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!

LIVE YO LIFE

During finals week, our worlds can seem so small because every bit of our energy becomes focused on our grades, our exams, and just trying to get by. So take a moment to open up your world and read on to hear about Peer Educator, Becky’s reminder to care for yourself! Have a great summer slugs!

 

LIVE YO LIFE. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE MATTER CUS LIFE IS TOO SHORT. THEREFORE, FUDGE WHAT PEOPLE THINK (BC HATERS GONNA HATE AND LIL’ BY LIL’ YOU FIND OUT WHO THE REAL ONES ARE)- JUST LIVE IT UP

by Rebeca Najarro

 

I know my title is not like a typical title. It’s too long. It’s too wordy. It’s too weird. It’s not classy. I’ll stop now though, by saying that it’s still a proper title because it captures exactly what I am trying to say.

Last week, I went to the Merrill Garden (also known as the Chadwick Garden) and I got a free plant! I know, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but to me it meant the world. You may still be asking yourself, however, why does a free plant mean so much to her?

Well, I think it’s the little things that matter. A tiny plant that I can take care of (which reminds me, I need to water it) 

is something. It’s a miniscule part of the world that we ignore because we are too preoccupied with our busy lives. It sounds cliché but life really is short, especially living in this capitalistic nation where we are constantly fighting against the system that oppresses us each and every day. That’s another story though.

Anyways, I’ve been too caught up caring about what I do, what I post, what I eat, etc. that I forget about myself. I forget that there are other things in the world that can make me happy besides my grades, my involvement, and other people. I have been disregarding the beauty of life, the water, the plants, the flowers the air, and other things that aren’t nature-related. As I listen to Frank Ocean’s “Swim Good,” I realize that sometimes you just have to swim from something bigger than you, kick off your shoes, and swim good! Forget about what’s stressing you and self-care. I bet you didn’t think I would make some kind of tie to psychological well being, but I must, after all this is the CAPS blog. For me, my plant (named Free Plant) is my form of self-care. I am technically caring for something else, but it soothes me and reminds me that there are smaller things that need love and care too!

RECOGNIZING MENTAL HEALTH, THAT’S THE FIRST STEP

Mental health stigma exists all around us, however, for many communities, particularly communities of color, mental health has been completely ignored for generations on the basis of survival and practicality. Read on to hear Peer Educator, Miriam’s thoughts on recognizing mental health as the first step to a healthier well-being.

 

RECOGNIZING MENTAL HEALTH, THAT’S THE FIRST STEP

by Miriam Medina

 

Approaching the end of spring quarter, reflecting on all that occurred this school year, I can conclude that for me (and I am sure for many other individuals) it was INTENSE. As it was all occurring- the politics, the student actions, the critical conversations- I had a kick of adrenaline that aided me throughout my involvement, allowing me to stay sane and grounded throughout. However, as things are now slowing down, I can’t help but feel extra tired, extra desanimada (unmotivated), and simply done. I keep telling myself that these feelings and attitudes are due to the fact that it is spring quarter.

I also reason, on a more analytical level, that these attitudes are due to me constantly finding how this system and institution does not have room for people like me: people of color, first generation college students, and students from low-income families. Returning to these feelings though, often, coming from where I come from, it’s hard to identify what exactly they are. Beyond that, when we do identify that we are in fact dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, we don’t know how to cope and work with our feelings.

The other day I was listening to the song “Anxiety” by the Black Eyed Peas, and as I was listening, I decided to write a piece on it and want to share it with you all, in hopes of demonstrating how mental health is hard to confront in communities of color, and how it is even harder to break out of cycles of stigma:

“With nowhere to go got to shake this anxiety”

Shake this anxiety,

We were not taught how to shake, nor why we have to.

tu cabeza está enferma, dicen (It’s all in your head they say)

Yo digo que es humano sentir nervios en un mundo que tiene tanta crueldad por donde sea (I say it is normal to feel nervous in a world that can be so cruel)

Tenemos que aprender a respirar y a relajarnos (we need to learn to breathe and relax)

Trabajamos seguidamente y cada día (we work constantly and every day)

Nos han condicionado a matarnos, sin pensar en nosotros mismos, en nuestros cuerpos y en nuestras mentes. (They have conditioned us to kill ourselves, without giving thought to our own selves, to our bodies, and to our minds)

Nosotros hemos confundido la dedicación al trabajo con la realidad que somos esclavos, (We ourselves have confused our dedication to work with the reality that we are slaves)

Esclavos de un sístema que nos tiene en cadenas. (Slaves to a system that has us in chains)

 

This piece recognizes the workers that I know and that I have worked with. Workers that work 10-12 hours in the fields, and that come home with time limited time to eat, shower, and get as much sleep to get rest from a very long day, just to start with the same routine the next day. For many of these workers, my parents, my aunts and uncles, and siblings, mental health is not a priority, nor is there time to seek help when they are struggling. This piece is dedicated to them. Their work is so respectable, yet so undervalued systemically. This reality and many that are very similar, keeps many families, individuals, and communities struggling to cope and address mental health.

 

SOCIALIZING DURING FINALS

It’s finals week and for most of us, it’s all we can do to study and sleep! But during the most stressful time of the quarter, it’s also vital that we practice self care, and socializing, even minimally is a big part of that. Read on to learn more about keeping the balance this week!

 

SOCIALIZING DURING FINALS

by Kyle Retzer

 

Relationships and socialization are one of the most pinnacle points in our lives as humans, however right about now everyone is going into finals, probably dropping their social lives for the most part if not completely. Well it’s time to tell you that is not a good idea.

Loneliness and isolation can both lead to poor psychological and physical health. But do not confuse quantity with quality as it is the quality of the relationships that matter rather than simply the amount of relationships you have.

As finals are a very stressful time for all of us, we tend to want to focus solely on school, often at the cost of socialization and possibly other forms of self care. Yes, socialization is a form of self care! So during this time as finals are rolling around, healthy relationships can help make a difference, as it is a difficult time for us all.

I know it is hard, however, to isolate yourself during this time to strictly focus on your finals. One simple way you can alleviate some of the isolation is to study outside or in a library—around others in a social environment. That way you are getting best of both worlds, but it is also understandable to choose your favorite study spot, as it is for finals.

Also, simply try to spend time with friends and those you do have good relations with. It can be both a fun time away from the grind of studying, as well as a good source of receiving stress. Try not to spend all of your time studying, as it is quite important to keep practicing self care during finals season.

In my own experience, I’ve experienced both sides of that coin, where I have been social while studying for finals, but also quite isolated were I focused most of my energy on school. While I might feel a bit less stress feeling more prepared, I would rather experience that socialization and connection with another individual.

So during this finals season, spend some time with friends, whether that be getting food during study breaks or studying together, even if it’s not for the same subject. Keep studying for finals the way you all do, but try to add your friends into it or spend time outside of studying socializing as it can help you feel much better in the quite stressful time of finals. Good luck y’all!

DISCIPLINE VS. DESTRUCTION

If you want to be good at something, how much is too much? As we approach finals week, it’s a good time to think about the importance of pushing ourselves to do well versus the danger of burnout. How do we balance the tightrope between the two? Read on to find out!

 

DISCIPLINE VS. DESTRUCTION

By Aditi Sheth

 

If you’ve ever tried to be good at anything that you do, you walk the thin line between discipline and destruction.  Most people say that success is 90% hard work, and 10% luck of the draw. But forcing yourself down the path of “pushing to the limit” to reap rewards can have negative consequences on your mental health. The burnt out feeling is almost universal, but I would argue that a completely different but still valid feeling is “discipline destruction,” in which your impossibly high expectations for yourself cause you to neglect your mental health.

As a woman and a woman of color, I am all too aware of the overlapping and intersecting systems that result in the need to please not only yourself, but those around you. It’s easy to listen to the faint whispers of imposter syndrome in your ear as you plan out the trajectory of your life, and take steps to make it happen. What often results is an unhealthy combination of high ambition and low self-esteem.

Ambition is largely regarded as a good thing, and I agree. I think it’s important to set goals work hard to achieve them. However, ambition is a double edged sword. One must consider who they’re setting these goals for, and why, at the core, do they want to achieve them. Would it make you, whoever you are as a human being, extremely fulfilled to become a Counseling Psychologist? Or is that something that you think is expected of you, by others? Ambition should ultimately be a result of the need for personal fulfillment, therefore it’s important to consider the source, and the methods of your hard work.

Disciplining yourself is a great way to get work done. Some of the most highly successful people in the world are extremely disciplined. However, if your hard work causes you to neglect your mental health, doesn’t this directly contradict your internal goal of personal fulfillment? It’s an interesting question, and one that I find myself grappling with often. My advice would be, be a little bit easier on yourself. Expect a lot out of yourself, not because you have to, but because you’re a good and worthy person, capable and deserving of these large goals and ambitions. Don’t forget to put yourself first, however that may be.

STUDENT DEBT AND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Just because something is in the back of your mind, that doesn’t mean it’s not effecting you on a daily basis. Many of us deal with the dread of student debt piling up throughout our college experience. How is that affecting our mental health? Read on to find out!
STUDENT DEBT AND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
by Camara Chea
Whether you’re a seasoned senior nearing graduation or a fresh first year finishing up your third quarter, something stressful may be looming in your mind’s eye: the burden of your student loans. For some people, taking out loans is an essential action in order to attend college. Financial stress is definitely a real thing for many college students. On top of academic worries, interpersonal matters, housing and food concerns, environmental and political stress, and general mental health issues, worries about debt are yet another stressor for college students who have had to take out loans to finance their higher education.
Some feelings associated with this financial burden may be hopelessness, fear, anxiety, depression, sadness, shame, internalized stigma, and an inability to focus or concentrate. A quick Internet search reveals many research studies that suggest how student loan debt can negatively impact one’s mental health, in addition to physical health as well.
As someone who will soon be graduating college, I do find myself often worrying about my debt. Since I will be in graduate school for several years, when and how will I ever pay it off? Despite earning several scholarships and working as a Resident Advisor for two years to help offset the cost, I have accumulated a debt in the double digit thousands range. However, I do want to acknowledge my privilege: I have been fortunate in that my parents have been able to contribute to my college education and help out what they can.
I know that there are many people whose families were not able to provide financial support and that there are those who have had to work full-time jobs or several part-time jobs in order to sustain their education. Moreover, there are those, due to legal and political restrictions, who are not even able to have access to federal students loans and have instead had to resort to private loans, which typically come at a higher interest rate.
So, when your debt becomes this heavy thing that you carry with you, and which begins to have detrimental affects on your well-being, what can you do to lessen this load? I want to share some articles with you that I think may be helpful.
I know some people may believe otherwise, but, at the end of the day, I feel that my student loans will have enabled me to experience higher education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and will lead to my greater social mobility in the future. There will be trade-offs and the road to paying it off won’t be easy, but with knowledge, preparation, and some resilience, I know I will be okay–and you will be too. Just remember, the amount of money you owe does not determine or undermine your worth as a person.

MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA IN COLLEGE

College is a difficult world for anyone to handle, with copious amounts of stress, paper work, exams, and constant deadlines to meet. And for those of us who struggle with mental health issues, all of these issues become magnified. Not only do we struggle to keep up in college, but we also struggle to find the support we need due to the massive amounts of stigma surrounding mental health issues in college. Read on to learn more about this stigma and how it effects the college experience of so many students.

MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA IN COLLEGE

by Madison Wright

Mental illness is not respected as an actual illness in today’s society. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true. Mental illness is an intangible disorder in a society that only values what can be physically proven. The fact that mental illness can be just as debilitating as any physical illness is not accounted for. This is an especially big problem in college.

The workload placed on college students today is extensive. Classes combined with extracurriculars and even jobs can be more than one person can handle. Yet, we are expected to balance all of this without complaining about being stressed out about it. The very sad truth is that people are more likely to feel comfortable telling a teacher they missed class or an assignment because of a physical illness than a mental illness.

Some mental disorders, like depression or anxiety, can leave people bed-ridden, making even the thought of going to school seem impossible. Sadly, it is not as simple as emailing your professor that you’re too stressed for class to get you excused. Even if the professor were to show compassion, the odds are that the student would not feel that being stressed or experiencing anxiety is a good enough excuse to tell their teachers, due to the stigma surrounding mental illness.

This concept is highlighted in a Ted Talk with Jessica Gimeno, a popular blogger with bipolar disorder. Jessica tells the story of her struggle with mental illness in college and how she even missed a midterm once from the fear of her teacher not thinking her feelings were a valid excuse. Luckily, an advisor of hers had a family member with bipolar disorder and helped her understand the importance of advocating for her own mental health. Gimeno has many helpful resources on her website that concern this issue, even including a template of what to send a professor if you are dealing with mental illness.

Advocating for your own mental health is a very important practice of self care, which is what makes tools like these so important. So if you ever feel like your health is not a valid excuse for something, remember that our campus has resources like the Disabilities Resource Center and the Counseling and Psychological Services office to make sure that you feel healthy and comfortable at UCSC.

THE HEALING POWER OF NATURE

When you’re caught in that mid-week slump and feeling down, what helps pick you back up? For some of us it’s a trip to the gym, or maybe a coffee date with a friend. Whatever it may be for you, it’s important that you find something that brings you that motivation and happiness to keep powering through the week. Peer Educator Harsimran shares her story of the solace she finds in nature and how she came to value this time and herself.

THE HEALING POWER OF NATURE

by Harsimran Kaur


Now that spring quarter is finally coming to feel like spring it is the perfect time of year to indulge in nature! Whether it is simply bringing your homework outside, or walking to class, I have noticed that having the opportunity to be outside more has really helped me destress. By spring quarter, I feel myself burning out because of  lack of breaks and the seemingly endless amounts of  exams and essays. However, as opposed to winter, I can take my work outside and somehow ease the load on myself. Being surrounded by nature, keeps me going while completing my work, but also helps as a stress relieving break. During the tough weeks, when I have too much going on between academics, extracurriculars and my personal life, I take a break. Taking a walk or meditating in park allows me to ground myself and get through the week.

It is important to know when to step back and give yourself a break. Even if you feel like you don’t have time, taking time out for yourself and taking care of yourself has to come as a priority. Since the quarter system moves extremely fast and can be very demanding of students, we need to make sure we are making time for self-care. Whether that means being in nature, watching T.V., doing some art, cooking or just taking a nap, giving yourself space from your school work is very important. I find nature to be my break, and I encourage others to find what brings them back, allows them to relax, and recharges them throughout the quarter.