Hello and welcome to my new blog: It’s Not Always Easy. I’m Dr. Rhonda Gilby. For over 30 years, I’ve been a clinical psychologist, working with people who are struggling to cope with various difficulties in their lives. Also, for over 10 years, I have taught courses at Brescia, most recently a course called Human Adjustment. That course examined how findings and ideas from the field of psychology can be applied to help students in their everyday lives. Although I am not teaching that course now, the course contained a lot of useful information that may be helpful for university students, so I have decided to share it in a blog.
Here we are at the start of another school year. Many new experiences lie ahead – opportunities for new relationships, new skills, new understanding. Sound exciting? Definitely. But, I also know that being at University is not always easy.
Many people may say that “kids today have it too easy”, and point to the fact that we live in a much more prosperous society than ever before. They look at the incredible progress there has been in many areas – technology, medicine, travel, entertainment, communication, gender equality, living standards, working conditions – and see the greater access there is to all kinds of information and to post-secondary education.
So, they figure that life should be easier, people should be feeling less stressed and more satisfied. Well, unfortunately, it hasn’t worked that way. Instead, we have what has been called a “paradox of progress” – life looks better but people feel worse. University students are no exception. Rates of mental health problems are highest in those of university age, requests for personal counselling at University Counselling centres have skyrocketed, and large numbers of students are feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
What’s going on? Are young people not as tough as they used to be, less mature, or less motivated to do well? I don’t think so. I think that life has become more challenging. Some examples:
Modern technology and social media can make life complicated.
With all of their advantages, these modern developments have also resulted in some very negative effects (e.g., stealing our time, impacting our self-esteem, disrupting our sleep).
We don’t always know where to turn to for help.
Students are more often away from their traditional sources of security, and may not have the strong social ties that they need when times get tough.
We feel like we don’t have enough time.
Although we have more time saving devices, we seem to have less time. Any time saved is quickly filled – there is a pressure to accomplish more and more.
There are lots and lots of choices in life.
There has been a huge increase in the choices we have in our lives, and, although this may sound like a good thing, research shows that too many choices can lead to “choice overload” – difficulty making decisions, regret about decisions made, and self-blame for decisions that don’t work out.
Figuring out what our goals are is not always easy.
It may be harder than in the past to figure out what our goals in life are, what our values are, how we can go about finding meaning, a sense of direction and purpose in life.
Life presents difficult challenges and we may not have enough tools to figure out how to cope. So what can we do to meet these challenges, to decrease our stress levels? Well, if we think of stress as the perception that the demands being put on us exceed the skills and resources that we have to deal with them, there are 3 areas where we can focus our attention. We can work to:
- change our perceptions (i.e., the way we view life’s challenges)
- figure out how to decrease some of the demands, or
- increase our skills, add additional resources.
In this blog, I want to provide you with information and strategies that will help you to work on all 3 of these aspects of coping. This blog will also discuss what psychology can teach us about the science of happiness, about constructive ways of coping with stress, about effective goal setting, about self-esteem and self-compassion, about forgiveness and much, much more This blog is for You, and for anyone who feels, at times, that they are having trouble staying on top of the pressures that are a common part of University life. Stay tuned and I will happily share with you all the knowledge and tips that I have gathered from my work as a clinical psychologist and my years of teaching Human Adjustment.
Take care and be good to yourselves, Rhonda Gilby
This blog is not a substitute for psychological counselling. If you do feel that you are currently in a situation in which you could use some additional help with issues that you are dealing with, please check out the resources presented here.