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2020 has been a shocker of a year. From start to (almost) finish. Its bag of surprises that absolutely nobody has asked for include (but are certainly not limited to) protests in Hong Kong, bushfires in Australia, a volcano eruption in the Philippines, George Floyd, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, Donald Trump’s attack on US democracy, and of course COVID-19 which is wreaking havoc the world over in a manner never seen before to many of us.
And the year isn’t over yet.
With a second wave of COVID-19 across the US and most of Europe, many of us have been forced to reconsider our year end holiday plans - which likely no longer include large, boisterous reunions of family and friends over sumptuous Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah spreads.
After the year we’ve all had it’s annoying and downright frustrating. As the temperature drops, we huddle alone indoors in socially responsible isolation, our smartphones our only company. We check Facebook, Twitter, all our other social apps. Everywhere, it’s the same story. The day’s COVID-19 case counts. Friends going stir crazy staying at home. The latest political crisis on the news. People losing jobs. It’s all terrible, but you can’t stop. You hit refresh. Over and over.
Research has shown a link between excessive social media use and increased feelings of depression and loneliness, which only worsens in a pandemic where self-isolation is encouraged. Source
If you find yourself checking your social media multiple times a day, caught up in a spiral of bad news, you’re doomscrolling - behaviour that can risk negative mental health effects.
Doomscrolling is the act of consuming and endless procession of negative online news, to the detriment of the scroller’s mental wellness.
The compulsion to stay informed and updated is a deeply-rooted survival instinct, but in a pandemic where there are currently no simply or clear solutions or an end in sight, the constant stream of bad news only serves to elevate our levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which can lead to physical health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Source
Fortunately, there are a couple of simple steps you can take to preserve your mental well-being, whilst still keeping informed.
DON'T USE YOUR PHONE AS AN ALARM
If your phone is the first thing you reach for in the morning, it’s easy to automatically start checking social media before you’ve even brushed your teeth. Try using a regular alarm clock instead, and keep your phone away from your bed.
DISABLE NEWS ALERTS
Only look at the news when you choose to - instead of constantly checking alerts as they come in. Maybe even go back to the times of our parents and grandparents, and only allow yourself to consume news at a set time each day.
DO SOMETHING YOU ENJOY
We’re all guilty of spending too much time with our phones. Go for a walk, cook yourself something tasty and nourishing, read a book you’ve always wanted to get round to but never had the chance. The choices are endless, just pick something you enjoy and watch the hours melt away effortlessly.
KEEP IN CONTACT WITH YOUR LOVED ONES
You may have to be apart physically, but a well-timed FaceTime call with mum or your bestie can do wonders, reduce stress and increase your emotional wellbeing. We’re all in this together!
FOCUS ON THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL
The recommended health precautions are easy to follow - frequent hand washing, keeping masked up, safe distancing etc. Focus on doing these things as well as keeping yourself fit and healthy with a routine of good diet, exercise and sleep.
Written By Lesley-Anne John, June 2020
Cover image by @dsscideaslab
Who doesn’t love a cheeky drink now and then? In England, 82% of adults have drank in the last year, with nearly half of them having drank in the last week. It’s not always easy to tell when your alcohol intake has crossed the line from social drinking to problem drinking. Drinking is so common in many cultures and the effects vary so widely from person to person, it’s not always easy to figure out if you have a drinking problem.
The bottom line is how alcohol affects you - as is with everything good in life, even too much of it, can hurt. Consider if your drinking is causing problems in your life, then you might have a drinking problem. The good news is, is that there are ways to manage your drinking so you take control. The biggest challenge is, actually recognizing that you may have or are well on your way to having a problem.
SPOT THE SIGNS EARLY
• Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss
• Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings
• Making excuses for drinking such as to relax or deal with stress
• Choosing drinking over other responsibilities and obligations
• Becoming isolated and distant from friends and family members
• Drinking alone or in secrecy
• Feeling hungover when not drinking
• Changing appearance and group of acquaintances you hang out with
If you seem to spot many of the signs above and still do not think you may have a problem, consider these additional questions. They are from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to properly diagnose alcohol abuse. Answers to these questions should be based on the past year of alcohol use.
Have you continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem?
Have there been situations where you ended up drinking much more than you intended?
Have you lost interest in other activities and hobbies since you started drinking?
Have you experienced symptoms associated with an alcohol withdrawal?
Have you felt an urge or craving to consume alcohol?
Have you gotten into situations while drinking that increased your chances of harming yourself or others (i.e., drinking and driving)?
Have you been in trouble with the law due to alcohol-related problems?
DENIAL IS NOT JUST A RIVER IN AFRICA
Denial is one of the main reasons why millions of people do not receive treatment for alcoholism. Some will try to rationalize their drinking behaviors. For instance, you may blame other people or certain circumstances for your drinking - a breakup, loss of a job, Happy Friday?
Rather than acknowledge the problems you’ve experienced from alcohol, you become defensive when someone mentions your excessive drinking pattern. By refusing to recognize the negative consequences of alcohol, you’re preventing yourself from living a healthy, sober life.
Here are some tips to manage your drinking should you start to suspect yourself or someone you love might be gaining a dependence on alcohol.
NORMALIZE NOT DRINKING SOMETIMES
Keep to under 6 drinks a week - UK’s top doctors recommend drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, that means around 6 pints of lager or 6 regular glasses of wine in total.
WRITE A DRINKING DIARY
This will help you understand your drinking patterns, how much you drink, with who, during what occasions, how you felt, if there were any problems or effects on your or the people around you such as a quarrels, blackouts, dramas. You can then work out what you’re happy with and what you’re not.
GIVE NO AND LO ALCOHOL FREE DRINKS A GO
Alcohol-free beers, ciders, wines and spirits used to be rubbish but fortunately, they have improved so much in recent years that they’re even winning awards in place of their full-strength competitors.
SET DRINK FREE DAYS IN A WEEK
Having a few alcohol-free days each week is a good way to manage and cut down, give your body a rest, boost your immune system and improve your mental and physical well-being.
Having a bite before or while you drink as it slows down alcohol absorption into your bloodstream. Savour only the drinks you enjoy and skip the ones you don’t. But watch out, home-made drinks tend to be larger than those served outside!
Written By Frances Gaillard, June 2020
Cover image by @sobergirlssociety
Ever found yourself in a meeting thinking “everyone knows what they’re talking about except me?” Or maybe you had a contribution to the discussion but dismissed it as “silly” and kept silent only to have someone else say the exact same thing moments later, to a chorus of vigorously nodding heads. Sometimes you’re the youngest, the only woman, or maybe the only person of a particular race or religion. Most often, you feel like you don’t belong, and you don’t know how you got there.
You may be experiencing imposter syndrome, and it’s a lot more common than you think - even affecting people considered to be at the top of their chosen professions.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. Source
And whilst this type of crippling self-doubt can affect anyone in any industry, people working in creative fields can be much more susceptible given the subjective (and often highly personal) nature of their work, and the fact that you are only as good as your last chart topping book/ hit song/ award-winning screenplay.
Countless A-list celebrities have confessed to feelings of gross inadequacy; following her Oscar win for best actress Viola Davis said, “It feels like my hard work has paid off, but at the same time I still have the imposter, you know, syndrome. I still feel like I’m going to wake up and everybody’s going to see me for the hack I am” Source and Don Cheadle claims when watching his films, “All I can see is everything I’m doing wrong that is a sham and a fraud.” Source
So if even these titans of industry struggle with imposter syndrome, what hope do we mere mortals have?
1. Start by knowing you’re not alone
Recognise that what you’re going through is real and valid, and that more people than you’d expect (probably even your boss!) have suffered from the exact same feelings at multiple moments in their careers.
2. Reach out for support
Speak with a friend or trusted ally, read up on the topic or seek professional help if your mental and physical well-being are being affected.
3. And learn to embrace your capabilities
You were hired for a reason; believe in yourself and that you are making a valuable contribution to your company/ agency.
4. Read up on the 5 types of Imposters and see if you identify with any of them
Written By Lesley-Anne John, October 2020
Cover image by @inter-stellary Instagram