HealthSkills

It’s 3 a.m. on a Saturday and we’re pulling an all-nighter and studying for our test on Tuesday and preparing for that big event and planning our next organization meeting and fixing our resume for Monday’s interview and… we’re forgetting to take a breath because we’re on our fourth cup of coffee in the last two hours. Sound familiar? It’s a lot to handle during adolescence and adulthood, when life is already throwing so many new changes and obstacles our way.

It’s a mad rush to pad our resumes, make the cut for dean’s list, or secure the best job, and while ambition is so important in these years, rest is, too. Not the kind of rest that involves lying on the couch in front of the TV, one hand in a chip bag and one hand surfing Facebook on our phone. I’m talking about the kind of rest that allows us to rejuvenate and care for ourselves.

In college, I only gave myself the potato chip kind of rest, on the very rare occasions that I actually even “rested.” I worked my butt off and tried, to no end, to be perfect and the best at a lot of things that looked amazing on my resume but didn’t even make me that happy. In fact, they brought me anxiety. Not stress; stress is normal and can be healthy. Anxiety is not, and neither is perfection. I was lost, and I refused to slow down to ask myself where this lost feeling was coming from, and if it was even real.

That strategy didn’t work. Halfway through my senior year, I became burnt out and depressed to the point that I wanted to throw everything away and hide under the covers for the entire semester. Coming from a school known for its overcommitted students, I was not the only person I knew who felt this way. I was tired of trying to please everyone but myself. I finally began asking myself what was up, which led me down a life-changing path where I made the changes that now allow me to enjoy the things I commit myself to.

You see, ignoring feelings of intense pressure or anxiety, and pushing ourselves to unrealistic limits can lead us to burn out. In order to avoid it, we can do a few things:

1. We must stop and listen.

This means that, when we feel an emotion we don’t like, we don’t push it away and run from it. No amount of ignoring will keep us from feeling what we feel. When we learn to respect our emotions and ask what is causing them, we can really get somewhere. It is this kind of questioning that slowly brings us closer to ourselves and allows us to make important discoveries and necessary changes in our priorities and relationships.

2. We must be ok with what we are feeling.

We have to stop judging ourselves. One of the greatest contributors to adolescent and young adult stress and confusion is the need to be perfect. The thing that can be so difficult to realize is that when we fail, when we’re angry, when we react poorly, and when we screw up, we’re being humans, and we need to try to be ok with that. Otherwise, we will be unable to let go of our fear of failure, preventing us from genuinely, passionately devoting ourselves to what we love.

3. We need to take naps.

Why do they only happen in pre-K? We all need them. A short 15 minute power nap can really do wonders for our bodies, which sometimes need a chance to unwind, regroup, and chill. And getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night, if we can swing it, is key.

4. We need to discover what it is that we love, and make time to do it.

This can be a process, so don’t freak out if you don’t have a clue what it is. Taking a few minutes, even just once a week, to try out something new or deepen an existing hobby is a good first step. It may be trial and error, but soon we realize we can actually make time for these little moments.

5. We need to learn to say “no.”

I know that this one is tougher than it sounds. We’re taught to work and work and work, more than anyone else in the office, even if it means 10 hour days with no lunch break or accepting yet another position as president of yet another campus club. When we spread ourselves thin, we don’t allow ourselves to give our best to any one thing, and that isn’t fair to ourselves. Saying “no” when we aren’t able to take on a commitment is not bad, insulting or mean. It is responsible and smart.

Burnout is so very common among young adults, and it’s important to recognize when it may be happening to us. It can be scary and foreign to admit to it and attempt to change things, but addressing it can bring us a sense of peace, along with the energy and motivation to be our very best.

Do you have any tips for staying motivated and avoiding burnout? Let us know below or tweet to us!

Image: Mike Hoff

CultureInspiration

Gender identity is a complicated topic. It is very personal and there is a lot of media with conflicting information about what it is. Once upon a time, it was just “male” or “female,” but that has changed. High school and college are confusing times, and a lot of wrong or misunderstood information can hurt people who are figuring themselves out.

Tumblr and Facebook and a lot of other social media have embraced various gender identity situations. Even though labels aren’t always the best way to get information across (because it can lead to stereotyping and harmful actions), it can also help people find others in similar situations. For example, my school recently started a group for “Trans or Gender-Nonconforming,” and the club is meant to provide a safe space for students to discuss gender and personal experience.  Many schools and universities have such clubs, and people who attend the meetings often realize that they are not alone, and this is comforting. 

What is important is that people are happy with how they see themselves. Theoretically, someone shouldn’t be judged negatively for how they identify.

Even though there are environments that allow for people to be a-gender, bigender, pangender, gender fluid, transgender, and many others, there are also places that are unaccustomed to this variety. It may be because of certain local or social customs. It may be because of misinformation. Either way, such environments can be a scary place for someone who is trying to understand themselves or others. The fear of being judged, shunned, bullied, hurt, or worse because of how they identify shouldn’t’ be an issue, but it is.

Like sexual orientation, gender identity is now becoming a topic that is being more socially acceptable to talk about. I hope that our society is able to transition to a place in which tolerance, acceptance, and freedom are words that can be associated with gender identity. I hope that people are able to accept others and themselves. I hope people can be free and open-minded.

It is okay to not be sure right now and it is okay to explore and try to understand. Growing is a part of change, and change is a part of growing.

If the situation now is difficult or scary, that’s okay. There will be new places and new people. Things get better. Love yourself and accept others. Remember that being happy and safe are the most important things.

Image: le vent le cri

CollegeCultureCulture & TravelEducationHigh SchoolInspiration

Leaving your cultural comfort zone is a topic that seems to have been left out from the endless self-help articles I come across. The United States is a country of immigrants, and learning to plunge yourself into other cultures is not only an unspoken requirement to succeed in almost all professional fields, but it is also a surprisingly fun thing to do. I want to touch on the importance of diversifying. Be it college, your workplace, or even in your community, one often tends to gravitate toward people of their culture. It’s a fascinating thing to note that although you can be friends with a variety of people, you’re probably wont to relate most with those who come from a similar background. However, waving that white flag will do great things. Here are a few reasons why leaving your cultural comfort zone is important:

  1. “Expanding your horizons” doesn’t mean ordering Chinese takeout

Expanding your horizons, or emerging yourself in things you would not normally do, brings many outcomes. It means more than ordering Americanized Chinese, Mexican, or Italian foods. It means making friends with people of different cultures, it means attending a cultural festival and trying all of the foods, it means attending an LGBTQ poetry event, and it means doing these things with an open and inviting attitude. It allows you to experience the different parts of life and place yourself in the shoes of others. You may have assumptions about many groups of people, but spending time with them may shatter these pre-existing judgments, which is essentially the goal. It is always refreshing to see that there are reasons for ways of expression, that there is history behind art, and that there is love behind musical forms. It can be uncomfortable at first to put yourself in new shoes, but it will open your mind. Also, participating in cultural endeavors will definitely bring some zest in your day.

  1. Discover new favorites

Surrounding yourself with people from a totally contrasting environment does great things for your brain. For example, being surrounded by people who speak another language is great for making brain connections and stimulating your thought process. Hanging out with them and maybe accepting an invite to dine at an authentic Japanese, Portuguese, or Arab restaurant is a great way to try out non-Americanized foods that really hold the heart of the traditional foods. You never know, you may discover a favorite dish! Or maybe even a new favorite song or genre by listening to French dance, Japanese pop, Spanish rap, or Italian classical music. Discover the variety of flavors each culture holds. In addition, these new introductions to a new world may also spark an interest to travel to an unfamiliar country. Meeting people from unacquainted areas ignite captivating and bizarre conversations which bring interest to what you have yet to experience!

  1. Learn about yourself

You can learn a lot from just being around others of different backgrounds. You understand more about where you came from and how different that can be from what others are accustomed to. You also note how open you are to try new things. This may call for a new goal: maybe room for improvement in this area? In this day and age, diversity is a major component in many areas of business and organizations. Trying to improve your adaptation skills is definitely a great thing for you to improve. My goal for this school year was to meet people from other cultures. I wanted to meet other people on my college campus and befriend students who are not solely Hispanic. I realized that all of my friends were, in fact, Hispanic when I was asked this summer how the culture shock was since moving to college. I realized the culture shock was not as drastic as I had thought it to be. I was a bit bothered and disappointed by this epiphany and made the decision to expand my horizons. Two of my suitemates are Chinese and as a marvelous result, I have met Taiwanese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and even Arab and Indian individuals.

Here are a few tips on how to achieve doing this:

  • Attend and/or join a diversity-specific club

There are many organizations that are misjudged to strictly pertain to a particular ethnicity, identification, background, or race but that’s not the case as people of all kinds are invited. For example, check out one of the following clubs that may pertain to a Latin, GSA, Caribbean, Democratic, Christian, Muslim, Republican, Eco-friendly, Vietnamese, or Chinese Student Association club. People of all beliefs and backgrounds are always welcome to these clubs and organizations. Not only do they lead to meeting different types of wonderful people, but it also allows you to be surrounded by something different, which might be a big step away from your comfort zone and a great start to where you want to be.

  • Media switch

Believe it or not, media is a huge influencer. Begin with maybe switching up your music. You can surf the web for songs in different languages and maybe even another genre of music. Music says a lot about a culture. Listen to something different than your usual EDM or Country. Another shift you can make is to rent a foreign movie. Two of my favorite movies are actually foreign, and they are dramatic, original, and exciting. Subtitles may seem like a dreadful effort at first, but after a couple of minutes into the movie, you will hardly notice. Or maybe watch a T.V. series or show in another language. The last big step you can do to remove yourself from your cultural comfort zone is to attend a concert of a foreign band or a music group you would not usually attend. Check out different bands and musicians! Observe how they become in sync with the tunes and maybe open up your eyes to something that may catch your attention!

  • In class, sit next to somebody that seems totally opposite from you

You may be in high school or you may be in college. And of course, we all have those teachers and professors who give assigned seats, but there is always that one class that lets you roam free. Sit next to a person you would usually never sit next to, someone who seems opposite of your interests and even race or background. Talk to them and listen to what they have to say. It is a wonderful feeling to just listen to others.

Leaving your cultural comfort zone is a fascinating thing. It can be a learning experience and even a normal part of life if you let it. Approach these steps with an open, positive mind, and purge your mind from pre-existing judgments. You may be in for a wonderful life-changing surprise!

Image: Catalina Casas

Travel

I am someone who loves to travel and experience new things. However, if you always looking to go elsewhere, you might miss some of the great things at home. Work and school can often keep us too busy to explore what makes the tourists flock to our town. Here are some tips to make the most out of your hometown or state:

1. Go for a long walk or drive away from your original route. If you’re used to driving to the same places all the time, you might miss what your town has to offer. You could discover a beautiful view or a shop you’ve never seen.

2. Look at your town or city website. Find out what your town is known for  – you might find something that interests you.

3. Try some different restaurants. I frequently look at Yelp around my area. It could lead you to a new restaurant. Take a look at some coupons in the mail, as it will give you an idea of what’s local so you can try it out.

4. Go window shopping. It could be in a mall area or in a strip of town stores. You never know what hidden gems you might find.

5. Attend local events. This could be a fair, a festival, a farmer’s market or something else entirely. You could find them on a town website or in your local paper. You have a chance to go out and see the people in your area. Chances are you will also find out about local businesses or restaurants that you might want to visit.

6. Join a local club. If you search for clubs in your area, you could find some people who share your interests. Spending time with them might give you more ideas on what you could do in town, maybe even as a group. Everyone I know in a town club says it’s a great way to pass the time, meet new people, and discover new interests.

I encourage you to explore your hometown. It’s a good way to do a lot of things you enjoy while traveling. You see new things, meet new people, relax, and do so without spending a lot of money. It’s a big world out there. Don’t miss what is right in front of you.

Image: Unsplash

EducationSkills

Last week I shared a few tips on how to get involved on your campus, this week I’m here to talk to you guys about how to find the clubs that are right for you. While it is true that joining clubs allows you to get involved, clubs aren’t fun if you’re not really interested in the ones you’re a part of.

And though clubs can be fun, keep in mind that they are also commitments. Once you decide to join a club, you are responsible for attending all of the meetings (within reason), show up on time (again, within reason), follow club rules, participate in events thrown by your club etc.

You don’t have to worry about those responsibilities just yet. I just want you guys to keep them in mind when you’re at your school’s activities fair. Speaking of which, seeing all of the clubs and organizations with their respective stations at the activities fair can be a little overwhelming, especially if your campus has more than forty clubs to choose from. And even if your campus doesn’t have that many, it still doesn’t make deciding which clubs to join any easier.

You could always sign up for all of the clubs at once and then go to each club’s first meeting to see if you like it, but then you run the risk of missing meetings that might be going on at the same time.

This is not to say that going to every club meeting can’t be done, but it’s always good to have an idea of what kinds of clubs you want to be a part of just so you have a smaller, more manageable list to work with. If you’re not sure what kinds of clubs are available at your university, make sure you check out your school’s website. There should be a list of clubs available there. Don’t worry if you can’t find it. You can still make a list of things you either like doing or are interested in. Before you groan and say how much you don’t like making lists, let me just say that it doesn’t have to be a very long one. It doesn’t even have to include sentences if you don’t want it to. Also, if you were part of clubs in high school that you really liked, add that to your list. Chances are there will be something similar offered on your campus.

Your list might not be as vague as this one, but here’s an example of a club list you can create:

  • Writing
  • Books
  • Mock trial
  • Doodling
  • Singing
  • Leadership
  • Learning about other cultures

I know this list isn’t long, but as I said before, it doesn’t have to be. I don’t want to write a book about things I’m interested in because from these seven bullet points I can think of a reasonable sized list of clubs to join off the top of my head. But let’s pretend that I can’t think of any clubs to join and that I have no idea what kind of clubs/organizations my campus offers.

In that case, I can do one of two things:

1. I can use my list as a guide when looking through the clubs and organizations listed on my college’s website. It will help me narrow down any list, regardless of the size, especially if there’s a search engine on the site i.e. Penn State’s Student Organization Directory (in case you’re wondering what a site like the one I described might look like).

OR

2. If I can’t find a club/organization directory or website of any kind, I can wait until school starts and go to the activities fair. Each club will have their own table on it with a sign so it’ll be like using a search engine, only in real life. Look for the signs with words that are similar to the ones your list.

Let’s pretend that I did both of those things on two separate occasions.

If I were to choose the first option, I would type in the words from my list into the search engine (assuming that your school’s club website has one. If not, your search might take a little bit longer) and look through the descriptions of every club/organization that pops up. After that, I’ll jot down the ones that appeal to me so that I have another list; one filled with clubs I want to check out during the activities fair.

I used Penn State’s Student Organization Directory to make another list to show you:

  • Writing: InState Magazine, Kalliope, WORDS
  • Books: African Library Project, Book Club
  • Mock trial: Debate Team, Mock Trial Association
  • Doodling: Art Club
  • Singing: The Coda Conduct, University Choir, Women’s Chorale
  • Leadership: Atlas, Blue & White Society, Bridges to Prosperity, Circle K
  • Learning about other cultures: AHANA

See how I turned a list of seven into a list of sixteen? I could’ve made it a bit longer because there were still more clubs in each category but, to follow my own advice, I only picked the ones that really appealed to me.

As for the second option, I can’t check out all of the clubs at once, but as I do with a search engine, I can utilize keywords. There will be signs and posters at the activities fair, so find the ones that relate to your interest list. I like writing so chances are, signs that say campus literary magazine or newspaper will appeal to me just as much as the student government association, international club, and the debate team would.

Clubs are a great way to get familiar with your campus, get involved, make new friends, and once you become a full-fledged college student – de-stress. So choosing the right ones for you is important. Like I mentioned before, being a part of clubs take a lot of commitment, which is why you want to be sure you join ones that fit your interest. Again, I know it might be overwhelming, but if I can take a list of 1,024 clubs (that’s how many are offered at Penn State) and narrow it down to sixteen in less than an hour, so can you! And don’t worry if your university doesn’t have a website for the clubs. I personally used the second option my freshman year, and it worked out for me.

Now what are you waiting for? Go make YOUR list.

Image: Colgate.edu

EducationSkills

Summer has just started and most of you are probably too busy soaking up the sun to think about your first semester of college. But everyone else? Well, if you’re anything like I was the summer before my freshman year, then every other thought that you have is about college.

Is that a good thing? Yes!

It’s good that you’re thinking about college because, before you know it, you’ll be moving in to your dorm room and your life as a college freshman will begin. But don’t be afraid! While college can seem intimidating, it’s not as scary as you think it is. Once you get settled into your room, explore your campus, and get the hang of where all of your classes are, your university won’t feel like home just yet but it’ll be a lot more familiar.

If you want your campus to start to feel like your home away from home, then getting involved is the best way to go about making that happen. You’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to get involved if you’re the new kid on campus. Well, for starters, don’t think that just because you’re new means you can’t get involved. All of the clubs and organizations at your college will be happy to have you because that’s part of what makes college college. Outside of academics, universities thrive on student-run organizations and activities. So, to make the best of your college experience, put yourself out there and become a part of your collegiate community.

Not sure how to do that? That’s okay!

Here are a few tips on how to get involved on your campus:

Join Clubs

Most colleges dedicate a day or even a whole week to showcasing the different kinds of clubs and organizations on campus. Whether your campus has more than forty clubs or less than twenty, make sure you visit as many club/organization tables during your school’s activities fair as you can. Learn about each club and organization by talking to the people at each station, and if you like what they’re about, sign up! Clubs are a great way to submerge yourself into the community and to make new friends.

Look at the Event Calendar

As I said before, universities thrive on student-run organizations and activities. If there are any events or activities happening, chances are students were behind making them happen. Usually there are event calendars posted around campus and maybe even on the school website. Wherever it may be for you, make a note of when things are happening. Is a local band performing in the student community center? Is there a comedian coming to campus? A lot of college events are fun and more importantly free! Don’t miss out on your chance to attend some of them, or better yet, volunteer to work the event. This brings me to my next tip.

Volunteer

If you volunteered at a nursing home every week or helped clean up your neighborhood while you were in high school, that’s great! If you didn’t do a whole lot of volunteering, don’t fret. You still have a chance to get involved with different volunteering organizations. Penn State has an organization that helps raise money for kids with pediatric cancer called THON. Your campus might have a similar organization so ask around to find out. If you’re not into fundraising, see if your campus is affiliated with Habitat For Humanity or any other non-profit organization. If they are, this is your opportunity to get involved with some of them. Just like clubs, volunteering is a great way to network and to become a part of your campus.

Talk to People

Freshmen Orientation is the perfect time to make connections. Your orientation leaders are there to help you, and the great thing about that is – they’re sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They’ve been where you are and know the ins and outs of college and how to get involved. Ask them questions about their college experience and how they went about making the campus their home away from home.

These are just a few tips to get you started on getting involved on your college campus. Trust me, once you find your place at your university, navigating the collegiate world will get easier and, before you know it, you’ll no longer feel like the new kid.

Photo courtesy of Eric E Johnson