Anorexia, for me, was a bubble in which I hid. It kept me safe from the outside world. All the things I used to worry about before no longer felt important. It was just me and the destructive illness that is anorexia. I didn’t plan to become ill; it crept up on me and caught me unawares and before I knew it I was its helpless puppet on strings, bowing to it’s every rule. I saw the number on the scale decrease but could not see that weight loss when I looked in the mirror and the thought of eating filled me with extreme anxiety.
In the midst of a chaotic and stressful time of my life, food was the one thing that I felt I could control. Restricting my food intake, exercise and weight loss gave me a sense of great power and achievement. It was something I was good at. I became addicted to the euphoria of starvation and the miraculous energy I found to exercise, even though my brain and body were malnourished, was intoxicating.
I became a master of manipulation; lying, deceiving and playing my parent’s off one another in order to skip meals or to exercise more. Of course, that wasn’t me but was the monster that is anorexia. It took over my mind and body to the point that I (Liv) barely existed anymore. I wonder how those aspects of anorexia are any different to other addictions such as drugs and alcohol?
Anorexia as an addiction:
A person who abuses substances will most likely do so to deal with psychological underlying factors such as depression, anxiety, trauma, low self-esteem etc. Drugs and alcohol block all the pain out. They create a distraction and you will do anything to get that next hit of your chosen substance in order to keep that pain numbed. Anorexia was just another distraction for me. Whilst my mind was focused and consumed with thoughts of food and weight, I wasn’t worrying about my family, school, exams, friendships or my future.
There is an increasing amount of evidence suggesting a link between eating disorders and addiction. Primarily how they can co-occur, but also how an eating disorder can be likened to an addiction in itself. As a Psychology graduate and aspiring Psychologist with personal experience in this, I am interested in the neurobiology of both addiction and eating disorders and the similarities of behaviour patterns.
Both addictions and eating disorders manipulate the limbic system; from a reward perspective animal studies have already found that food restriction increases the reinforcing effects of various drugs. Also, although more research is needed to confirm this, it is suggested that weight loss produces changes in the reward system resembling the effects produced by drugs of abuse, making weight loss and/or starvation rewarding.
I recently took a course on Intuitive Thinking Skills; a relatively new approach to addiction. It is an educational programme promoting achievable abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Intuitive Recovery defines addiction as ambivalence; two clearly opposing opinions on something causing uncertainty and indecision for example: “I really want to use. But I really don’t want to use.” The part that wants to use is termed ‘addictive desire’ and has no real control over us. A person ultimately chooses whether to use or not. If this is how they define addiction then surely eating disorders fall under that definition too. I was in a constant state of ambivalence when I was ill. I desperately wanted to eat and get better but I also had a voice in my head telling me not to. As to the degree of choice I had in that is somewhat controversial. Yes, I did have a choice, I could choose not to listen to the anorexic voice but it would berate me for hours and days after I had rebelled against its demands causing anxiety and distress. Anorexia is much more complex than general addictions, specifically because of the strain you put on your body and brain during starvation.
What is evident though is that eating disorders and addictions are manifestations of psychological distress and it’s this distress that needs to be the focus of treatment. There is little point in a person with anorexia regaining weight or an alcoholic abstaining from alcohol if those psychological factors are not being addressed. Psychological support is just as important if not more so, to avoid relapse or swapping one destructive behaviour for another. In my own recovery, I needed to learn how to feel again. For so long I pushed my feelings down and once I recovered I felt exposed and vulnerable. I had to build myself up and find who I am. Mental illness strips you of your identity and in recovery, you find yourself again. It can be painful and difficult but with the right support, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Recovery gives you your life back and it’s beautiful; it’s time to start living.
Liv Goodwill Bio:
Liv is a child and family support worker, supporting young people leaving care. She has a degree in Psychology and starting her MSc in Investigative Psychology next year. Afterwards, she plans to do her doctorate. She is passionate about all things mental health; she represents BEAT (the UK’s leading eating disorder charity) in the media. She uses her own past experience of anorexia and self-harm to raise awareness and promote recovery.
As a newly wed part time doctoral student working three jobs, I feel I’m equipped to talk briefly on this topic. Your study life will take up a massive amount of your time with essays, exams, class time and reading. As will your working life, high expectations met with high demands may be common place in your working environment, requiring a lot of focus and dedication.
So where does your real life fit in? It can be so hard to juggle all three parts of your life, but it’s a juggling act you need to perfect if you are to get the most out of all three.
I hope these points in how to better manage your study, work life balance will make things easier and clearer for you.
Having a weekly schedule of time slots each day that you designate for your studies, and stick to, is vital!
If you have a free 3 hours on Monday morning then make a note in your diary or on your phone that this is your study time! Perhaps you have a day or two a week where you are not in classes or working, ensure you designate this time to study and get the most done you possibly can.
Having a set of weekly goals is something I have found keeps me motivated to push myself during my study slots. With a goal in mind for the end of the week, I feel my risk of distraction dramatically reduces and my sense of accomplishment increases when I meet those goals.
Get up early and study. This might have been hard for you to hear, but it works. If you can get an hour or two in before you start work then you are on to a winner.
Be as productive as you can be.
The very last thing you want is to be stressed out during your week that you haven’t met deadlines, or done the best job possible when you are studying.
Don’t forget! Your studies are very important, and may even be more important to you than the job you are doing. For many of us though, you need your job in order to keep studying. Don’t forget this!
One night a week, my wife and I designate time for either pizza night (if we’re broke and want to stay in), or date night where we go out with a few friends or have a few drinks.
If I feel I can manage it and am ahead with my studies then we might take the night off and watch a movie, or go for a walk. If you have the free time and you feel on top of your work then the best way you can use that time if with those closest to you.
You’ll come to realise that designating time is vital to managing this juggling act of study and work. The same goes for your personal life. Set time aside with your partner of friends and try and forget about both work and study for that time.
Self-care is vital and without it, your study life and work life could be negatively affected.
All three parts of your life, your studies, your work and your personal life are all connected, they all also need each other in order for you to keep the juggling act alive. Designating time, planning in advance and appreciating that in that moment what ever you are focussing on needs your undivided attention, will help with the process.
Attaining your degree in psychology can be an exhilarating experiencing. having put such a vast amount of work into your studies, you are finally at the point of graduation. You have made it through four long years (maybe more) of coursework, reflection, reading and exams. However, what do you do now? For some, the ideal position might be getting an Assistant Psychology job.
The percentages of people graduating in psychology that go on to work in psychology are very small. In part, it is one of the beautiful aspects of a psychology degree, you have the option to work in a variety of roles in numerous sectors not necessarily directly correlated to the field of psychology. What if you do want to work in psychology though? Well, arguably the best role you can go into as you start your journey in psychology, is becoming an Assistant Psychologist. In this post, I will give you my top tips for getting your first Assistant Psychology job from my own experiences.
You might find some value in viewing a video I put up on my YouTube channel GetPsyched about building a psychological CV here:
VOLUNTEER & GAIN EXPERIENCE
Volunteering can be a drag, fundamentally you work for someone for free. However, gaining experience in the right type of volunteering roles can equip you with skills and knowledge that can get you your first Assistant Psychology post. The world of graduate psychology is so competitive, Assistant Psychology jobs don’t come up very often and don’t be surprised to see two or three hundred applicants per position. You need more than just your degree, you need direct experience and one of the best ways to get it is volunteering. Why not call up your local charity of mental health care service? Perhaps you could call a volunteer helpline centre (these can be great as often you get free training and certificates as a result). If you know that in your city Assistant Psychology jobs are focused on brain injury, or mental health or children and young people, then try and reach out to services that focus in these areas to gain the most appropriate experience you can.
You need more than just your degree, you need direct experience and one of the best ways to get it is volunteering
Initiative is one of those things I stress for anyone looking to get ahead in psychology. In our degrees, we are taught how to read journal articles, develop arguments and create critical accounts of others work. We are taught the principles of psychological research and theory but we can struggle to learn how to get a job when we leave. Reaching out to organisations and taking initiative is something that is so over looked in psychology. Why don’t you get the contact details of all the organisations in your city that hold Assistant Psychology jobs and offer your services as a volunteer in some way? I worked with an Assistant Psychologist who, after her degree, simply called up the organisation and offered to work as a voluntary Assistant Psychologist, was given the role, worked voluntarily for one day a week for six months and then was offered a full time paid Assistant Psychology position. This just shows how initiative can help you on your way to getting that first position. Reach out, offer your services, create contacts and don’t be scared to go the extra mile.
Reaching out to organisations and taking initiative is something that is so over looked in psychology
EMPHASISE MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAM WORK
This is one of those qualities that you want to make your potential employer aware of both in the application process and during your interview. As an Assistant Psychologist, the likelihood is that you will be working within a larger time with a variety of professions. Working with nursing staff, psychiatrists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists are all very likely. You should ensure that you emphasise your experience of working in other multidisciplinary settings. In what ever context, make sure that you highlight your capabilities to work with a variety of different professions effectively. This is one of those key points that many organisations that hire Assistant Psychologists look for.
You should ensure that you emphasise your experience of working in other multidisciplinary settings
Why is a very important question. Why do you want to be an Assistant Psychologist? Why do you want to become an Assistant Psychologist at the place you are applying to? I once worked with a Clinical psychologist who used to say that if an applicant doesn’t make it clear why they want the Assistant Psychology role then she just throws the application away. Regardless of your experience or your qualifications, you have to be clear why you want the job!
Regardless of your experience or your qualifications, you have to be clear why you want the job!
Reflection can often be a challenging skill for people to develop. Often in higher education in psychology, we focus so much of the academic side of our work. We do literature searches, establish arguments and critique what others have said. However, when it comes to writing about ourselves and how we feel, everything changes. Many struggle to not only analyse how they feel but establish what they feel. Like any skill, reflection can be improved and with these 3 short tips, you’ll be on your way to enhancing your reflective capabilities:
Like anything else, skills such as reflection take time and practice to improve. However, how do you practice being reflective? In truth, it can be hard, but my advice is to practice reflection throughout your day. Perhaps you are reading a news article, you can attempt to reflect how this article makes you feel, how it relates to you and your past perhaps. What images does this news article conjure up for you? Why? You can do this with different daily events, from watching something on TV to having a conversation with a colleague in your office. Being reflective is a vital skill and can be massively effective in self-development, but it takes practice.
Next time you practice reflection based on something that has happened during your day, ask yourself these questions:
Why does this event stand out to me over all the others from today?
What emotions does this highlight to me?
In what way do these emotions affect my daily life and behaviours?
How do I feel about these emotions?
KEEP A DIARY OF YOUR DAY
Keeping a daily diary can be a really effective way of not only improving your reflective capabilities but being able to write them down on paper.
This point can be really effective when incorporated with the previous point on practice. Writing down your daily experiences and going through the process of practicing your reflection of these experiences can really be enhanced when you have a record of it. This allows you to go back through a timeline and evaluate how your reflection has improved…maybe this improvement is something you could then reflect on.
BEEN MORE IN-DEPTH
Being able to reflect effectively on yourself requires a deeper level of thought. The questions listed under my practice suggestions are good starting points but they should develop into different questions for you. Asking deeper level questions of yourself and why you feel a certain way based on a certain stimulus will help elicit higher quality reflective skills. I feel that the difference between reflective skills and in depth reflective skills is developing your understanding from what you feel to why you feel it. This development of what to why should always be a conscious consideration when reflecting on yourself or your work for either personal development or academic and coursework development.
I would put organisation at the very top of most important factors when it comes to studying a doctorate in psychology, or any university degree of any subject for that matter. In a recent blog post of the top tips for post-graduate psychology students, I highlight this point along with should initiative and the importance of self-care. With these ten tips below you will be well on your way to not only being organised but staying organised. The rest will be a breeze…eh…
Make a consistent effort to write out the structure of your day, every day. Account for every hour and what you will be doing. That way, you know how much time you have for everything you have to do, and you’re more likely to stick to the tasks at hand.
Including course booklets and overview documents.
Make a daily effort to check in with all your material, re-read some important emails about classes or coursework, check you haven’t missed any emails, and check over course hand booklets to ensure you are up to date with hand in requirements and expectations.
Set of Weekly Goals with Max 3 Monthly Goals:
Take your course week by week whilst still keeping focused on some long-term goals. I have found this the best way of staying organised with the tasks I have to do.
You shouldn’t have too many monthly goals, I advise a max of 3, that way you can stay focused on them and maintain their importance whilst still working on the weekly tasks you have to get done.
Write these goals down week by week and month by month, keep them in your daily diary perhaps. Whatever you do, don’t just keep them in your head!
When you think you have enough highlighters, you don’t.
Make sure you have highlighters of every colour and have a use and a place for every colour.
We will discuss why in the next point.
Create Your Own Colour Coding Chart:
Create your own colour coding chart and stick to it throughout your studies.
Have a colour code for each subject you learn. Use these colours to highlight the lecture notes that correspond to the subject for the headings of the notes, the title of the file you keep those notes in and use that colour to highlight information you read that is applicable to that topic.
Colour coding is really important and makes the process of organisation that bit easier.
Apps on your phone can be a fantastic tool for any university student that wants to prioritise organisation. They are portable, you always have it handy and you can update it as and when you need.
The list below outlines some of the apps you should be considering for your smartphone in order to stay organised
Voice recorder – For your own notes, you might have ideas and you don’t know how to write them down. A voice recorder can be ideal for this.
Scanner– To turn lecture notes into pdfs.
Evernote – Evernote is a brilliant app to log all of your ideas and additional notes on your studies that you can reflect on later.
Uni app – Your university may very well have an app that keeps you up to date with the course and/or university updates. This app should be a priority on your phone.
Study timetable and schedule planner – Make sure you have an app that outlines your weekly planner for your classes. You’ll never miss a beat when you have all the details on an app like this.
App diary – Having a daily diary that highlight deadlines, daily classes, placements and important meetings with reminders. This will really help you stay on top of what will already be a hugely demanding schedule as you study and work.
Assigned Folders and Corresponding Clip Filers:
Throughout your day of classes and studies, you will have numerous pages of notes from lecture and/or your own reading. As has already been said, you should be using your colour chart and highlighting these notes appropriately. With you in your bag, you should also have corresponding plastic wallets or folders where the notes from each topic go into. So, if you have a class on social psychology, all your notes from social psychology for that day go into that folder. Your notes from each folder should then go into a clip file folder when you get home. This way you never misplace notes and you keep track of what you have been learning.
Start Projects Early:
This is a factor to staying organised that is so often overlooked. Yes, you may have an essay or two due together in 6 months time and not much else, coursework wise, up until that point. Start now!! Get the work done early and that way you feel much less pressure come deadline time and you end up with a better product. You will come to realise that the most valuable commodity you have during your studies is time, so make the most of it!
Keep All Notes and Have a Place for Them:
This is simple enough, make all of your notes easy to find as you never know when you will need them.
Organise Your Materials Before Your Studies:
Organisation, and a system of organisation should come before you even start studying. The time you have before undertaking a course or subject should be used to create your system.
Have all your materials and all of your organisation systems in place before you even pick up a journal article.
It’s that time of year when students are about to embark on new ventures and discoveries in university. For some, this experience will be the first of its kind for them, for others, this will be a second attempt, for some, it will be a jump into the unknown as they take on a postgraduate degree that they’re not completely sure they can manage. At one time or another, I have been all three of these examples. In my undergraduate degree, I embarked on a social sciences course, I came back to try my hand at psychology and currently I am enrolled in a counselling psychology doctoral programme. The journey is long, demanding and requires a great amount of fortitude, resilience and dedication. As I will always say though, it is worth it. I love psychology, I love what I do and for those of you starting out on your journey in psychology I wish you all the best and hope you find a passion in this wonderful area of work and research. For those of you developing in masters or doctoral programmes in psychology, perhaps you have found your passion and have realised that psychology can be a pathway to a rewarding career. Either way, I hope these 3 tips for those of you conducting or starting your post-graduate degrees in psychology will be helpful:
Organisation is vital, being able to stay on top of placement, studies, classes, work and family life is a juggling act that you can’t guess your way through, you need to be organised with it. I cannot stress the importance of having a daily diary in this case. Plan out your day the night before and structure when you are going to do what. Maybe you have a reflective essay due in a month, but at the same time, you need to be at placement and contact a tutor about some questions you have over your lecture notes last week. Stay on top of organising your days and weeks, don’t just hope these things will get done, plan them!
The ability to show initiative is a skill that I have realised, from experience and observation, not many students possess. Yes, degrees are taxing, and postgraduate degrees are very taxing, but if you can plan ahead and take advantage of opportunities then you put yourself in an incredible position for development, both academically and professionally. This could come in the form of starting essays early, even essays you have due six months away, if you have the time now then use it, you’ll realise how valuable that time is later down the road. For example, you may know that you can’t start placement until later in the year, once you are cleared by your university. However, perhaps you could contact some placement providers, inform them you won’t be able to start until later in the year, but ask if they would consider you for placement. This, in turn, could lead to you having a placement a soon as you are cleared, whilst others only start the process after their university allows them to begin placement.
if you have the time now then use it, you’ll realise how valuable that time is later down the road
Self-care comes in many different forms and may look totally different from one person to the next. Setting time aside each day to do something that assists you looking after yourself in a postgraduate psychology degree is imperative. For some this might be chatting to a friend, it might be meditation, it might be reading (if you can stomach more of it). For me, self-care means contrast. In my studies and work, I do a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, a lot of analysis, and try to show as much compassion and empathy as I can. In contrast, I like to take time out to go to the gym and release all the tension I experience throughout the day with a lifting session. As I say, self-care may look totally different than this to you, this might be your idea of torture. Whatever your way of taking care of yourself looks like, make an effort to partake in it.
Psychology is the study of the mental functions of people, their emotions, their reasoning, and how all of these things influence and impact their behaviour and thinking patterns. It can be taxing and time-consuming to delve into the self-awareness, financial commitment and sacrifices to partake in advance studies in psychology. So, why do it?
Why does a person become a doctor? Perhaps to help others?
Why does another become a lawyer? To be involved in social justice and make a difference?
Why does someone else become a teacher? To inspire and nurture future generations? Like anything, the answer is subjective and multidimensional.
In psychology, I feel the answer is as subjective and multidimensional as it is possible to be. The concept of the ‘wounded healer’ suggests that difficulties, tragedies, and turmoils an individual has faced in their past, leads them to want to help others in a way that did, or would have, helped them at that time. For some though, perhaps the answer lies else where, perhaps a person follows in a family members footsteps, or admires a famous or inspirational psychological figure. For me, my mother’s background in psychology and my own past challenges have led me to pursue psychology as not only my career but my passion.
My advice to anyone considering a career in psychology is to first ask why they want to go into it. The commitment is extensive, an undergraduate degree in psychology will only get you so far. To pursue further career opportunities in the field then masters and doctorate study programmes have to be considered. These study ventures require commitment, sacrifice and effort. However, if seeking to help others, to make a difference to both individuals and larger populations, if you have a vested interest in social justice, mental health or the positive development of young people, then pursuing a career in psychology may just be the best bet.
Speaking as a counselling psychologist in training, I have undergone some of the sacrifice and commitment required (with quite a bit still to go). What I can say is that both, academically, professionally and perhaps most importantly personally, I have seen positive changes and developments in my life. It is a field of work and study full of possibilities, opportunities and chances to advance into numerous fields. Working in clinical settings in the NHS or private hospitals, working in therapeutic settings with individuals and groups, working in prisons helping prisons and assisting the issue of re-offending and working in schools with the mental and emotional well-being of young people are all options available to those going into psychology. The opportunities are there and with the developing awareness of the impact of mental health issues, psychologists are needed now more than ever.
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