Advice and tips, My Experiences

Social anxiety and coping with job interviews

Earlier this week I had a job interview, the first one that I’d actually had in a little while. For me, interviews send my anxiety into complete overdrive. I become hyper aware of myself and the fact that in this situation I am actively being judged. Being this aware can lead me to being extra cautious of what I’m saying for fear of coming across badly. This was the exact case during this job interview, I found myself struggling to speak and at times my mind completely blanked out (another common behaviour I’ve experienced with my anxiety).

Safe to say, I didn’t get the job. One of the interviewers stated the reason being because I didn’t explain myself thoroughly when I was talking, and I actually agree with them. My anxiety was really prominent during the interview but I’m proud that I came through it in one piece and this is the positive I take away from the experience.

Reflecting on this experience, I thought I would benefit from looking up some advice about coping with job interviews when you suffer from anxiety. I thought I could share the advice I find in the hope it can help others who also struggle with similar issues to myself.

How you feel is completely normal

Being confronted by an interview panel, anyone is bound to be nervous. For me, my anxiety can make me feel so isolated and alone at times. But in this situation, accepting that anxiety is a completely natural feeling is the first step towards working with it. Some of the sources I read even suggest that you shouldn’t be afraid of anxiety and that it could even be harnessed to your advantage. The adrenaline caused by anxiety may actually be beneficial when you’re in a job interview situation. For me personally, I think adopting this viewpoint may be of benefit.

Seeing Success

There’s a technique suggested which draws upon theory surrounding positive thinking. It states that those who are prone to anxiety should take some time out in a quiet spot to visualise themselves being successful before the interview. It is claimed that if done properly, this visualising technique may actually be preparing your mind to behave in a certain way during the interview. I think this technique is quite interesting and it’s used by elite athletes before competitions to improve performance, so I might give it a try myself.

Slow and steady wins the race

During job interviews, my anxiety results in a tendency to want to answer questions as quickly as possible. But on reflection, one of the websites I found stressed that there’s no need to rush with responses. If you pause before giving your answer, it gives you a chance to collect your thoughts and this could stop your mind going completely blank while you’re talking. If your mind does go blank, ask for a moment to collect your thoughts. Or you could even ask the interviewer a question to buy yourself a little more time to think (like “as a matter of fact, I was thinking…”). I think with anxiety, the fear of blanking out can almost be enough to cause it to actually happen. I find this advice reassuring and will definitely try it in the future.

Get outside yourself

Anxiety can make an individual become very self-conscious, I myself am particularly susceptible to this. One way of getting around this is to move your focus onto others. Some sources have explained how you can do this by asking others questions (like asking the receptionist or interviewer how they are) and being empathic to their answer. Actively engaging with others, although this can be difficult, may actually help an individual with anxiety to feel calmer.

Another way of shifting the focus comes back to the practise of interviewing the interviewer. This mindset involves you realising that job interviews are also a chance for you to evaluate your employer. You are as much deciding if the job is suitable for you as the employer is deciding if you are suitable for the job. Asking them questions shows curiosity and shifts the focus from yourself.

Although I found lots of advice that I personally feel will be helpful, there was also a lot of advice on the internet which I felt to be quite patronising. Some advice was the standard ‘just be calmer and breathe’ (like that’s an easy thing to do when you’re on the edge of a panic attack). I even found advice that suggested you ensure to wash your hands before each interview to reduce anxiety (I have no idea either).

I think reflecting on my experience this week it just comes down to practise makes perfect. Sometimes I really hate anxiety, but I feel the only way for me to personally address mine is to expose myself to it as often as possible to give me a chance to accept it and work with it. I aim to learn from my job interview experience and keep challenging myself to do more. I hope this article is useful to some of you who may be struggling with similar issues to me.

Here’s a list of websites I found useful and drew upon:
https://www.verywellmind.com/tips-cope-with-job-interview-anxiety-3024324
http://overcomingsocialanxiety.com/why-you-can-still-face-job-interviews-even-with-social-anxiety/
https://introvertdear.com/news/interview-socially-anxiety-introvert/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/career-transitions/201503/10-ways-calm-your-interview-anxiety

My Experiences

Meet Rosie – How getting a dog helped my mental health

Hey everyone, I hope you are all doing well and having a lovely week.

I thought for this post I could introduce you to my best four-legged friend called Rosie. Here she is:

Rosie’s a cockapoo and she loves nothing more than eating, chasing squirrels and having a nap. My family decided to get her a couple of years ago and she’s a rescue dog. At this point in my life my mental health was really suffering, I was generally very anxious and would experience panic attacks on a regular basis. I didn’t know it at this point, but having a dog in my life was to change my mental wellbeing for the better. I feel so lucky to have met Rosie and I thought in this post I could discuss some of the reasons why I think getting a dog had a benefit on my mental wellbeing.

Her love is unconditional

Rosie shows me love and affection, no matter what I look like. She loves me as much first thing in the morning as when I am fully dressed up. I’m someone who has a lot of personal hang ups and anxieties about my appearance, so I find this so comforting. It’s definitely helped me to accept how I look without my make-up on and I even feel more confident in showing others my bare face now too.

She provides a distraction

When I start to feel anxious, I make some time to spend time with her. Just playing with or walking her is a great distraction for me and helps me to remove my focus from whats making me anxious. She is very good at bringing me back to the present moment. I can enjoy my time with her, which stops me worrying about the future and the anxiety that surrounds this.

She unintentionally makes me smile everyday

When I’m struggling with my mental health, it can feel really desperate at times and it feels like nothing will make me feel happy ever again. Since getting Rosie, I’ve noticed that I smile more often and that these are genuine smiles of joy. Everyday she never fails to bring a little bit of happiness to my life, whether that be from her funny ‘wobbling’ walk or her determination to carry as many of her toys as possible in her mouth all at once.

She’s a great companion

As they say, a dog is a mans best friend. I work from home a lot and this comes with its own sense of loneliness. I’m okay with the concept of solitude, but my anxiety is not. When I’m alone I find my mind can go into overdrive and I’m more likely to start thinking irrationally. Rosie spends most days at home with me and I find her company relaxing. She has a laid-back approach to life and spends a lot of the day asleep, but just knowing that she’s here with me is so reassuring.

She’s one tough cookie

Rosie hasn’t had the best start in life, but she’s still here and loving life. Seeing her thirst for life and all that it brings is such an inspiration to me. It might sound a bit silly to say I’m inspired by a dog, but it’s the way she attacks her fears and faces them head on. Granted that a lot of the time she doesn’t have a choice in what she does (for example, each month she goes to the groomers, a situation of which causes her great anxiety), the fact is that she gets through these experiences. This has encouraged me to face a few more situations that would normally cause my anxiety to kick in. I just try to think of all the experiences and situations that Rosie has overcome in her life and this gives me a strong feeling of strength to carry on.

Overall, I’m so grateful to have met Rosie and I hope that I bring as much joy into her life as she does into mine.

Do any of you have pets? and if so what effect have they had on your wellbeing? I’d love to know.

research

‘Makeup’ your mind – The relationship between cosmetics and mental health

Last week it was reported that the boss of L’Oreal, Jean-Paul Agon claimed Instagram is good for business, as it makes young women buy more make-up in an attempt to look like the filtered selfies they post. In an interview, Mr. Agon said the following:

“The more you make yourself look really great online, the more you have to work on yourself when you go out, because if, when people meet you, they discover that you are completely different from what they thought, then you have a problem.”

This quote has upset some individuals and I totally understand why. To me it suggests that young women need to be striving to look like instagram filters, which is not a beneficial mentality to have. The careless comments like the one made by Mr. Agon only add to the pressure that individuals already feel to live up to their digital appearance. This pressure is something which may be having a negative effect on their mental health.

Personally, I think the comments made were highly inappropriate and unprofessional, but it got me wondering about the relationship between makeup and mental health. As an individual who suffers from body dysmorphic disorder (I wrote a post explaining what this is in more detail here), I feel that makeup definitely has an effect on how I feel and my overall well being. Whilst researching I found out the following effects makeup can have on an individuals mental health:

It may increase confidence (and even cognitive ability?)

There is a psychological phenomenon known as the ‘lipstick effect’, which states that wearing makeup can lead to women feeling more confident. One study (1) found that women think of themselves as being more confident when they are wearing their makeup as opposed to going bare-faced. In addition to this, researchers from Harvard Medical School conducted a study (2) and found that women who applied makeup before completing a test experienced a greater boost to their positive feelings when compared to women who weren’t wearing makeup. On top of this, the women wearing makeup were actually found to perform significantly better on the test than their non makeup wearing counterparts. These results regarding cognitive ability really are astounding, but I wonder if there’s more at play here than simply wearing makeup or not.

The benefit of the ritual itself

According to research, the average woman spends 11 minutes a day putting on makeup (3). For some, this process can help to calm down any anxiety that the individual may be feeling. This is because the ritual of putting makeup on tends to be structured and routine. Anxiety feeds on uncertainty, so experiencing an event that has a degree of predictability helps to calm down any negative or unhealthy thoughts that may arise (5).

In addition to this, some individuals may even consider putting on their makeup as a form of ‘art therapy’. Art therapy is defined as ‘the belief that self-expression through artistic creation has therapeutic value for those who are healing or seeking deeper understanding of themselves’ (6). The make-up applying process provides individuals with a fun and creative outlet, allowing them to be expressive which may result in mental wellbeing benefits.

We perceive ourselves differently

Some women have been found to perceive themselves differently after applying makeup. Previous work describes a ‘camouflage’ effect that makeup can provide for individuals, which may lead them to perceiving themselves as more desirable. One study (9) found frequency of makeup usage to be positively correlated with self-perceived attractiveness. This suggests those who use makeup more often perceive themselves to be more attractive. 

Another study found similar results (10). In this study, 24 individuals levels of perceived attractiveness and desirability were measured before and after the application of foundation. When considering before and after the foundation application, significant differences were found in participants’ scores on scales measuring perceived attractiveness. Results of this study found individuals to report higher levels of perceived attractiveness, and desirability after the application of makeup. 

It can improve social interactions

In some cases, researchers have found the wearing of makeup to improve the social interactions that an individual has. Previous work has suggested that makeup allows women to better control their social impressions and self-image (7). As a result of this, an individual’s social confidence may be increased, and they may be more open to face-to-face conversation. In one study, results found that women would feel anxious if they would have to go outside without their makeup on and would try to avoid social interactions (8). Sadly, I find these results incredibly relatable.

It may help you to get a better night’s sleep 

Wearing makeup has also been linked to better sleep patterns. One study (4) looked at the effects of makeup usage on the sleeping habits of female Japanese students. Results found that individuals who wore makeup two or more days per week experienced higher quality sleep than others who wore makeup only one day a week or less. The researchers suggested that this could be down to a number of factors including the chemical compounds in makeup or the psychological stimuli of the application process.

But the relationship between cosmetics and mental health isn’t positive for everyone. Previous researchers (11) have suggested that the extended use of makeup in culture today has led to unrealistic images of beauty. These images can result in women feeling anxious, low levels of self-esteem and lower levels of confidence.

Reflecting on the research above, I feel that if you are using makeup you should be sure that its for the right reasons. Be sure to check in with your mental health and assess whether makeup is actually making you feel better mentally, or if you are chasing unrealistic ideas of beauty. Instagram filters may be great news for cosmetics businesses, but maybe not for your own mental health.

What are your experiences regarding makeup and your mental health? Or maybe you have an opinion on the research outlined above?

References

  1. Cash, T. F., & Cash, D. W. (1982). Women’s use of cosmetics: Psychosocial correlates and consequences. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 4(1), 1-14.
  2. Palumbo, R., Fairfield, B., Mammarella, N., & Di Domenico, A. (2017). Does make-up make you feel smarter? The “lipstick effect” extended to academic achievement. Cogent Psychology, 4(1), 1327635.
  3. Bayless, K. (2019). 7 Reasons Why Wearing Makeup Can Make You a Stronger Woman. Retrieved 24 September 2019, from https://oureverydaylife.com/7-reasons-why-wearing-makeup-can-make-you-a-stronger-woman-10852571.html
  4. Nishihara, R., Wada, K., Akimitsu, O., Krejci, M., Noji, T., Nakade, M., & Harada, T. (2013). Effects of Makeup, Perfume and Skincare Product Usage and Hair Care Regimen on Circadian Typology, Sleep Habits and Mental Health in Female Japanese students Aged 18-30. Psychology, 4(03), 183.
  5. Prinzivalli, L. (2019). Can makeup ease anxiety? This beauty blogger (and her fans) think so. Retrieved 24 September 2019, from
  6. Slayton SC, D’Archer J, Kaplan F. Outcome studies on the efficacy of art therapy: a review of findings. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. 22 April 2011; 27(3): 108-118.
  7. Cash, T., Dawson, K., Davis, P., Bowen, M., & Galumbeck, C. (1989). Effects of cosmetics use on the physical attractiveness and body image of american college women. The Journal of Social Psychology. 
  8. Fabricant, S. M., & Gould, S. J. (1993). Women’s Makeup Careers: An Interpretive Study of Color Cosmetic Use and “Face Value.” Psychology & Marketing, 10(6), 531–548.
  9. Guimarães, A. L. C. D. C. (2016). Can we feel prettier?: makeup usage among Portuguese women and Its potential extracted benefits: self-esteem, physical attractiveness, social confidence, social interactions, and satisfaction with life(Doctoral dissertation).
  10. Menezes, M. Facial Makeup and Self-Perception: The Effect of Cosmetics on Self-Esteem and Perceived Attractiveness/Desirability.
  11. Britton, A. M. (2012). The beauty industry’s influence on women in society.


review

Book Review – My Sh*t Therapist: & Other Mental Health Stories by Michelle Thomas

‘Mental illness feels to me like a loss of the self. If everything you care about, everything you love and value, no longer feels meaningful to you, what is life for?’

A few weeks ago I was walking through Euston train station and my attention was drawn to the bright yellow cover and the words ‘Sh*t Therapist’ displayed on this book. It engaged my inner curiosity immediately, as I’ve had bad experiences with therapists in the past (but thankfully I’ve also had some good ones). I had to purchase this book and it’s been sitting on my Kindle ever since but I finally got around to reading it last week. It was the book that I never knew I needed to read right now, but I’m so grateful that I did.

My Sh*t Therapist: & Other Mental Health Stories is the first book publication by Michelle Thomas. In 2015 she made headlines with her blog when she published a post describing an incident where she was being body-shamed after a first date (It’s a really great post, read it here). In this book, Michelle describes her own experiences with mental illness, dating back to her first depressive episode in 2013. She discusses multiple aspects of her life relating to her mental health in ten separate chapters, from her initial diagnosis to her current home life. I found this book strangely refreshing, she presents information in a light hearted way and tackles some pretty dark subjects using her humour beautifully. I found her voice throughout the book both engaging and reassuring. But alongside the laughs, there was some really good advice and guidance of where to get support which I think will be of a huge help to some readers.

I personally found this book so dearly relatable. I’ve read a couple of mental health books but have struggled to engage with what the author talks about. With this book, I had personally gone through so much of what Michelle describes, including her experiences of reconnecting with old friends and how this isn’t always the best thing to do for your mental health. The book discusses the struggle faced by many individuals in their twenties, where there is a pressure to do it all and to do it all now. Me being 29 myself, I connected with this section of the book so much and it made me feel a little more at ease that I didn’t have my life all sorted out yet.

As well as Michelle’s story, there are stories of experiences written by members of Michelles online community. At the end of each chapter, Michelle asks her community a question such as how their mental health has changed over the period of their lives. Reading the communities answers was so enlightening and really made this book feel like it was a part of something bigger, like we were all in this together. It was comforting and inspirational to read the experiences and advice of others.

Overall, I’m so glad that I read this book at this point in my life. It really helped me to rationalise my own thinking and to accept that the way I personally feel sometimes does not make me a weirdo. There’s nothing wrong with taking medication if thats what works for you, and everyone needs to indulge in self-care on a regular basis. Anyone can experience struggles with their mental health and this book helps combat the stigma around discussing these struggles with others. If only more people had the same mentality as Michelle, the world might be a little easier for those struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. I highly recommend this book for those who may be feeling a little alone with their own thoughts and would benefit from the support and reassurance that this book offers.

My Experiences

Why ditching Facebook was the best thing I ever did for my mental health

This post is a bit of a personal one. Throughout my mental health journey, I have made changes to my lifestyle in an attempt to improve my state of mind and generally make me a little bit happier. One of the changes I made was deciding to deactivate my Facebook. I last logged onto my Facebook page on March 20th 2018. Before I deactivated,  I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without my daily habitual hour of aimless scrolling. I initially set out to go without Facebook for a month. Then this month turned into six months, then a year. I thought for this post I could explain some of the personal benefits I’ve felt to my mental health from making this decision. 

I have more time to conduct other activities

Since quitting Facebook, I have spent time doing other activities to fill my spare time. Instead of scrolling every night, I’ve taken a keen interest in reading novels. I’m finding this new hobby to be of great benefit to my mental health, as I find reading a great escape from the stresses of daily life. Having no social media also encourages me to spend more time away from the computer screen, which can only be a good thing in my opinion.

I can focus more on myself

Reading the statement above may make me appear a tad narcissistic, but I think everyone should spend more time on themselves. I used to spend most of my time on Facebook feeling sad, because my life didn’t appear as glamorous and exciting as the lives of my peers. In reality, it really doesn’t matter if you’re married, have kids or go on exotic holidays, as long as you are happy in yourself. By removing Facebook, I couldn’t make social comparisons, which lead me to focus more on my own life and how I could live it in a way which made me happiest. I think the biggest lesson I learnt was that It’s not selfish to show an interest in your own life instead of the lives of other people.

I could address my obsession with likes

When I was a regular user of Facebook, I would post a status or photo and then sit there waiting for people to like it. Reflecting back on this behaviour, I realise how unhealthy doing this was for my own mental health. If a photo didn’t get many likes, I would take this personally and it would create anxiety. But I’m now living my life to get ‘likes’ from myself. It’s so liberating to let go of the feeling that I need to live my life  in a way that gets approval from others. This has allowed me to enjoy the process of actually doing things, instead of anticipating the number of likes I will get from announcing I’ve done it on Facebook.

It changed my views on birthday messages

Another thing I got obsessed with was the number of birthday wishes I received on my Facebook wall each year. I would actively compare year upon year and it would have an impact on my overall mental wellbeing. I would get worried if I was receiving less messages and it would make me feel like something was going wrong in my life. Reflecting upon this made me realise that my feelings were completely unreal, but they felt so reasonable to me at the time.

Since quitting Facebook, I have not missed receiving all those extra birthday wishes on my birthday. There’s something lovely about receiving a good old fashioned card or even a text, it just feels a bit more genuine to me. I was definitely a lot less anxious on my birthday last year, which allowed me to enjoy and live in the actual day.

The thought of disconnecting from social media can be enough to start a panic attack for some people. I’m not telling you all to quit your social media accounts right now, as for some this may not be feasible or beneficial, but I’m so glad that I did. I truly believe that setting limits on the amount of social media you expose yourself to can only lead to positive effects on your mental well being.

So how often do you spend on social media? and do you actively gain anything positive and beneficial by spending time scrolling through each day? If the answer to the latter question is no, then maybe a lifestyle change could be just what you needed.