We all feel down now and again. We can feel tired or listless or just ‘meh’ about everything. With the effects of the pandemic still around, it’s understandable to feel down at the moment.
Feeling low or feeling down is not pleasant, but it is very common. In fact, it is one of the biggest reasons young people come to Jigsaw.
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Feeling anxious is a normal and natural occurrence for each and every one of us.
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We are social creatures and need to feel we belong.
Being lonely is like being hungry or thirsty. It’s our bodies telling us we’re not getting the basic human need of social interaction. We’ve had a strange few years, and physical interaction can still relatively difficult and unfamiliar to us.
To help during this time this article covers:
On Saturday 24 July, Jigsaw, the youth mental health charity, is hosting an exciting 24-hour live stream gaming marathon to raise money to support young people’s mental health.
Raise Your Game will involve lots of gaming fun and challenges, as well as some surprise special guests.
The pandemic has been a particularly tough time for young people. For many, gaming has been a great escape to ease their daily stresses and anxieties. Previous research by Jigsaw has found that almost a quarter of young people use gaming as a way to relieve anxieties.
Mike Edgar, Jigsaw’s Youth Advocate for Kerry tells us how gaming affects his life here.
We all need our sleep. Regular, long stretches of undisturbed quality sleep is essential for our mental as well as physical health.
“Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day”, according to Professor Matthew Walker, neuroscientist, and author of ‘Why We Sleep’.
Many of the young people who attend Jigsaw face-to-face services report sleep difficulties as one of the issues they are facing.
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How much sleep do young people need?
Our sleeping rhythms and needs change as we get older. Although we may feel we can manage with a certain amount of sleep, there are recommended times for overall health.
Teenagers need between eight to ten hours sleep a night, though they are more likely to get around seven. Adults require a bit less; between eight and nine hours. These guidelines may seem ambitious, or even unrealistic. But sleep is essential for your health and for cognitive functions like learning.
Research has proven when school start times are put forward to allow students to get more sleep, it leads to an increase in academic performance. In a 2018 study, a Seattle High School delayed its start time by an hour and saw a 4.5% increase in the median grades of the students. It also saw an improvement in attendance.
It is possible to sleep too much (over ten hours regularly). Find out the right amount of sleep for you within these guidelines to feel rested when you wake.
Mike Edgar, 22, a Jigsaw volunteer gives his story on gaming: I’ve been playing video games, in some form or another, for as long as I can remember.
Some of my earliest memories include me begging my siblings for a turn playing Pokémon or getting a new PlayStation 2 for Christmas and then beating my entire family at Tekken (I’m still proud of that).
How many times have you heard the words ‘just relax’. Sometimes it’s easier said than done.
It can also be quite annoying to have someone telling you to relax, when there seems to be a lot on and out of your control.
But often, life can be so busy we forget to take a break and step back. It’s not unusual to have several things on our mind all at once.
Things like exams, family, friends, finances, and the future can feel overwhelming. Feeling stressed or tense can be a signal to take a break and have some downtime. Relaxation is important for our mental health.
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Restrictions are easing, after what feels like a very long time and we are being encouraged to have an outdoor summer. This sounds great in theory, but is not without its drawbacks.
When life throws curve balls, we may find ourselves becoming impatient, wanting life to return to the way it was. We might want things to progress more quickly, or at least know what’s going to happen next.
Unusual circumstances like the pandemic can cause feelings of impatience and stress to increase. You may find yourself overthinking things, feeling easily irritated by others, or less like yourself. Everyday problems can seem harder to solve.
With the spread of new Covid-19 variants, a lot remains unsure, even after a relatively successful vaccine roll-out. When it all feels a bit beyond our control, though, what we can do is practice patience.
Sarah* contacted Jigsaw about four months before her Leaving Cert exams. She had been feeling anxious for a while, but in the last few weeks she’d had two panic attacks.
Her main worry was that she’d get a panic attack in an exam. “I have to get rid of this anxiety now”, she told the clinician, “before my mocks”.
Identifying triggers for stress
Sarah’s clinician wanted to know more about the anxiety and panic attacks. When did they happen? Was there a trigger? They discovered Sarah’s panic attacks happened just after Sarah’s teachers mentioned study plans or expected study hours in class.
When her history teacher said, “you all should have covered this section in your revision plan already”, Sarah felt her heart beating fast and chest getting tight. She rushed to the toilet because she felt she couldn’t breathe. She barely remembers the rest of the day.
The Jigsaw clinician helped Sarah realise her panic attacks were connected to worries she was too far behind on study. She thought she’d never be able to catch up.
This connected to deeper worries of failing her exams, being unable to get into college or ever getting a job. That would lead her to be a “complete failure” in life. The clinician asked her to step back, look at the facts and be realistic about what could happen. They discussed strategies for managing exam stress.
Together they looked at Sarah’s schedule. The clinician asked Sarah to draw out her weekly calendar. She coloured in the hours she spent studying as blue, with different colours for other activities. When she was finished, Sarah’s waking hours were almost completely blue.