Mental Health and Wellness

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

The Leap to Adulthood: Tips to Being Successful

Tulsi's roommates and friends celebrating Friendsgiving
Tulsi’s roommates and friends celebrating Friendsgiving

Often we think of turning 21 as the big step to adulthood, however, there is a key element which is vital to becoming an adult: being able to take care of yourself. Freshman year it is typical that people move into a one room dorm with a meal plan. However, at some point, there are no options for dorms and no pre-made food there for you to eat whenever you want. That is the true leap to adulthood, when you move into an apartment and have to cook and clean for yourself.

Taking care of yourself seems pretty straight forward, you’ve been doing it all your life. But what about when it’s just you, a student with minimal income and no time for anything except studying and Netflix? As one of the many students who has taken this step, here are some things that I’ve learned in my first year living in an apartment:

  1. Food Budget: With a part-time job only providing a small income, it is EXTREMELY important to budget. I plan out my dinners weekly so I can have efficient shopping trips and keep myself from buying extra food. It is also important to factor in other costs such as buying coffees or going out to eat, as it can add up pretty fast.
  2. Cleaning Schedule: Living with roommates can be difficult, but sharing an apartment with multiple people can be even more frustrating. It is important to set up a schedule for cleaning everything from pots and pans to taking out the trash. You should remember that people grew up with different habits, so you should all be on the same page about how to keep things tidy.
  3. Enjoy yourself! Having my own room in college for the first time has reminded me of how great it is to hang out alone. Me time is always a good idea, it gives you time to de-stress and enjoy your hobbies. As usual, its important to manage your time between school work and you time.
  4. Stay social. Living in an apartment is cozy and can lead to becoming anti-social after discovering how great it is to have your own space. Make sure to still get out there and see people, whether its cooking with your roommates or going out to a basketball game with friends. I can say that I have learned so much from my roommates this year, its been great learning about their cultures and experiencing their food.
  5. Make it your own. Have fun decorating your apartment! I spent a lot of time on Pinterest finding things I wanted to make. DIY is the cheapest option when on a budget, as well as yard sales if you’re looking for furniture. Make your apartment an expression of who you are and enjoy doing it with by making things with friends and family.

Continue reading

Tips for Managing Your Time in College

ClockIt’s no secret that being in college is a huge time commitment. Students typically prioritize academics, but in addition to their course load, there’s extracurricular activities, jobs, a social life, and mental and physical health that all need to be considered as well. Being a sophomore this semester, I’m starting to realize more than ever that managing my time and stress levels is a daunting task. Despite the fact that balancing it all can be quite intimidating, I’ve found that it is definitely doable if you put some thought and effort into it. Planning is the key to all of it, but there are some specific goals I like to keep in mind when I’m allocating my time to certain tasks.

The first is to keep up with my studies. With so much going on, it’s hard to remember sometimes that your education really should come first. Although sometimes it’s necessary, it’s not ideal to always be cramming for that exam or quiz. I find that it just causes more stress and I don’t usually perform as well. Instead, I try to figure out which classes I need to devote more time to and those that I don’t in order to balance my studying better and not get behind. Through some trial and error, find study habits that work for you personally and Continue reading

Exam Week Survival Guide

Right around the time of the first wave of midterms, you start to see a change on campus. Once fresh faces start to look tired and stressed, caffeine consumption goes through the roof, and late night orders to insomnia are at an all-time high as students try, through any means necessary, to prepare for their exams. Stress is a natural part of college and will likely continue to be a part of our lives after we graduate. It can push us to be more focused, work harder, and accomplish incredible things. Too much stress, however, can negatively impact academic performance, mental health, sleep patterns, immune function, and many other aspects physical health. Worrying about an exam is one thing, but when your stress levels spike to a nine out of ten for your first midterm and then stay at a nine until winter break, it becomes very likely that you’ll start to see some of these negative side effects. Studying is only a part of college, and it’s important to remember to enjoy your time here at UConn. So, on that note, here are some on-campus resources for stress management:

Yoga, Lyn Tally
Flickr: Lyn Tally
  1. The Relaxation Station.  Health Education offers a relaxation area that includes full body massagers, massaging back rests, and more. They also offer resources on how not to sweat the small stuff, such as aroma therapy and relax packs. Stop by Wilson Hall to visit the relaxation station.
  2. Special events. Also provided by the Health Education Office in Wilson arespecial events like free massages, pet therapy days, and progressive muscle relaxation workshops. Check out their calendar for more info.
  3. Clubs. There are plenty of clubs on campus that focus on activities that relieve stress including the Yoga Club, Knitting club, and the Stamina, Energy and Exercise Club. You can find more information on UConntact.
  4. Recreation. Exercise is a fantastic way to relieve stress. Student Recreation Services offers Intramurals, hiking and camping trips through UConn Outdoors, and Bodywise classes that include Yoga, Spinning, Cardio-Kick, Zumba, Pilates, and Stretch and Sculpt. Go to the Recreation website for more info.

Continue reading