Student life: How to overcome negative self-talk and be productive

Thursday, 10th September 2020, 2:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th September 2020, 2:02 pm

Students across the country are getting ready for the beginning of the university year.

Whether entering as wide-eyed freshers, or old-hand PHDs, student life presents a period of time unlike any other.It is unique - and I use the word unique with careful consideration, hoping it will imply as much negativity as positivity, writes Your Time therapist Gareth Jones.

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Let’s face it, student life can be just as painfully complicated as it can be gloriously liberating.The joys of fleeing the parental nest easily neutralised by the torments of social turbulence and inexperience.

The path to a degree is littered with pitfalls; to call someone a ‘student’ and only imply carefree responsibility-free living is an injustice to the journey, and potentially dangerous to anyone packing bags and setting off for the first time.

Simply put, it’s not easy being a student and to state otherwise is wrong.

As a Rapid Transformational Therapy therapist, a substantial percentage of my clients are either students, or their issues began during their student lives.

Issues like depression, anxiety, drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, gaming addiction, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, phobias and low self-esteem.

For a student, there is a lot at stake, and it’s not just about obtaining a qualification, which then allows them to enter into the limbo of job hunting. And let’s be honest, a degree is no longer a sure guarantee of a job, let alone a ‘good’ job.

For a high percentage of students, a three year commitment to an undergraduate course is a three year delay to eventual unemployment.

But there is also a big pink elephant in the room, regarding student mental health, and it is very seldom acknowledged.

We needn’t look much further than how we describe that period of being a student to understand how so many issues and problems inevitably arise.

Many students are told to make the most of the ‘best days of your life’, but for a large percentage of students, the reality and experience is quite the opposite.

When you label something you limit it - even positive labels can create negative experiences. For example, one of my clients heard on a regular basis, “We love you because you are smart.”

The parents’ intention was to tell their child that they were proud of him. What the subconscious (survival mind) heard was “I am only accepted because I am smart. If I do something that isn’t smart I will be rejected. Best not risk it.”

And so, this client had been suffering from procrastination for a number of years, unable to complete, or in a lot of cases, start anything.

His survival mind had to relearn that he was loved for being himself, and that no matter what he did it would always be enough.

Manoeuvring through the systems of a new social life is difficult enough, add to that the pressures of assignment deadlines, money stresses, peer pressure and for many, sexual pressure, first time use of alcohol, drugs, and to be told that they must enjoy it, creates a huge dilemma within the mind.

“I am supposed to enjoy this. I don’t enjoy this. The problem is with me. There is something wrong with me.”

This negative self-talk is destructive and is a catalyst for depression and addictions. But it can be avoided.

Over this series, I will share common experiences from case studies of clients, to better inform and prepare anyone struggling with the difficulties of being a student.