Category Archives: Mental Health

2018 Goals: A Year of Reclaiming my Time & Refocusing on Myself

“You can’t be hesitant about who you are”~Viola Davis

January is a perfect time to start over, refresh, and refocus on all the goals that you failed to complete the year before. If you know me, you know that I’m obsessed with making goals and lists. I also love the opportunity to start over with a clean slate. I love finding inspiration in new beginnings. So of course, I wanted to take a few minutes to set my resolutions as always, except with a new perspective on things:

Eat healthy and exercise for the sake of feeling goodInstead of setting weight loss goals for myself (i.e. I’m going to lose X number of pounds by this day so that I can be skinny), I’ve decided to reframe my mindset. Instead of focusing on the number of pounds I want to lose, I plan on focusing on eating healthier for the sake of my body, how gross I feel when I don’t eat healthy, and my mental health. I also want to exercise because I feel strong and have more energy instead of focusing on exercise to be better than others or because I hate my body. I love my body and who I am. I need to reframe my mindset to focus on that.

Find peace in the midst of chaos. I’ve learned that being a grad and having an assistantship are a lot sometimes in the midst of a busy social and family life. I have a tendency to keep pushing myself to work harder or to push through the chaos with the intention of resting when the stressful moments are over. The tough part about this is that this theory really doesn’t work. When one challenging assignment is over I need to start focusing on the next one. When a super busy week of on-call is over it is only a matter of weeks before I have to do it all over again. When I fall into a continuous cycle of stress and chaos, I allow everything to build up and eventually either have some form of a mild breakdown or feed into the negativity that my brain is focusing on at the moment. My goal is to make peace for myself, whether it is stepping away to take a walk or giving myself time to turn off my phone everyday. I also need to work toward forgiveness and understanding the perspectives of others before jumping to conclusions. We ALL deserve peace in our lives, regardless of all the things we have on our plates. 

Don’t fall into a negative mindset, no matter how stressed you are. It is easy for many of us to fall into a negative mindset when things go wrong or we have a lot on our plates. I have a tendency to vent a lot when I’m frustrated. Instead of venting and word vomiting negativity, I am going to focus on stepping away when I’m feeling negative and trying to either do something I enjoy or reflect on the good things in my life. Yes, things are really terrible sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that everything in my life is really, really bad. It’s crucial that I step away so that I can refocus on the good. Staying positive is the key to staying happy, energized, and living my life to the fullest. 

Don’t let grades and school consume my life. This one is definitely challenging as a student affairs grad student. We always focus on comparing our grades, exams, and projects to the other students in our cohorts. Although it’s crucial to have the support of friends and to discuss how projects went, I want to refocus so that I’m not comparing my performance and intelligence to others in the class. I’ve had so many imposter syndrome moments this semester because I’m too hard on myself. This year, I’m committing to doing my academic work to the best of my ability, growing through my personal experiences, and not beating myself up over grades. I need to be thankful for where I am in life and for this opportunity. It is also important to make sure that I am balancing my personal life and making my relationships my priority. School is important but at the end of the day, I need to also remember my support system and those who love me. I will commit to setting aside one day a week that I can spend with loved ones or take myself on an introvert date. I deserve it. School isn’t everything.

Stop saying sorry so much. I am so guilty of this and I know many of you are too.  Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project and The Four Tendencies, writes about four tendencies that all human beings fit into somehow. One of the tendencies, The Obliger, is the one that I fit into. Obligers hold themselves accountable to external motivation but fail to hold themselves accountable internally. This fits into my “people pleaser” mindset where I tend to focus on doing things for others and failing to say no. This is also why I say sorry so much. Even though I didn’t do anything wrong, I find myself apologizing for my actions. This year, I commit to taking a step back and only apologizing 1.) when I do something wrong and 2.) when I actually mean it. When I say sorry too much, I invalidate my feelings. My thoughts and feelings are valid. 

This year I am refocusing on unselfishly loving myself, my body, and my mind. I’ve realized that it’s easy to forget to appreciate the little things and to recenter myself. This year I am making sure that I’m a priority so that I can be a resource and support system for those around me. As I’m sure you know, I absolutely love writing about self care. When it comes to practicing it, I’ve really let it fall to the wayside this semester. This is just another reminder that it’s okay to reflect on what I need to do better, accept that I’m not perfect, and to move on from here. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings! Here’s to a year of falling in deeper love with my life and the world around me. I challenge all of you to do the same.

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December Things to be Thankful For #SAGrad

As I wrapped up my first semester of grad school this year, I’ve been thinking about all the good things that have happened in my life over the past few months. In the midst of grad school stress it becomes easy to fixate on the negative or anxiety-inducing things in my life, rather than the positives. Despite this, I know that I need to focus on re-centering myself & finding some peace after a long semester. I also know that I need to reframe my self-care plan to work with my grad schedule, since it is completely different from my previous life as a new professional. In order to start to find some peace after a long semester, I thought it would be good to reflect on the things I am thankful for:

  1. I survived my first semester of grad school! Although this is probably obvious, I still know how much of an accomplishment it is to have made it through my first semester. As a first generation college student, I never thought of the possibility of grad school, which is why this accomplishment means so much to me.
  2. I have an amazing support system. Grad school wouldn’t be possible without the support of my boyfriend, my family, and my friends. It is important that you surround yourself with people who build you up and take pride in your journey. Find people who lift you up no matter what. I promise it makes a difference.
  3. I managed to get enough sleep. This sounds silly, but I am legitimately super proud of myself for prioritizing sleep this semester. I began to take my sleep habits seriously after reading Thrive, by Arianna Huffington. In the book, Huffington talks about the impact that a good night’s rest makes on your life. As a grad, I really didn’t think I would be able to continue with my healthy sleep habits, but I learned that if you develop healthy habits, they will continue despite new changes to your routine.
  4. I work in a profession that I love. Although I have been faced with a million challenges and frustrating situations as a SA Grad in Residence Life, I am sincerely thankful for the opportunity to gain experience in my field. Despite the frustrations, I know that I need to focus on finding the positives and taking a step back when I’m frustrated next semester. Also taking time to be thankful for the job I have will inevitably make a greater impact on my mental health.
  5. I had the opportunity to grow as a person. Although I still have to grow a lot personally, I feel that I’ve grown more as a person and professional through my first semester. I benefitted from the challenge of balancing school, my assistantship, my relationship, friends, family, and a million other things. Challenges make us stronger as people. We just need to make time to step back and reflect on those challenges after they happen. It is also really self-affirming to look back and see how much you’ve accomplished.

This semester has definitely been a whirlwind, but I know that I am where I need to be at this point in my life. I challenge everyone to take a minute to reflect on how you’ve grown from your last few months, what you are thankful for, and what you need to improve on going forward. I know that next semester I have to reflect better on my self-care practices, specifically with my health and physical wellbeing. Here’s to an even better second semester!

#Wednesday Thoughts: “I am Worthy”

“You’re Imperfect, & you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love & belonging.” ~Brene Brown 

Sometimes it’s easy to let the world bring us down. To let others make us feel less than. To struggle to find your place in the world.

I have to keep reminding myself that I am worthy, I am strong, & that others will not bring me down. I remember where I came from, how far I have come since then, & where I am going.

Don’t let the world bring you down. Keep going. Remember that you are awesome. The world is waiting for you to do awesome things.

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My Friday #Self-Care Reminders

“You can’t pour from an empty cup” ~Anonymous

 

After a semi-busy week of chaperoning/staying overnight with a summer enrichment camp AND battling a bad cold, I thought it would be good to reflect on self-care (like I always do). As a Student Affairs professional & new grad student, it becomes a challenge to focus on myself in the midst of a chaotic week. After looking forward, I realize that August is going to be a million times busier AND I will be starting grad classes on the 28th. Since I have some time to myself today, I thought it would be good to reflect on self-care while re-centering my brain.

It is not selfish to focus on myself.

I have to tell myself this every time I want to take a break or spend time reading alone. It’s a challenge to remind myself that self-care is not selfish or lazy. In a chaotic profession, it is even more crucial that we try to find more self-care time in the midst of our busy lives. Since I was so sick this week, I decided to ask for 3 hours in the morning on Wednesday to recharge & rest during sessions that I wasn’t required to attend. Taking that time was so helpful to my physical & mental health, & I felt more recharged than I had in days.

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A photo from my recent beach trip. I found a lot of time to recenter myself that week.

It is not lazy to relax on my day off.

As someone who is constantly up and moving, I have to fight to tell myself that there is no harm in relaxing on my day off. This morning I slept in, made breakfast, & had numerous cups of coffee. I spent some time on social media & worked on organizing & updating my planner. I have so many things to do (i.e. oil change, returning a library book), yet I needed this time to myself this morning. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to clear our schedules for an extended period of time when we don’t have time-sensitive obligations. The “adulting” can wait for later in the day or tomorrow.

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My planner helps me stay focused & on track!

 

Napping does not make me lazy.

I am a huge advocate for naps. A lot of people think that napping is a sign of laziness or depression, yet I find myself trying to make a few minutes of nap time in my routine schedule. Napping was crucial to my undergraduate college experience. As long as I’m showing up on-time & completing my tasks, I don’t see any harm in taking a 30 minute power nap to recharge my brain.

Schedule Self-Care Time.

Something that I’ve been doing is scheduling my self-care time. This is going to be especially crucial once classes start and the students return to campus. I find that scheduling yoga classes in advance forces me to practice self-care when I feel like I am too busy. I also make sure that I take walks every evening around the same time. When you put your self-care practices into your daily agenda, it becomes just as routine as work, class, & other tasks.

Eat Healthy & Stay Hydrated.

Something that I struggle with is staying healthy in the midst of a chaotic schedule. Working in Residence Life makes this even more challenging because there is free food everywhere. Sticking to a healthy diet & staying hydrated throughout the day not only helps me to feel better physically, but mentally as well. The more I take care of my body, the less depressed & anxious I am. I find that using a Fitbit & the Fitbit app help me to stay on track with these goals.

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I try to make healthy meals & meal prep when I have the time! This ground turkey & rice noodle dinner was absolutely delicious!

Overall, self-care is a challenge for all of us. If you have the free time in your schedule, focus on you. Remember that your self-care practices (i.e. what works, what doesn’t work) is completely up to each individual person. Although it’s a challenge, it is also important to try not to allow others to hinder your self-care practices. We all have to build each other up in order to make the world a better place, so please support those around you in taking care of themselves. And of course, PLEASE take care of yourself first before taking care of others. 

 

#ThursdayAdventure

Today I took some time to take a solo walk on the Johnstown Flood Trail (located near my new home). Sometimes taking time to appreciate nature & silence is all it takes when you’re having a rough week. Remember to appreciate the little things in life, find peace when you can, & focus on your self-care! And as always, keep in mind that spending time with yourself is not selfish. The world can wait while you take time to center yourself & find your peace.

#Saturday Inspiration: Recognizing Your Importance to Those Around You

It’s easy to fall into a mindset where you struggle with self-worth, whether it’s in the workplace or your personal life. As humans, we have a tendency to get into our normal routines, we go through our daily challenges, get frustrated with mundane tasks like sitting in traffic or running to the grocery store. Often I fail to recognize the impact that I’m making in the lives of others, whether I personally know them or not. My Anxiety sometimes causes me to feel like a burden to others, like I’m almost bothering the people who love me because I’m texting them about my day. I’m sure that I am not the only one who feels this way.

This year, I have also committed to completing “The 52 Lists Project” journal, by Moorea Seal, which offers a new prompt for a list every single week of the year with a follow-up reflection. This week’s prompt was simply the following: “List Your Favorite Quotes.”

After listing out a few, I finally remembered my favorite quote of all time:

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” -Fred Rogers

If you know me, you know that I’m the biggest Mr. Rogers fangirl ever. I absolutely love the work he has done with education & children. I love the simplicity of his inspirational quotes because in the end, he is always reminding us to love one other and be good people. 

This quote is important to me personally because of my mental health struggle. By recognizing the small, relevant impacts we share with people every single day, we find value and worth in our everyday lives. This is especially relevant in my job as a Hall Director, when I often find myself confronting challenging situations and sharing challenging (and sometimes negative) conversations with students. I have to remind myself that by giving my students a space to share their concerns and have a voice, I am making a huge impact. Unfortunately, we live in a world where a lot of people find themselves silenced.

As an Empathizer (#1 Strengthsquest result), I have a tendency to connect with my students on a personal level and get emotionally invested in their stories at times. I think that honestly this is a positive, rather than a negative, because my students recognize that I am genuine in my expression of concern, I genuinely listen to them, and I genuinely care about their feelings. 

At the end of the day, we need to remember how valuable we are to those around us, even if we don’t always see it. I wanted to write this post to remind everyone that you are a valuable, loved human being who has so much to contribute to this world, even though you may not see it right now. I challenge you to smile at a random stranger, initiate a conversation with a coworker you may rarely talk to, or do some other random act of kindness. You may never know how great of an impact you have on that person’s life.

 

February Things to be #Thankful For

Sometimes it is ok to not be ok. As someone with Depression and Anxiety, I have been struggling a little more than usual recently. I have a tendency to focus on the past, the things that have hurt me and continue to affect me to this day. To get out of this mindset, I have to remind myself of the good things in my present life and what my future has in store, which is why I have decided to blog about the things I am #thankful for today:

My Job

I love my work as a Hall Director. Although I am sad that this is my final year at Saint Mary’s College, I have so much to be thankful for from my experience. I have grown so much as a confident female leader, a role model, and a person. I have been inspired by so many incredible women, have gained so many wonderful friends, and have shared so many awesome life experiences that I would have never shared if I did not decide to move away to Indiana 3 years ago.

My People

I am so fortunate to have the support system that I do. Never in my life would I have expected to find such a caring, supportive, loving boyfriend who reminds me how important it is that I take care of myself. He also wants to learn about my mental health conditions and always remains patient with me. I also am blessed to have the family that I do. I talk to my mum every single day, even if it is just to say “hi” in the mornings. I know that a lot of people aren’t this fortunate. Although I have the greatest friends here in Indiana, I’m really looking forward to moving back to my family after being away for so long.

New Hobbies

I learned how to knit recently (yes, I know I sound like an old lady). This hobby makes me SO HAPPY because it has been a great way to combat my anxiety while making a ton of super awesome scarves.

My Health

Although my food allergies sometimes get the best of me, I am thankful for my health overall. I need to remember that a lot of others aren’t this fortunate.

Upcoming Life Experiences

I am blessed to have a lot of awesome things on the horizon, such as a beach vacation and tickets to see Mumford & Sons in the spring. I need to remember the good experiences that I have had in the past as well and remember those when I’m having a difficult day mentally.

Grad School

I got into grad school and will be attending this fall. Not a lot of people have the privilege of attending Grad school, let alone Undergrad. This experience will allow me to grow personally and professionally so that I can move forward in my career in Higher Education.

My Friends

I would be nowhere without my friends, especially my support system here in Indiana. I’m lucky to have such a supportive and fun group of people to spend time with.

When you are having a difficult day, I encourage you to sit back and remember what you are thankful for. Sometimes we have a tendency to overlook our blessings in life and always focus on the negative. In order to find the positivity in our lives we must take time to actually reflect on the good things and make more room for the good in our lives.

Finding Peace with Myself (even though it’s hard sometimes)

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

– Fred Rogers

 

I like to think that I have everything going for me in my life: a good job, a loving family, a caring partner, awesome friends, etc. Despite all of this, I still find myself struggling with self-confidence & self-worth from time to time. As a young woman in 2017, I know that I’m not alone in this. We live in a world where the rights, beliefs, ideas, pay wages, and physical appearances are constantly critiqued, invalidated, and questioned by our society. On a personal level, I have found that past relationships have contributed to my consistent struggle with their mentally abusive tendencies and hurtful words that were spoken. Yes, I’ve come so far since then, but every now and then like everyone else I am still haunted by my past. I consistently have to remind myself of my self-worth, my awesomeness, my strengths, and my accomplishments, which is why I’ve reflected on some of the key things that I have to keep in mind:

I am enough.

I have to remind myself that I am enough as a person. I constantly struggle with my confidence in my appearances, my capabilities, and overall who I am as a person. I have a habit of always worrying if I’m not pretty enough, outgoing enough, or thin enough when it comes to my relationship (my wonderful boyfriend constantly reassures me that this is not the case). I find myself hesitating to speak up or offer ideas at times because I’m afraid I’m not smart enough. Again, although I’ve made progress I still have to find ways to advocate for myself and remember what I’ve accomplished. I find that when I’m in these moods, taking a walk to reflect or doing some journaling helps.

The past is in the past.

As I said above, I find myself struggling with some of the painful things that have deeply affected me and my life. Yes, these things have unfortunately shaped a lot of my decisions and have been difficult to overcome, but I need to recognize that they are not repeating themselves. Again, I have a habit of worrying about things that aren’t true or aren’t going to happen (yay for living with anxiety). I need to work toward rationalizing my thoughts, recognizing that things are going well, and appreciating the blessings in my life.

I am stronger than I think.

Motivating myself to work out, complete nagging tasks, and deal with other daily challenges is a struggle, especially when I’m having a bad week or my depression is present. I have a tendency to go take a nap to forget my problems in an attempt to “make it all go away.” I need to recognize that I’m mentally stronger than I think I am. I need to push myself to do something positive in order to overcome those tasks. I need to recognize that I am capable.

No one said that working toward self-care and self-love would be easy. We all have bad weeks when we just want to hide from the world. Remind yourselves of the awesome things you’ve done when you are having these weeks. Practice mindfulness. Go do something healthy for yourself. In the end, it’ll all inevitably work out. 

 

Why You Should “Go & Love Yourself” in 2017

It’s taken me until today to realize how long it’s been since I’ve written a blog post. Over the past few months, I’ve let some of the things I enjoy become pushed to the side because of my depression & anxiety (which is so hard for me to admit). This is why I am focusing on my Self-Care this year & shamelessly making this a year to focus on loving myself. This means no more eating things that are terrible for my body (which especially includes things with traces of foods I am allergic to). This means commitment to more walks, more Therapeutic Yoga classes, & more dates with myself. Even though I have an incredible boyfriend, I’ve learned that as an introvert, I still need to make time to do the things I love by myself every once in a while. This also means making time to be more mindful & thankful for the things I have been blessed with, & I challenge you to do the same.

Despite 2016 being insane on so many levels (our world has a tendency to be a scary place), I still find that I was blessed throughout the year in so many ways. I fell in love (which is super cool & something I didn’t expect). I was accepted into grad school. I’m healthy, I have job security, & I have a roof over my head. I have an incredible family that loves & supports me. I’ve travelled to so many random awesome places throughout the year. During moments of depression, I’ve learned that it is most helpful to reflect on these things & to recognize that my life could be far worse.

This year, I challenge everyone to commit to Self-Care & to focus on loving yourself this year. Often times, we look in the mirror & hate ourselves for being too fat/too thin. We forget about doing the things we love because we become too stressed. We get frazzled with our jobs & careers to the point where it destroys us at home. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to sit back & to think about the good that you have in your life & to challenge yourself to overcome those things that are continuing to eat away at you. What do you do if you can’t fix that thing that is eating away at your life? Try to come to terms with it & accept it for what it is. Do you think that I enjoy having depression & anxiety? Of course not. It’s horrible at times, but I need to focus less on how horrible it is & more on what I can do to get out of my current mood.

Although it’s not easy to focus on Self-Love & Self-Care it is SO important. I always tell myself that I cannot truly take care of others unless I am taking care of myself first. Remember that there is nothing selfish about loving yourself. I challenge & encourage you to make “you” a priority this year. Here’s to a fabulous 2017!

Let’s Talk About Anxiety: My thoughts on why we should stop hiding from conversations about mental health in Student Affairs

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you would know that it’s not fun. Ever. Panic attacks come in different forms for different things. For me personally, my panic attacks range from experiencing what I call a “perpetual brain fog” that numbs all emotion and causes me to forget a lot of things that are said to me in the moment to having a full “meltdown-esque” panic attack where I start hyperventilating and crying. It differs for all of us who live every day with anxiety.

In student affairs, we often find the need to bury personal mental health concerns because there has been the consistent belief that by having anxiety or depression, along with many other mental health conditions, we are weak and cannot help others. The same goes with introversion and extroversion. I wish I had a dollar for the number of times that someone has told me that “[I] don’t act like an introvert.” Just because I recharge by being alone does not mean that I can’t be the energetic, charismatic, and quirky leader my students need. It does not mean that I’m a socially awkward recluse, which essentially has unfortunately been the consistent perception of introverts throughout the years.

Why is it that these perceptions exist? Don’t get me wrong, the negative stigma around mental health has been slowly decreasing throughout the years, but there is still that awkwardness that comes from a conversation about mental health. Why can’t we talk about anxiety and depression like we talk about a diabetes or celiac disease? They are all things that affect our overall health and well-being. They do not define us, but surely they are a part of who we are. It also becomes frustrating when people try to tiptoe around those of us with depression and anxiety. Yes, we need to be supported as coworkers, relatives, partners, and human beings in general, but we don’t need to be coddled. For many of us, we know what our support looks like and we will ask for it when it is needed. Personally, I simply say that I need to get off-campus or leave the room when I am having a panic attack and many people respect that. That doesn’t mean that I need to walk away every single time that a conflict or stressful situation arises.

At this point, you may be asking what I’m getting at with this post. I simply ask you to reflect on how you can be open about anxiety and depression in student affairs or conversations in general. Maybe that means something simple, like having a program or doing a mental health bulletin board. For me, I have personally disclosed my depression and anxiety with a few students who have disclosed it to me. The point of the conversation was not to simply undermine their concern or to talk about myself. It was simply a gesture of solidarity. A moment to let them know that mental health is something we can talk about here and that their condition is not something to be embarrassed of because a lot of us struggle with it. It was an opportunity to give them a safe space.

I also ask you to reflect on how you can support your partners, coworkers, and family members who struggle with depression and anxiety. Simply ask them how they want to be supported. Don’t coddle them or assume that you need to text them every 5 minutes to see if they’re okay. For many of us, we have it under control. We may simply need a supportive listener or someone to check in when we walk away from a panic attack. Overall, we need to just work together to reduce the negative stigma that still exists when it comes to mental health. We need to stop judging others for their conditions and accept that we are all human beings who deserve the same respect despite the different battles we are all going through.