Procrastination might be seen as extreme laziness for some, for others, it is a real curse and one that ought not be underestimated. For all of you out there who don’t understand how people continue to procrastinate and complain about it, you should know that procrastination is usually involuntary behavior. Otherwise, duhh, we wouldn’t be crying in a corner everytime we have to finish a university dissertation in one night while everybody else finished it weeks ago.
I already hear some of you thinking “Just move your lazy ass and do some work.” It is not that simple. I feel like it would be the same as telling someone who’s sad “Just stop being sad and you’ll feel better.”
I’m voluntarily putting some irony and sarcasm into this article, but as I myself suffered from procrastination for, basically my entire academic career, I know what I’m talking about. I use medical-related vocabulary to give it more credit. Not that I consider it a disease, but it certainly is some kind of trouble. Many people exhibit it at different levels; however, some people don’t even know what it is.
Four of my closest friends come into mind when thinking about people who simply don’t understand how procrastinators’ systems work. These friends all organize their work very clearly. They work on time and productively. Something that, to this day, has remained a mystery to me. They explained to me how they organize their time and it sounds really good. But it simply doesn’t work for me.
Trust me, I’ve tried them all. I can’t seem to make it work. I simply cannot stick to a calendar. My brain is not always in a mood open to work. And if I plan to focus on one subject, chances are that my brain will want to study something else. Then, when I start working on that other topic, my brain will decide that it is more interesting to go to the random article section on Wikipedia and learn something I didn’t know. Or to visit a DIY website to learn how to make origami boxes.
I sometimes binge-watch series, like everybody I guess. But you know what, I’ve never really binged-watched anything during holidays or weekends. Nooo. You know that period before and during final exams at university? In Belgium, we call it “the Blocus.” Well, that’s the time my brain chooses to spend hours watching series that I have (even probably) ALREADY watched. Why am I doing that? I don’t know. I don’t enjoy that time. I usually feel guilty for not working. I start wondering why I’m living that way and why I’m such a piece of trash. I start to develop guilt and self-hatred feelings that hinder me from working productively, of course.
The problem with procrastination is that all the time wasted reading random Wikipedia pages or watching stupid Youtube videos cannot be traded with something that is actually enjoyable. My parents would sometimes tell me, “You spend so much time doing nothing, why don’t you actually use that time to go to the movies, or to go spend some days on the seaside, or to do any kind of real leisure activities”. And you know what I would answer? “ I don’t have time for that! You don’t realize how much work I have to do!”. Quite contradictory isn’t it?
On a more serious tone, procrastination has really put me into dark places. The fact that I was unable to work in a healthy way frustrated me. Especially when you see other people being such at peace with their schoolwork and duties. I would always have to go through dark emotions, self-hatred feeling phases to achieve something. Last minute stress became my motivation and my only way to finish my work. However, I always hoped that eventually I would be able to work differently. Whenever I was assigned a new task, I always thought that that time would be different, that I would be able to start it immediately and finish it several days in advance. Well, I was always wrong. It only awoke deep interrogations about myself, sometimes life reconsideration, regrets and a decline of my self-esteem. Because I was unable to do something that seemed simple...
One good thing though, that I have developed throughout these dark years is what I call productive procrastination. You know how everything sounds more interesting when you have a tight deadline to finish something? Well, I call productive procrastination the moments of procrastination that I spend doing other things, that aren’t very important of course, but that end up being useful or somehow interesting. Still not ideal but better than fakely laughing at stuff on 9Gag to hide your tears of self-deprecation and anger.
Example: Last summer I had to write my Masters thesis. I tried this “planning” thing, but of course it didn’t work. So, during the times of the day that I was supposed to spend working on my thesis, I would usually do other stuff. For example, I started drawing again, which is quite nice. I loved to draw as a kid and I’ve always really enjoyed it. However with school work and university duties, I hadn’t really drawn anything in years. Well, during that summer, I did. And it felt good. So, in the end, I didn’t work on my thesis as much as I thought I would, but I spent some time doing things that I really enjoyed.
Because one of the perks of productive procrastination is that you don’t feel as guilty as usual. You feel like you’re actually doing something, even though it is not a priority. But that’s not the only thing I did during that summer of course. I’ve hated school system for as long as I can remember but I’ve actually always loved to learn new things, even useless ones! So, apart from drawing I also learned how to finish a Rubik’s Cube. That’s right. Why, you ask? I don’t know. Never knew how to do it, now I know. And I practiced until I reached about 1 minute time. Then, just for the fun of it, I decided to remember the first hundred decimals of Pi in order. True Story. Again, useless talents, but I prefer to see them as “New Skills Unlocked”!
One real argument that kept me from trying to make big changes in my life is that, however painful it is, it works. Procrastination has not prevented me from being successful at school. It made me unhappy most of the time, but it did not make me a failure. As far as I can remember, I failed only one exam in my entire academic career, and that one was not even because of a lack of study, ironically. So in the end, I knew that my methods worked. My sick brain developed a way to work for 8 hours straight, even in the middle of the night, sometimes without any break and without the help of any drugs either. So, I finally came to a point in my life where I simply accepted my condition and tried to work with it. If I want to see the bright side of this bad situation, I can point out the fact that I have developed a way of working very efficiently and under pressure, which is quite a useful skill.
Now that I have finished my studies, I feel more at peace with this subject. Because it is not as much a problem as it used to be, I feel more comfortable talking and writing about it. If some of you can relate, please leave a comment or tell us your experiences and if you found a cure to the curse of procrastination, please, let us know, because I still haven’t.
And if you’ve never watched this Ted Talk, please do; Even if it means you procrastinating from doing something else: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arj7oStGLkU.
With the advent of social media and the ever-increasing stride towards digital lives - a strange thing has happened: the world has become lonelier. More people are reporting feeling sad lonely or depressed and as of yet - there hasn’t been a solution put forth. A 2017 report even said loneliness was as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Where does that leave us? In the midst of a health crisis?
The answer in Great Britain was to appoint a Minister for Loneliness. Tracey Crouch was appointed to tackle the issue. She acknowledged that lonelieness wasn’t just linked to social media - it was also specifically linked with the elderly population. Around two million people all across England who are aged above 75 live alone. This might seem unproblematic, until you realize that many of these people can go for days or weeks without any social interaction at all. Particularly in the winter, many people stock up on food and avoid leaving their homes. This isn’t even necessarily a tactic of social awkwardness. For many, it’s simply being smart. As they get older, it might be painful to move around.
One of the ways that Tracey Couch will be useful is to see if a National Strategy will help. There are many different small NGOs and organizations that fight mental health stigma and loneliness across local communities - but there aren’t countries that specify it as a main strategy in their health policies. Maybe it’s time for that to change.
Loneliness can affect anyone - and it’s easy for people to hide. In our society of being on phones and choosing to text rather than meet up in person, it’s not surprising to see this issue come to the forefront. Being active can be hard and if you’re an introvert like me, it can be even harder to get out there and work to be social. It can be downright challenging. But people who aren’t lonely live longer, tend to be happier and live fuller lives more presently with the people they love. And if you happen to be an introvert, just remember that enjoying spending time alone and being lonely are two separate things.
Here are some ways you can reach out to lonely people in your community:
Throughout the years some, of us have conveniently misdiagnosed the cause of the unforgettable but preventable attacks on America’s schools. For a long time, several influential but misguided people have blamed school shootings and other attacks across the United States on the right to bear arms (a portion of the 2nd amendment) and shut out the aspect of mental health initiatives or lack thereof. Recently several school protests and “walkouts” have occurred all across America. The message or goal of these demonstrations of protestation is to restrict gun rights in our country, but will that really have a positive effect on our society? If these regulations were passed, law abiding gun owners across the United States would riot in the streets. Instead of focusing all of our efforts on to taking guns out of the situation (a completely unrealistic goal) maybe we should focus on helping our students and citizens in general with the state of their mental health.
Several people said that shootings such as Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland were not preventable but others argue that taking away the right to own guns would’ve stopped all of this from happening. Instead of using irrational or unrealistic arguments, we can all agree on a more positive and efficient solution. Dozens of schools tend to let their counselors give a speech on bullying, give the children a packet, and never say anything again to the students. This recurring issue has led to several kids being bullied so badly that they act irrationally and violently. According to stopbullying.gov, approximately every 1 in 3 students are being bullied everyday. At first, bullying will bother kids and hurt their feelings but once it gets bad enough the children can become radical and cause harm to innocent people. If schools were to push mental health and wellness initiatives, reaching out to kids would be more productive and effective. If we can identify the students who are in need of mental support we can decrease the risk of violent activity in schools.
I had a personal experience with this issue last week when a large number of the student body participated in a walkout with a goal of ending gun ownership in America. I chose to not participate because their ideas and goals were unrealistic and against my beliefs. Even if the government were to pass a law to get rid of all commercial gun purchasing, citizens would turn to the black market and the United States would slowly but surely become a country ridden by chaos. Instead of angering both parties in this conflict the “problem solvers’’ need to focus on a plan that keeps the protesters and the anti-protesters happy while also incorporating an aspect of mental health and wellness. This country has been, is, and always will be a strong nation. Events like Parkland, Orlando, and 9/11 have always brought us together as a country. Instead of pushing apart we need to be joining together to find an efficient, effective, and full proof plan to protect and honor the citizens of the United States.
Aidan C. Stolz
8th Grade Student
Fort Collins, Colorado
For years there had been no definitive research carried out to see if those who are on hormonal birth control, are at risk of depression. Most people were self-diagnosed or simply changed to a different dosage to see if that would fare better with them. Mood changes did occur but it was found to be solely tied to birth control, rather society continued to see the benefits of birth control outweigh the effects it had on mental health. One Buzzfeed article even says that if your acne goes away and you no longer experience extreme cramping, of course your moods ought to get better. However now, there are real statistics and qualitative data that note that those on any form of hormonal birth control are at higher risk to mental health issues - including depression, anxiety, and/or increased mood disorders.
A recent Danish study conducted between 2000 and 2013 looked at women aged 15 to 34. It must be noted that those with preexisting psychiatric conditions along with others who could not take hormonal medication due to risk of clotting, were excluded. To give the study a further element of credence, immigrants, who have been proven to show higher rates of depression, were also excluded.
According to the Harvard Health Blog, contributing editor and doctor, Monique Tello, said, “The researchers analyzed hormonal contraceptive use and subsequent depression in two different ways. They evaluated women who had received a diagnosis of depression as well as women who had received a prescription for antidepressants; these analyses were run separately, and they obtained statistically equivalent results.”
The results showed that all forms of birth control lead to higher risks of depression or serious changes in mood, in a small percentage of women. The highest rate of those at risk are individuals who take “progesterone-only forms, including the IUD.” Dr. Tellow continues to say that the research concludes that “this risk was higher in teens ages 15 to 19, and especially for non-oral forms of birth control such as the ring, patch and IUD. That the IUD was particularly associated with depression in all age groups is especially significant, because traditionally physicians have been taught that the IUD only acts locally and has no effects on the rest of the body.”
Birth control continues to serve as a very positive contribution to our society. It gives women and couples the opportunity to enjoy sex without the burden of having a child or worse - having to decide if a child is wanted or not. Birth control has many benefits, but all of its side effects need to be known. Just like every type of medication, the side effects vary from individual to individual. It is crucial that each person knows the risks that they may face as a result of what they put in their bodies.
A personal note:
Growing up with a father who played the dual role of mother and father, I often went blindly into the area of womanhood. My dad, who is an expert at making pancakes like Cinderella and was my coach for nearly everything, was never an expert in female anatomy. And hell, I can’t blame him —he is a man after all. But damn, did he do his best. From asking me if I had become a woman to taking me to get birth control knowing that I had become sexually active and that my cramps left me crippled, my dad was always there.
The first birth control I went on immediately caused me to become lethargic and very quiet during the fall of my junior year of high school. I then switched to an alternative that was a much lower dosage. For years this worked as it did not seem to affect my mood or hinder me athletically and it definitely helped my cramps that had previously left me bedridden. Unfortunately, after a few years, I started bleeding for weeks on end. Throughout my freshman year of college, I had my “period” for weeks. After doing some reading, I discovered that this is commonplace once one's body become acclimated to one form. So, I went to go change my birth control once more.
This time, the doctor prescribed me something slightly higher but was essentially comprised of the same components. For the most part, I felt fairly normal, but I began to notice that my lows became lower and I would often cry for hours on end. I would like to think that I was so lost in what was happening in my life at the time that I could blame all of my extreme emotions on exterior things, but looking back I just can’t. Yes, I dated some bad guys. Yes, I was frustrated in how I couldn’t translate hard work into things on paper. And yes, I was officially cutting my mom out of my life. But months later, when I no longer needed contraceptives in my life, I found immediate changes. I never cried, and I was consistently happier. I didn’t find myself getting upset over the small stuff and collectively, I was stable again.
Up until recently, a part of me still didn’t believe that a little pill that could affect me so much. So, after not seeing my boyfriend for ten months, and not crying in nine of them, I started the pill once more. I took them for three days and on the third day, I yelled at my boyfriend about a movie. I stopped taking it the very next day. I have come to the realization hormonal birth control just does not work for me or my body.
When the Netherlands comes up in conversation, the topics often turn to windmills, canals, and the famous Dutch city of Amsterdam. What doesn’t come up as often is suicide, and that, in of itself, is surprising. Last year 1,894 people committed suicide in the Netherlands - a rate of around 11 per 100,000 people. In 2015, the country reported its highest rate in suicide ever - leaving many to wonder, why?
The easy answer is that euthanasia is legal, or at least it has been since 2002. In other words, patients can ask their doctors for assistance committing suicide in a safe and effective matter. Patients that are terminally ill or suffering can request euthanasia, although being terminally ill is not a prerequisite. In the Netherlands, euthanasia accounts for 4.5 percent of all deaths. Euthanasia is also legal in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and six US states.
Some claim that the ease and normalcy of euthanasia in society means that more people will ask for it. When it becomes okay to ask to end your life, the stigma might fade. This does not however, change the high rate of suicide in the country. So, why the Netherlands? The country does not have any particular problem with its healthcare system nor is it under an autocratic regime where many people’s rights are withheld.
The answer might be depression. Researchers have calculated that in the Netherlands, depression makes up for a high share of “years lived with disability” (YLDs) - nearly 16 percent. This is somewhat surprisingly high for the country who rates as the “fourth happiest country in the world” on the Global Happiness scale.
Suicide doesn’t necessarily have a clear-cut answer. One of the hardest things left over when loved ones are faced with a friend or a family member who has committed suicide is the question: why? The only person that can answer that is no longer with you. We can’t make any clear assumptions about why the suicide rate in the Netherlands is so high. Superficial assumptions like the weather and the grey weather might have merit. But in the end - high suicide rates might mean that there is something culturally unique about the Netherlands - or that nothing is unique at all and that suicide rates vary on an uncountable number of factors.
But don’t let that stop you from appreciating Dutch history, beautiful art and incredible strides towards a greener economy. The country may be small and contain a large percentage of suicides, but it still hosts a wide section of world culture and history that cannot be matched.
With our daily lives focusing around work and school, it’s easy to ignore your mental health. Most of us can function perfectly fine without taking a moment to breath and to consider what’s going on “up there.” But that shouldn’t be the case! Though it may be the “norm” to pull all-nighters and to push yourself to the breaking point - that might not be the healthiest way to handle things. Drinking ten cups of coffee and then passing out on the couch is a somewhat glamorized image and perhaps even an aspiration of students. But... but, maybe it’s not the best way to handle things.
Here are five easy ways you can keep on top of your mental health - whether you’re working 9-5 or are a student going through a demanding exam period.
Get a Move on
One of the easiest ways you can give your brain a second to take a break is through movement. Dance in your apartment or go to the gym, walk outside or bike - it doesn’t matter as long as you move. Each of us enjoy engaging in different kinds of activities, but physical activity especially allows for your brain to take a breather while you also get your sweat on.
Drink Lots of Water
Your brain is just like any other part of your body - it needs water to survive. So whatever you’re doing, make sure you’re doing it while drinking some water. It only takes five minutes to fill up a glass of water so that you unconsciously drink it later. Bonus points: it isn’t just good for your mental health - it will also make you feel better almost immediately if you’re dehydrated.
Take a Break
Yes, you read that right. Taking a pause can sometimes be really difficult for some to manage, especially when you are pressed for time, but for your mental health’s sake - it’s necessary. Studies even show that students who study with more breaks tend to retain their information for longer periods of time. If your body is screaming for a break after working for five hours non-stop, walk to the coffee machine and take a second away from your computer screen. Your eyes are likely tired and will thank you for the break from the strain.
Chances are if you’re stressing out to the point where you’re concerned about your mental health - you’ve been working too hard. It’s easy to forget that your body is also on overdrive when you’re studying or putting in long hours at work to meet a deadline. One of the best ways to counteract this is to take time to thank yourself with a treat - something just for you. Maybe you love chocolate or there’s a new movie you want to see? Take yourself out and reward yourself for doing such hard work.
Remember to Breathe and Smile
A simple smile can improve your mood. So remember to take a moment to smile and to remind yourself to breathe slowly and calmly throughout the day. Working isn’t generally a cardio exercise, so take advantage of this time to manage your stress by focusing on your breath and by utilizing the muscles on your face.
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