Welcome to the official blog of UCSC Counseling and Psychological Services!

We are the UCSC community’s resource for counseling, wellness, and mental health concerns. Follow us here to learn more about upcoming events, health and wellness topics, our staff, and updates from the counseling center.

The CAPS blog is written and managed by the CAPS Peer Educator Program, with guest posts by staff and students. Our amazing Blog Coordinator for the 2016-17 year is Peer Educator Emma Burke!

Click the about tab to learn more about CAPS, and what we can do for you!

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STEPPING BACK

Being a student in college is most definitely a privilege. Here at UCSC, we have so many opportunities and things to get involved in all around us! While it is amazing and exciting to try new things, study hard, and volunteer our time to important causes, we must also remember how to say no sometimes. Read more about Peer Educator, Jorge’s advice for taking a step back.

Stepping Back

by Jorge Roque

Often times as college students we are taking up more than we can handle. While yes we do not want to be missing great opportunities, it is also important to take care of ourselves. While in college we are often running around trying to make the most of our time, and still wishing that we had more hours in the day. It is important to know when you are doing too much, and when it is necessary to step back.

One of the first things to be on the lookout for is when it is time to step back because of your sleeping habits. When you begin to take on more responsibilities in your life, your workload and your sleeping schedule changes. You may find yourself sleeping less, while working for longer hours. While meeting deadlines is important, your sleep is also important. If you are not sleeping a good amount of hours you won’t be performing to the best of your ability.

Something else to be on the lookout for is the way your body feels. Are you starting to get headaches, an upset stomach, drowsy, jitters, or anything else that may seem abnormal?All signs that you may be going through stress and that you need to take a step back from the demands of life. Once you begin to feel differently, it may be your body telling you that it cannot handle everything being thrown at you.

Not being productive is another way of knowing it is time to step back from all of life’s demands. When things begin to pile up, you may begin to feel overwhelmed. When you begin to feel overwhelmed your productivity starts to decrease. Eventually you do not end up doing anything you are suppose to do because you do not know where to begin. Stepping back may be a good way to get your mind sorted out and creating a plan to get through your workload.

As we grow older the demands of life get larger, and we are hit with more responsibilities. While sometimes we are able to juggle each thing in our life, there may be times when we cannot juggle it all around. And that is okay. By stepping back you are allowing yourself to not only pick yourself back up, but also coming back even stronger. Stepping back may seem scary, you may not want to miss opportunities, but be assured, there may be more amazing opportunities to come. Stepping back from life’s demands is necessary sometimes.

CREATIVE FUEL

As human beings, we all experience our own unique challenges, setbacks, and hardships, and mental health issues are a common challenge that many of us face. And despite how common it is, we often tend to feel alone or unusual when we experience mental health challenges. However, all you have to do is look around you to realize that many of us are struggling, and not only that but many of us are using these challenges to learn, grow, and create good things such as beautiful art inspired by these experiences. Everyone is different, and this is not always the case. But whether you decide to turn your challenges into art, or move on and grow in different ways, you are most certainly in good company.

Creative Fuel

By Priyanka Kulkarni

Vincent Van Gogh, Beethoven, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Robin Williams, Demi Lovato, they’re all incredible musicians, writers, poets, painters, and comedians. They have all created incredible works of art that touch our hearts long after their work was published. They all also suffered with some form of mental illness. A lot of their work was inspired by their experiences with the inner demons they were battling.

Many of us that consider ourselves some sort of artist probably ask the question, is there a relationship between creative ability and mental illness? Will our art matter to people if we are not suffering while creating? I have asked myself these questions all the time. Obviously, we don’t want to be suffering. We want to find happiness in the moment, but when the world shows us that artists who suffer, succeed, we tend to feel guilty if we are feeling good about ourselves and are not suffering so much in our life.

        You do not have to have a mental illness in order to be an artist or be successful in general. Yes, many artists that are well known do battle a mental illness, but that doesn’t mean every artist has to have a mental disorder in order to create good work. Creativity comes from within and what you are feeling in the moment.

        All of this ties into the idea of feeling anxiety about not having anxiety. Our brains and bodies have been trained to always be worried about something, always have something going on. But when we experience that rare moment of complete relaxation and no worries, we may start feeling guilty. We feel guilty about having a good time and feeling like there is no weight on our shoulders for once. We want to enjoy it, but it’s hard when everyone around us seems to have something going on and we are used to being stressed out. These are negative thoughts in our brain that want to make us think a certain way about ourselves in comparison to everyone else. These unwanted thoughts cause us to be so hard own ourselves and be our worst critics. But it’s important to try and ignore them, surpass them, and enjoy the moment and not feel guilty about feeling good. In fact, we should be proud of ourselves for working so hard all the time and still finding our way to happiness and being positive. We’re actually more incredible than we think and we don’t give ourselves enough credit.

        Feeling happy is a good thing. Not having something to worry about is a breath of fresh air and we should breath in that clear air as much as we can before the carbon dioxide finds its way back in. It’s all a cycle.

        Embrace what you are feeling in the moment and put that feeling into your artwork as an artist. If you are creating something, take what you are feeling in the moment. Creativity comes from what you want to depict to the world, not from what our negative thoughts tell us. We are all unique individuals with valid emotions and it is vital that we are accepting of ourselves, so be easy on yourself from time to time, it’s totally okay to do that.

BUILDING RESILIENCE

Despite our best efforts, it is pretty impossible to live a completely peaceful and problem free life. Therefore, it is important for each of us to build and maintain resilience so that we know how to withstand adversity, and possibly even learn from negative experiences at times. Building resilience can help us deal with the polluted world we live in and still maintain our own positive mental health. Read on to learn more about building resilience!

 

Building Resilience

by Erich Crawford

The ability to bounce back from adversity and stress is an important tool in life especially during school events, relationships, home changes, family and more. Coping with stress in a positive way is known as resilience, and its associated with lower depression rates and better longevity. Resilience is a skill that can  practiced and improved on every day through various strategies. Here are some of my favorite strategies to build resilience and balance my stress.

  • Meditation: This practice involves bringing your attention to a single point of reference, like focusing on your breath, which physiologically lowers stress, heart rates and can lead to mindfulness. I like to use a breathing app and find a comfortable spot, or even just sit on the floor in my room. I use this time not to think about everything happening in my life but to focus on myself, feel connected to the earth and recharge my battery
  • Community: Creating strong social bonds can be an important tool to help build resilience and can lower stress, and add perspective into one’s life. I like to remember that communication is a two way street, and listening to friends talk about their lives is just as important as telling them about your own. I recently had a break-up and my friends helped me bounce back by supporting me and talking to me and recently I helped my friend go through a similar situation. Understanding the value of being a good friend and having a good friend can be beneficial to bounce back from difficult times.
  • Music: Music has shown to help people reduce anxiety and connect with their emotions. I use music as often as I can throughout my day, I have songs for waking me up, studying, showering and getting ready for an event. I would recommend having playlists for all types of events, and even stressful ones. Sometimes a good song is all I need to find the motivation to get through my stressful day.

 

 A healthy diet and sleep are also vital coping mechanisms that can help people bounce back and build resilience. Finding my own balance of practices has helped me learn more about myself and how to cope with the challenges that I face. These skills can be developed and personalized to help handle stress in many unique and fun ways.

 

YOU ARE NOT A GRADE

As we settle into Winter Quarter, it is important to remind ourselves that our grades do not define us as people. While it is good to strive to do your best, it is important to know your own limits and cater to them always. Read on to hear Peer Educator, Rebeca’s thoughts about the education system and self love!

YOU ARE NOT A GRADE

by Rebeca Najarro

We are a part of a system, the education system. It is a system that oppresses us and dehumanizes us. It is a system that makes us to be mass, where we are simply numbers. As students in higher education, we have reached a point where we continue to be subjugated by the structure of our knowledge.

This seems like a tense and rather, resentful, introduction to our education system, however, the more you come to know about the foundation, the more you will realize that you are subject to it as well. We have grown in an environment where we associate the letters of the alphabet with our intelligence and our worth: A, B, C, and F. As we move through levels of knowledge, from elementary school to high school, we delve deeper and deeper into the degradation of our value to society. A “C” no longer cuts it for college applications and a “D” may ruin your chances of graduating. We are painted to be products of our grade point averages, stereotypes and biases laying hidden beneath what our schools teach us to believe.

The point behind this entire rant is that: IT IS NOT TRUE. You are not just a number. Your worth is not determined by your GPA. You are not stupid for getting a C on your last exam, presentation, or paper and you are most definitely NOT stupid for failing a class. Most importantly, an education does not make you who you are. Yes, we have grown to believe this, but with time we can learn that we are much more than what the system tells us. YOU are YOU. Education is not for everyone. It should not be a make or break situation, it should be an experience and a privilege, to take what we learn and make a difference.

As a person of color, it is particularly difficult to make it to higher education. We face racism and discrimination; we face having to overcome the stereotypes and biases that the system has made for us. It is believed that many of us will not graduate college, or let alone high school. LOOK AT US THOUGH!!! We have made it this far. Some of us do not come from privileged backgrounds, some of us do not have the support, some of us did not have access to better education when we were younger, and some of us are the very first in our families to step foot on a college campus.

It is also important to know that just because we are here, it does not make us better than any one else. We have had the privilege of getting here, when others have not. For many people, that means their parents did not have the opportunity to get to higher education. We will learn a lot on this journey, and what we must do is spread our love, spread our knowledge, and advocate for the rights of others because that “C+” in Psycholinguistics will not matter, it will mot define you, and you may not remember it, when you are making a difference in this world.

CAPS STUDENT HERO: EMMA BURKE

As your blog and social media coordinator, I’m happy to share a little bit about myself today. This is my third year with the Peer Education Program and I love working with other peers in order to improve access and decrease stigma around mental health services. I hope you’re all enjoying the blog and everything that we do!

What do you do regularly to relieve stress?

One of the things I like to do that helps me relieve stress is to make a “To Do” list. At the beginning of the week I put everything I need to do on a list and leave it on my desk so that I can check things off as I go. It’s a really satisfying feeling when I get to cross off a task or an assignment, and it helps me feel like I am in control and keeps me from getting too overwhelmed. I also take advantage of Google Calendar, and I schedule everything from my class schedule to advising appointments along with 10 minute reminders so that I’ll always feel like I know what’s coming.

Tell us about something you’re passionate about outside of school (e.g., clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

In my free time you’ll always catch me with a cup of coffee in one hand and a planner in the other. I love being outside hiking, swimming, or at the beach! But when I’m inside, I really enjoy working with children on the spectrum as an Instructional Aide and helping out my fellow students by revising cover letters and resumes at the UCSC Career Center. I’m also the vice president of Active Minds, a club committed to the destigmatization of mental health, and I’m the president of Psi Chi, a Psychology and Cognitive Science honors society on campus where we invite students to helpful workshops and social gatherings. I am really passionate about helping people understand the idea that mental health is just as important as physical health. I am so excited to be a Peer Educator because I want to spread the word that mental health is important and if you ever need help maintaining it, it is nothing to be ashamed of.

If you could share one thing that you’d like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

I want everyone to know that CAPS is here ready to welcome you with open arms. When your ankle swells up and you can’t walk, do you go see a doctor? Well, when you need someone to talk to, CAPS is also here.

Emma Burke is a fourth year Psychology major with a minor in Literature, and she is affiliated with Merrill.

THE TRAP OF COMPARISON

For many of us, social media is a fun way to relax, unwind, and stay connected to the world around us. However, social media also comes with its own set of  problems and stressors. Read on to hear Aditi’s thoughts about how social media increases unhealthy comparison.

THE TRAP OF COMPARISON

by Aditi Sheth

Recently, Psychology Today ran a cover story about the trap of comparison being exacerbated, and even more apparent, in the era of social media. Social media is quickly becoming one of the main channels of communication for teens and young adults. As college students, we feel the effects of this more acutely. We see ourselves reflected back in the endless feeds we scroll through. Because of this, it’s more tempting to feel ambivalent about the choices we’re making in our lives.

For example: when you feel happy with the outfit you took great effort in arranging, you walk out the door feeling that well earned confidence. However, after you open facebook or instagram and compare your outfit to someone else’s random picture of themselves, it’s not necessarily worse, but it’s different. And suddenly the doubt starts to creep in. The trap of comparison opens up beneath your feet, simply because you had someone else to compare yourself to, and direct proof of their existence.

Let’s take a look at some of the mental health implications of falling into the trap of comparison, and what we can do to avoid falling into that trap, by reading this article in Psychology Today.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201711/the-comparison-trap?collection=1108553

CAPS STUDENT HERO: HARSIMRAN KAUR

We have just a couple more wonderful Peer Educators to introduce you to as we begin winter quarter! Today, I get to share some fun facts with you all about our wonderful tabling coordinator, Harsimran. Harsimran’s huge outreach efforts and incredible work for CAPS have been instrumental. We all benefit from her hard work and from her infectious smile!

What do you do regularly to relieve stresimg_1188s?

I tend to turn to nature whenever I feel overwhelmed or stressed. Whether it’s taking a walk, meditating outdoors, or simply bringing my homework outside, nature helps me relieve stress.

 

Tell us about something you’re passionate about outside of school (e.g., clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

Outside of school, I dedicate my time to the Sikh Student Association at UCSC, DIY’s, painting, photography and baking.

If you could share one thing that you’d like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

I would want my peers to know that the CAPS crisis phone number can be reached at all times; including evenings, weekends and holidays.

 

Harsimran is a third year Cognitive Science and Sociology major affiliated with Rachel Carson College.