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Life in FLUX: Mental Health

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This is the first blog of a  three-part series to explore the FLUX of everyday life through the eyes of Design Studies senior, Savannah Soule (content created in collaboration with Britney Balmer and Candida Hall). What is FLUX and how do you address the variable daily challenges—sometimes monotonous, often stressful, possibly intense—that you encounter? How do you perceive FLUX? Unique situations and discoveries are shared and exposed, which can provide an opportunity for dialogue, compassion, and maybe understanding.

FLUX is the theme of Volume 38 Student Publication and this series is created in collaboration with the student team of this publication.

ssues of mental health have always been a prominent feature in my life and the lives of many of my friends. In fact, as I sit down to write this I am fighting a wave of drowsiness brought on by the new antidepressant I was prescribed earlier this week. Recently, mental health is also becoming a prominent topic in our culture at large. Activist groups and celebrities have been speaking out in attempts to destigmatize mental illness and to make the case for mental health to be taken more seriously. It is especially important for us, as college students and designers, to take note of these issues.

There is a natural ebb and flow to everything in the universe. Things expand and contract. Life follows the cyclical patterns of the seasons. We live and we die. Our breath goes in and out in a constant pattern. This is the eternal flux of the universe: the constant state of change all inhabitants are subject to.

Daily, we cope with and respond to these changes, and hopefully we adapt and continue on with the flow of life. Often this is an idealistic aspiration. It is not always so simple to just move on with the changes of life. Perhaps the change is something drastic, like the death of a loved one, or maybe the changes are so small we don’t even notice them until we wake up one day and everything is different. When we don’t handle the changes well, these are areas where mental health issues may arise.

Of course, for many people (including myself), it is not always an external event triggering mental health issues. Sometimes it just is: you have a mental illness, and there doesn’t always seem to be much rhyme or reason to when you may be confined to bed with a bout of depression or paralyzed by a wave of anxiety. This is a whole different kind of flux. The ebb and flow of the universe drowned out by racing thoughts. Changes in mood overpower the patterns of changes around us.

In my life, the practice of mindfulness has been incredibly helpful in adapting to both these internal and external changes. Mindfulness encourages us to become aware of and make peace with these changes. Rather than exerting rigid control over their ever-changing thoughts and beliefs, a practitioner of mindfulness sits back and observes. They tune themselves into the flux of the universe.

For me, this awareness stems from meditation. While meditation may not be for everyone, I believe everyone can benefit from a little bit of mindfulness. Just like the natural flow of the universe, mental illness is a normal part of life. Like physical illness, everyone can expect to have some issue of mental health affect them at some point in their lives. As college students, it is likely now may be one of those times. There are often a lot of stressors and changes that go along with being a college student. It is important that we are taking the time to check in with ourselves and notice whether or not we’re taking care of our mental health. While meditation is at the center of my mindful lifestyle, looking after my mental health also includes a range of activities from journaling to speaking with mental health professionals.

In the field of design, being in tune with the natural flux of the universe is incredibly important. We base our designs off of the ebb and flow of the world. Patterns show us where there is a natural emphasis we should take note of or address. The cycles of human life inform choices we make. Observation is an integral part of the design process. If we are unaware of what is happening around us, how can we possibly begin to address any problem? And the practice of observing and responding to an ever-changing environment rather than seeking to control the world around us describes what should be the goal of a designer.

The world is ever-moving and -changing. There’s a constant flow. Constant flux. It’s up to us to be sure we are adapting and flowing alongside it. Look for ways to maintain awareness of this movement, both internally and externally. Seek to stay in tune and at peace with the flux of the universe, which we respond to daily in our lives and with our designs.

FLUX is the theme of Volume 38 of the College of Design Student Publication. For more information, check out our website.