Mental Health and Wellness

Maintaining Long Distance Relationships While in College

By Sydney Barker

Leaving for college is always a very emotional time, no matter how far away you are. It’s a time for leaving behind your life as you once knew it and moving on to the next chapter.

With love from Connecticut, see you soon!

When I left for college, the hardest thing was saying goodbye. Standing in the airport with my bags packed, I knew it would be months before I would see my family and all of my friends from home. Being immersed at school in the excitement and hustle of everyday activities helped, but I still had the aching feeling that something was missing. I missed seeing my friends and family every day, and being so distant from them was a very difficult adjustment. I had to consciously try to keep up with their lives in a way I never had to before, while I was also making new friends and forming relationships in school.

In the three years since I started college, I’ve seen a lot of relationships that were meaningful to me in high school fade away, but the few that persisted are stronger than ever. Every moment we spend together, it’s as if we were never apart. The biggest advice I’d have for individuals trying to maintain their friendships from home is:

  1. Make the effort to reach out as often as possible! (The less you keep up with their lives the further away you will feel.)
  2. Be open about how you feel; don’t ignore the fact that you miss them– embrace it because it means you care.
  3. When you do see them again, make an extra effort to go out and do something new or special, as well as something you’ve done a million times before. (It’s important to maintain your link to the past while also making new memories together.)

Since being in college I have acquired a long-distance boyfriend, who I only get to see two out of twelve months in the year, unfortunately. While we are very much friends first, maintaining a long-distance romantic relationship can be very different and much more difficult than maintaining ties with friends or family. One of the biggest decisions you can make is whether or not you want to put up with the distance, and it is not something you should take lightly. It’s very important to consider not only the other person and how much you love them but also your own needs. A lot of a long-distance relationship is going without, and only you can decide if you think it’s worth it to wait or not. Ask yourself if you can picture yourself with someone else and if you can picture your life without them. Make sure that this is your decision and yours alone; you can’t let your parents, friends or even your partner sway you one way or another. For this to work, you have to truly believe that this is what you want.

Once you have decided to embark on the journey that is a long-distance relationship (romantic or otherwise), it’s important to remember:

  1. Make as much time as physically possible to talk to them. Facetime/call/text as much as you can, hopefully for at least an hour a day. Tell them all the small things that happen to make them feel like they’re with you.
  2. Sometimes the most frustrating thing will be when they’re upset and you can’t hug them to make them feel better; try not to take this frustration out on them and instead focus on comforting them with your words by reminding them how much they’re loved.
  3. Let them go out with their new friends and make plans with other people. Trust is the number one most important thing in your relationship, and if you let jealousy get in the way, they will end up resenting you for holding them back.
  4. Write some letters. I know this sounds ridiculously cheesy, but it’s a way of feeling close to someone that emailing and texting and facetiming just cannot convey. It will mean the world to them, and writing down your thoughts will remind you how much they mean to you.

Whether you stay close with your friends from home or your friendships fade or you meet the love of your life ten minutes from your house or ten thousand miles from your house, remember to be true to yourself. What you want and need is the most important thing and if it is meant to be it will be.

Easy Ways to Stay Healthy at School

by Annie Schindler

College is stressful. It’s stressful on your mind and on your body, and for me, keeping my physical health in check has been very helpful way for me to keep my mental health where it should be. I personally try go to the gym four times a week, try to keep my eating as clean as possible, and try to get as much sleep as I can.  These might all seem like massive lifestyle challenges to some people.  If the thought of going to the gym is dreadful, or you spend too many late nights at the library or just having fun, remember that the key word here is try.  College is a roller coaster in so many ways, but I think that as long as you are always trying your hardest, you are succeeding.

Going to the gym on a regular basis is a big time commitment; I won’t try to sugar coat that, but the effort definitely pays off.  Getting to the gym and using your body feels so good, especially when you spend so much of your time sitting.  Staying in shape not only makes you feel good, but it helps keep your immune system stay strong, which is so important on a college campus where it feels like there is always someone coughing or sneezing.  I personally like going to the gym in-between classes because it is a guaranteed time you will be on campus, and it is a good way to productively pass time between those classes.  Another good way to make sure you get to the gym is to sign up for BodyWise classes or schedule a time to go with friends because it will keep you accountable.

As a student living off-campus, I’m no longer reliant on the dining hall for my food.  This is both a blessing and a curse, a blessing because I’m no longer at the mercy of the dining hall menu, and a curse because I actually have to cook for myself.  This “curse,” however, is also one of the easy ways I stay healthy.  Because I have to buy my own groceries, I can choose to buy healthy ingredients.  Although the dining hall might have healthy options, it’s hard not to see past the mac and cheese staring me in the face.  I also tell myself that it is more worth it for me to buy healthier ingredients, because I know they will fuel me better than unhealthy foods.

Another way that I stay healthy at school, is to separate my work time and my relaxation time.  On my average days, I try to get all of my school work done by 5 PM, so I can focus on myself.  This is when I will go to the gym, clean, hangout with my friends, really just anything that I know will make me happy.  I also try to keep my work outside of my bedroom.  Studies have shown that doing work in bed can hinder your ability to fall asleep at night.  I personally do my work either in my kitchen or in the library, to keep my room as a kind of sanctuary.  Sleep is incredibly important when it comes to college because it not only helps with your immune system, but it also makes you more alert in classes, and in general boosts your mood.

There are so many ways to be healthy in this day and age.  The things I have listed above are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to staying healthy in school. The variety is amazing: weight lifting, running, kickboxing, and yoga; eating a vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free diet; going to sleep early and waking up early or taking small naps throughout the day, the options are endless!  Since there is no clear cut way to stay healthy, it means everyone can find their own path to wellness.

Finding Yourself in College: Riding Teams

by Elaine Wehmhoff

Throughout my college career I have been a student at three different universities, so if there’s anything I’m used to by now, it’s adjusting. I started out at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO and decided to transfer when I came home that Christmas break. Since the deadline for UConn in the Spring had passed, I took a semester at Southern CT State before attending UConn in Fall of 2017. If there was anything I learned from being a student at two large public universities, it is that you need to find yourself in your school otherwise you can feel very, very lost.

Leaving behind the country home roads I grew to master, and the people around me who made me who I am, made me feel lost upon arriving to university. I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. I didn’t know anyone around me. Everything constant had suddenly fleeted…except for one thing: me. While everything else is changing in college, the best way to plant your feet can be staying true to yourself. What can you keep the same? Not to say that change is bad, or that you won’t change in school, because you will…but what can you do to bring yourself comfort?

Answering these questions for yourself can make the university feel tenfold smaller. When I was feeling lost  across the country, I knew that one thing still constant was my love for horses and riding. Knowing this, I sought out a riding program at CSU. I immediately signed up and rode once a week, maybe more if I so desired. While everything around me was changing, it felt right to have something that felt natural and felt like a little bit of home. To me, that’s what riding was. Every time I rode, I was given that connection of a horse and rider with which I was familiar and loved. It gave me something that I knew how to focus on, an outlet of sorts. When I was riding, I was able to forget for a moment, about everything that was new, daunting, and on my agenda. It gave me a place to feel at home while I was in a place with many new stressors. While signing up for one thing won’t stop you from missing your parents or pets, it will renew that sense of purpose and belonging that can feel unsteady upon arriving at a new place. When I transferred to UConn, I did the same thing and immediately looked up the riding program and found out they had several teams. I ended up joining the dressage team which as an eventer, I was already into. Now, I look back and can’t believe that a year of travels, adventures, memories, and best friends came simply out of some easy searches. 

(Author on right)

Now your next question might be, what if they don’t have what I am interested in? At Colorado State, they didn’t have an English riding team, so I ended up joining polo and trying something totally new, fun, and exciting. In addition, finding something related to your interests gives you immediate common ground with a whole new group of people. While giving this advice to a fellow student recently, he asked me, “I’m interested in beekeeping, do you think they have that?” I wondered if this would be the one that stumped me; did I have to bite my tongue? Sure enough, we looked it up, and a whole UConntact (club) page was displayed with an informative video on the UConn Beekeeping Club. So there you have it!

Rarefied interests aside, getting involved is seriously very important. Had it not been for my involvement these past years, my mental and physical health would have really suffered as I transitioned from place to place. Getting involved is the best possible way to make the university seem smaller. You develop a schedule, a familiarity with the people and resources for whatever you’re doing, and it really helps having something healthy and positive lining up alongside stressful academic life and classes. While going to large universities like UConn and CSU can make it hard to settle in, they also provide an immense collection of activities, clubs and organizations that appeal to the interests of every student. Even though college is an incredible experience, that will push and pull you in the best of ways, it can be hard and that is the reality of it. It isn’t natural to be absolutely deprived of everything you knew and had overnight; however, that’s what move in day feels like for some. While attending University will challenge and change you for the better, it is important to have a place where you feel “at home” or comfortable so that you have a healthy break from your stressors. While I love learning new things and being involved in my academics at UConn, I am more than just a student. In order to have a healthy balance, you need to restore a little “you” in your life at school, and the only way to do that is to engage yourself. Finishing an exam and heading up to Horsebarn Hill for my weekly lesson balances things out at a pace I can handle, a mix of new and old. Now try it for yourself!

How To Guide: Doodling to Save Your Life

by Chrishima Richards

Doodle is quite a silly word, isn’t it? You can imagine that it connotes free-form movement of a unique kind. To doodle means to scribble absentmindedly, which indeed inspires a sense of calmness when facing an unexciting or even stressful event. This idle transmission of bodily energy into hand-drawn (or digital) imagery during a three-hour long lecture, for example, typically works to pass time and can allay growing insanity. This sounds dramatic; however, it is a sensual method to soothe boredom and induce creativity. Doodling is an art-form that stimulates activity in the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain, and allows the pen-holder to unlock a portion of their mind that usually is tucked under the logical, analytical, and linear left cerebral hemisphere. The right side is responsible for the artistic ability that all people harness, but may lack the confidence to unravel on their own.

Historically, presidents and leaders have been caught in idle daze, escaping the moment while scribbling, revealing an unguarded side to them. During moments of national crisis, prominent figures need a temporary escape as well. This article lists several of our U.S. presidents that indulged in a series of geometric/abstract, and playful doodles: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/09/all-the-presidents-doodles/305115/

My belief is that everyone is capable of drawing and producing art regardless of physical or mental disabilities, and natural dexterities. Of course, there are individuals that possess a biological aptitude for creating beautiful artwork; however, meticulous line work and generally skillful drawing skills are proficiencies that anyone can develop through years of repetition and dedication to the craft. It is not always automatic to grasp concepts on the initial trial; practice makes perfect. When describing a task that is near impossible to complete, people often say “I can’t ­­_______ for my life,” to express their inability to perform said task, after realizing the amount of effort it takes or difficulty level. Every prominent piece of art first started out as a doodle that crowded the margin lines of a crisp sheet of eight and a half by eleven notebook paper.

I quite often find myself in an altered state, where my mind wanders to a creative universe outside of the humdrum and mundane reality. I cherish my sloppy sketches that lie in the margins of my notebook pages because they have personality and flavor to them. I love the way the ink absorbs smoothly into the page as I glide the pen in an organic manner, sometimes in a completely demented fashion with no sense of direction; everything flows and incites rebirth with every pen stroke because something new comes alive when I interrupt a line to start a new one. Here are some of my own doodles:

Impostor syndrome: Feeling like a fraud is common among students

Amtec StaffingIt wasn’t until a mentor mentioned to me, it sounds like you have impostor syndrome that I realized what I had been feeling about my work ethic is actually a common phenomenon shared by many people. It’s disorder that is actually documented in scientific literature. As an aspiring scientist, documentation in scientific journals tells me that this syndrome isn’t some rumor or fad, but is observed in many people, especially students. It reassured me to know that other people feel the same way I do about my work ethic. However, I did not really understand impostor’s syndrome until I was watching a Talks with Google presentation given by Frank Abgnale, current FBI agent and former fraudulent commercial air pilot, doctor, lawyer, and expert check counterfeiter. Anyone who’s ever seen Catch Me if You Can with Leonardo DiCaprio knows that Abgnale did not just feel like a fraud, he literally was one. It wasn’t Mr. Abgnale that was consoling me, but a computer engineer at Google that asked him for advice about her impostor syndrome. For me this was huge, Google is a world renowned, transformative company that must hire some of the most creative and intelligent people. Yet some still feel that they are not good enough at their jobs.

Dr. Valerie Young explains that there are five different types of impostor syndrome; you can read about all five types in this Fast Company article. The type that I find myself expressing is titled “the expert.” People with this type of impostor syndrome struggle with Continue reading

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Growing up, I was someone that held very high expectations of myself and was very much a perfectionist. I did very well in school and always aimed to be an overachiever. I would pack my daily schedule with as much as I could so that somedays, I would be at school from 7am until 10pm. I, of course, graduated, and came to UConn.

Coming to college was a huge step towards my career and life goals and a huge step away from many familiar things in my life. Being born in raised in a small town in Connecticut, and growing up with the same pool of kids you knew from pre-K all the way through graduation made leaving, even if it wasn’t too far, a challenge for me. Freshman year was difficult because I had a very hard time adapting to college life. Sophomore year arrived and I had adapted well enough to make my way through classes and extracurriculars, but yet something was still not quite right. As stress started to pile up from homework, exams, and keeping track of daily “this and that’s,” I found myself spiraling out of control. I started not being able to sleep very well and had very little appetite from the “unsettled” feeling I constantly had, and panic attacks were a common occurrence. I felt uncomfortable speaking about Continue reading

Fitness Goals for the Athletically Challenged

View of Valentine’s Meadow on one of my favorite running routes.

For those who know me, the word “athletic” would certainly not come to mind if asked to describe me. I’ve always loved the outdoors and recreational activities like horseback riding, swimming, and kayaking, but never participated in any competitive organized sports. Despite not being gifted in the area of hand-eye coordination, I possess other strengths and came to accept that athleticism was not one of them. That is until I decided to start running. I came to the conclusion that I should try running about two years ago, after hearing person after person tout its magical impacts on both physical and mental health. “Running is the best stress reliever” or “You’ll never experience anything like a runner’s high” they would say. I hoped that running would be a feasible activity (given my incoordination) that I could fit into my busy pre-veterinary student schedule to alleviate school-related stress and anxiety as well as improve my physical fitness. Mental health is a huge topic of concern in the field of veterinary medicine, and I hoped that taking proactive measures to establish a consistent self-care routine would place myself ahead of the curve. Given my interests in pursuing exotic or large animal medicine, I figured it also wouldn’t hurt to be physically prepared for the rigors of fieldwork.

In the beginning, I doubted that I would ever experience these alleged benefits. I dreaded running and had to force myself to keep going every minute that I ran. Various body parts would hurt, and I would consult friends and running experts via Google to determine that I needed new shoes or that my form was off.  After a lot of trial and error, persistence, and assorted aches and pains, I finally began to enjoy running. As my mileage increased and runs became easier, I was finally able to focus less on the physical aspect and allow my mind to wander into introspection, which has been incredibly cathartic. Many people admit that running is how they confront their demons and I’d be inclined to say the same. Continue reading

What it’s like living with Emotional Support Dog at School

Jessica and ColbyIf you take a look around UConn’s campus you will find yourself running into at least one emotional support animal (ESA) whether you’re outside or not. UConn’s definition of a emotional support animal is any animal specifically designated by a medical provider that eases the symptoms of an individual’s disability. They are known to be as companion, therapeutic or assistance animals but are not actual service animals and don’t have the same privileges as them. An approved ESA owned by an individual who lives in the school’s housing is allowed within the private living accommodations.

My roommate Laura has an emotional support dog named Colby, who she raised from a pup. Being at school without Colby for the past three years was really difficult for her because her anxiety and depression only got worse as the semesters went by. By senior year, (2018-2019) she knew she needed to get her ESA on campus. She decided to reach out to her therapist who helped her by writing a letter to the Center of Disabilities (CSD). After reading through all her documentation, Reslife and CSD agreed that having Colby in the apartment would be a huge benefit to Laura. Reslife then asked all her roommates including me, to write them an email saying that we all agree to living with Colby, since we do have the living room and kitchen as a shared space. For some people, a dog coming into an apartment could be something negative for them just because some people don’t like animals, specifically dogs, but for me as someone who has lived with cats my entire life it was the start of some great. Others, don’t understand the responsibility that comes with having an ESA, especially during college. It’s the responsibility of making sure someone is at the apartment at all times, making sure they are walked to use the bathroom and picking up their “business” outside, and to make sure they are fed at their designated times. This responsibility can be a lot to handle especially during exams, midterms and even finals. Continue reading

Morning Routines

Sunrise on campusBoost your Productivity for a Successful Semester

 

Ah, the morning routine. To some, “morning routine” is synonymous with butterflies, happiness, and lattes. To others, dragging a zombie-like body to an 8AM class in pajamas might come to mind.

Look up the habits of “successful people” and there is a clear trend; successful people tend to wake up earlier.

Now before you start setting your alarm for the crack of dawn, there are also plenty of examples of successful people who despise mornings. J. R. R Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, once wrote “I am in fact a Hobbit in all but size” and also claimed to wake up late whenever possible. Winston Churchill famously refused to get out of bed until 11AM.

There are some people who have found ways around being an early riser; however, if you’re finding that your current routine just isn’t cutting it or you’re not finishing tasks like you’d like, a fresh, new morning routine might be just what you need.

Unfortunately, the act of waking up early is not going to Continue reading

Tips to a Fulfilling Summer

Mindy reading a book while overlooking the quad.
Mindy reading a book while overlooking the quad.

With summer rapidly approaching everyone cannot wait for the school year to end and the relaxing to begin. However, having a fulfilling summer is key when looking back on it once the school year restarts. There is no greater sense of accomplishment when you are cooped up in your dorm room, then to know there isn’t anything else you wish you had done this past summer.

Here are some tips for how to have a fulfilling summer:

 

Read a good book: Being in college a lot of the books we read are in the form of a textbook or based on something we are not interested in at all. A book that you actually enjoy can help stimulate imagination and create focus and concentration. Often time in the summer people are either constantly doing activities or not doing anything at all. It is important to keep your brain working, so why not do it with a book you like. Books related to your passion or field of study can also help you recreate or improve yourself in various aspects. For example, you could be inspired to do one act of kindness a day or discover a new interest of yours within your field of study. Continue reading