Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Common Ground (LGBT+) Staff and Faculty Social and 'It Gets Better'.

Hey y'all!

It's just about the middle of the week, but I swear the closer I get to graduation the faster days fly by (wasn't it just Wednesday yesterday??).

In between extended library sessions this afternoon and evening, I took a break over at the Center for Women and Gender where our LGBT+ club hosted a staff and faculty social. Common Ground (our LGBT+ club) meets every week, and is a large part of the LGBT+ presence on campus. We organize speakers, events and other programming to promote LGBT+ issues and pursue policy that creates a safer space on campus.

Every so often we get together for a business-free meeting, and invite faculty and staff in the community to a social for snacks and good conversation! Today there was a great turnout; the CWG's common room (pictures of the room can be found in this post) ran out of seating room, and we spent about 90 minutes talking about relevant/current issues, as well as some LGBT+ history here at Saint Mike's! Apparently the first organization for non-straight, non-cisgender identified people began here in 1984, and we've had some such club or group (under different names) ever since. Apparently the student who founded the inaugural club returned for a CG meetings a few years back, which we thought was pretty powerful.

We also talked about two media projects that the Saint Mike's community has pursued to promote inclusion on campus. At the moment, senior student-athletes are compiling an SMC-edition 'You Can Play' video, which aims to promote awareness and acceptance of gay athletes in sports. This one is still in  the works, but as I understand it should be out in the near future! The second media project was done a few years back as part of the 'It Gets Better' campaign, and similarly focuses on gay athletes in sports. I'm not sure what position these campaigns take on the inclusion of trans* athletes in sports, but if I find anything new I'll be sure to share that here. In any case, you can check out Saint Mike's 'It Gets Better' video below.

Anyway I have to get back to my studies, but cheers to fostering acceptance of socially marginalized identities!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Forgoing the Slopes for a Day of Thesis-Writing

As I sit in my favorite building on campus, I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't rather be skiing. Luckily for me it was so far in the negative-degrees farenheit up at Smuggler's Notch this morning, that I don't mind taking a day away from the bitter cold to be productive.

Since my mind is consumed with thesis (and my other academic requirements for graduation), I figured it was worth brain-dumping my process to offer a glimpse of what it means to be in the midst of such a project. For what it's worth, I really like research. My favorite classes as an undergrad have been those that include some research paper or project; because even though assignments like this can be a lot of work, I enjoy learning deeply about a topic and using the tools of analysis I've gathered from a course. So for me, the thesis is not just a huge (and somewhat daunting) project, it's also enjoyable in a lot of ways.

I find that there are a couple mental tools that help me to organize my thoughts around the whole project. First of all, I try to remind myself that there is a terminus. It's my intention to do well, and produce a very complete project that incorporates as much analysis as possible. But ultimately, come April I have to turn in whatever project I happen to have completed. By thinking of the project as something finite and definitive, I find that I can sit down and chip away at it slowly, rather than allowing it to be elusive and freaking myself out about it constantly. Second, I intentionally set progress goals that are pretty ambitious. If I know I need to get 3 hours of work done by the end of the weekend, and I set a goal of 6 hours, then it's okay if I only accomplish 4 hours in reality. By allowing myself some leeway in terms of expectations, I find that I'm able to alleviate some of the self-induced pressure and resulting stress that tend to accompany research for many students.

Basically, there are a lot of ways to freak oneself out about research. One can easily get anxious about the amount of data collected, journals read, or pages written at any step in the process. But these are only distractions; worry and anxiety tend only to detract from my ability to do good work. By minimizing these distractions as much as possible, I'm able to forgo some high blood pressure AND get more work done at the end of the day. It's a constant process, but when I'm productive it feels so much better.

But it's so very good (photo source).
Finally, it's important to find outlets for the stress that one will naturally experience (because minimizing stress does not mean getting rid of it entirely, also coffee elevates your heart rate). That's why as soon as I hit 'publish post' this afternoon, I'm taking off to the gym for a brief workout to blow off some steam. After taking a few hours to exercise and get dinner with a friend, I'll be able to come back to my work later feeling refreshed (and skiing tomorrow will feel so much better!).

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Self-Care in College: Staying Healthy.

College is wonderful for the opportunities to learn, work, gain professional experience, gain research experience, expand social and professional networks, and to learn more about one's interests and passions. In the midst of all that, it can become quite easy to lose track of one's own mind and body, but when combined with stress this can be an unfortunate circumstance. My parents tell me to take care all the time, and I'm sure many other loved ones, parents and family say the same to my peers. Thus, here's a *condensed* checklist of things to pay attention to in order to maximize self-care, and make your friends/family happy :)

  1. Do your homework. This implies doing it in general. I've seen more than a handful of classmates fall behind in challenging courses for neglecting to do work outside of class. In my own experiences, getting behind on work (even reading/practice problems) can be a huge bummer, and very stressful. That being said, at no point should schoolwork shroud one's entire existence. If those orgo problems are just not happening some night, come back to it later or schedule time with a tutor. Luckily, if you're really struggling with a class there are resources to get you through. Do your best, but don't stress!
  2. Do something with your body, sometimes. Different people enjoy/prefer a variety of exercise pursuits, and by no means should every student on campus be lifting three times a week. But exercise has been shown to heighten feelings of happiness, enthusiasm and excitement (Hyde et al.), so moving your body with some level of regularity will probably make you feel better. Even while doing homework in the library, I'll get up every so often for a five- to- ten-minute stroll around the book stacks and when I get back to my work, I feel much better. This might be especially important in the winter, when the snow and cold can get one down.
  3. Get some sleep. Whenever it works for you. I know people who are most productive from the hours of 10PM til the early hours of the morning, but they'll sleep during the day (hopefully when they don't have class). I tend to want at least 7-8 hours of sleep between the hours of 12AM-9AM, and that's what I shoot for. But what's important is to make sure sleep is happening in a reasonable quantity, at whatever hours work best for one's schedule.
  4. Find some way to chill that doesn't include a screen. I really, really hate staring at a screen all day. That's why I'd rather do something like read or talk or play a game to chill. I think watching a show or a movie is a great way to unwind, but I also think that doing that all the time will make you boring. Especially at a moment when so many of our peers have screens fit for an HD movie in their pockets, it's important to find ways to pull away from those distractions and unwind differently. Taking a bus ride downtown to do nothing but people-watch or walk around or grab a coffee will occupy about the same amount of time as a Netflix binge, and probably yield greater happiness and fulfillment.
  5. Eat well. To the point about exercise, I don't mean to say that one should only eat salad and lean protein in college. But the way I like to think about it (and I'm ripping this off from my dad) is that there's food for fuel, and fuel for fun. Food for fuel includes the stuff that you'd eat before a workout or when you're not at the Friday/Saturday night grill. Examples: veggies, protein, some carbs, and some dairy if you like/eat that. Food for fun is more obvious: wings, fried foods, extra cheesy foods, candies/sweets, cakes, etc. would fall into this category. My rule is that most of the time (75-85% of the time), I'm focused on eating food for fuel. The rest of the time, I'll eat food for fun in moderation. I also think it's important not to be too harsh on oneself here (like exercise and homework). Say your parents are up some weekend, and you do nothing but eat delicious junk food with them, That's awesome, because it doesn't necessarily happen every day. Long story short, it's important to know what makes your body feel good.
So there's the short (ish) list, but the point of all this is the importance of being healthy in college. When you're surrounded on one side by school/responsibility, and on the other by friends/fun, it can be easy to justify behavior that doesn't serve your mind or body well. But at the end of the day your body keeps your heart beating, and your mind keeps you happy and focused. 

Cheers to practicing self-care to the best of our abilities! Thanks for reading.

P.S. - I really like this video, and it's somewhat related to self-care. It's about being alone, but the woman in the video covers a lot of self-care topics and offers good habits to practice. Check it out!

Works Cited

Hyde, A. L., Conroy, D. E., Pincus, A. L., & Ram, N. (2011). Unpacking the Feel-Good Effect of Free-Time Physical Activity: Between- and Within-Person Associations With Pleasant-Activated Feeling States. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 33(6), 884-902.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Four Things I Learned While Trudging Across Campus in the Snow.

If you're not super into winter, have no fear. Saint Mike's may exist in the cold and snowy north of Vermont, but the Champlain Valley is actually a bit warmer than the mountains surrounding us on either side of the lake.

That being said, it does get snowy and cold on campus, but I've learned a few tricks to combat the cold and keep morale high.

  1. Think hard about what you wear. For example, my first year as a student I lived in Joyce hall, which is way too close to the dining hall, academic buildings and library. When my floormate and I went to history class at the end of fall semester, we were still wearing basketball shorts and flip flops. You can't really get away with that in 6-12'' of snow. In such conditions, there's no need to look cute. It's been snowing out since I woke up this morning, and do you wanna know how I left my house? Shoes with good grip, tall&thick wool socks, three pairs of sweats/pajama pants, five top layers, a jacket, gloves, a scarf and a hat. Did I look like a faceless warrior of the arctic? Possibly. Was I warm and happy? You know I was.
  2. Take up tea, hot chocolate, or some warm beverage. I know people who don't like warm beverages, but if you can get around it at SMC it'll be worth it. When wearing an outfit such as the one mentioned above, I love to couple it with a hot coffee/hot chocolate mix, or tea (cause caffeine keeps me up at night). Not only does it warm up your insides as you drink it on the way to class, it keeps your hands warm! 
  3. Play in it. I'm lucky because I love to ski. When I'm touring or cruising some groomers at smuggs, I get a moment of refuge from my abhorrence of the cold and wet. If you're not a skier, sign up for an ice climbing or snow shoeing trip with the WP! If you can find some way to enjoy the winter, it certainly makes the season more bearable.
  4. Water, lotion, blistex. Surprisingly, I feel that I lose a lot of water in the winter (maybe from sweating through the 6-10 layers I have on my body at any given time). Because of this, I try paying extra attention to water consumption in the winter. If you're more hydrated, you're more warm, therefore more happy. Also my lips and hands get super chapped in the cold, so every morning I make sure to lotion up my hands and but some protective balm on my lips before I leave the house. Lotiony hands are gross in gloves, but cracked and bleeding hands are grosser.
All this is to say, that winter in VT is totally bearable. Yes it's cold, but  many before us have managed to make it through and I'm sure you can too, Besides, when all the snow melts come spring, we get to look at this:

Thanks for reading!