Thursday, 8 October 2020

How to find your sense of purpose in life

There have been numerous studies into the impact of having a clear direction in life and the conclusions are extremely interesting. Research has revealed that having a life purpose can lengthen your lifespan, improve your physical health, and even improve mental health issues.

The meaning of purpose can differ dramatically for each individual. For example, one person may view having a fulfilling career as entirely purposeful, whereas another could believe parenthood and bringing up a happy family will provide the ultimate fulfilment. However grand or simple a purpose may seem, it is evident that having a purpose can have a positive effect on your life. If you are struggling to determine what it is that would give you a sense of purpose, there are steps you can take to help you find it.

What does it mean to have a purpose in life?

Having a purpose in life means having an aim, whether it be a daily aim or a long-term goal. It could be as simple as having something to wake for each morning. Without such a goal your life may have no direction and you could find yourself feeling despondent and down. This, in turn, can lead to poor mental health, and bad physical health, especially if you fail to participate in any activities at all.

How having a life purpose can benefit others

Not only does being proactive have benefits for you as an individual, but your life purpose could also have a positive impact on others. Becoming a volunteer can help your community. Creating an organisation that helps people or animals can assist others in your immediate or wider communities. Even becoming more positive because you have found your life purpose can make you a more pleasant person to be around, which will affect the mood of others. It’s important to remember that a sense of purpose is unique to each of us, and you should not compare yours with anyone else’s.

How reflection can help you find your life’s purpose

There are questions that you can ask yourself that can help to find your purpose:
  • What am I passionate about?
  • For what would I like to be remembered?
  • What makes me happy?
  • What were my childhood ambitions?
  • What are my dreams now?
  • If I could spend one day doing anything, what would that be?
  • Who are my idols?
  • When were the happiest times in my life: who was I with and what was I doing?

Writing down the answers to these questions can provide a great start to finding your purpose.

Expand your horizons

You may not have experienced anything that piques your interest yet, which is why you should try new things.

  • Join a club – this can be online or in your community. Think about joining a book club, hiking group, writing group, or debating team.
  • Volunteer in your community – not only will you be helping people or animals, but you will experience new situations that could prove inspiring.
  • Research religions or spirituality – some people find that their purpose in life is associated with religion or spirituality. Contact local religious leaders or attend their place of worship to find out more about specific beliefs. 
  • Learn an instrument – it's never too late to learn a musical instrument and there are instruments to suit every budget. You could even find them in charity shops or online. Can't get out? You can teach yourself via online learning or books if necessary or you prefer.
  • Learn a language – learning a new language can be extremely fulfilling and can be self-taught. If you choose to attend a class, you also open the door to meeting new people with the same goal and it can be more fun.

If at first you don’t succeed....

Be patient with yourself and if one hobby or interest doesn’t pan out, try something else. Finding a purpose in life can be an extremely fun and interesting path which doesn’t necessarily have to be reached via a direct route.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Getting the tech-life balance right


As essential as technology is to most people, it has its drawbacks. It’s all too easy to spend hours scrolling through social media posts, checking emails, or playing mobile games. This type of behaviour can result in mental and physical health problems as you become too dependent on technology. However, there are ways to get the balance right.

Understand how technology affects your life

Technology, when used as a distraction rather than a tool can impact your work and social life. The modern workplace often requires technology and so it is difficult to erase it from your life completely, or even for extended periods of time. However, if you actually record how often you spend online you will become more aware of how much time you are spending being distracted.

Do you:

  • Check emails and social media as soon as you wake up?
  • Remain logged into to online accounts all day?
  • Receive notifications and respond to them immediately?
  • Communicate with friends and family mostly via apps and social media?

Although this may seem entirely normal, it is important to realise how much time online is stopping you from interacting and socialising in person. Besides the practical implications of spending so much time online, there’s the impact it has on mental health to consider.

According to a report compiled by the Royal Society for Public Health, sites such as Instagram can have a negative effect on teenagers’ mental health. This investigation reveals that Instagram contributed to “anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying, body image and 'fear of missing out'".

Consider changing your settings so you no longer receive non-essential notifications and log out of sites and social media when you are not purposely using them.

Limit time online

Once you've made a record of how much time you spend online, if you realise it’s quite considerable, make a conscious effort to change.

You can do this by:

  • Responding to work emails only during working hours and put your out of office response on as soon as you finish work 
  • Allowing yourself only set times when you can access social media and emails
  • Leaving your mobile at home when you don't need it
  • Not using your mobile or device while in bed

Once you’ve limited your time using devices, you may realise that it has been causing you to neglect hobbies, activities, and even other people in your life.

Fill the void

Although your fingers may be itching to message someone or to scroll through timelines and pages, give yourself something else to do instead. Be in the moment when enjoying family activities and relish in the feeling of being completely committed to a family day out, group activities, or even just listening to one another without being distracted by the ping of your ‘phone. Take up a new hobby or go back to an old one and rediscover the feeling of being connected to activities you enjoy.

It isn’t all or nothing

Although taking a day or more away from technology each week could be extremely beneficial, in reality, technology keeps us in touch with friends, family, and current events. There’s no need to shun technology completely, but finding a healthy balance is sensible. Set yourself realistic time limits and create a habit of technology-free time each day and you will soon realise how much more fulfilling your life can be.


Wednesday, 23 September 2020

How to manage covid stress and rebuild your life


To say that the past months have been stressful would be an understatement. For many, the normality we once knew has been replaced with long periods of solitude, apprehension, confusion, and fear. Covid-19 entered our lives as an uninvited guest and has yet to leave. It is therefore not surprising that so many children and adults are exhausted and stressed by it all. 

Although the virus is still very much present, the lockdown we once knew has changed. With restrictions having been lifted and then new measures imposed and people being encouraged to go about essential daily matters (including work where homeworking isn't possible) and to embrace the new normal, many are seeking ways to rebuild their lives.

Discover ways you can beat the stress caused by Covid-19 and learn to rebuild your life so you can live it to the fullest.

Establish a new routine

Whether you were aware of it or not, before Covid you would have had a routine which was interrupted when the virus arrived. Routines help both children and adults have a sense of stability and assist with focusing your mind. Make a list of things that are essential in your life – things you must do and things you want to do.

According to the NHS, and Leeds Children’s Hospital, this list could focus on:

  • Work/School/College
  • Family
  • Hobbies
  • Meals
  • Self-care
  • Engaging in activities that may include seeing other people. This can be anxiety-inducing because of covid-19, but there are ways to make sure you feel safe and can begin to enjoy socialising and working again.


Plan each outing

Preparation is key to feeling relaxed once you venture into the world. If you haven't ventured out much or at all for an extended period, plan what you need and what you will do. Make a list of what items you may need such as face coverings and hand sanitiser. If you have children continue to remind them what is expected of them including minimising the touching of anything if you’re going shopping, and that they must wash their hands before they leave and when they return to the home. If you’re meeting with friends at a permitted location, share any concerns you may have with them. Some anxiety is to be expected when you first go to parks, shops, or to see friends and so it may help to begin with very short trips until you get used to going out again.

Share your concerns with your employer or tutor 

It may be necessary to return to work or to a place of learning. Communicate with your employer or tutor and ask for information about what steps they are taking to make the spaces as safe as possible. If you have specific needs let your employer or tutor know before you return to work or college. Both workplaces and schools and colleges will be required to follow strict guidelines and so you should find some comfort in this if you are concerned about the virus and the impact it may have on you and your family.

Embrace the new normal

Instead of becoming frustrated that for now you can no longer have friends round or meet large groups of friends and family in restaurants or theatres in the same way as you did before, embrace the change. Doing things that bring you pleasure is so important for your mental health. Theatres are streaming recorded plays, so if going to the theatre is one of your passions, organise a “theatre at home” evening for yourself and your household. Get dressed up, enjoy your favourite tipple and snacks, and think about donating to the theatre company so they can still be up and running when covid restrictions are lifted. Take the opportunity to stay connected with friends and family in whatever way is permitted. It is important to know you have loved ones to talk to and to spend time with. 


Visit our covid-19 resources page for help with dealing with some of the issues that may arise from the current situation


For specific information on Covid-19 and what you can and can’t do, visit https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19

Monday, 31 August 2020

How to avoid burnout as a single parent

As any single parent is aware, parenting alone has both benefits and drawbacks. One of the benefits of being a single parent is that you’ll most likely be able to make all the parenting decisions independently on a daily basis, without having to compromise on parenting styles. However, this also means you’ll bear the brunt of parenting, both physically and mentally. This can be extremely exhausting, and if a single parent doesn’t prioritise their wellbeing, they could soon experience burnout.

Why is it so hard to be a single parent?

Being a single parent doesn’t always mean you aren’t co-parenting, but it can mean that as the majority care giver you have the bulk of the financial and practical parenting responsibilities. The financial side of single parenting is exhausting in itself and may mean you are working extra hard in order to fulfil your financial obligations and to give your child/children all the things they need. Pile onto this the physical strain of parenting such as domestic work, helping with homework, taking children to appointments and extracurricular activities, and it soon becomes apparent how burnout can occur.

Single parenting and mental health

There are many ways we can become a single parent: by choice, through separation, or from the death of a partner. Each situation presents individual emotional and practical stress, and all can lead to deteriorating mental health. The sudden change in circumstances can be stressful for you and your children and even if you were prepared to parent alone, it’s rarely easy. Single parents, especially single mothers, are still often stigmatised in society, which can result in feelings of guilt and anxiety.

Single parenting and physical health

According a piece of research discussed on the NHS website, there may be a connection between single motherhood and ill health later in life. Commenting on the research conducted in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2015, the NHS website suggests:

“Health status in later life is likely to be linked to a complex number of interrelated factors. Being a single mum may be one, social networks might be another.”

With this in mind, take care to not only ensure your children attend checkups, but make sure you keep on top of your own physical health and medical appointments too.

Taking care of yourself can include:
  • Eating a healthier diet to avoid feeling sluggish and to promote energy
  • Doing regular exercise to maintain health and energy
  • Asking your GP for a full medical so you can tackle any underlying health issues
  • Keeping on top of your oral health by attending routine dental checkups

Avoid burnout by seeking support

There aren’t many people that like to admit they need help, but as a single parent it is important to seek support from friends and family if possible. Speak with trusted family members about how you feel and see if they could look after your children for even just a few hours on a regular basis. Utilise your friendships with parents of children at your child’s school and organise sleepovers where parents take turns in hosting each other’s children. This kind of arrangement can give you an entire night to yourself, allowing you to relax, or socialise if that is what you need. Playdates at parks or play centres are fantastic for allowing you to socialise with adults and to relax (a little) as the kids go and play with their peers.

Support for parents of children with complex needs

Being a single parent of a child with additional needs has its own set of considerations. However, there is assistance available for parents of children with complex needs such as day centres and respite care. Your local council will be able to provide the contact details of centres and carers specifically designed to support the needs of your child. You will also find there are numerous charities providing support for parents of children with complex needs such as Autism, Down’s Syndrome, and additional physical needs.

Reject the guilt

Single parents often feel guilty for taking time to themselves but if you want to avoid exhaustion, then you will need to reject those feelings of guilt and know that you are entitled to some time to yourself. If this means allowing your kids to watch more TV or play computer games for a little longer, then so be it. While they occupy themselves, exercise, read, facetime with friends or simply take a nap (if your children are old enough to self-supervise). Try to set aside time each day for a little alone time and extend that time once a week for you to enjoy your favourite activities or to catch up with friends.

Organise your time with the children

Although the best laid plans can often go awry, organising a specific activity to enjoy with the children can help to alleviate the guilt of having 'me time'. Let your children know that there will be specific family time, be it mealtimes, film night, or board games night, and try to stick to these arrangements as much as possible. Knowing that you will be spending quality time with your kids allows you to enjoy that precious time to yourself even more.

Start each day anew

Some days are just completely horrible. You’ll feel like the worst parent ever and may even be driven to tears as you feel like you have failed as a parent. Stop, breathe and start again. Learn from the mistakes of the previous day and forgive yourself if you’ve been a bit more shouty than normal. Parenting, be it as a single mother or father, or as part of a couple, is going to be filled with days where it feels like everything has gone wrong. Try not to carry that guilt into the next day and begin the day with a positive mindset. If appropriate, speak with your children about how their behaviour or your actions played out the previous day and talk about what your expectations are going forward. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when you do something wrong too – apologising as a parent will show your children the importance of saying sorry and acknowledging when you’re wrong.

For more information about support for single parents in your area, visit One Parent Families Scotland, a charity specifically for single parents. You may also find the website of the charity Gingerbread, who operate in England and Wales, helpful. 





Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Ways to overcome shyness

Being shy can have a significant impact on your social and work life and can become a serious problem for many people. Shyness can lead to feeling alone and difficulty finding friends and can even result in missing out on job opportunities. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to overcome shyness and embrace your full potential.

What causes shyness?

In order to tackle shyness, you need to understand the cause. According to Steve Bressert PhD, shyness can begin at any age and can even occur in infancy. He also asserts that shyness isn’t a problem just for introverts. Extroverted people can also experience private shyness. Privately shy extroverts will portray a confident persona so much so that they appear confident in giving speeches, meeting new people and being overtly outgoing. Bressert states that there are many causes of shyness in those that are reluctant to socialise, which include:

  • Physical changes in adolescence and societal reaction to these changes - especially in girls
  • Modern technology and the restriction of the need for face-to-face socialising 
  • Social media and it minimising the need for the same spontaneous response required in real life social situations

Shyness can also be attributed to being fearful of what others think of you. This could stem from incidents in childhood or even as an adult. Yet according to Healthline.com, there is research that suggests that up to 15% of people are actual born with the propensity for shyness.

How to overcome shyness

Don’t avoid social situationsThere’s a lot of truth in the age-old advice “fake it until you make it”. Acting confidently despite feeling insecure helps you to practice how to act in social situations. Rather than avoiding social settings, engage with them and portray the person you want to be. Actually facing your fears can make you realise that they aren’t as frightening as you imagined them to be.

Try something new

Step outside of your comfort zone and try new things. This can be joining a new club or taking up a team sport. Acting classes can be fantastic for overcoming shyness as you are free to act as somebody else and doing embarrassing things soon becomes second nature!

Be mindful

Being mindful of your feelings and emotions can help get to the bottom of why you feel shy in certain situations. Be aware of the actions you take and the environment you’re in rather than worry about what could happen. Be in the moment and notice the things you do and say. This can be helpful when you’re conversing with others because rather than being distracted by your own worries, you’ll be paying attention to what the other person is saying. 

Acknowledge your fears

Being vulnerable is one of the most frightening things any person can do. It means allowing people to see who you truly are, and this is something shy people find difficult to accept. Shyness that stems from the fear of being judged can be released once you accept yourself and allow others to see who you are. Begin with people you know and trust by being more open with them. You could find that this deepens the relationships you already have. This is also great preparation for being vulnerable with new people in new situations.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

The psychological impact of procrastination

Over the last few days we’ve been looking at the issue of procrastination, exploring why we procrastinate, and looking at strategies to help us stop doing it.

 

One of the biggest challenges when trying to manage and overcome procrastination though is the psychological impact that procrastination can have on us. 

 

Depression/low mood and procrastination

A 2007 study published in the psychological bulletin suggested that the link between depression/low mood and over-procrastination was very strong. This is perhaps not a surprising finding. If we procrastinate over a task, we may feel hopeless in our abilities or helpless to get things done. That in turn may lead to low mood and depressive symptoms. This can often turn into a bit of a cycle. The more we procrastinate, the more hopeless and helpless we feel, and the less likely to undertake tasks we know we need to do. In other words, we procrastinate more. 

 

OCD and procrastination

Procrastination has also been linked to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Studies suggest that over-perfectionism, common in OCD, can result in people putting off tasks because they feel they’re not capable enough to undertake them perfectly. In addition, the fear of making mistakes when undertaking new tasks, which people with OCD often experience, may lead them to procrastinate. Much like with depression, this can lead to an unhelpful cycle in which OCD leads to procrastination which leads to an increased fear of not being perfect which leads to a reliance on obsessive behaviours or thoughts.

 

ADHD and procrastination

In addition to OCD and depression, ADHD can also have an impact on procrastination, and people with ADHD may feel distressed by their levels of procrastination. When you’re extremely distracted by internal thoughts or external stimuli, it can be hard to focus on executing tasks. Ultimately, ADHD can make procrastination more pronounced. 

 

Anxiety and procrastination

Research suggests that having an anxiety disorder can also put you at greater risk of procrastination. In common with those with OCD, people with anxiety often strive for perfectionism as a way to feel less anxious about getting something wrong. However, perfectionism can curtail our ability and desire to actually execute tasks. So, anxiety can lead to perfectionism which can lead to procrastination.

 

This sense of perfectionism perpetuated from high anxiety can also eat up enormous amounts of time, leaving limited time for other more important tasks. For example, someone with high anxiety that is looking to develop their self-esteem may say “I will undertake this self-esteem course until I know everything about self-esteem”.

 

That desire is evidence of perfectionism due to the individual’s high anxiety, it’s also totally unnecessary and eats up a lot of time ­– time that could be spent improving their self-esteem.

 


The psychological impact of procrastination is massive, it can lead to or exacerbate mental health difficulties such as depression, OCD and anxiety. Of course, this is not always the case but in order to understand procrastination fully, it's helpful to have an understanding of some of the other difficulties it relates to.

 

 

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Discovering the benefits of morning rituals

Morning rituals differ from morning routines in that each action of a ritual should be done with meaning and with attention on the process rather than merely the results. A routine is something you do each morning without giving it a moment’s thought: getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, making breakfast, etc. However, rituals are thought-out actions that set you up for the day and can eventually lead to a more positive outlook on life.

What constitutes part of a morning ritual?

Although meditation and exercise can form part of a morning ritual, there are simpler tasks that can also be included. Purposely drinking your morning coffee out in the garden and taking time to appreciate the aroma of the drink and the natural aspects of your surroundings can be part of a ritual. Allocating time to have a conversation over breakfast with your children and spouse before you go your separate ways for the day is another. An action can be very small but should involve you thinking about the action and being aware of feelings and senses associated with it. The morning is the best time to begin these rituals as they can invigorate and prepare you for the rest of the day.

Why are morning rituals beneficial?

People use morning rituals for many different reasons and discover various benefits when they do. Benefits may include:

  • Helping with healthy diet – being mindful of what you are eating and savouring each mouthful makes you more conscious of eating health and avoiding foods that could impact negatively on your mood and energy levels.
  • Making you more disciplined – sticking to rituals each day can give you a disciplined mindset in other areas of your daily life.
  • Highlighting the importance of time – setting aside specific time for rituals reveals how much time you have in the day to focus on your own needs.
  • Increased productivity and creativity


The mental health benefits of morning rituals for the entire family

Rituals aren’t just for adults, and implementing morning rituals at the early stages of development can have life-long benefits.

Studies have shown that rituals and routines can have a huge impact on children. According to a study included in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, children from families with lower levels of routine experienced higher levels of hyperactivity and impulsivity compared to families with established routines.

As a family, implement a morning routine that sets the tone for the day. Let everyone know that the morning is a time of family discussion, or meditation, or the time you all gather to enjoy breakfast. This can also be the time you go over everybody’s tasks for the day so the routine is clear to all. A chart, or visual prompts for younger children, can be used as part of the morning ritual to clarify the routine for the day.

Rituals, food and mental health

The food we eat has an effect on both our physical and mental wellbeing. Fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins, and healthy proteins such as those found in beans, seeds, nuts, and pulses help to maintain a healthy body. Too many processed foods containing sugars and fats make us sluggish which in turn makes us less active.

A diet lacking in protein can lead to serotonin depletion. Serotonin is a chemical required to regulate mood and so those suffering from protein deficiency may find themselves becoming depressed, anxious and aggressive. Incorporating healthy foods into your diet and enjoying the morning ritual of a healthy breakfast while savouring each mouthful, will make you more aware of the foods you eat. This ritual will then have a positive effect on both your mental and physical health.

How do I decide what rituals to include?

Chances are you have already thought about activities you like to do but have failed to incorporate them into a morning ritual. Finding the right activities can involve trial and error and you may do something only to find that you prefer something else. Jogging, yoga, reading poetry, listening to specific music, and meditation, are just some of the rituals you may want to try. Even chanting or mantras can help clear the mind and assist with focusing on any worries or problems you want to find solutions for. Keeping a journal is a great activity to include in a morning ritual as it clarifies precisely what is on your mind and you can reflect on past entries over the coming weeks and months.

Don’t give up!

Even if a certain ritual doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, make sure you stick with it for a few days or even a week. It takes time to incorporate a new activity into your daily life and although you may not initially appreciate the benefits, you may do so over a few days. When you have established that something is definitely not working for you, select something else and give this activity a fair chance too. Just because one activity isn’t working, it doesn’t mean you won’t find something else to suit you.