my opinion, more should be done to discuss them from a mental or social perspective too.
Drinking alcohol seems like such a normalized event worldwide -especially if you are from a country like England for me where it is EVERYWHERE. People will drink whatever mood they are in, happy or sad, excited or nervous and so forth. But they rarely ever grasp the true dangers of it. Sometimes it can be too late and they are stuck in a difficult phase of trying to get out of it. Others may never realise how destructive their habits are.
It is nice to have a drink in moderation, or even get drunk now and then. But as I grow older I am starting to get extremely bored when I see this regularly. It is the same people in the pub almost every night, sipping on their warm beer and probably reheated food. I cannot help but feel sorry. Is this all they have for a social life? We are all welcome to our differing interests of course. But something I can not fathom when behaving like this is how self-growth is actually possible.
Maybe some people are just not ready for change. Maybe this is what they are like. But if you are like me then you always want to be moving forward. I am an ‘outdoorsy’ kind of guy (as you can tell by many of my previous blog entries) so this kind of sedentary, repetitive lifestyle drives me crazy. But now I have gotten a good idea of what my interests are and what is good for me. I know for sure now I can enjoy a drink or many as infrequently as I choose. I know now how easy it is to say no to plans that will not benefit me, or make me feel worse.
When you have been towards rock bottom or have started to make the necessary positive changes in your lifestyle, you will do anything in the future to help prevent a relapse of it. It is, of course, a difficult thing to do for many people but persevering through this transition of change is key, as it will reap many benefits for you. For instance, when I am not drinking I feel better as I feel like myself… I am not reliant on this ‘magical social juice’ to engage with others. I am quite happy now being introverted and I do not need a few drinks to be able to talk to people. I realise now that if I need to then perhaps I just do not have the interest in or enough in common with these people to engage with them.
Right now I am focused on healthy behaviours with a clearer mindset from drinking less. My social skills or events will not be centred around alcohol like they used to. This is not me. I aim to continue travelling as much as possible and drink as it feels healthy and natural. Peer pressure is a horrible thing as it is too easy to get sucked into its vicious nature, especially when you are not well or secure enough to say no. I have explored so much this summer without the need for alcohol, and I have had so many unforgettable days. Long may this strive for better change continue.
“Get off the mother flipping Xbox”. That is the first thing I can think of. In my younger years, I was very different from how I am now. I would game for many hours a day, now I haven’t played a console of my own for several years. It is is easy to have unhealthy obsessions like this in our young and potentially more naive years. That is okay for me as long as you are able to acknowledge it now and obtain healthier behaviours.
Maybe I am alone in this thought but I do not think that there is much that I would want to say if I could speak to my younger self. I try to look ahead to the future more than reflecting on the past. It would be far too easy for me to change a lot of things that went wrong. But I think things have to fall apart sometimes to make way for better things and to help you to learn and grow for sure. That being said, maybe one piece of advice I would have loved to hear is to work on my self-esteem so I can surround myself with better people.
I am a lot healthier mentally wise now than I have been in the past. I put that down to the self-growth, determination and fight that comes from not wanting to ‘relapse’ or return to a previous state of unhealthiness. When you have hit ‘rock bottom’ for whatever reason it may be, then you sure as heck do not want to go back. This is like being aware of your past and mistakes, but not allowing yourself to think about too much as it is gone and you cannot change it. I feel that it is important to recognise the past somewhat though, so I can realise how far I have come and to continue such progress.
I think my younger self would want to know what he is capable of as what I have achieved so far in my life. Our life is forever changing and it is important to move forward and not stagnate. He would want to know to hold out for meaningful friendships and to enjoy his time outside more.
Please share with me your feelings and what you would say to your younger self.
At a glimpse, this may appear as two different words. But to me and many others, they could not be anymore different. As a guy who likes to spend time by himself, but also enjoy the company of others I wish to share some of my thoughts around this.
I feel that a lot of people think being ‘alone’ is a bad thing. Many people seem co-co-dependent in other way… Like they need someone around to enjoy themselves, or feel safe and secure. For instance, you will see that these people are ashamed of going to the movies alone or a concert. But perhaps we can truly let go and enjoy ourselves when we have the freedom to explore autonomously. Just because you are surrounding by lots of people, it does not make it comforting. Sometimes for me at least, being in a packed room with no one understanding me is the most loneliest feeling of all. Much lonelier than in laying in your bedroom in the dark for sure.
Why do people seem so worried about being alone though? Maybe they are afraid of judgement for not being ‘normal’. But what is normal anyway? Where is the fun of achieving this impossible feat? And how do people avoid this feeling of loneliness? Maybe they think they are safe from this feeling because of their popularity on social media. But maybe they are just showing the world the person he/she thinks it wants, rather than what the person themselves want. Not portraying yourself accurately as the unique individual you are… That is the biggest concern for me, especially when it comes to loneliness. Be yourself and the people good for you will come along. That is for sure what I can say in my case.
As for being ‘alone’ itself, this is something I have become very accustomed to. I feel confident and independent enough to be able to spend time with and enjoy myself. Sure, being with people for certain activities is more entertaining but I will not miss out because I do not have someone to share that with. Being around people constantly is just not healthy in my books, no matter how extroverted you are… We all need a little time to ourselves to reflect and recharge. This is just natural.
Spending time alone does not have to be a bad thing. Many activities I find can be just as, (if not more) enjoyable alone than with company. This is when you feel your passion or interest in something is different to the person you are with. Or when you both are different views or interests for whatever reason. Just make sure what ever you are doing you are comfortable with yourself, and do not feel isolated. Enjoy time with others and take time to relax for your own good and mental health.
LIVE IN THE MOMENT. I mean, I always try to do this. But it does not come without difficulties. It is too easy to get tangled up in the past or to have two eyes on the future, what with all the pressure we face in our everyday lives. This year though, more than any I have started to realise the importance of just enjoying the present day. I guess part of this is due to the pandemic and the realisation that things are unpredictable and can change at any moment.
It is nice to have some kind of an eye on the future though, so you have a rough idea of where you are headed. But as plans change and your interests develop, we do not always know the path we will end up on. We can strive for a certain goal or path and in fact, end up taking off to a different destination. We cannot change the past, we cannot ALWAYS predict our future. I feel that the one thing we can do though is to make sure we enjoy our time right now.
It is a hard thing to do though I must admit when you feel or know that something can change. But if you are constantly waiting for that change, you are rapidly losing the time and moment. The best thing you can do in my opinion is to enjoy the things happening to you right now for what they are, as they may not last forever. Happiness is the key, and why let it wait?
For me, my plans have changed significantly due to COVID-19 but that does not have to be a bad thing. I never thought I would be studying abroad in my life and I certainly did not imagine being here so long. But the choice to do it and to stay in Sweden has paid off. I now get to experience a Swedish swimmer after braving the cold and windy months earlier in the year. This is just one example of living in the moment and trying to make the most of a different situation.
Many are aware of toxic relationships with their partners, but I feel that not near enough attention has been given to toxic friendships. Both share similarities in that they can provide important people in your life that are hard to say goodbye to. But what we should really do is be aware of the signs and the strange behaviours, so that we are surrounded by the best possible people. Because of this, I want to discuss and point out potential red flags that you may miss.
They bring out a strange side of you.
It is healthy to come out of your comfort zone of course. But with a ‘toxic friend,’ this can be a very different and quite negative side of you that feels strange and actually. You may start changing your behaviours, having bad habits or doing things you do not normally do. For instance, if that is constant drinking, or smoking or gossiping. A lot of this for me at least feels so toxic and I would prefer to avoid those who overindulge in such things by distancing myself altogether.
They are not grown up enough to admit their mistakes. This person never seems to be in the wrong, or at least in their mind. They may make you feel guilty and trying to reason with them can feel like talking to a brick wall. They always have excuses for their behaviours and are blaming others. We are adults by age now, so it is time to start acting like it. Putting your hands up and saying ‘sorry’ is not that difficult.
They are not there for you… especially when it counts!
This is arguably the biggest and most obvious red flag there is, but for some reason, many people seem to miss or ignore it. It is a friend who makes everything about them. The one you will do a favour for or quickly jump to save them in some form. But when the tables are turned you are left to pick up the pieces without them. If they are making excuses, then maybe its time to question the integrity of the friendship.
All of these factors can severely affect your mental health, especially your self-esteem. For someone who has or has experienced low self-esteem then spotting these red flags can be pivotal to living a healthier lifestyle. At least for me, I have found comfort in improving my self-esteem as I have been able to choose better friends, who do not exhibit such behaviours. I find it is better to cut ties with toxic friendships to feel healthier and allow yourself more time and energy towards yourself and your good friends.
Please let me know if you liked this article and are interested in part two. There are still so many more signs and red flags to share.
Life is a constant cycle of making mistakes and learning from them. As quite a philosophical person, I am always wondering and reflecting on my experiences. Here I will list some life lessons that I think are very useful and even potent to me.
It is okay to not have everything ‘figured out’ – Life is not a sprint, it is more like a marathon. But with social and various other pressures from a very young age, most of us seem forced into certain things or ‘norms’, especially for our age. There is no rush to drive as soon as you reach the legal age, nor is it awful if you do not have or know your dream job. In school there is pressure to decide your future immediately. I feel that confining someone to a specific area so quickly just kills ones flexibility and creativity. Are we mature enough at 15-16 to decide our whole future? I think not. The age old saying ‘where do you see yourseslf in five years?’ comes to mind. How many of us now are doing what we thought we would be five years or ago, or more?
Learn from mistakes – I realise that it is okay to make mistakes and in fact admitting or confronting them is one of the first steps to self-growth. What I find important to remember is that a mistake is only a mistake if you do not learn from it. You can start to realise what you did was wrong and change or adapt, which can help improve your maturity and efficiency. Try not to be so scared of failing or falling and take the steps to move towards self-growth. Don’t dwell on the past or past mistakes as that has happened now. You can instead change your future so similar mistakes do not happen.
Put yourself first – Maybe this one seems controversial or selfish, or at least some people will want you to believe it is. But to me, putting yourself first is one of the most valuable things you can do in life. Take yourself seriously and you will notice an increase in your self-esteem. That is what I experienced and it is so rewarding. I find myself about to pick better friends and have fewer insecurities.
Pick your friends carefully – This can be a very tough one in my opinion, but it is extremely useful to consider. When I am able to put myself first and benefit from an increased self-esteem, I notice that I can attract better company. I firmly believe this is down to the more positive energy I am portraying and the belief I am worthy to these people. It is important to be surrounded by good energy from people you can trust and that support your growth. If you are noticing bad energy or red flags then perhaps you must question if this ‘friend’ is holding you back, rather than pushing you forward.
This is an area I am very passionate about. Let me know if you enjoyed it and would like to see more life lessons. Also I would love to hear your life lessons in the comment section below.
Social media can be a very toxic place which begs the question “is it really worth it?” to me. I cannot even begin to describe the countless times that I have considered deleting all or some of my social media. I look now at my phone and see the endless lists of apps; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. I begin to wonder, is this all necessary? Would my health be significantly better if I packed it in, and lived more outside of the internet and my phone?
I always wonder if I could make do with just one or two social media apps. But one thing that makes it hard for me to follow through with this is that I think each one serves some kind of purpose. I wonder if just Facebook would be enough for me, as I have the majority of my friends there and can share blog and social updates as well as photographs. It is important to me that I document my life, especially with my study abroad experiences. But is there a better way I can do this whilst protecting my mental health?
I firmly believe I am a lot more stable now and have much better friendships, which makes me worry less about being on social media. That being said, the negative elements of social media cannot simply vanish, not for me or others so easily. The constant jealousy or insecurities as people compare themselves to one another. It can be exhausting and depressing. What I find particularly awful is how ‘normal’ it is to just scroll through social media out of boredom… Because I wonder if this can lead to isolation and depression if people are reading bad things online, or seeing others have fun. It goes both ways and can affect a persons mood significantly.
At what point do we need to switch off for a while? What benefits do you think exist for living offline or reducing ones time on, or online presence?