Everything is out to get us

Following on from that post about how technology is deliberately addictive and seemingly out to get us, here’s a wider view of the problems we face and “the price we have to pay for being born in modern times”.

How the modern world makes us mentally ill
The modern world is wonderful in many ways (dentistry is good, cars are reliable, we can so easily keep in touch from Mexico with our grandmother in Scotland) – but it’s also powerfully and tragically geared to causing a high background level of anxiety and widespread low-level depression.

Thankfully, for each area of concern there’s a solution of sorts. For instance:

The media has immense prestige and a huge place in our lives – but routinely directs our attention to things that scare, worry, panic and enrage us, while denying us agency or any chance for effective personal action. It typically attends to the least admirable sides of human nature, without a balancing exposure to normal good intentions, responsibility and decency. At its worst, it edges us towards mob justice.

The cure would be news that concentrated on presenting solutions rather than generating outrage, that was alive to systemic problems rather than gleefully emphasizing scapegoats and emblematic monsters – and that would regularly remind us that the news we most need to focus on comes from our own lives and direct experiences.

It can all seem quite overwhelming, but we need to stay positive.

The forces of psychological distress in our world are – currently – much wealthier and more active than the needed cures. We deserve tender pity for the price we have to pay for being born in modern times. But more hopefully, cures are now open to us individually and collectively if only we recognise, with sufficient clarity, the sources of our true anxieties and sorrows.

The trick is remembering all this when we’re caught up in the moment and wrapped up in our day-to-day troubles. They ought to produce and sell a little cheatsheet we can carry around in our wallets or something.

Tackling loneliness

Steps from the government, as well as research from the Co-op Group.

May appoints minister to tackle loneliness issues raised by Jo Cox
“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones – people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.” May paid tribute to Cox’s work, saying she hoped the initiative would aim “to see that, in Jo’s memory, we bring an end to the acceptance of loneliness for good”.

Loneliness is harming our society. Your kindness is the best cure
The commission will be outlining its thinking at the end of the year with requests for government and business. But we’ll also be explaining how we all have a role to play. Jo knew this. She said that tackling loneliness is “something many of us could easily help with – whether looking in on a neighbour, visiting an elderly relative or making that call or visit we’ve been promising to a friend”.

What loneliness costs UK employers
Our latest research shows 4 key ways that loneliness is a financial cost to employers. 1. Sickness absence associated with ill health effects of loneliness costs £20 million. 2. Lost working days caring for someone suffering from the ill health effects of loneliness costs £220 million. 3. Reduced productivity costs related to lower wellbeing from loneliness are £665 million. 4. Costs associated with increased voluntary staff ‘turnover’ are £1.62 billion.

Alain de Botton on art as therapy

Alain de Botton on Art as Therapy
“Founder of The School of Life Alain de Botton believes art can help us with our most intimate and ordinary dilemmas: Why is my work not more satisfying? Why do other people seem to have a more glamorous life? How can I improve my relationships? Why is politics so depressing? In this secular sunday sermon he introduces a new method of interpreting art: art as a form of therapy, providing powerful solutions to many of life’s dilemmas.”

Here’s another take on this project, from The Spectator. A little sniffy, perhaps, but I guess Ben’s writing for his audience there in the way that Alain is here.

Secret suffering as mental health stigma silences anxious voices

“If you do not disclose you have a problem, universities cannot help you,” he said. “Institutions are generally very supportive to disabled staff, but people need to feel they can come forward and talk about their mental health problems.”

Secret suffering as mental health stigma silences anxious voices

Should I be here?

Presenteeism
Presenteeism or working while sick can cause productivity loss, poor health, exhaustion and workplace epidemics. While the contrasting subject of absenteeism has historically received extensive attention in the management sciences, presenteeism has only recently been studied.

Certain occupations such as welfare and teaching are more prone to presenteeism. Doctors may attend work while sick due to feelings of being irreplaceable. Jobs with large workloads are associated with presenteeism. People whose self-esteem is based on performance, as well as workaholics, typically have high levels of presenteeism.

Worrying, meditation, SharePoint

Scheduling ‘worry time’ may help you fret less
First, patients must identify and realize when they are worrying. Second, they must set aside a time and place to think about these worries. Third, when they catch themselves worrying, they must postpone worrying, and instead focus on the task at hand. Finally, patients are told to use the time they’ve set aside for worrying to try and solve the problems their worries present.

A guide to meditation for the rest of us
“Why meditate, especially if you’re not planning to drop everything you’re doing and Google for the closest mountain retreat? If you’re anything like me, meditation will help you realize just how far, and how fast, your mind can wander from what you’re supposed to be doing at the moment. In an age of multitasking, hyper-scheduling, and instant internet distraction, that alone can be a huge help. Beyond just anecdotes, it’s also been suggested that meditation can actually exercise your brain’s “muscles” to increase focus, and has been shown to lower stress and increase forgiveness among college students who take up the practice.

What is SharePoint good for?
Rob Koplowitz said that SharePoint was a Swiss army knife of a product that had a huge array of different features. A service like Box.net was like a screwdriver – it did one job (filesharing). But if you only want a screwdriver, why buy a Swiss army knife?

Overseas students, FOI, productivity

Colleges lose licences in immigration crackdown
More than 470 UK colleges have been barred in the last six months from accepting new foreign students from outside Europe, the Home Office says. They either had licences revoked or did not sign up to a new inspection system – part of government efforts to curb abuse of the immigration system. It estimates the colleges could have brought in 11,000 students.

Universities UK response to Home Office update on student visa changes
Beyond the substance of these arrangements, it is essential that the government considers the way in which the rules are communicated externally. It’s important that the UK appears ‘open for business’ to those individuals who are genuinely committed to coming to the UK to study at one of our highly-regarded universities. We must also be conscious of the impact that cutting down on pre-degree courses is having on our universities. Many universities operate pathway programmes with a range of providers. It is estimated that more than 40 per cent of all international students arrive through this means.

Tweets could now be considered valid FOI requests
According to recent guidance published by the ICO, tweets addressed to an institution may constitute valid Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

What kind of worrier are you?
And this list actually made me feel better because, while I checked off the majority of them, I realized I still have plenty of things to worry about that I hadn’t even thought of! Score!

Productivity Future Vision
In 5-10 years, how will people get things done at work, at home, and on the go. Watch the concept video to get a glimpse of the future of productivity, then explore the stories and technology in more detail.

Take a more realistic approach to your to-do list with the 3 + 2 rule
At the morning you think you can do a, b, c, d, e. But then something goes wrong with b and you spend much more time on it than you anticipated. Subsequently you can’t finish c and d and you feel like you haven’t done enough. Let it be. Instead of having unrealistic expectations, just acknowledge that you can do only 3 big things and 2 small things. Do them and call it a day!

Mental health, Twitter, HE in Wales, Excel

Mental Health and Social Media | Therapy Soup
Of course there are dangers, too. We’ve blogged about the dangers of the Internet and Social Media in the past, but we wanted to learn more specifically about the potential for mental health care and addiction treatment benefits.

How Scholars Are Using Twitter (Infographic)
The effect Twitter and the social Web have begun to have on entertainment, journalism and other media-related industries is by now well known and much-discussed. Its impact on other areas of human culture and knowledge, however, is still emerging. For example, how does the microblogging service impact academics and scholarly communication?

Uni of Wales needs ‘decent burial’ – Leighton Andrews
The University of Wales (UoW) requires “a decent burial” following a turbulent period which has damaged the reputation of Wales, says the education minister.

Excel Blog – Tips on using seven heavenly text functions
Harness the power of the suite of Text functions, such as RIGHT, LEFT, MID, FIND, LEN, TEXT, and REPLACE, and you’ll be an unstoppable force. Okay, maybe that’s a bit over the top. But learning to use these functions can really build your formula prowess. And it can be fun! Still a little extreme with the enthusiasm? Sorry, I’ll tone it down a bit.

Digital HE, therapy, university systems

Universities must rethink their approach to student digital literacy
The emphasis should be on building digital communication skills so that students can share and develop their ideas and aspirations online, says Dr Abhay Adhikari

World Mental Health Day: A Cognitive Therapy Toolbox
Cognitive therapy has provided me a toolbox of useful techniques that work for nearly any mental or emotional jam I find myself in. I don’t journal much anymore, or talk to empty chairs, or write letters and burn them, but I pull out these sturdy cognitive tools again and again.

University of Venus
The University of Venus is a collaborative venture bringing together the voices of GenX women in higher education from around the globe.

AACRAO: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers Homepage
AACRAO is a nonprofit, voluntary, professional association of more than 11,000 higher education admissions and registration professionals who represent more than 2,600 institutions and agencies in the United States and in over 40 countries around the world. The mission of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers is to serve and advance higher education by providing leadership in academic and enrollment services.

Uncertainty breeds opinions and initiatives which then add to the uncertainty
These are interesting times in many parts of the world. Uncertainty has become a feature of higher education in more than the usual ways, and, as we have found recently in the U.K., uncertainty breeds a multitude of opinions and initiatives which then add to the uncertainty in a seemingly endless feedback loop.

Student enrolment service branded unfit for purpose

Looks like the university’s own academic staff are happy to slag off their admin systems to the press, if I’ve read that right.

Mindfulness

Be Mindful is a campaign, by the Mental Health Foundation, raising awareness about the benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness helps people change the way they think, feel and act. It helps them to break free from a downward spiral of negative thought and action, and make positive choices that support their wellbeing.