EducationSkills

Finals are among us. For those in college, this means papers, projects, and a lot of cramming. For those in high school, this also means papers, projects, and a lot of cramming… There’s just so much to do! Homework, extra credit, paper outlines, group projects. Besides that, part time jobs, internships, after school activities. And before all of those, sleeping and eating! There’s a lot that seems to be happening right now, but there are some ways to deal with all the havoc that is December!

Prioritize.

Always do what you need to do first. Which one comes first: the big thesis paper or that extra credit project? Watering your plants or giving yourself a shower? Going to a club meeting or studying for an exam for that really tough teacher? Always do what is important, and don’t bother with the small stuff during this time crunch. The little things can be slipped in, but devoting large chunks of time to a 10 page paper is an efficient way of getting ideas out, onto a document, and out of the way. The little things you can do as mini breaks in between. Get up to stretch and do a 10 minute yoga pose for exercise, but do this between paragraph four and five of your essay. Moderate and prioritize.

Eat and sleep.

My university’s labs are open 24 hours during finals. In the early 3­-5am hours, students can be seen sleeping at their desk with the screen doing a five hour export. Other students can be seen with three empty cups of coffee next to their sewing machines with half finished shirts and dresses. But whether you’re in art school, business school, or high school, you need to get your sleep and your nutrients! You and a friend can do food­runs. Someone runs out to get dinner for both of you, then you trade and do the same for lunch. Do this for fabric material, photo paper, paint, ink, printer paper. One person can do that half-hour-run to Staples and the other person can do that half-hour run to the cafeteria. Roommates, workshop partners, lab buddies, you name it. It is the time to keep your body functioning during a time when there isn’t enough time.

Know your limits.

Alright. You didn’t sleep in the last 24 hours, and the night before, you only slept
three hours. Your hands are shaking from too much caffeine, and for some reason the words on the
screen are starting to move on their own. You have a dull headache that has turned into nauseousness and your neck is cramped. You haven’t seen daylight in two days. It’s time to stop. Yeah, that presentation is important and people are counting on you. Sure, that exam is 50% of your grade. But what’s the point if you’re going to pass out in front of your professor or wake up to the exam sheet stuck to your cheek? Sometimes enough is enough and there’s only so much you can do. That’s when you take a breather, take a walk, take a shower, take a break.

Dealing with everything is crazy. You and everyone around you are in high gear. Once
you figure out all you need to do, you’ll do them. Keep yourself going with enough sleep and
food. Sometimes, you have to just put everything down. Take it easy and good luck!

Image: TMAB2003

EducationHealth

Stress: it’s a way of life for most students. The ever-present nudging of worry against an unsteady conscience, the realization that there’s always something that hasn’t been accomplished or adequately prepared for.

Stress is not a pleasant state of being, yet it’s one of the most common in the world – everyone has felt that twisting in their gut at some point in their lives. Yet the world continues to function despite the pressure constantly bearing down on everyone. Sometimes, however, it can feel like a lot to cope with, but with practice and a few simple strategies, it’s much easier to handle.

First and foremost, throw procrastination in the trash – as soon as you’re rid of that rushed feeling you get when it’s midnight and OH MY GOD that paper is due in SIX HOURS, you’ll be a lot calmer.

Another strategy is to have something that you know will calm you down. It can be anything from working out to endlessly Googling acapella groups (that would be me). Of course there are the old favorites – get enough sleep or enjoy a snack.

If you keep these tips in mind, stress will slip away, and you’ll find yourself calmer, and happier.

How do you de-stress?

Image: Silvestri Matteo

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

CultureLearn

Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different but related things. The media sometimes confuses them and it makes it hard for high school and college students to really understand it. Everyone has their own preference of who they like and how they see themselves.

Let’s clear it up a bit as to what is what.

Gender Identity

It is about you. It is about how you see yourself. Do you think you are male, female, both, neither, or sometimes one or the other? Are you being okay being called he, she, or they, or ze? There are more than the ones listed here, but the ones that have been in the media lately have been a­gender, genderqueer, transgender, pan­gender, and gender fluid.

There is no wrong answer. There is no permanent answer. You are allowed to change your view of yourself according to how comfortable you are with it. If you do not feel comfortable being defined or you are unsure, that is okay too.

Sexual Orientation

It is about who you like. Do you like men, women, both, neither, or one or the other just sometimes? What do you like in someone? What characteristics do you find attractive in someone? The ones that have been in the media have been the lesbian, gay, and bisexual. There is also asexual and pansexual and heterosexual and demisexual. There are more than these here and they can be similar. You aren’t defined by your sexual orientation and you aren’t defined by your gender identity, either. These are just things that help you better understand yourself and it is up to you whether or not it is useful.

Sometimes gender identity affects sexual orientation, and sometimes it is the other way around. Everybody has their own understanding of who they are and how they came to be that way. Maybe you are pangender and pansexual. Maybe you identify as gender neutral and asexual. There are many ways a person can love and many ways people can see themselves. Both are decided by you and only you. Both can change.

My experience with these topics has gone from heterosexual to bisexual to demisexual. I’ve also come to feel comfortable with being gender fluid, but I have no problem being called she. It was kind of confusing, but I was surrounded by understanding and patient people and that made it easier. If you’re in a place that isn’t very open about this type of thing, that’s okay. There will always be people who are willing to listen, understand, and help in the future, if not now. As you grow and understand the world and meet new people and learn about yourself, you will find that your perspective may change, too.

Resources

Everyoneisgay.com is a place with advice and resources on sexual orientation, gender identity, and pretty much life itself. I’ve been following them on Tumblr for years and I have found the two co-owners to be open-minded, positive, and funny. They understand the difficulty of family pressure, the confusion and insecurity of being alone, and the joys of being supported and supportive of others in the community. They’re easy to access from various media platforms and you can spend hours scrolling through relatable content.

Embrace the change and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Just be you!

Image: lgbtq.missouri.edu

EducationHealthSkills

Most parents seem to sign their children up for sports hoping that they’ll learn the importance of dedication, teamwork and responsibility, while “staying out of trouble.” Though these are realistic intentions, few people realize the true value of athletics. By picking up a tennis racquet, I wasn’t preparing myself for college athletics; I was preparing myself for life.

After nine years playing tennis and two playing for the University of Nebraska, I’ve come to recognize some of the most important things that I’ve learned over the years:

How to Handle Adversity

You may be strapped with homework, your coach is screaming at you and you’re running on four hours of sleep, but you still have to play tennis. Right? Well, I can tell you that the ones that choose not to don’t make it very far. So the answer is yes. Though being an athlete has its perks, the initial description I just gave is the life of an athlete. Something is bound to go wrong on a daily basis, but you have to keep picking yourself back up. You’re bound to forget about that day that your boyfriend wouldn’t speak to you, but you’re likely to regret the hours you spent worrying about it instead of giving yourself the chance to grow.

Choose the High Road

After you’ve played a sport at a certain level, you begin to see that hard work pays off. You’ve put in the hours and you’re now beginning to reap the rewards. So the next time you’re given a choice, you’re going to choose the harder path. Whether it’s doing sprints after practice, taking extra time to study for a test, or making amends with a friend even when you did nothing wrong, you understand what it means to take the difficult route. And you become a stronger, better person because of it.

How to Make Tough Choices

I’m ashamed to admit it, but when I was trying to choose which college to go to, I spent an entire evening crying on the couch. There I was, with several scholarship offers, bawling my eyes out. Most of my friends had had their “moment” where they “suddenly knew,” and I was distraught, simply waiting for mine.

But not everyone has that “moment.” In fact, I sometimes think it’s better if you don’t. I’m a realist and a planner. I had my pro-con lists down to every nitpicky detail, from strictly academics to which school had a Starbucks on campus. Though the lists may not have made my decision for me, they definitely guided me along the way. Not to mention, I conducted an extensive amount of research that I’m sure few student-athletes did.

But when it came down to it, the ability to make the decision was innate. I knew enough about myself, and the school, to make a decision I could live with. My friends were right about one thing, and that’s to treat it like any other relationship. It was the right combination of using my head and following my gut.

Self-Reliance

None of the benefits I just mentioned would be possible if it weren’t for one thing: self-reliance. This perfect combination of confidence and independence is what drives you to make tough decisions, run extra sprints and keep your head high. Throughout your entire life you’ll have people telling you 25 different ways to do something, but you have to stick to your guns. There is not one specific path to success, and it’s definitely not a straight line.

Courage

When Hemingway defined courage as grace under pressure, he hit the nail on the head. To me, this is the most important of them all. Being an athlete, you learn to handle high-stress situations, often when they are least convenient. You’re under the pressure of your coaches, professors and parents to do well, and it all begins to add up.

If I’m on the court, playing the #1 position for my team in a conference match against Northwestern, I can’t break down. It’s simply not an option. As an athlete, you understand when the situation is more important than your emotions. You understand the consequences and are able to register that it’s only temporary. To be able to evaluate all of these things in a matter of seconds can only be defined as one thing: grace under pressure.

I can’t imagine trying to summarize the lessons I’ve learned over hours of training on the court. Dedicating my life to athletics not only benefited my health and my college experiences, but also made me grow as a person.

Being an athlete forces you into the tight, uncomfortable crevices of life that most people aren’t familiar with. But in reality, everyone is pushed out of his or her comfort zone at some point in time. Athletes just face it earlier than most; sometimes earlier than they’re ready for. So the next time around, they’re more than prepared. Behind the braided ponytails, bruised shins and tired eyes, they’re becoming something bigger than themselves.

EducationHealth

While reading Mindy Kaling’s essay for Rookie, I couldn’t help but notice her paragraph about how, when it comes to teenagers, everyone has to be everything.

Kaling writes, “Now it feels like you need to be a straight-A student, speak an obscure language, and also have spent a year living with brown bears or something to get into college. In the 90s you just had to be a pretty good kid and do O.K. on a standardized test.” 

These two sentences pretty much summed up how I feel – and felt – about the college application process when I went through it. There is an unbelievable amount of pressure on teenagers to be unique and stand out, be a leader, serve your community, maintain a top spot on your sports team, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. When you’re in the thick of it, these pressures might not be as apparent since you have your eye on the prize, but for others, these expectations can mount to something unbearable.

It is important to take a few steps back every now and then to evaluate your pressure-level, your happiness, and to re-energize. You can’t be everything all of the time. Pace yourself and take on what you can truly manage, and surprisingly you will find that you can actually accomplish a whole lot more.

Do you feel the pressure to be everything?