Tag Archives: mental health

A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

When we think of health today, we often think of physical health. We tend to believe that someone who holds a balanced diet and exercises regularly is in perfect health. While both of these things do lead to a healthier body they don’t always lead to a healthier mind.

Mental health is also a huge component to the overall health of an individual, although it tends to be treated as secondary to physical fitness. Being mindful about what you are feeding your body is vital, but you should also consider what you are feeding your mind and soul. You might be adequately exercising your physical strength but under exercising your mental strength. The training of the mind is arguably just as important as training of the physical form.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of teaching when it comes to how to provide for yourself mentally. We tend to be adequately informed on how to eat healthier and how to engage in physical activity, but we often don’t know how to calm our racing minds or treat our souls with kindness. For many individuals, meditation is the most beneficial way to prioritize their mental health and practice training of the mind.

What is meditation?

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Meditation can have various definitions and spiritual meanings. In essence. meditation is the practice of centering the mind in order to clear your head and refocus your thoughts. While meditation has previously been used for spiritual and religious reasons only, it is now common for individuals to practice meditation in their private and professional lives outside of their spirituality.

A common term used alongside meditation is mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about bringing your thoughts to the present and releasing your thoughts about the moments to come. Engaging in the present is what meditations seeks to achieve as it allows you to disconnect from stress, anxiety, and fear.

What are the benefits of meditation?

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Meditation is much like physical activity in the sense that not every participant will share the same experiences or reap the same benefits. Although, meditation has been known to not only provide mental benefits but physical benefits as well.

According to The Art of Living, the physical benefits of meditation can include:

  • A decrease in high blood pressure
  • An improved immune system
  • Increase in positive mood and behavior
  • Higher energy levels

The mental benefits of meditation are:

  • Decrease in feelings of anxiety
  • Increase in happiness
  • Creativity boosts
  • A sharper and clearer mind
  • The ability to better handle and cope with feelings such as anger frustration, and sadness.
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As busy college students some weeks we find ourselves stressed with course work, low on energy, and sick from the germs swarming in our community bathrooms. Although, meditation is not the solution to every problem you might face its benefits serve to show that a mind practicing meditation is a mind that can better handle the obstacles set in its path.

Tips for beginning meditation

By now I hope you are at least the slightest bit interested in engaging in meditation. Due to the numerous benefits and the simplicity of the practice, meditation is a very rewarding and achievable experience to be had. If you are thinking about giving it a try, here are some helpful tips.

  1. Don’t set any any expectations for yourself

It is all too often that individuals treat meditation as a task to complete on their checklist. With this attitude meditation becomes more of a challenge or conquest than it does an experience. To reap the full benefits of meditation approach the practice with an open mind. Don’t expect yourself to be skilled at mindfulness upon your first try. It is very challenging to not let your mind wander and to stay focused and calm. Meditation is a practice because it takes time to develop skills and become successful;. Remember to always have grace with yourself and that providing yourself the time to meditation is already an achievement into bettering your mental health

     2. Don’t be afraid of guided meditation

One of the great things about the practice of non-spiritual meditation is the creation of apps and websites that provide guided meditations. A guided meditation instructs you on how to practice the centering of thoughts and encourages you to fall into a deep state of relaxation. Although some might argue that meditation needs to occur in a place separate from all technology and distractions, guided meditations are a great way to begin your journey and gain knowledge on what techniques benefit you the most. There are a plethora of services, and apps that provide these walkthroughs so just experiment with a few and find what makes meditation the most enjoyable and rewarding for you specifically.

      3. Make the most out of your experience

Customizing meditation to your needs and wants is acceptable and vital. Maybe you schedule doesn’t allow for a 30 minute deep relaxation. This is okay, and in no way does this mean meditation is not for you. Meditation can be whatever you make of it. Take a few moments in between classes to breath and recenter yourself. Practice for a few seconds before turning on your car while traveling to work. Meditation is portable and can be practiced anywhere an at anytime.

Remember, meditation might not be for all individuals and this is okay. Prioritizing your mental health can look like many different activities and practices not just meditation alone. Whatever you do, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and engage in something that beneficial to your mind, body and soul.

10 Ways to enhance your spirituality

As college students, there’s still a lot about ourselves that we need to figure out. We’re at a point in our lives where we’re trying to develop our unique personalities while juggling the stress of school, friendships, and relationships. And while our looks seem to be everything right now – especially considering that you can achieve fame and fortune with a few viral tweets – it’s extremely important to remember to nourish the inner you. It’s the spiritual side of you that maybe not everyone will see, but it is the version that will matter most in the long run.

Some people may know who they are already, and they’re set on not changing for the rest of their lives. For others, though, there are so many parts of ourselves we have yet to unlock. That’s why spirituality is so important; to unlock your full potential, you need to understand yourself and your limitations or shortcomings. But I understand that spirituality isn’t the same for everyone and everyone has their own ways of expressing themselves, so the tips I am about to give on how to practice developing your spirituality may not be for everyone.

  1. Practice patience with yourself

This is the thing I have struggled with the most, so it’s at the top of my list. You may not be where you want to be right now, but that’s okay. Life isn’t a race, it’s a process. Everyone is experiencing things at their own pace, and you shouldn’t let that discourage you from your path or allow it to deter you from your own goals. Recognizing this is the first step to becoming more spiritual because you can acknowledge things aren’t going to go your way all the time, and you may fail sometimes, but if you continue to do what you need to do you will get there eventually.


2. Recognize your own negative qualities and unlearn them

A lot of us forget that we can be toxic, too. It’s important to be kind to yourself and have patience with yourself, but don’t ignore the ways you may be negatively affecting others. Over sympathizing with yourself is possible!


3. Find something you are really passionate about

In finding something I could truly devote my time to studying and growing through, I have felt myself grow immensely. This could truly be anything as long as it is positively affecting your lifestyle and aiding in your growth rather than taking away from it.

4. Do something new – but make sure you’re comfortable

Yes, getting out of your comfort zone is important, but what is also important is that you’re safe. Entering your spiritual development take a certain level of vulnerability with yourself and the world, and while I support the idea of adding something new to your life, I also suggest that you do this in a way where you aren’t putting your health – whether physical or mental – in jeopardy.

5. Create both short and long term goals for yourself

Unpopular opinion: short-term goals are just as important as long-term goals. Short-term goals can help you propel yourself forward because they should be realistic and achievable in a shorter time frame. This doesn’t mean long-term goals aren’t essential though, because they are. I suggest writing down what you want to accomplish, or creating a vision board.

6. Cut the bad things out of your life

This doesn’t just mean people (but definitely cut out toxic people too). Yes, I know I said your physical appearance isn’t everything, but make sure you’re taking care of your physical health too. I definitely still struggle with making time for this, but know your limitations. This doesn’t mean to hit the gym every day or go carb-free, because it could mean the exact opposite. Your body is your temple, so figure out what it needs. Find a balance that helps you feel energized and happy.

7. Be kind

Do something nice for a stranger! Apologize to someone you may have hurt! Forgive yourself! There are tons of ways you can be kind not only to yourself, but to others. Just don’t overextend yourself – know when you need to make time for you and only you. Give yourself space and room to grow. But I want to point out that you don’t have to be kind to or give your energy to people who have hurt you! You are under no obligation to these people – even if they are your family.

8. Practice emotional intelligence and restraint

It’s easy to get swept up by your emotions, but make sure what you are going to say or do to someone isn’t unjustified. This is why I make sure to say intelligence and restraint. It’s important that you can empathize with someone while valuing your own emotions in the process. Just don’t let your own emotions run wild, you might do things you regret, and karma is very real.

9. Call someone you love

It’s easy to neglect those we love when we know they are going to be there for us – but please, don’t. Cherish the time you have with those you care about most, and check up on them, too. Even if they may not always see what you’re trying to do and show their gratitude for it, you should feel satisfied knowing you did what you can to be a decent person in their lives.

10. Worry about you first

That being said, don’t let people walk all over you! Use your voice, you have one for a reason. Some people may take advantage of your kindness, but respect yourself enough to know where to draw a boundary. Always put your needs first when you know it’s the right thing to do. Don’t let friendships or relationships stop you from taking care of these needs because if they do, they probably aren’t worth it. And don’t worry about comparing your actions to others’ – they aren’t you.

There’s a lot of ways you can start practicing your spiritual development, and these are only a few. Positive growth is the ultimate goal, so take whatever steps you may need to achieve it. Learn yourself, work with yourself, and see the results in your changing perspectives on life and yourself.

How To Make Your Space Feel More Like Home

Living in Austin is exciting. The city continuously hums with the sound of traffic and conversations, as thousands of people shuffle around one another on their way to classes and work. The movement is constant and there are always things to do, tasks to complete, and places to travel. What we often forget is that the hustle and bustle of it all can be just as thrilling as it can be exhausting.

Most individuals return to their tiny spaces seeking relaxation and debriefing from their tiresome days. Unfortunately for us college students, even our homes can be carriers of stress and exhaustion. They are reminders of the laundry we are too busy to wash, the groceries we forgot to buy, and the desks we need to unscramble with all of our assignments and readings. Inhabiting a messy home leads to a lack of productivity, and it can be overwhelming even when you do finally attempt to clean. If you can relate to any of these struggles, continue reading to learn simple ways to keep your space as clean and comfortable as possible.

Separate Work & Play

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Late nighters and crashing for an exam are often done in the comfort of our own home. There, we sit in our beds with our laptops in our noses and our books at our feet. While completing school work in your comfortable bed might seem like the best idea to engender your productivity, it might just do the opposite. Doing homework in your bed can without a doubt make you feel drowsy, lazy, and possible allow for too many phone breaks to check instagram and snapchat. This is because your bed is associated with relaxation, something that makes concentrating on homework very hard. If you were to shift your late night cramming over to your desk, you would quickly realize that you are much more motivated to finish the work so that you can earn some much needed rest. In general, your home should be associated with an escape from the stressful events during the day. Making an effort to keep the most comfortable and relaxing places of your house for debriefing only will provide you with a stress free zone to let loose.

Personalize Your Space

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As college students it can be hard to for the space you’re living in to feel like home. From horrendous roommates to tiny closets, there are a million things that make living arrangement uncomfortable. Although some of these events are unavoidable, creating a space that you love to be in can ease the burden off of your shoulders. The best way to create your own space is to surround yourself with all of the things that make your life feel full and happy. A great way to start is by hanging up pictures of you and your friends making your favorite memories, or displaying all of the sweet notes you’ve received from loved ones. Pin your favorite quotes, song lyrics, or life mottos to a bulletin board as daily dose of positivity and warmth. Hang up fairy lights, buy soft and warm blankets, and make your room feel like a sanctuary. Find simple and unique ways to turn the blank walls and stiff bedding into a space that you want to live in. Odds are the more thought and energy you place into decorating your space, the more you will strive to take care of it and keep it clean. A personalized room can make returning home more enjoyable, rewarding, and productive.

Keep Up to Date & Stay Organized

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The biggest contributor to a messy space, schedule and life is lack of organization. It’s a never ending cycle of feeling unprepared and stressed for the day that leads up to a clutter of clothes on the floor, a pile of dishes in the sink. The less we keep up with our mess the more time we need to clean it. Being proactive about the events on your schedule can lead to a more clear head and room. Invest in a desk calendar where you can write the dates of due homework assignments, tests, and social events. Also, consider adding a to-do list to your wall of thing that need to get done throughout the week to ensure that you don’t forget about the minuscule tasks that often get swept under the rug. It is always a good idea to use multiple calendars and reminders to help you stay on schedule. Making organizational space in your room can lead to a more productive and thoughtful outlook on your week.

Don’t Over Clutter

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The worst space to come back to is a place full of impractical and useless items. Although the snow-globe collection you have had since you were twelve is sentimental and belongs in your room, finding enough  space for every single one of them and for it to not become cluttered is difficult. This can encourage a messy room from the start, because when it is filled it to the brim there is no space to accumulate new things to bring you joy. A simple way to start decluttering is to go through all of your things and donate the clothes that you’ve outgrown or items that you don’t have the space for anymore. Not only is this beneficial for others who can find use out of your unused items, but it will help simplify your space and make organization seem more manageable than ever. Being intentional about the items that are in your space can make your home more meaningful, overall increasing your productivity and ability to relax inside of it.

Display Your Passions

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Burnout is a common issue college students feel throughout the semester. With so many hours lost to studying in the PCL and tests constantly appearing on your radar it is easy to feel overwhelmed and like the work you’re doing is meaningless. This is when you lose sight of the bigger picture and you no longer remember why you started or what goal you’re working towards. A great way to avoid burnout is to turn your home into a space that reflects your dreams and motivators in life. Display a vision board of the careers you hope to pursue, the places you want to travel, and the people that are helping you get there. Understanding the endless amounts of opportunity and possibilities ahead of you will push you work hard and never limit yourself. Your space will transform from a living space, to a home where you envision your future and productively work towards it.

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How to Keep a Positive Mindset in the Face of Stress

If you’re like me, not only are you a full time student, but you’re also juggling a job, being involved in organizations, homework, creative projects and somehow finding the time to have some iota of a social life. College, really just life in general, is rough and the stigma around mental health makes it all the more difficult to face. In case you’re unfamiliar with the topic, mental health is somewhat taboo in most social situations so people tend to put it on the back-burner.

To quote the words of a popular Vine, “That is not correct”. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, if not more so. We all have issues that we’re doing our best to conquer on our own. (And you go, queen, you’re doing great.) But just in case you think you need some advice or help from someone who is struggling through the same thing, here are some tips that help me to get through those especially rough days.

Make a list; of things that matter and things that don’t, of things you’re thankful for, of things you know you want to change.

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I know it sounds cheesy. But I did this my freshman year, when I was feeling especially overwhelmed for the first time and it helped me to take a deep breath, both mentally and physically. I made a list of all the good things in my life and all the things that weren’t going too well for me. Then I went through the latter list and wrote out why they weren’t important or how I could make those things better. This could go downhill very quickly so be sure to pay more attention to the happier list and not put too much importance on the troublesome list. Or, better yet, only make a happy list. I’m personally more of a realist so I like to consider both sides but if you’d rather look at the optimistic side of things, you do you, boo.

Take some time for yourself

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It’s hard to get away from responsibilities. For some people, i.e. me, it’s hard to say no when people ask you to do things so you end up with too many rolls on your metaphorical plate. However, it’s important to take care of yourself as well as others. Take some time out of the day, or at the very least once a week, to do something for yourself. It could be as simple as taking a break from homework to having a bubble bath and reading your favorite book while a face mask soaks your skin with all kinds of moisturizers. Is it obvious which one I’m fantasizing about more?

Surround yourself with things you love

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Because so much time out of the day is dedicated to schoolwork/things we have to do, I think surrounding yourself with things you love when you can becomes even more important. By this, I mean that you should find things that bring you more joy than anything else. If you’re stuck in an organization that only stresses you out, maybe it’s time to find another place to spend your time. If you’re in a relationship that doesn’t make you happy, maybe it’s time to move on. And this doesn’t have to involve people; in fact, sometimes the things you’re surrounding yourself with aren’t people at all. If you want to go to your room, close the door and read books for hours on end, then that’s what you need to do. Not wanting to be around people is completely normal and is something I find myself wanting often. Although, it is important to note that you should be careful not to push away people that care about you. There are ways to be alone that don’t hurt those who want to spend time with you. It’s all about communication and letting them know that it’s not them, it’s you. Unless you’re breaking up with someone…then you should never use that line.

Exercise, exercise, exercise

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Trust and believe that I know how awful this sounds. I hardly have time to exercise, let alone want to. My mom always told me to do this in high school and I blew her off due to the simple fact that I didn’t want to. However, now it’s one of the most effective strategies I use to battle anxiety and stress. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise and other physical activities reduce fatigue, improve alertness and concentration, and enhance overall cognitive function. It doesn’t even have to be as time consuming as going to the gym; meditation, going for a walk, even just taking a really deep breath is enough to release those sweet, sweet endorphins. One of my best friends does yoga right after she wakes up and she swears by it. It’s not about having the time but about making the time.

*My Chemical Romance voice* Sing it for the boys, sing it for the girls…

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SINGING! Jamming is the best form of self-healing. Unfortunately, I don’t have any reliable statistics to back up this theory. But I have years and years of personal experience that I could share, if you cared enough to ask. Blasting your favorite songs and belting out the lyrics either in the car, with your friends, or whilst performing in the shower is one of the easiest and most fun ways to occupy your time and your mind. Or, if you ever need a good cry, create a sad playlist (or you can use mine) and cry out every failed test, dead pet and broken heart you’ve ever had. You’ll feel much better afterwards. My roommates think I’m crazy for suggesting it but it’s therapeutic to me.

Find some time to get sh*t done

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It sounds simple but it’s really not. We get overwhelmed and flustered and then, next thing we know, our eyes burst open at 2 o’clock in the morning because we forgot about that essay that’s due tomorrow. So, find some time in the day to sit down and feel productive. It can be as easy as sitting in the Union and cracking out a few emails or writing your thesis for that paper you’re dreading. Hopefully this will make you feel more confident in your work and inspire you to continue your progress when you get home. But, if not, it’s a way to justify binging Game of Thrones when you should be working on homework.

Watch your favorite movie/tv show

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I’m a film major so I’m fairly biased when it comes to this. However, transparency aside, it’s hard to overthink when you’re not thinking about anything at all. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sit down, put on your favorite movie and let the actors take you away. My particular favorite is when you decide to watch a movie from your childhood. That’s when the nostalgia hits you in the gut. But it’s a love punch so it doesn’t hurt.

Find healthier outlets that don’t involve mind-altering substances

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You know the saying: say nope to dope. This is definitely not to shame anyone who decides to partake but if you’re dealing with stress or anxiety, it’s really not a good idea. A popular myth is that some drugs, such as marijuana and alcohol, help you to forget about your problems and just make you feel g o o d. The truth of the matter is that these things can make you feel better for a short period of time but in the end, you just feel worse than before you started. It may be tempting but it’s always better to just say nay. Instead, have a talk with some friends or try any of the other tips on the list before resorting to this option.

Write

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Again, I have no statistic to back this up and this is completely a subjective opinion because I personally use the title of “writer” to describe myself. However, there is a reason that every cheesy teen pic has a character that keeps a diary. Writing out your feelings helps you to sort out your inner workings. Not to mention, writing is fun. Keep a daily journal, either by writing or typing, and chronicle your day in the life. You can write about anything you want, from what you had for breakfast to which professor you have a crush on this semester. What better person to vent to besides yourself?

Find a puppy. Or a cat. Or a giant lizard.

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Finally, there is my personal favorite: PUPPIES! If you’re like me, you had to leave your dogs back at home and from time to time, you go through dog withdrawal while at school. The easiest cure for this is to find a pup to love on in their absence. You could find a family member or friend to dog sit for or you could even volunteer at a local shelter, if you have the time. Regardless, it’s hard to be upset when you’re loving on a cuddly mammal. Dogs are support animals for a reason. Of course, not everyone is a dog person. This is also applicable to cats, birds, hamsters and, if you’re like my roommate, giant lizards. Animals are almost always better company than people anyway.

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As much as I want them to be, none of this advice is foolproof. Life is hard and sometimes it takes more than advice from a 20-year-old to help you feel better. Please, check out these links if you’re going through a rough time and are in need of professional help. Remember: you are not alone and you are loved. You’re doing the best you can.

Suicide Prevention Hotline

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Institute of Mental Health

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

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