You’ll Probably Think About Something Else While You Read This

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated” – Mark Twain

Yes, I’m still here. And I come bearing news.

News such as the fact that 50% of you won’t finish this article. 90% of you will be thinking of something else while you’re reading it. 100% of you will quickly realise I made these figures up.

So, try something new right now, you saucy go-getter. Focus your attention solely on this article for three minutes.

For this blog, is about being in the moment.

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You, the reader – circa 2018                                     Image credit: me.me

Stressing About Tomorrow is Ruining Your Today

Do YOU spend too much energy worrying about the things to come?

Do YOU fail to enjoy a Sunday night because you’re worried about Monday?

Then YOU, are a worrier. And you’re missing out on the here and now.

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes, it pays to think about how we’ll approach certain situations when they come around. Perhaps you have a job interview tomorrow, (you should probably close this and start preparing if you haven’t already) or a big deadline at work next week. By all means, consider how you’ll handle them if they require preparation. But don’t spend too long fretting about it. You need to instead play a game of would you rather.

Would you rather… enjoy the moment you’re in right now, or mull a future event over and over in your head? If you do choose the second option, pretty soon you’ll be too stressed about it to even properly engage in the now.

Take it from the person who once sat at the dinner table at home, quietly having an internal meltdown about his dissertation due in a month’s time. The person who had such a panic, that they booked a train up to university the very next day, two weeks before anyone else went back, to work on said dissertation. And who subsequently got a 60 in that piece of work.

Bit of a waste of time really.

So how do you get yourself out of that rut and into the present moment?

 

Get Some Perspective – Your Problems Aren’t all That

We have a habit of building things up to mean far more than they really do.

Take that deadline at work you’ve probably spent all week stressing about. Your boss has made it seem life or death. They live and breathe their job, and have decided you must share in their worries. So that stress gets passed on to you, and you become caught up in worrying about how you’ll manage to get everything done right and on time. Maybe it’s getting to the point where you’re staring at the ceiling, 12:30AM, midweek, and you just. Can’t. Go to sleep. So, what should you do?

Well, the genius behind innocent smoothies’ revolutionary Tone of Voice has some solid advice here.

Stare out into the cosmos. Remembering how small and accidental you are reminds you that what you’re doing isn’t that serious or difficult.” – Dan Germain

These things on your mind have been faced by people in the past and they will be faced by more people in the future. So take comfort in that, then take yourself back to the here and now. After all, you’re never going to be happy anyway.

Wait, what?

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Yeah, I said it.                                                Image credit: tenor.com

Remember the Pursuit of Happyness?

Half of the message of Will Smith’s 2006 hit movie was in the purposefully misspelt title. “Happy” is merely a temporary state, much like “sad” and “angry”. So in wanting to achieve happiness, you’re effectively pursuing fleeting moments that won’t last forever.

So in order to fully enjoy these moments, you need to be present in them. That means no distractions and that means not being preoccupied with the past or future. By worrying about next week’s workload, you’re affecting your own number of “happy” moments.

If, like me, you don’t know the first place to look for hints on reducing stressful thinking and being more present, try this link.

If you don’t like the link, do your own research.

 

 

 

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Conversations Among Martians

“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” – or so the saying goes.

There are numerous aspects of everyday life that do not reflect this disparity between men and women. However, when it comes to discussions surrounding emotions and wellbeing, this age old quote does appear to come into its own. Admittedly this article may feel like a generalisation – there are millions of men capable of honestly discussing their emotions with other men. Yet the trend undoubtedly leans toward the attitude that opening up to other men can be an uncomfortable and awkward experience, and therefore one that is too often avoided.

The single biggest killer among men under 45 is suicide.

Recent trends such as the #ITSOKAYNOTTOBEOKAY via Facebook have made long overdue inroads into opening up conversations among young men about issues affecting their everyday life. In my experience, I have had friends open up to me about their current mental state and in turn, I have been able to open up to them regarding my own. Conversely, I have spoken to some men about issues affecting others to be met with “real men don’t talk about those things”. This is an extreme example, but it paints a picture of a society still transitioning from so called ‘stoic’ silence to healthy, constructive conversations between men.

The main issue appears to be the initial breakthrough. Relationships among men are often based just as much on what is left unsaid than what is said. Mutual respect, and an underlying knowledge that the company you keep will have your back in the event of a financial crisis, or on a sports pitch, or even in a fight. Why then should this not extend to in the event of an emotional crisis? More often than not, each of us has an emotional battle to overcome at some point. The effectiveness of support systems among men in these other issues is fantastic – so why do a lot of men feel the need to keep this particular challenge to themselves? Perhaps it is because young men of today span an awkward generational gap. On the one hand, it has been clearly established that discussing their emotional state with others is paramount to their mental health. On the other hand, given how recently this has been established, they lack the appropriate role models from which to learn how to discuss these issues.

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Photo credit: Feministaa.com

In my own experience, directly behind the initial breakthrough is the immediate understanding. During my school days, I had particular trouble with one boy who would tease me daily about a range of things. Usually I could absorb this ‘banter’ in my stride, but during this particular time in my life I was dealing with the aftermath of my parents divorce, and neither my temper nor my ability to control it were particularly adept. These daily comments began to hurt much more than usual. Rather than ‘man up’, I decided to send my would-be tormentor a text explaining my current situation and how it was making me feel. To his credit, the response came back immediately, “yeah no problem, I get it”, and there was a marked turn in his behaviour towards me. The issue clearly therefore is not the inability to understand, but the unwillingness to admit to what some might perceive as ‘weakness’ and broach the topic in the first place.

Fearing the initial contact is ingrained in most of us by frankly toxic gender stereotypes about men and their right to discuss their emotions, despite the majority of men being totally content to discuss the topic once broached. These stereotypes do not belong to this generation, yet they undoubtedly have an effect on how young men perceive truly opening up regarding their feelings. As young men forge forward into a mostly unknown landscape of what can only be described as unfamiliar emotional liberation, it is down to them to set the precedent for future generations on how best to engage in essential conversations about topics such as depression, anxiety, and wider insecurities. In the months and years to come, there will need to be numerous uncomfortable conversations had in order to create the new normal, and in doing so provide men with an accessible method by which they can share, vent and heal.

 

 

“So, what are you doing now?”

Six words that have always filled me with dread.

Young people are under a huge amount of pressure to answer this question with an impressive answer. “I’m currently on a grad scheme for a major recruitment firm” or, “I’ve just finished my first year at a top advertising agency based in London.” These are great answers, but the answer to this question should not be something that we as young individuals should feel overly pressured by.

My first job out of university was working in a local pub. I made great friends and I was happy with my work. Yet undeniably my time spent working at a pub was constantly surrounded by one question to myself:

“When am I going to start a real career?”

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Photo credit: Advance Cessnock City

So (after a LOT of searching) I became an account executive at a major design-firm based in London, and the novelty of being in a career and having a ‘proper’ job was exciting at first. Speaking to friends, there was a noticeable difference in their reactions when telling them about my latest job – that feeling of respect from your peers can be somewhat addictive. Yet when it actually boiled down to it, I did not find my work to be fulfilling – I quickly established that this was not my passion, and that timelines and trackers were not my allies. However I knew in the back of my mind that I had to do a year at this company – I was constantly reminded, “Everyone does a year, it looks respectable on your CV”.

This resolution to stick it out led to many a Sunday afternoon with a cloud of anxiety hanging over my head. The challenges that lay in the week ahead were impacting my ability to enjoy my free time, which we all work so hard for in the first place. I dreaded getting back into the office – at my lowest point, I was experiencing the physical affects of anxiety – due to stress I had admittedly placed upon myself. When you’re not happy with your work, it usually begins to impact most aspects of your life. The average adult spends at least one third of their life at work. If someone had approached me at a younger age and informed me that I wouldn’t enjoy one third of my life when I grew up, I would have swiftly informed them that I would never allow that to happen.

Having established the above, I quit, having only completed a measly 11 months (never did hit that golden year!). Nevertheless, the moment I handed in my notice, I was met with a wave of relief. Who cared that I had no idea what I was going to do next? I was free! The very next week I was garden landscaping for a living, with a friend of mine having offered me the job while I searched for my next ‘big’ career move. As I write this article, I have been landscape gardening for 2 months, and despite the heat, I am certainly far less stressed than I was throughout my spell at my old job, and as a result far happier in my wider life.

So why when I see my friends, do I still feel embarrassed to let them know that I have already (to some people’s minds) given up and taken on a temporary job? I almost feel like I’ve regressed, and that I have wasted (almost) a year in an office on something I did not want to be doing. Yet, importantly, this is not the case. Every young person is moving at a different speed, and to view career progression as a competition is to miss the recognition that a career should be an exploration of who you are as an individual. Stan Lee created the Fantastic Four when he was 39 years old. Colonel Sanders franchised KFC at the age of 62. Lululemon founder Chip Wilson did not found the company until he was 42 years old. The point is that each of us will find something that suits us, if only through trial and error. It doesn’t have to earn millions, but maybe it will.  Don’t be afraid to take a step back and think “what am I actually passionate about?”

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Photo credit: Jobboom

Personally, I haven’t decided on my next career move yet, and whilst I am obviously concerned with this fact (who isn’t) I know that this is a process, and one which takes many people a lifetime to figure out. Take the strain off of yourself, pursue something you actually like rather than simply something you think you’ll be good at, and just enjoy being extremely bad at something that you find really interesting for a while. Who knows – you might even make some money out of it one day.