Mental Health and Wellness

Getting involved: How Joining Has Helped Me Grow as an Individual.

By Christie Kosecki

Being told to “get involved” in organizations and clubs around campus is common advice for college freshmen. How one gets involved, however, is completely up to them. University of Connecticut offers various clubs, sports and events that students can join to meet other students and staff and network throughout the college. Personally, there was a part of me that dreaded the part of college that required me to move to an entirely new area and be surrounded by people I didn’t know. I was an extremely shy and quiet child growing up, and social anxiety was a very real thing for me.

I didn’t always live in Connecticut. Growing up, I lived in a large suburb of Syracuse NY, and because I had been raised there and knew everyone in my class, I had never really had to integrate into a new school or setting before. That was, until I moved to Connecticut my freshman year of high school. Considering the type of person I was, moving away had been a hard but good thing for me. It forced me to go out of my comfort zone and meet new people. However, at that time in my life (due to some injuries, family illness and housing issues), I did not get extensively involved in the community or my schooling, other than participating in some extracurricular sports. Although slightly terrified, I saw college as an opportunity to grow and to discover my own potential. I wanted to stop living my life in fear, and so I took the leap and forced myself to go to both the involvement fair on Fairfield Way and the Ice Cream Social that the Department of Animal Science was hosting that fall for new students. It was in front of the George White Building that I had talked to some of the sisters from Sigma Alpha, a professional sorority for women in agriculture, and also to members of the equestrian team. Although I was nervous (since I had only been riding for a year at that time), I went to the equestrian team tryouts and tried out for Walk/Trot. A few days later, I was surprised to find out I had made it on the team! About a week later, I also decided to attend a recruitment week event that Sigma Alpha hosted in the East Campus dorms, and found myself joining a sorority. Within just a month of being on campus, I had found myself both on a team and joining a sorority, both of which I never would have expected of myself back in high school.

Never at that time would I have anticipated the team or the sorority to have much of an impact on my life. Being on the equestrian team helped me to befriend many great people, and through it I learned not only how to improve upon my riding and better care for horses, but also how fun horse shows can be. The lessons helped me to get into better physical shape, and gave me something to look forward to when classes became stressful. Unfortunately, due to health reasons as well as a very busy schedule, I no longer ride on the team itself, but I hope to participate in the riding practicum again this upcoming fall once I’m back in good physical shape and my schedule is freer. Although I am unable to ride this semester, I still find myself visiting the barns to see the horses and to help plan for this year’s Sigma Alpha Horse Show.

Had anyone told me back in high school that I would join a sorority, I would have laughed. When I thought of sororities back then, partying and socializing came to mind and I never really enjoyed large crowds. Sigma Alpha, however, was different in that it was a professional sorority that promoted fellowship in a way different from going to large parties. I was able to talk with many of the sisters one-on-one and realized that this organization was a good fit for me and could potentially help me achieve my goals of becoming both more involved on campus and less socially anxious (or at least better able to manage my social anxieties). So many opportunities have come my way since joining this sorority.

It all began when one sister helped me get a position on the Academic Integrity Hearing Board. The next semester, another sister had told me that Dr. Safran in the Department of Animal Science was looking for Teaching Assistants for her introductory nutrition class, so I followed-through and got a position. Then, when discussing how I needed more internship/shadowing hours at a veterinary clinic, another good friend and sister recommended I intern at North Windham Animal Hospital during the summer, which is now where I work as a Vet Tech Assistant and Receptionist. Another sister told me about the College Ambassador Program, which I likely would not have known about or applied for had I not been in Sigma Alpha and built up my confidence.

This Ambassador program in turn has not only helped me to become more confident in my presentation and leadership skills but has also opened up a completely new and exciting opportunity for me. Had I not become a college ambassador, I would not have been offered the opportunity to work with Dr. Bushmich to plan a One Health seminar, which turned into a One Health Class, for which I am currently a Teaching Assistant. A few of the other ambassadors and I started up a Students for One Health Club on campus that, since its start this past semester, has gained over 50 members on UConntact! Now I have found myself becoming the vice president of a club and helping to give presentations every other Tuesday, something I never would have expected from myself in years past. Lastly, the sorority elected me to become this year’s Horse Show chair, thereby handing me the responsibility of planning and running the annual horse show. Planning for this show has not only allowed me to utilize the skills learned from previous leadership opportunities but has also taught me quite a bit about event planning, advertising and the importance of clear communication. Had I never joined this sorority, I would have never gained the skills and knowledge that I have now, and I would have never met the people who hold such an important place in my life.

Finally, there is one more club that has thoroughly changed me and my life for the better. It was in April of 2017 that I finally worked up the courage to sign up for a tandem skydive through UConn’s Skydiving Club. Skydiving had always been something I found intriguing but I was always too terrified to attempt. However, when I found out that the club hosted a tandem weekend with discounted tandem skydives, I knew that if I didn’t try it now I would probably never try it. Unlike some of my friends currently on the team, I never saw myself jumping out of airplanes for fun until I did my first tandem skydive and realized I absolutely loved the feeling of being in freefall and the views under canopy. Once I learned more about the sport of skydiving and made a second tandem skydive (just to be sure), I committed to getting my skydiving license so I was able to jump on my own and eventually jump with others competitively and for fun. Not only have I learned a lot about the sport itself, but I learned that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined. Skydiving is not just fun to me, but also a huge confidence booster as well as a stress reliever. Through this sport I have met some of the most amazing and unique people around and have had some spectacular adventures, creating the best memories with all of them.

I write about these experiences today with the hopes that they will motivate someone with similar feelings and experiences to those I have had, to work up the courage to attend that club meeting or join that organization you may have been interested in but were either too nervous or too busy to consider at the time. Had I just said “Eh, I’m not qualified and shouldn’t even bother,” and skipped Equestrian Team tryouts that morning, I would have never made it on the team, met some of the greatest equestrians, and learned as much about good horsemanship and riding as I know now. Had I let my nervousness get the best of me and skipped that recruitment week meeting for Sigma Alpha and stayed in my dorm room that evening, I wouldn’t have formed the close ties and relationships with those in the sorority, which has given me an amazing support system as well as some unexpected and amazing opportunities to grow. Had I chickened out of doing my tandem skydive that morning, I wouldn’t have met some of my favorite people, gone on half as many adventures, or gained the confidence in myself that I have now. Had I not joined any of these three organizations, I can guarantee that I would not be the person that I am today and would not have gained the knowledge, leadership and social experiences that I now possess. It is because of these three extracurriculars that I have grown into the person I am today, and while I am far from perfect and still have a lot to learn in life, I like the person I am becoming. If you have the time or can make the time, check out that organization that has caught your attention. You never know how it may transform you and your life for the better.

 

 

 

How to Achieve that Healthy Balance Between School, Work, and Life!

by Jordan Kennedy

All of us are in the same boat once we get to college. We all have to get the hang of juggling the new load that has just been sent our way: lots and lots of school work. While juggling the heavy weight of school, some of us will add work into the mix – all while trying to keep ourselves happy and fulfilled by extracurricular activities and, of course, social events! Here are some tips that have helped me to balance those three things throughout my time at UConn:

Here’s my planner from the bookstore — I’m not sure how I would live without it!

Time Management

I cannot stress enough just how important it is to manage your time wisely, especially in college. I would strongly suggest making a trip to the bookstore and purchasing yourself one of their many planners. Writing down important dates and planning out your schedule ahead of time also plays a successful part in reducing stress. Doing this will allow you to map out when you have free time, as well. Make sure to prioritize your schoolwork and do not procrastinate. You really don’t want to fall behind, especially with a work schedule added into the mix.

Allow Your Body to Rest

It is so incredibly important to get a good night’s sleep while under the pressure of school and work. All of the added stress combined with a lack of sleep will cause you to become run down and therefore unable to work to your potential. It’s much more challenging to pay attention in class or during activities when all you can focus on is how tired you are – not to mention the brain fog that comes along with it. So, definitely make sure you are getting adequate amounts of sleep each night to help you achieve success in your college career. It’s a myth that you can make up for lost sleep on the weekends or during breaks – once it’s gone, it’s gone!

Maintain Healthy Eating Habits

Eating healthy in college can sometimes be a challenge, especially when there is so little time to prepare meals. With that being said, it is still essential to make sure you are benefitting from your diet. What you put in your mouth has a huge impact on both your mind and body – this will assist greatly in allowing you to accomplish everything that you want to throughout the day. Healthy choice foods can improve focus, provide natural energy, and boost your immune system: all of which is crucial to successfully balancing a hectic college lifestyle. I find that it is beneficial to plan my meals each week and prepare them ahead of time, instead of reaching for more available unhealthy food options. A helpful resource that allows you to explore more of what you should be eating is https://www.choosemyplate.gov/.

Devote Time to Yourself

Most importantly, setting aside time for yourself will help with your overall well-being. Sometimes, we get so caught up in what is going on around us that we forget to take care of ourselves and do what makes us happy – whether that be going for a jog, meditating, or even doing artwork. Throughout your time in college, you will grow so, SO much. It is vital to take the time to keep up with your growing self while you are busy keeping up with everything else in your life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Tackling Independence in College

By Lauren Engels

Being a first-year student at UConn is a lot different from being a high school student. You make your own class schedule with classes you want to be taking, you live with peers instead of your parents, and you control what you want to do with your time. The transition to college comes with a great deal of independence that many high school students may not have had before. Here are some tips that I have come up with in order to help new college students use their new independence wisely:

Your time is valuable, be smart with it!

*When you first arrive at school, you will probably have loads of free time on your hands. Use that time to make new friends and join new clubs and organizations on campus! As the semester goes on, your free time will begin to dwindle down and you will need to manage your time. The best way to manage your time is to track when every assignment or exam is due. This could be through a paper planner and calendar, or an online calendar or study app, such as MyStudyLife. Find what works for you and make it a routine to keep it as updated as possible. This allows you to stay on top of your school work and plan for a successful semester.

*Join as many clubs as you want at the beginning of the semester. By mid-semester you should know which clubs you are really interested in and which ones you wouldn’t mind missing to hang out with friends or study. Your time is valuable in college, so if you do not want to be in a club any more or can not find the extra time in your schedule for it, don’t go. Being involved on campus is very important, but be sure not to overcommit yourself to certain activities and prioritize your responsibilities.

Do not get behind on your school work.

*It’s not enough to just write down the exam and assignment due dates, actually be cognizant of them. School work is a lot more manageable and less stressful if you study a little bit everyday instead of trying to cram everything in all before your exam the next day. Go to class, ask questions, and give yourself plenty of study time before an exam in order to do well.

*No one is going to pester you to study; it is up to you to be responsible for your grades. Part of the new independence that you have gained is knowing what your responsibilities are and making them a priority.

Be comfortable being alone.

*A lot of your college experience is going to include your friends. Your friends are important to your happiness and it is important you establish connections with your peers in order for you to truly enjoy college. However, for a good portion of your college experience you will be alone as well. This may be the first time in your life when you are truly alone, but this is important because it allows you know who you are and what is important to you. Get used to every once in a while eating by yourself in the dining hall, or going to the gym or library by yourself. You may need to say no to plans with friends because you personally need to have some time to yourself. Your relationship with yourself is equally as important as your relationship with others, and college is a good time to embrace being alone.

    Have fun!

    *There are so many opportunities for you to have fun on campus, such as joining a sorority or fraternity and playing intramural sports. Make sure you allow yourself to have fun with friends while in college. It is a stress reliever and a good way to develop time maintenance strategies. College is only four years long, so make sure you are having fun and making memories!

    Good luck new first year students. I hope your time at UConn is exciting and memorable!

    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