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!

TEST ANXIETY

It’s finals week! For anyone struggling with anxiety about upcoming finals, read on to educate yourself and learn some tips to manage this anxiety and increase your studying and testing performance!

TEST ANXIETY

by Emma Burke

Finals week is here and despite countless hours of studying, most of us are still very anxious about what lies ahead. For many of us there really is no way to feel completely prepared when it comes to exams. No matter how long we study, how many all-nighters we pull, or how many flashcards we make, we cannot stop the feeling in the pit of our stomach that we are going to fail. While we study, we continually get distracted by the fear that we are going to show up to the exam and blank out, or maybe we’ll get so nervous in the middle of the test that we’ll have trouble breathing.  These are normal symptoms of test anxiety, a very common experience in which we feel so much stress that our studying and testing performances are hindered.

  1. Why do we experience test anxiety? Test anxiety can be a result of a previous negative testing experience. For example, if you did poorly on last quarter’s Chemistry final, you may be a bit more prone to experiencing test anxiety for this quarter’s Chemistry final. This is a natural way for your body to remind you to be aware so that you hopefully don’t repeat your negative experience. Another reason you may have test anxiety is that you may have general anxiety or stress in your daily life. If you notice that you have uncomfortable levels of stress about ordinary tasks on a daily basis and wish to talk to someone about it, be sure to reach out to CAPS  for free and confidential services.
  2. How do I manage test anxiety? One of the biggest things you may be worried about if you are experiencing test anxiety is the fear of what your body will do out of nervousness while testing. For example, it is very common to experience shallow breathing and increased heart rate during testing, which would understandably produce some fear during the middle of your test. However, the great news is that often just taking some deep breaths and practicing some relaxation techniques can very effectively calm our bodies down and help us feel less anxious. It is often helpful to practice relaxation techniques both before and during your test. And the best part is that many relaxation techniques are so subtle, no one will even know that you’re doing them, so you can even do them during the exam! You can find some great relaxation techniques here.

And most importantly, remember that this one test, or even this one quarter’s finals will not determine your path in life. You have been working hard all quarter and you’ve learned a lot! That is something that one bad grade can never take away from you. You know your stuff, so go out there and do your best! And have a great spring break!

BRING LIGHT TO YOUR EVERYDAY

“Sometimes, little things make a big difference…”
― Nino Varsimashvili

BRING LIGHT TO YOUR EVERYDAY

by Miriam  Medina

 

“Tahitian Pineapple”, it was half off and smells amazing. Recently, I have discovered the beauty of scented candles. They help a lot when trying to find your breath and relaxing; I have gotten used to turning one on even when doing homework. The close presence of light burning and the aromatic presence of pineapple paradise can go a long way. Its small things like this that keep me sane, especially with all that I am involved in. I am an organizer, a mentor, a peer educator, a sister, and on top of all that a student. It’s hard to find time in our busy schedules, yet it’s comforting to know that small gestures (that actually fit into our day) can have a positive impact on our mental health. Whether you have a busy schedule or you have some free time here and there, it is important to take care of yourself. So many times we get caught up in all our identities, everything we are involved with and the responsibilities that we have. We get caught up in this pace of rapidness called life, and we don’t remember to enjoy it through practices that remind us that we are human. Taking that step back to enjoy a scent, or to purposefully breathe connects us to the here and now. So next time you’re at a store, check out the candles and take a step towards bettering your mental health.

A CHANGING IDENTITY

Do you remember back when you were proudly telling all of your friends and family about how you were going away to college? Did they give you a long speech about how you would come out from college a different person? Do you feel different from the way you felt coming in to school? How do we deal with our constantly changing identities as we navigate college? Read on to hear Peer Educator, Becky’s personal story about her own changes, and how she dealt with them.

 

A CHANGING IDENTITY

by Rebeca Najarro

They always tell you college will change you. They tell you that college is the place to find yourself. By they, of course I mean, exactly those people that you are thinking about: your friends, your parents, your older siblings, and maybe even your high school teachers. When they first told me, I didn’t believe them. They all said I was going to become a crazy, radical, liberal with green hair and a septum piercing. They all said I would probably become vegan and go to protests “on the daily.” I remember laughing at them. Little did I know, they were…a little right.

College did change me. I became “woke” (this new slang word for becoming aware of the issues within society). I became more involved in my community and for the first time, I felt like I was LEARNING. I was learning from my books (that UCSC courses require me to buy, of course), but I was also learning from interactions with other individuals who were learning about themselves and their community. I went to my first protest during spring quarter of Freshman year and I immediately felt an overwhelming sense of belonging. I was advocating for the rights of a small predominantly Latinx low-income community, Beach Flats, in protecting their precious garden from being torn down by a large corporation, who simply wanted the land for consumerism benefits. This experience was one that I will never forget. Every person that attended was so passionate and for once, my heart and mind felt like they became one….I was not only learning about the outside world, I was participating in it and making a difference.

Freshman year I also joined USEU (Unión Salvadoreña de Estudiantes Universitarios) solely with the intention of finding a safe space, the Salvadoran community I had always longed to be a part of. By joining, I received so much more than the close-knit community I had dreamt of…I also received the ability to learn from and engage in historical, political, and cultural discussions with my peers.  Since my involvement with USEU, I have gained the courage to voice my thoughts as well as listen to and learn from others. This year, as the co-chair of USEU, I have become passionate about creating the same space for the new incoming freshmen that my older peers had created for me.

In the end, college did change me. I am now a more culturally, politically, socially, and environmentally aware individual. From my experiences, I have gained a newfound passion for social justice among other areas of study. No, I didn’t become vegan. Yes, I did get a nose piercing, shaved the bottom half of my head, and attended every protest I could, but that’s the least of what matters. What actually matters, is the fact that I have become a part of the community here at UCSC. I didn’t become COLLEGE and COLLEGE didn’t become me. I am just slowly on the way to becoming who I am supposed to be.

DEPRESSION: HOW YOU KNOW AND WHAT TO DO

This is a time in our lives where we experience a lot of change constantly, and with a lot of change also comes a lot of emotions always in a state of change themselves. However, there may come a point when we feel sad and we’re not sure why, or we don’t know how to overcome it. That’s when it’s time to seek help. Read on to learn about how to identify depression and some ways to treat it when you do.

DEPRESSION: HOW YOU KNOW AND WHAT TO DO

by Xinru “Tina” Wang

Depression: more than an Expression

We often hear each other saying that “I am just so depressed after this test/quiz.” Since the word “depressed” is so often casually used, we sometimes forget what the real meaning of  “depression” actually is .

Depression, as according to Mayoclinic.com, is a form of mental disability that inhibits one’s ability to stop negative feelings and sadness. It is the kind of feeling that would interrupt your daily life negatively, but you might not be umbrella-170962able to recognize it. Sometimes when we are experiencing something negative, we can identify the reason and fix the problem before getting too bothered or depressed. But sometimes the feelings don’t go away quite so easily, and that is the time to seek  help.

Find something you like to do. Even if it’s small!

If you do feel like you are struggling with depression, it is important to find small things that you enjoy and take some time to rest. It could be something that entertains you, such as movies and music, or even just getting some extra sleep can be helpful in reducing your levels of stress and anxiety!

Reach out! Talk to people you are close or contact CAPS.

Sharing your feelings can be extremely helpful, since having something in common with another individual can decrease the level of loneliness and sadness. Peers, family members, and loved ones probably know you best, so being able to talk with them can help your mental state, but also lets them get to know you better as a person.

CAPS offers a variety of services to support those struggling with depression or low mood. There are groups, Wellness Wednesdays, individual therapy, and the 24/7 crisis services. It is a free and confidential space for everyone on campus to  feel safe while their voices are being heard. Don’t hesitate to give us a call or walk-in if you need to!

STRESS LESS ABOUT GRAD SCHOOL

Are any of you slugs thinking about applying to graduate school? Maybe it’s way off in the distant future for you, or maybe you need to start applying in a couple of months! Either way, it’s never too early to start planning out your route to graduate school. Read on to hear Peer Educator, Camara’s excellent tips about how to decrease your stress when it comes to applying to grad school!
STRESS LESS WHEN IT COMES TO APPLYING FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL
by Camara Chea
 
Do you want to apply to graduate school one day? Whether it’s something you’ve dreamt about for years or something that just recently crossed your mind, it is a good idea to start planning as soon as you can! As someone who is going through the process myself, I can definitely speak to the various stressors that can emerge throughout the process. Now, without further ado, here are some tips on having a less stressful application experience!
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Graduate school isn’t something that you can necessarily decide to do at the last minute. There are a lot of steps involved, from making sure you fulfill the admissions criteria to taking the GRE, to obtaining letters of recommendation to writing a statement of purpose. (Of course, this can all vary depending on what kind of programs you apply to.) What I found particularly helpful was to first start exploring the field that I was interested in and then seeing what was out there. For example, simply conducting a basic Google search can cue up a host of valuable information—what programs are available, what the admissions process is like, how to be a competitive applicant, etc. Other valuable resources to consult include the UCSC Career Center; academic departments and college advising; peers, faculty, and colleagues; articles, videos, and books; and more! One of the most helpful things I ever did was to invest in a detailed guidebook on the particular types of programs I was interested in, and it has helped taken a lot of the guesswork out of the process. I also talked to people who had gone through the process themselves, like my supervisors and classmates. While trying to be more informed does consume quite a bit of time, it will help you feel less lost and less stressed out overall. Remember, no one person is an island–connect with the resources and community around you, and you’ll be glad you did!
 
As for the process itself, while it would be ideal to allot yourself enough time–spreading out all of the tasks to avoid being overwhelmed—you may find yourself still struggling to balance your normal schedule with the added responsibilities. At that point, it may be a good idea to sit down and analyze how you might reformat your schedule to better optimally manage your time. What things are more inflexible, and what things can be amended? There may be some sacrifices that you might have to make. For me, personally, I have found it very helpful to use things like a planner, Google Calendar, and online spreadsheets to keep track of my busy schedule and organize various details.
 
Making sure to still practice self-care throughout it all is essential to reducing the amount of stress that you may feel. I believe that applying to graduate school is inherently a stressful process, and not doing self care will likely exacerbate its stressful side-effects. Trust me, I understand how tempting it may be to trade a good night’s sleep for more time spent working on your application, but if you can avoid situations like this by wisely managing your time from the start, please do. Especially when things get very busy, it is important to actively prioritize and practice self-care—schedule it into your planner if you need to! Get enough sleep every night—aim for between 7-10 hours per night, or as much as needed. Make sure to eat regularly and nutritiously as well as have balanced meals. Spend quality time with the people in your support system. Spend quality time with yourself. Give yourself time to do things that you enjoy doing for fun. Take a break from graduate school-related things every now and then to rejuvenate your mind and body (for example, I like to go on off-campus outings and watch reruns of Parks and Recreation!). Be patient with yourself and try not to heavily compare yourself with others. 
 
At the end of the day, not everything is about graduate school: don’t forget that you are a real-life person outside of the process who still has hopes, needs, and desires no matter the outcome of the admissions process. While a good amount of stress can motivate you to get things done, having too much is detrimental to your overall mental health and wellbeing. If you are looking for support, don’t hesitate to reach out to UCSC Counseling and Psychological Services, which provides the UCSC community with a wealth of great resources, like Stress Less Workshops, drop-in chats (Let’s Talk), individual and group counseling, a massage chair, and more! Applying to graduate school comes with its highs and lows, but by following these tips, you will hopefully come out of the experience with a lot less stress! 

HOW DISCRIMINATION MAY BE AFFECTING YOU

In our current political climate, many of us are experiencing new stressors that we may not know how to recognize or confront in our daily lives. The first step to attending to our mental health is to recognize what may be affecting us negatively. Something like discrimination can be obvious, but it can also be subtle and continue to be just as damaging. Read on to learn more about how discrimination may be affecting you, in order to help us all learn how to combat it more effectively!

HOW DISCRIMINATION MAY BE AFFECTING YOU

by Madison Wright

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Discrimination is something that millions of people face everyday in America today.  With the election of the new president of the United States there has been a spike of racial tension across the country.  Discrimination can be very hurtful to people, but studies have shown it could be hurting more than just your feelings.  According to Sherry L. Owens, those that face more discrimination day to day have more problems sleeping (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2016).  Sleeping poorly has short-term and long-term affects on the body. Lack of quality rest will first appear as fatigue and exhaustion; however, it can also lead to health problems, like cardiovascular risks and increased mortality in the long run (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2016).  Although the study was conducted with older participants, at an average age of 43, I feel that these findings are very relevant for millennials.

Adolescents are very active in politics today and have a very low tolerance for racism and discrimination. This combined with heightened acts of racism in the momentum of the election has plagued adolescents with stress, in addition to the stress they already have from school or work.  If those things weren’t already causing them to stay up late or sleep poorly, then the discrimination they face, whether they realize it or not is weighing them down. I find this issue to be very important and I think it’s crucial for students to take action against these affects. I think that coping techniques to help with stress could be very beneficial in these circumstances and could help young people learn to balance external stressors, like racism and discrimination, along with every day stress, like school and work.  Although these are hard times for those who do not agree with the current political climate and agenda, the most important thing for people to do is to take action to maintain their mental health.

Reference

Sherry L. Owens, Haslyn E.R. Hunte, Amanda Sterkel, Dayna A. Johnson, Vicki Johnson-Lawrence. Association Between Discrimination and Objective and Subjective Sleep Measures in the Midlife in the United States Study Adult SamplePsychosomatic Medicine, 2016.

ERASING THE STIGMA

Everywhere we go, we hear people telling us “smile more”, “put your chin up”, “don’t be dramatic”, and so on. This constant stream of commands, while often coming from a good place, can often undermine the feelings of those of us struggling with mental health issues. No one argues with us when we go to the doctor for an annual physical check up, so why is it so discouraged in our society to check up on our mental health and well-being? Read on to hear Miriam’s thoughts on mental health stigma.

 

ERASING THE STIGMA

By Miriam Medina

 

Often you go to the doctor for a physical complication you have, but how often do you seek help when you have a concern about your mental state? Often, we brush mental health to the side, we ignore it in ourselves, in our families, and in our society. For some cultures, mental health is a silenced topic, one that is not attended to. The illnesses of depression and anxiety, among others, are not talked about. This is due to lack of conversation and knowledge around its characteristics and treatments, as well as the shame or embarrassment of feeling such emotions within ourselves. Considering that we live in a society, in which health ins14322694_589039141275950_8378762521223043442_nurance has become a requirement, it is troublesome that mental health plays such a small role and is not as prioritized as part of  bodily health.

This blog is specifically dedicated to reducing the stigma around mental health illnesses. Thinking about the picture above, just imagine a child jumping rope with friends from the neighborhood. Everybody is singing the ABC chants anticipating what letter he will land on to see what letter his crush’s name starts with. As he jumps rhythmically to the chant, the sudden quickening of the pace causes him to trip on the jump rope and land on his arm. A sudden pain causes him to cry out in anguish, and soon enough he is rushed to the hospital with urgency, for it is possible that he has broken his arm. Concerns surrounding physical pain are immediately attended to—a stomachache, a rolled ankle, a cold are treated one way or another.  However, racing thoughts about ones inefficiency or self-worth or a lingering melancholic mood are not taken care of quickly. They are brushed to the side with a “you’re just having a bad day” or a “don’t be silly you’re fine”. Through these attempts at being positive and “supportive” towards a friend in trouble, the silencing of mental health continues.

Some of the stigma around mental health trails back to the shaming and disapproval of sadness. Men are taught not to cry, for it makes them “look weak”; women are stereotyped as being too emotional and believed to “exaggerate their sadness.” However, the mainstream belief that sadness and crying are expressions of weakness, should be broken, because in reality crying is a form of healing. Crying is a physical expression that releases one’s grief, frustrations, and stress, but on top of that it expresses joy and relief. Crying is an authentic and GOOD expression of one’s state of mind. Therefore, through this mainstream belief individuals are conditioned to bottle such emotions, which is not healthy at all. So, regardless of who you are, cry because you are sad; cry because you are frustrated; cry because you are stressed; cry because you are worried; cry because you feel an emotion so strongly that it needs to be expressed. If we can move towards accepting crying as a form of healing, we will be one step closer towards destigmatizing mental health.

(https://www.facebook.com/NvCPC.MentalHealth/photos/a.438370526342813.1073741830.438296879683511/589039141275950/?type=3)