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.

DE-STRESSING THROUGH SPRING CLEANING AND ORGANIZATION

Spring Quarter is more than halfway over! How many of you have gotten the Spring cleaning bug by now? Read on for some tips about how to keep calm and de-stress through your spring cleaning and organization!

 

DE-STRESSING THROUGH SPRING CLEANING AND ORGANIZATION

By Melissa Newton

 

Maybe it’s because I am graduating soon, but this quarter feels packed with way too much to do, and not nearly enough time to do it all. I want to finish strong with my classes, spend time with friends, perform well at my jobs, look for post-graduation jobs, take on extracurricular and career-advancing opportunities, and see my favorite spots on campus before graduating.

At times it seems impossible to get everything done. I have been working on new strategies that have been quite helpful to my in managing everything so that I can get most to-do list items done, and to stop fretting about the ones I do not.

Here are the strategies that help the most:

  • Keep a well-maintained to-do list. I use a bullet journal, which keeps all my calendars and to-do lists, as well as habits, reminders, lists, poetry, doodles, etc. in one place. Taking a few minutes to organize your thoughts and goals for school, life, and any kind of planning is really helpful. I love seeing all my to-dos in one place so I can prioritize everything. Prioritization is most important, because when we rank what we really have to do and what we can wait until we are less drained, have more time for, etc., it makes getting things done realistic and manageable. Having it all in the same notebook makes me much more likely to remember to write down everything where I will actually see it and get to it.
  • Purge the clutter you have not used in years. The clutter around us tends to make us more stressed out. It’s one more thing to distract us and stress us out. Our tasks seem far less manageable if our work is piled on top of a philosophy paper and a math binder from three years ago. If you realistically will never use something again, donate, sell, recycle, or repurpose it. You will even have more time and energy from clearing everything out because your current work and items will not get lost in the clutter.
  • Schedule in fun, and stick to it as religiously as you do your classes. Find the time to do something you really love, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day, and make sure you take the time to do it. Try to do these daily! Go on a walk or gentle hike. Listen to fun music, or dance to nostalgic or angsty music. Find time for friends. Cook yourself a nice dinner. Only schedule in things you really want to do, and do them!

 

It’s the final push, so best of luck on your organization, spring cleaning, midterms, finals, papers, fun, and everything else life throws at you in the coming weeks!

INCLUSIVITY IN MENTAL HEALTH

We’re all familiar with the Western model of 1:1 counseling in a therapist’s office. However, what many people do not realize is that this model is expanding. Solely relying on the Western model of therapy excludes many groups of individuals who come from cultural backgrounds in which mental health care is extra stigmatized, or in which mental health care has a history of being unavailable or ineffective. For these reasons, let’s explore the importance of inclusivity in mental health.

INCLUSIVITY IN MENTAL HEALTH

by Emma Burke

I recently attended a mental health conference at UC Irvine and many of the workshops were life-changing, as they irrevocably shifted my view on mental health and the direction in which the field is trying to move. However, the main thing that stood out through all of the different workshops was the idea of inclusivity for many underrepresented groups. For example, one workshop explored deaf culture and the way in which great emotional trauma effects many deaf individuals because we do not live in a society which is inclusive of them. Furthermore, when they experience such emotional trauma we have a huge deficit of therapists who know American Sign Language or have any understanding of what deaf individuals go through in their lifetime.

Along similar lines, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual has a long history of pathologizing the LGBTQ community. And regardless of the fact that there have been some more recent efforts by the American Psychological Association to make amends to this, many LGBTQ individuals do not feel comfortable seeking therapy where the Psychologist more often that not will identify their sexual orientation or gender identity as the root of all of their problems.

The history of Psychology is very much rooted in the push of the Western model of 1:1 therapy in the Psychologist’s office, removed from the rest of the world and separate from the client’s culture and identity. And while this model works for many people, it most definitely does not work for all, and this is an idea that is continually being more and more recognized in current practice. However, as the next generation of individuals who are interested in mental health advocacy and inclusivity, it is up to us to remain aware and educated about these issues and push for the use of more inclusive models of therapy.

The first day of the conference ended with an MFT candidate who had just finished creating an 8 week poetry therapy program. He promoted the idea that we cannot direct people not to be depressed, anxious, or angry when we ourselves all come from varying levels of privilege. Groups of individuals such as immigrants, refugees, people of color, or the LGBTQ community, who have been inherently oppressed or mistreated are going to deal with feelings and emotions that we cannot understand without experiencing their own unique struggles. And so rather than undermining these feelings and labeling them as “negative” he opted for an entirely new approach to therapy, using these emotions to fuel creativity in poetry and writing.

A poetry workshop is just one of many ways to think about the future of inclusive therapy. The most important idea is that we remain aware of these issues of cultural sensitivity and individuality  and find ways of therapy that work for all kinds of people so that we can truly support the mental health  of all individuals.

LOVE YOURSELF

As the quarter drags on, many of us try to escape our daily stressors by diving into the media during quick breaks or weekends. While I personally understand the appeal of turning off your brain and flipping on some Netflix, media and advertisements often effect us in many ways that we don’t recognize on a conscious level. The images that we are bombarded with of flawless, constantly happy people can cause real problems with our own self images and self esteem. Read on to hear Peer Educator Rebeca’s campaign to love yourself in spite of our own imperfections!

 

LOVE YOURSELF

by Rebeca Najarro

I know it’s hard. It’s hard to look at the advertisement of the person with the flawless skin and perfect teeth. It’s hard to hear the commercials begging you to try out their new weight loss product. It’s hard to feel the side of your stomach and realize you do not have the same body as the model in the magazine. This is what society has made it, hard to love yourself.

As decades have passed, the standards of “beauty” have changed. However, these ideologies continue to be unrealistic, segregating and isolating each and every individual who doesn’t fit the appropriate image. Women are often the target for media ads for weight loss, healthy skin, etc. Although the struggle with “self image” is mainly associated with women, all individuals struggle from the impacts of societal pressure.

We are each our own individuals, we have unique characteristics that make us who we are! Nobody else is you, unless you have an identical twin, but even then nobody can match you and your qualities. It sounds cheesy, but we really all are our own kinds of “beautiful”. If you take time out of your day and look at yourself in the mirror, it is helpful to point out qualities about ourselves that we like! If we took one second to genuinely compliment someone, or to genuinely compliment ourselves, we would be just one step towards overcoming the societal pressures on self image.

With that being said, embrace each and every birthmark that you may feel uncomfortable about, because nobody else has the exact same one. Embrace the scar you received from when you fell off of a horse or the burn mark on your arm because you accidentally touched a hot oven! Embrace every particle of you and love yourself. There are many things to be grateful for, and being you is one of them.

IDENTITIES

I’m a very laid back person, so I often find myself ‘going with the flow’ more often than not. This kind of personality allows me to get along with all kinds of people and try all kinds of new activities. However, I often admire people who are strong in their own sense of personality and their own identity. In what ways can being opinionated and having a strong personality effect you both positively and negatively? Read on to hear Peer Educator Tina’s thoughts on the matter!

IDENTITIES

by Xinru “Tina” Wang

We here at UCSC often hear people say, ” You have to treat your identity preciously, and at the same time be open-minded towards other people’s differences.” We have always tried to eliminate the contradiction between one another, but at the same time people desire to see their own individual “creative” self. Isn’t this conflicting? To what extent do we express our individual selves and to what extent should we become open to other people?

Talking about one’s choices for their own life, as well as one’s identity, can be extremely complicated. Even more, people’s identities have so many different aspects: gender, race, religion, nationality, etc. In other words, it is fairly likely that at some point you will make someone else uncomfortable without consciously meaning to. It may sound difficult but we are all very educated students here at UCSC! As long as we are knowledgeable about the basic ways of communicating about one’s identities, we can achieve the goal of keeping our own identity safe and sound while respecting others.

First off: try to eliminate first impressions of someone. Forming a first impression is something that we do completely unconsciously — it is just something human beings do to sense possible harm. However, our first impressions can often contain harmful or inaccurate stereotypes. Try to step away from your impression about someone, and try to focus more on their ways of talking and their mind rather than their physical appearance.

Secondly, we should know the limit. Undoubtedly, the essential way of knowing someone is by having conversations and asking questions. Though, there are some questions, or some ways of asking questions, that we should be sensitive of. For example, “how does it feel to be a(n) Asian/Black/White person?” This way would highlight people’s identity forcefully and therefore be an insensitive question to ask.

Finally, it is fairly healthy for us to all look at each others’ personal values, such as our beliefs, talents and abilities. We are all very talented in different fields, and this can be the time for us to appreciate our values as a part of this society instead of our physical appearances.

THE POWER OF EMPATHY

Sometimes a Facebook feed full of bad news can be too much, and we are tempted, or even forced to shut down emotionally at the sight of it. While this is a completely understandable coping mechanism, it is important to be aware of how often and when we do this because being connected to others and the world around us through empathy is a powerful and important part of life. However, in our busy and stressful lives, making this extra effort can often be swept under the rug. Read more to learn about how you can incorporate more empathy in your daily life!

THE POWER OF EMPATHY

by Camara Chea

How often do you think about the lives of those around you? The talkative person across from you on the bus, the noisy roommate next door, the friend you eat dinner with every day? On a normal day, so many individuals greet each other with the customary “how are you,”and the usual response? Maybe a robotic “I’m fine, how are you?” or a cheery “I’m good, thank you!” How often do we stop to have a real conversation with others and really see how they are doing? That is, how often do we try to step in the shoes of others and see things from their eyes?

Empathy is an act of building a bridge, a way to establish and sustain social connection. Empathy is defined as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner” (Merriam-Webster). When another human being allows you to see them as vulnerable, how do you respond? Do you seek to understand their feelings and perspectives?

I agree that it can be easy to get trapped up in our feelings and emotions, to ignore the real experiences of both strangers and friends. But think about what happens when you speak, when you think, when you listen — how do these all change when you do them with empathy? As outlined by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, research shows the many positive implications of empathy: it can reduce racism and prejudice, inhibit bullying, deepen relational intimacy, and encourage attitudes against inequality. I definitely recommend reading the article in full to read a rich and comprehensive discussion on empathy, its importance, and other key ways to nurture it. You can find it here at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/empathy/definition.

According to another article, by the BBC News, it is possible to learn how to be more empathic. Their article, “Can you teach people to have empathy?,” references research on this topic and describes three significant strategies that you can embrace to cultivate an empathic orientation toward the world: 1) radical listening 2) mindful awareness and 3) curiosity about others’ lives. To read more in detail, go to http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33287727.

Some other methods, provided by the Greater Good Science Center, include refraining from judgments and assumptions, taking the time and energy to actively imagine what another might be feeling or going through, and thinking about the shared qualities and commonalities of the seemingly different individual.

Would all of the world’s problems go away if everyone practiced empathy toward one another? That, I cannot say. But I do believe that in practicing empathy regularly, people can make a positive impact on those around them and increase their own emotional intelligence. When someone speaks, try really listening, with both open ears and an open heart. Make room for other people’s testimonies, even if they may be different from your own. While you can never fully understand someone else’s experience, and there are limits to empathy, you might be surprised at what can happen the more you practice it. With that, I hope that with these articles, you may feel more inspired to be more empathic to the people in your lives!

WHY DO WE HAVE TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING OUR OWN AND OTHER’S EMOTIONS?

Have you ever felt like you knew more about how to correctly bubble in a scantron than you knew about reading and understanding your own feelings? Peer Educator Miriam Medina discusses some of the problems within our K-12 school system and how they affect our own emotional development as we go through childhood and reach adulthood. Read on to learn more about her advocacy for a more holistic approach of schooling!

WHY DO WE HAVE TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING OUR OWN AND OTHER’S EMOTIONS?

by Miriam Medina

Dealing with emotions is difficult, both dealing with our own emotions or other’s emotions. When emotions are communicated to us, they can be hard to maneuver, hard to address, or hard to resolve. There are many many factors that contribute to our difficulties in dealing with emotions, one of them being is that we weren’t given enough opportunities to practice dealing with emotional situations. This directly relates to how we learn in our K-12 education, as well as what we learn.

Coming from the perspective of a first generation and low-income student, public education entailed growing up and learning in schools that fed us information concerning math theories, colonized history, how to write a 5 body paragraph, and the physics of the world. In the end, we had a curriculum that was dictated to us. Never did that information address mental health, interpersonal and intrapersonal emotions, or how to deal with stress. We were expected to go through this education and aspire to be something big, without knowing ourselves and our peers on a holistic level. Even our creativity (art classes) was dictated through assignments and letter grades. Very rarely, were we asked to think of ourselves, our emotions, our lives, and how we as humans coped with it all. We learned through a curriculum that did not prioritize giving us the tools to explore who we were physically and mentally. Instead we were bombarded with state exams, class quizzes, and the pressure to succeed in it all; we were set on an academic path. It took me a lot of self-reflection and analysis and critique of the educational system to realize the imbalance of it all.

So where are we now? At the university level we still struggle with courses and professors that don’t seem to realize that we have other identities than just that of being a student. We are sisters, brothers, partners, daughters, sons, workers, organizers, leaders. We have other pressures than just our academics. These “other” pressures are helping us become who we are as much as the academic pressures are, yet they are disregarded and invalidated. That is how this system is molded, created, and intended. Due to our lifetime involvement with this system, we now find ourselves struggling to communicate and understand our emotions and others. For now it is helpful to be critical of the system, deconstruct it, and realize where it is wrong, as well as taking our mental health into our own hands, and slowly begin to become in touch with ourselves and others. One thing is certain though, the system of education NEEDS to be modified, revolutionized to be more holistic.