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 lead blogger for the 2014-2015 academic year is Alina Crom.

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Breaking the Boundaries: Trying Something New!

CAPS Peer Educator Marisa Patel shares her experience in trying something new and encourages you to step outside your comfort zone just in time for summer!

BEING BRAVE AND STEPPING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

By Marisa Patel

try something newAbout halfway through my sophomore year, I decided to join a traditional Filipino dance team housed under the Filipino Student Association. I wanted to join because I have been dancing from a young age, and my roommate, who was already a member of this dance team, assured me that it would be a lot of fun. At the same time, though, I was nervous and feared that I would not be able to adapt to a culture and learn a style of dance that was so unfamiliar to me. It turns out that this was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my undergraduate career. After joining the team, it wasn’t long before I realized that I had joined an incredibly fun and welcoming family that I was sure I wanted to be a part of for the rest of my time here at UCSC. By stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a risk, I was able to move past my fears and build truly meaningful connections.

What exactly does it mean to step out of your comfort zone? Well, to me, stepping out of one’s comfort zone means breaking boundaries and trying something new, or challenging. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to try something that absolutely terrifies you or makes you cringe. I believe that this “something new” should be a good balance between comfort and discomfort.

Moreover, stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to make a BIG change, either. It can be as simple as ordering something other than your go-to dish at your favorite restaurant, or enrolling in a dance class when you know you have two left feet.  Little steps like these are a good way to ease yourself into moving out of your comfort zone, and may even prepare you for a situation in which you have no choice but to step out of it. Another thing to note about stepping out of your comfort zone: it doesn’t have to be planned; it can be a spur of the moment decision. In fact, I’ve found those spontaneous decisions to be the most satisfying.

Taking risks is an essential part of stepping out of your comfort zone and making room for personal growth. We make it difficult for ourselves to grow personally if we are always sticking to the same routine and do not instead embrace the fear of taking risks every now and then.  By stepping out of your comfort zone, you are allowing yourself to be more aware of who you are, realize your strengths, weaknesses and potential, self-improve, make connections, and so much more.

I am about to graduate, and reflecting on these past four years I’ve realized how important it is to challenge yourself and take a stab at something different. To be honest, I haven’t stepped out of my comfort zone all that much over the past four years. But when I think about the times that I have, I am glad and proud that I did. The only regret that I have is that I didn’t do it more. But, I also know that it is never too late to make this kind of change.

I understand that this is easier said than done, but trust me, you’ll never know until you try, and when you do try I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. So, don’t be afraid to be bold, trust yourself and let go.

Asking for Help: A Student’s Personal Struggle with Mental Illness

As the month of May comes to an end, Peer Educator Erika Garcilazo reflects on the importance of fighting the stigma of mental illness and reaching out to others for support.

BREAKING THE SILENCE – MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH

By Erika Garcilazo

stop-the-stigma-of-mental-illness-e1381250784828May is Mental Health Awareness Month. But what exactly does that mean? It seems like we have so many awareness months it’s hard to keep track of them or even really know how we can participate. When it comes to awareness, the first step is to look within yourself and how this issue has affected or currently affects you. I think the first thing that many people notice about the topic of mental health is the stigma. Many of us are afraid to share our struggles, and even more notably we are afraid to ask for help. I definitely have experienced the reality of this stigma first-hand.

There have been many times in my studies here at UCSC where I was juggling various personal issues, some of them relating to mental illness.  I felt that if I shared this with anyone, I would seem weak or I would somehow be less than a productive and intelligent student. There were many factors contributing to me feeling this way; having already felt out of place in higher education as a first generation student of color, my mental illness made my experience as a student that much more difficult. I felt alone and lost. This isolated outlook on what I was going through kept me not only from getting the help I needed, but made me feel unworthy of the opportunities surrounding me, pushing me deeper into my depression. At times it seemed as though I was the only one going through these feelings, and that was a very scary place.

Thankfully I was able to reach out and find the support and help I needed. I realized I wasn’t alone. It took me a while to learn to manage my mental illness, and even now I still have bouts where the struggle becomes daunting. But I’ve learned that although this is something I will personally have to manage throughout my life, I can be happy and I can be productive. Even though I may fall off the horse every now and then it gets easier to get back on every time. Not too long ago it would have been impossible for me to share this story, but I’ve tired of the stigma. I hope that in sharing my experience, those who  are going through something similar will be empowered to break the silence and ask for help. You are not alone.

The truth is 1 in 4 of individuals in the US struggle with some type of mental illness throughout our lives. Being a student can be hard. For many of us it comes with unique struggles and barriers that at times culminate into a challenge that can seem insurmountable. Fighting it alone makes it that much more difficult. Never be afraid to ask for help, even though at first it can be hard to do so. Some people may not understand, and it may take a couple tries before you find the help and resources that are right for you. But take it from me the more you practice the more you start to realize you are never alone. This month of May lend an ear to a person in need, or even better yet begin the conversation by breaking your own silence.

How to Keep Your Cool While Applying to Grad School

Hello all! As some of you may know, I will be graduating from UCSC this spring and attending University of the Pacific for my Master’s program in Speech Language Pathology in the fall! It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling, but I’m extremely excited for graduate school!

Graduate school probably sounds scary for a lot of people, and it’s definitely not the only option you should be looking at right after UCSC. However, I just wanted to share my tips for applying to graduate school. I know that every program varies, and my specific experience during the application process is probably very different than other people’s. Still, here are some general tips and thoughts to keep in mind:

stressed person at computer

1) Start EARLY. The earlier, the better!

Graduate schools often change their requirements year to year, and the application portals don’t typically open until October. Still, looking at the prerequisites for grad school as early as possible is vital. For example, as a psychology major, I never needed to take biology or chemistry classes. I was really shocked to find out that those were two requirements for the graduate program I wanted to pursue, and I managed to squeeze those classes in during spring quarter of my junior year. If I had done my research earlier, I wouldn’t have been so panicked!

Also, grad school applications are just plain time-consuming. It’s best to get them out of the way sooner rather than later. Continue reading

ICYMI – CAPS has a Relaxation Station!

CAPS Peer Educator Marisa Patel shares the outcome of her outreach project this year. Read on to learn more about the Relaxation Station launch last month!

CAPS RECAP: THE INSIDE SCOOP ON OUR RELAXATION STATION!

By Marisa Patel

CAPS Associate Director Dorje Jennette, instructs peer educator Marisa Patel on a computer used at a new relaxation station for students to use to reduce stress through biofeedback. (Shmuel Thaler -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)

CAPS Associate Director Dorje Jennette, instructs peer educator Marisa Patel on a computer used at a new relaxation station for students to use to reduce stress through biofeedback. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

In case you haven’t heard, the Relaxation Station Launched! What is the Relaxation Station, you ask? It is one of CAPS’s many resources to improve your self-care habits. The Relaxation Station, located in the CAPS waiting room, has a state of the line massage chair that you are welcome to use for 15-minute intervals, free of charge! Along with the massage chair, the Relaxation Station has an iPad from which you can access audio-guided relaxation exercises while getting your massage. Some of the apps included on the iPad are MindShift, CBT-I Coach, and PsychMeUp. Feel free to check out these apps and download them on your mobile phone, too! While waiting your turn to use the Relaxation Station, you can use the laptop in the waiting room that provides biofeedback programs and games. The biofeedback programs and games measure your stress levels and give you feedback so that you can learn to exercise some control over your stress levels.

The Relaxation Station launched just a few weeks ago on April 25th, and the Santa Cruz Sentinel covered the event—check out hyperlink! The launch was successful and I’m very proud of how everything turned out.

I’d like to give a big shout out and Thank You to everyone in the Peer Educator Program, and Dorje Jennette. Dorje is a licensed psychologist and the Associate Director for Clinical Services at CAPS. He was the lead developer of this project and he contributed an immense amount of time and work to the development and launch of the Relaxation Station. Thank you, Dorje, for guiding me and allowing me to help you officially launch this project.

I hope you all take advantage of this great resource that CAPS has to offer. Don’t forget to grab a gift bag on your way out!

Advice for Embodying Positivity + Upcoming Workshop on Tuesday, May 19th!

As the weather gets warmer, social media becomes deluged with advertisements for weight-loss, showing thin, smiling people claiming that a specific type of diet or exercise changed their life for the better. Although there is nothing wrong with eating healthily and exercising regularly, it is no secret that our society often equates a low weight to health and beauty. Common sense tells us that this is absolutely ridiculous. A person can be healthy and attractive at any weight, and we all come in different sizes and shapes.

When it comes to my experience, I know that I’m not alone in the fact that I often felt self-conscious of my appearance and my body while I was growing up. As a biracial woman, I never saw anyone in the media that resembled me – I felt like an alien. Additionally, in high school I was often teased for being shaped “like a boy.” Words hurt, and our society’s narrow perceptions of what makes someone attractive can have long-lasting effects on our confidence and how we view ourselves.

11245495_883089511751413_7127699274112337244_n That’s why I think it’s especially great that CAPS will be hosting a workshop next week called, “Embodying Positivity.” This workshop will take place on Tuesday, 5/19/2015 from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in College Nine’s Namaste Lounge. Participants will engage in a body-positive activity and discussion to promote compassion and love for oneself and body esteem. CAPS counselors Susan Gulbe-Walsh, PhD, and Kristin Sergeant, PhD, will facilitate the workshop. This workshop is open to everybody, and you should definitely stop by! In the meantime, I encourage you to check out this list for advice on improving your body image! I found these steps on the National Eating Disorder Association’s website and I think it’s a really great read:

  1. Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you—running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
  2. Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
  3. Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you physically look like a supermodel. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
  4. Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you–as a whole person.
  5. Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
  6. Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
  7. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
  8. Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message
  9. Do something nice for yourself–something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax.
  10. Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.

I hope you have a wonderful day and stay positive!

Losing Somebody You Love – Advice for How to Cope

CAPS Peer Educator Hilaria Barajas shares her personal experiences with the grieving process and offers advice on dealing with this difficult situation.

DEALING WITH THE DEATH OF A LOVED ONE

By Hilaria Barajas

Loss of loved one

The loss of a loved one can be a very painful and confusing time. Whether it come predicted or not, when a loved one passes sometimes you feel as if your whole world has come to a pause. There is never a right or wrong way to deal with death. There are different stages of the grieving process and you might not experience all the stages. That‘s ok. It is important to remember that everyone goes through their own personal grieving process at their own time, and there is no “right” way to grieve.

My mother passed away when I was 17 and I was a senior in high school. She had been dealing with diabetes since I was born but she was strong. Although she had some rough times in and out of hospital because of her sickness she still seemed unfazed and continued to dedicate herself to her family. However, November 7th, 2012 was the last day she would be able to continue with her incredible strength and passed away from a stroke.

Everything after her death kind of went in a giant blur. This is where my grieving began and I entered one of the many stages of the grieving process: disbelief and confusion. At the time, everything seemed unreal and I felt disconnected to reality. I would later find out that these are very normal feelings to deal with after the death of a loved one. It is a sudden change to have someone so close to you gone so quickly. It felt as if she was just on a much-needed vacation or visiting family in Mexico. Continue reading