Wednesday, 13 October 2021

How to be yourself when you don't fit in

Regardless of whether you always made the school sports teams or had an endless string of party invitations, there may still be certain situations in your life in which you feel like you don’t fit in. Maybe you dress differently from others, have a shy personality or you’re even too chatty. Sometimes having to socialise or make conversation about topics you don’t have much knowledge or interest in can be nerve wracking and put you outside your comfort zone.

Other people might not even be aware of how anxious or stressed you feel among a particular group, because they don’t really know you. It’s not uncommon for many of us to feel out of place, and the uneasy feelings this causes can have a detrimental effect on our mental wellbeing.

Recognising the signs

There might be times when you start to feel uncomfortable in a situation but you’re not entirely sure why, however, there are signs that you can look out for.

  • You start to question what everyone is thinking about you
  • You try to act like others in order to fit in. Perhaps you start to dress differently or take up different social activities or hobbies to impress people
  • You make excuses to get out of social events.

Although sometimes it can be good to try new things, when you try to force something that you really don’t enjoy, it can leave you feeling even more anxious. In the long term, this can be damaging to your self-confidence as you start to lose your self-identity and a lack of self-worth creeps in. Ongoing negative self-talk could lead to depression which can also be the cause of more serious physical illness if left untreated. Some of the signs of depression include:

  • Insomnia or disturbed sleep problems
  • Intense feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Fatigue
  • Thoughts of death
  • Headaches

Many of us, especially when we’re younger, need to feel a sense of belonging and often we think that by being able to fit in, we will achieve that. Author and social scientist, Brene Brown undertook extensive research when writing her book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Brown believes that if we try to fit in, rather than belong, we will never be our authentic selves.

So how can we start accepting that we don’t fit in and stand strong as who we are?

  1. Do more of what you love such as a hobby or a sport and join a group. Meeting like-minded people who share your interests and passions can make you feel more of a sense of belonging and less concerned with fitting in with a different crowd.
  2. Don’t pretend to be someone else and accept who you are. Recognise your positive traits and focus on them by using daily positive affirmations. Speak to people who you are close to and ask them what they see as your positive attributes. There might be some that you hadn’t even recognised in yourself.
  3. Shape reality to suit who you are. Take some time to think about your future. What does it look like in 10 or 20 years’ time? Begin to imagine and carve out a life for your true self and see how much happier it makes you feel rather than trying to fit into someone else’s mould. When you start to imagine a future that you want, it will feel liberating and make you more confident in who you really are.

Monday, 4 October 2021

Coping with ageing and its effects on mental and physical health

For many of us, hopefully, we will live until a ripe old age and get to enjoy a long and happy retirement. However, there may be some setbacks along the way that can make ageing for some people a greater struggle. As the body and mind age, it’s inevitable that there are going to be changes but there are ways that we can help keep our mental and physical wellbeing in optimum health. 

In a publication posted on Frontiers it states that “multiple social, psychological and biological factors are determinant of mental health, as well as life stressors. Among these, the lack of independence, limited mobility, chronic diseases, pain, frailty or other mental and physical problems, require long-term care.”

So, how can we come to terms with the ageing process and how can it affect our mental and physical health? There are five main issues that can impact our mental health as we get older:

  • Discrimination
  • Relationships
  • Participation in activities
  • Physical health
  • Poverty 

Although there will be some issues that are out of our control, we can take certain steps that will help us cope better with the effects of ageing.

Maintaining optimal health

As mentioned above, there are several reasons why our mental health might deteriorate as we get older, in particular, changes in lifestyle. It’s vital that we keep our minds and bodies as active as possible. Being retired doesn’t mean that you can’t stay busy, and by keeping yourself occupied, you’ll retain a sense of purpose.

  • Maintain an active social life. Age UK provides lots of information about activities in your area including social events, exercise classes and IT training. If you’re retired and feeling lonely, you might also find taking on some voluntary work will give you a boost and an opportunity to meet new people. 
  • If you’re able to, try and stay as active as possible even if it’s just walking to the shops or around your local park. Regular exercise has many benefits that can boost your physical and mental wellbeing. It can also promote good sleeping patterns that can help prevent anxiety, stress and depression.
  • It’s really important to exercise your brain too as you get older. You can keep your brain active by doing puzzles, reading, playing games such as chess or bridge, or learning a new skill. 
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet. A good diet is vital for keeping our minds and bodies in tip top condition at any age. Eating the right foods can help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers. It can also keep our minds focused and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Do things that make you happy. Whether you love to paint, play an instrument, or go dancing, by participating in an activity that you enjoy, your brain releases the chemical dopamine which will lift your mood and keep you feeling motivated.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends. Sometimes as we get older, we lose touch with those that are close to us, for whatever reason. Having a network of friends or family members that we can talk to or ask for help occasionally gives us a sense of belonging and security.