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!

Advertisements

WHAT ROLE DOES EMOTION SERVE IN MENTAL HEALTH?

There is no denying that emotional health is a big part of overall mental health. However, the two terms are not necessarily interchangeable, as popular belief may lead you to think. Read more below about the role that emotion actually serves in mental health, and learn about how you can understand your own mental health and well-being!

What Role Does Emotion Serve in Mental Health?

by Madison Wright

 

When speaking of mental wellness, things like self-care and doing what make you happy are often brought up. But happy is an emotion. What role does emotion serve in mental health? It may seem like mental health is all about not being sad or experiencing negative emotions, but emotions are just one aspect of psychological well being.  Not all people that appear happy are mentally well, and certainly not every person that seems unhappy is not mentally well.

So what is the difference between mental health and emotional health? Well mental health refers to cognitive functioning, like attention, memory and comprehension (McDiriad, 2013). This refers more to the actual brain and if it is able to conduct cognitive functions. There are many factors that can influence this, excessive external pressures, like a lot of academic stress, can impair cognitive functioning and lead to things like test anxiety. Physical trauma can also play a part in this, like being involved in a car accident with a head injury can lead to memory impairments like amnesia.

Emotional health on the other hand is a more internal concept, the ability to appropriately express your emotions. (McDiriad, 2013) Emotions are usually just things we feel that we often don’t ever think about or try to regulate. We certainly aren’t taught lessons growing up about different emotions and how to manage them, but maybe we should be. Everyone has their own emotional range, which can also be explained by the term emotional granularity. Emotional granularity just refers to how many different emotions an individual can experience and their ability to differentiate among those emotions (Barrett, 2017). For example, someone that always describes themselves as sad in all negative contexts would have low emotional granularity. Someone that can differentiate between when they are “under the weather,” sad and distraught would have a high emotional granularity. The greater understanding of your emotions you have, the easier it is to manage these feelings. It is hard to manage emotions when we do not understand exactly how we are feeling ourselves.

It is often poor mental and emotional health working hand in hand in problems like depression and anxiety, fearful or angry reactions, high levels of stress and excessive worrying (McDiarmid, 2013). This makes sense considering these things are often referenced with emotions in the media, with depression being pictured with sadness and anxiety pictured with fear and worry. However, in the case of disorders, they are more than just extreme emotions, but a product of many internal and external factors. Of the many factors affecting mental wellness, emotions do play a large part and it is highly beneficial to expand one’s range of emotions to help regulate them. So practice self-care today and self-reflect on your own emotions!

 

Barrett, L. F. (2017). How emotions are made: the secret life of the brain. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

McDiarmid, R. (2013). “Difference between emotional and mental health.” Health

BEING ASSERTIVE WITHOUT GUILT

Being Assertive Without Guilt

by Emma Burke

I often find myself struggling with how to assert my own opinions, ideas, beliefs, and needs without feeling bossy, rude, or as if I am oversharing. For me, this often stems from my desire to make people happy and to have people like me. These are natural desires that many of us have, however when this need begins interfering with our own self advocacy, it can become unhealthy.

A clinical Psychology professor at UCLA, Gary Emery states that “We all want people to think we’re nice, but millions of people carry it too far. Every moment of their day is spent being nice — and the damage it does them is enormous!” (positive articles.com) Experts such as Emery have often attributed the overwhelming need to be ‘too nice’ as a possibly gateway to harmful frustration, depression, anxiety, and anger.

So if we know that foregoing assertiveness and making our own needs secondary, in order to be more likable can lead to harm, what steps can we take to be more assertive in our daily lives? Below are some small steps that I have begun incorporating in my life in small ways:

  1. Trusting Myself: It all begins by building a platform of trust for yourself, which you can fall back on in situations where you are nervous or unsure. Oftentimes, in the moment I will second guess myself and wonder if I am being too mean, too harsh, or letting someone down. This is when I really need to trust myself, and remember that if I feel a reason to say no, it is most likely valid.
  2. Identify my Needs and Wants Ahead of Time: Whether you’re moving in with new housemates, starting a new job, or pursuing a new relationship, it can be very helpful to have a conversation about what you need and want. If you are able to do this right off the bat, it can help you avoid the development of unrealistic expectations. Most of my guilt usually comes from saying no and letting people down, however by letting people know about what I can/can’t do ahead of time, and what I want, I can avoid the tension of trying to correct people later on. Furthermore, if you’re experiencing problems in an ongoing relationship or situation, you can always sit down and have a conversation. Setting aside time to talk about this and trying to set things straight moving forward will be helpful as well.
  3. Think About how I Would Feel if Things Were Reversed: It’s often helpful to think about how you would feel if you were the one being told no. How much would that really upset you? Because chances are you are treating them with more consideration than you treat yourself. When I’m feeling particularly nervous about standing up for myself or telling someone no, it really helps to ask myself, “If your friend was feeling like this, wouldn’t you rather they tell you?” and the answer is almost always “yes”.

If you feel like your lack of assertiveness may be an issue for you in your life, try incorporating some of these things into your daily life. However, it’s also a good idea to think about any underlying issues that may be a part of your lack of assertiveness. If you feel like it’s a bigger problem or causing bigger problems in your life, CAPS is always here to help with many resources such as 1:1 counseling, groups, workshops, and more. Check out all of our resources here.

COPING IN ACTIVISM

What happens when you make a conscious decision to put yourself in a difficult and uncomfortable situation in order to help fight against injustice? You most likely know that this will be a difficult experience for you and that you will come across people who upset you, and situations that possibly devastate you. However, it is almost impossible to do good in this world without experiencing these negative things. But that doesn’t mean that you should cast all of your care for yourself aside. Below, Peer Educator, Jorge shares his ideas about how you can cope with the difficult aspects of being an activist.

Coping in Activism

by Jorge Roque

 

In today’s day and age there are many forms of activists and different kinds of activism they choose to dive into. In the last couple of years there has been an increase of movements to combat the injustices seen throughout the world. From Black Lives Matter combating racial injustice and police brutality to the survivors of the Majority Stoneman Douglas High School shooting fighting for strict gun laws. In all, a similarity between all these forms of activism is that many dive into their movements and fight until they experience burnout. While working in activism movements it’s important to take care of your health in order to continue the work you do.

It is important to develop safe coping skills that help you continue the work you do in and around your community. The following are going to be some safe coping skills you can practice to try to ensure your safety while fighting the injustices of the world.

  1. Leave a Bad Scene: When things go wrong, get out. When things begin to fall apart or escalate out of control, it is better to leave than to get caught in the rubble of the aftermath.
  2. Cry- Being an activist can be frustrating and overwhelming when you feel that change is taking a lifetime. Crying can help release the tension that builds up.
  3. Choose Self- Respect: Choose whatever will make you like yourself tomorrow. This may sometime be taking the higher road when facing backlash from other organizations.
  4. Set a boundary: Say “no” to protect yourself. Whether it be declining to an event or a situation that puts your safety at risk or if it is setting boundaries with certain people or groups.
  5. Remember the Cause: Remember the reason(s) that you are doing the things you do. This can help in motivating you to keep pushing through the tough times.
  6. Pace Yourself: If overwhelmed, go slower, if stagnant, go faster. If you need to take time off then do so. If you feel that nothing is being done, take initiative.
  7. Ask for help: Reach out to someone safe. Create that support system that will help you in and out of your work. No one changes the world all on their own.

These are only a few safe coping skills that you or someone else you know can take part in while being activist. Now these are not the only things you can do to ensure your safety while out fighting social injustices. These are only a few to help you not only remain physically safe but also mentally.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND OUR WELL-BEING

Welcome back to Spring Quarter! While we tend to live our lives very immersed within the world of social media, it is also a commonly believed fact that social media is not good for our overall mental health and well-being. Social media is known for creating unrealistic expectations, breeding competition, and spreading the onslaught of often tragic news that we are currently experiencing. However, UC Berkeley’s Dr. Galen Panger argues that social media may actually help people relax. Find out why below!

Social Media and our Well-being

by Jonathon Tsou

Social media makes us more relaxed, says UC Berkeley’s Galen Panger, Ph.D.

Often times as students, we look at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and we become stressed over the posts. From the horrible school shootings to the constant attacks on undocumented individuals, to the political climate. However, Galen Panger, a Ph.D. candidate from UC Berkeley says that social media actually makes us more relaxed.

Emotions often help fuel social media movements such as the Black Lives Matter campaign and the #MeToo campaign. Panger notes that social media is also where people go to spread awareness when there is a death of a celebrity or in the wake of another mass shooting. Panger reports that in his findings, people tend to use Facebook and Twitter as a way to wind down and relax. He uses the theory of “emotional contagion”, which states that status updates and social media users often create the same emotions for those browsing updates. By using this theory, he believes that because people use it to wind down, there must be something within social media that uses emotional contagion to make users relaxed.

Although his research may question many current research that says social media has negative effects on the well-being of users, he points out that it is crucial that people continue to post positive and mindful information on social media. He feels that “anything we can do to reduce the resentment floating around right now would be a good thing”.

To read more about Panger and his works, visit the UC Newsroom.

COPING WITH A DEPRESSIVE EPISODE

While it may be difficult to know how to deal with mental health issues, such as a depressive episode, it may be helpful to read some suggestions from someone who has been in a similar situation. So read on to hear Peer Educator, Jorge’s suggestions about dealing with depressive episodes.

Coping with a Depressive Episode

by Jorge Roque

With a change in the seasons and weather, many people may find themselves going through a depressive episode. It can gradually return into your life or hit like a tsunami wave all at once. Depression can present itself to you in many shapes and forms. Some days it can be not completing assignments and other days it could be not getting out of bed for the whole day. A depressive episode can vary on how long they last but here are some tips and suggestions on how to try to get through them! Now as a reminder, not all of these may work for you. You should still find ways that work best for you.

  1. Make an appointment

Try and schedule an appointment with a therapist as soon as possible. Seeing someone for professional help can help you identify some coping strategies.

2 Find a reason to go out of the house

Set up sometime to leave your house, whether it be a group event or a simple one-on-one event. Whether it be going to the park, getting coffee, or maybe even going to a party.

3. Visit loved ones

Seeing loved ones may help keep you occupied and help in the process of recovery. It can also let loved ones know you may need a bit more support in the days coming.

4. Refill

Restock on your favorite things, from snacks to face masks, a simple treat yourself can raise your spirits. Also restock on your medication, if you take any remember to continue taking it.

5. Self care

Remember to set time to take care of yourself. Cook your favorite meal, watch your favorite shows, read your favorite book, or even maintaining a good sleep schedule.

6. Near Future

Plan things that you can look forward to. Plan things you enjoy to do as a way to keep you looking forward to something like hanging out with a friend or going to a concert.

7. Red Flags

Look for things that trigger you and once you find these triggers, work on coping strategies.

 

THE INTERSECTIONALITY OF MENTAL HEALTH AND CULTURE

In order to understand any one person, it is important to consider their many identities and how they may intersect in order to create the unique person who they are. This idea is called intersectionality, and by recognizing our own and others’ intersecting identities, we may come to better understand both our connections and differences. Below, Peer Educator Janely writes about her thoughts on her cultural identity and how it intersects with her mental health identity. Read on to learn more!

The Intersectionality of Mental Health and Culture

By Janely Cárdenas Vargas

I sometimes question where the origins of my feelings lie. This article presents interesting thought-provoking questions and comments that make me wonder how my Mexican identity influences me in every aspect: culturally, socially, economically, and politically. When it comes to mental illnesses or mental health, we make it something very personal that shifts the focus or blame away from society and towards the individual. This article shines a light on how mental illnesses are perceived as something universal or homogeneous, when in reality mental illnesses are experienced differently, depending on the individual and their identities. This specific article means a lot to me because it focuses on the experience of mental illnesses in Mexican communities founded in the U.S. and in México. As someone who is ni de aquí ni de aya, this article really does a great job in showing how I personally feel as a Latina living in the United States. I am still greatly impacted by current events that happen on my family’s homeland (México). Then, in this context, it is important to keep in mind that the origins of some mental illnesses can also be produced by institutional violence and discrimination; founded both in the U.S. and in México or other países latinoamericanos.

To read this thought-provoking article, click here   

 

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

How do we learn to adapt to the tasks and demands that arise in college? These 4 years are transformative to say the least, and our ability to change and grow in the midst of all of these requests is pretty amazing. Read on to hear Kyle’s thoughts about the demands placed upon us and how we can meet them with resiliency.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

By Kyle Retzer

As the quarter is coming to a close and finals are fast approaching, it is important for us to be in the right mindset and good health to combat the intense stress we face in the last few weeks. I recently was chatting with a mentor who, after not seeing me over the summer months, was happy to see how well I was doing, praising my resilience.

Now, I do know what resilience means, but I did not understand his use of the word–psychological resilience–so I googled it. Google defines psychological resilience as one’s ability to adapt to demanding tasks in adverse conditions. My mentor reminded me to reflect on not even six months back, when I was facing a lot of negative emotion and many personal issues going on. At that time I had contemplated withdrawing from the university and he pointed out the work I had done to get into a much healthier state overall. One aspect of resilience he explained was the mind-body connection, where the state of one’s mind and one’s physical health are connected. As I progressed into a better mindset over the summer my overall health improved. This example of resilience has a much longer time frame than the few last weeks of a quarter and finals. However, it is important to take care of oneself and not get overwhelmed with work, in order to stay healthy and perform well on finals. Just in time to enjoy a nice spring break!