RED ALERT: I Don’t Know What I’m Doing With Myself!
#Let’sTalkMentalHealth is a monthly series bringing diverse opinions on mental health issues into the University community. The goal is to promote unashamed conversations around mental health by giving accurate and up-to-date information on mental health.
That is one word I (mis)used a lot when I was younger. I thought it meant someone who always wanted things to go as they planned, who wanted to always be in control of what happened to them. But who doesn’t like order and balance in their life? Yet, it seems the system we’ve found ourselves in takes pleasure in throwing people off balance at every available opportunity, filling them with self-doubt. The ongoing ASUU strike is a perfect instance.
The university, to most people, is beyond a means to getting a degree or an avenue for networking and socialisation. On the whole, it represents order, a system which gives purpose to your day-to-day activities; it represents an item on your life’s to-do list that has to be ticked off within a scheduled time: to graduate at 22. And so, when this is suddenly halted, chances are high that you feel purposeless.
There’s so much time but I’m not doing anything.
I’m doing something but I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing at this point in my life.
I’m doing some things but those things don’t even count.
Anything that is not fetching me money in this strike is a waste of my time.
My mates are already graduates, my mates are earning big, my mates are in tech already and . . .
Pause and breathe.
These thoughts chip at your confidence and esteem over time. Negative comparisons that you make soon become a weight, weakening your sense of self and making you feel less than you should.
Will the world ever be perfectly balanced? I don’t think so. You can’t always control what happens around you, but you can control how you react to them. So, even in the imbalance, you can create some balance within you.
1. Be aware of your thoughts. Many a time, we let ourselves get so carried away by activities that we subconsciously push aside how we feel. Scrolling through your feed, you allow cruise to mask your true thoughts. Take a break and let your thoughts come to the surface.
2. Analyse your thoughts. Being introspective from time to time is a necessity. I feel down. Why do I feel down? It is helpful to pen down your predominant thoughts. The mind is a very busy place, so examining those thoughts becomes easier when you bring them into focus. You get to know if certain thoughts and feelings are good for or destructive to the way you feel about yourself.
3. Pay attention to your negative thoughts. I know we are in a “zero negativity; bad energy, stay far away” generation, but you don’t fix a problem by wishing it away. Know why you feel what you feel or think what you think. You’ll know how to start working on yourself or when to seek help when you begin asking yourself WHY.
4. Get affirming. Affirmations are not magic words, but they work. They help condition your mind to think and believe what it should. Unlike toxic positivity which encourages denial, affirming corrects negative thoughts and improves your sense of self.
5. Harness your strengths. Mastery is worth striving for. Whatever strength it is that you have, focus on getting better and better at it.
6. Do the things that you love. They don’t have to fit into the norm; they don’t have to be what everyone else is doing. There is the satisfaction and inner peace that come with doing the things you love.
In conclusion, you are in control of what you do about your thoughts and your feelings. Do not let anything, anybody, make you feel less than you are. The system might be on hold, but you don’t have to pause living. Always remember that you can be everything you want to be and more.
Written by Prosper Igbozurike, a third-year medical student at the University of Ibadan. In no particular order, she enjoys the sound of her voice, no-rule writing and reading contemporary African fiction.