Tag Archives: mental health

Mid-semester Madness: A Personal Reflection

Tired and overwhelmed — the two perfect words to describe how I’ve been feeling lately. 

There’s a certain sensation that buzzes around in the October air that looms around for quite a while, almost pulling and tugging at you as you try to live out your day: Midterm season.

It seems like just yesterday you were opening your syllabus for the first (and hopefully not last) time. Then, all of the sudden, we’re mid-semester. While it’s nice to be able to say that you’re halfway through your semester, it’s also scary to think about how much more there is to come. 

Midterm exams, projects, deadlines, registration and literally everything else makes the never-ending to-do list even longer.

While I’m now in my junior year of college, it somehow feels like the hardest one I have experienced thus far. Having spent my first semester completely in-person pre-COVID and my second fall semester completely online, it seems like this weird hybrid semester has been so much worse.

Whether it’s because of the difficulty of my classes as an upperclassman or just having to get used to actually attending my classes in person and not from the comfort of my bed, this semester has been a different beast altogether.

To be frank, I started this semester with such high expectations considering the fact that I registered for five classes, became involved in three organizations, added a second major and even got a job. While I was somehow able to juggle all of that only a few months ago in my spring semester, this became a struggle this school year. 

I’m not too sure if maybe it’s just me feeling this way or if others can relate at all but it hasn’t been very fun. 

On the other hand, there could be much worse things happening. While I’m struggling this semester, there’s still a tomorrow. 

While my professors and peers may not be too thrilled about my performance this semester, there is still in fact more ahead of this. 

Everyone has a hard time at some point in their college career and it just so happens that this is my struggle semester. So, it’s absolutely okay if this is your struggle semester, too. 

We will all get through this weird, difficult period together.

Featured image by Lucero Lopez

A Plant Mom’s Guide to Taking Care of Succulents

Owning succulents has seen a growth in popularity among young adults in the past few years. Not only are succulents fairly easy to take care of, but they are also an inexpensive way to liven up any space. It’s also been proven that owning succulents comes with many benefits, such as air purification, increased focus and improved quality of sleep, according to Cal Farms, a succulent shop and blog. 

“Succulent plants brighten up the mood because of the beauty brought about by their fresh earthy colors and striking shapes,” Cal Farms said.  “These certainly never fail to provide accents to the bland paint finish of any room, but there’s more to it than just being an aesthetic addition to any place.”
 

I currently own eight succulents and over the years I’ve figured out what works best for keeping them alive and healthy. Here are four dos and don’ts for taking care of succulents.  

Do: Use rain or distilled water to water your plants

The best type of water to use for succulents is rain or distilled water. This is because they’re free of any chemical treatments or added minerals that would be in tap water. I use distilled bottled water to water my succulents because it’s convenient. Since I use distilled water for my succulents, I make sure that the soil they’re planted in is fertilized. Distilled water lacks the natural minerals that would be in rainwater.

Don’t: Use tap water

Beware of tap water! I have lost a few succulents to tap water before I knew it was harmful for them. Tap water is treated with chemicals and minerals that makes it safe for human consumption, but this is not the case for succulents. Chlorine, fluoride, calcium and magnesium, are just some of the minerals that are found in tap water that can harm succulents. These chemicals and minerals can change the pH of the soil and damage the absorption capabilities of the plant’s roots. Repeated use of tap water on your succulents can lead to them being malnourished due to root damage. 

Do: Water your succulent’s soil

When watering your succulents, make sure to directly water the soil and avoid getting water on the plant. The roots are the only part of the plant that can absorb the water and so getting water on a succulent’s leaves is unnecessary and can actually be harmful.. If the water were to sit on a leaf for too long, it could cause the leaf to get soggy and rot.  

Don’t: Forget to rotate your plant!    

It’s important for succulents to get enough sunlight. I keep my succulents in my windowsill, so they can get direct sunlight every day. However, remembering to rotate your plants is equally as important. This prevents one side of your succulent from getting more sun than the other side. It also makes your plant grow straight. Not rotating your succulents will cause them to grow leaning toward the window or the direction they are getting the most sunlight.  

Do: Put your succulent in a pot with drainage  

Photo by LUM3N on Unsplash

It’s essential that your succulents are in a pot with drainage. This means that the pot has a hole at the bottom and is normally sitting on a dish or inside another pot to collect the excess water that drains from the hole. Succulents, unlike other plants, are made to go long periods without being watered. They store water they need in their stems and leaves. Once they are done absorbing water, the excess can drain from the pot. Without drainage, the soil will remain moist, and the succulent’s roots will rot.  

Don’t: Water your plants too often  

Succulents do NOT need to be watered daily. In fact, succulents can go weeks without being watered. This is what makes them so low-maintenance and convenient! I water my succulents every four to five weeks, but this can be different for every succulent. A good way to tell if it is time to water your plant, is if the soil is COMPLETELY dry.

Do: Remove dead leaves from your plant  

Once your succulent starts to grow, the older leaves at the bottom of the succulent tend to get dry and shrivel up. This is normal for succulents to do as they grow; they allow the upper, newest leaves to grow up and receive sunlight, and rid themselves of the lowest, older leaves that are not getting any sunlight. It’s okay to pull off dead succulent leaves if you gently pull on them and they come off with ease. Never tug on a leaf or try to pull it off when it’s not ready, as this can cause damage to the succulent. 

 Don’t: Forget to admire your plants!   

Photo by Morgan Severson

Life gets busy and it gets easy to overlook small moments that bring us joy. My favorite part about owning succulents is watching them grow. Every day my succulents are growing, reaching up and out towards the sun, changing colors, and most days I don’t even notice. But sometimes I look up, and I notice a new leaf or a longer stem and, in that moment, I feel pride. I feel proud of them for growing and proud of myself for taking care of them. Allow yourself to watch your plants and admire them for all their growth and beauty.  

Photo by Morgan Severson

P.S. One of my succulents has two little baby succulents growing at the bottom of it. I think they are so cute so… I thought I’d share! <3  

Featured image by Alyssa Lindblom

Hugs and Human Connection

Family therapist Virginia Satir says “We need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.” As a freshman on campus this year in the midst of a global pandemic, I have been struggling to navigate the new obstacles to physical and emotional human connection. I find that getting even one hug in on a normal day is difficult, especially because of the added barriers due to the pandemic. I mean, I can’t be the only one seeing all the signs that recommend elbow taps and the hook’em horns hand sign over hugs and handshakes.

After less than two months on the UT campus, I haven’t even known anyone long enough to consider them one of my close friends, let alone long enough to get 12 hugs a day out of them. Besides, in light of our current situation it’s a real struggle to figure out everyone’s physical boundaries.

Unfortunately, especially for those of us that are introverted homebodies, human connection is essential to our existence as people. Connecting with other people has proven benefits: improving mental and physical health. This includes lower rates of depression and anxiety, increased ability to regulate emotions and greater life expectancy. In addition, it helps foster a sense of support, community and purpose.

Even if we’re not all able to meet Virginia Satir’s recommended average of eight hugs a day, I believe there are other ways to fulfill our need for human connection. It is not measured by how many friends you have, how often you go out or the amount of organizations you’re in. 

You can find human connection by sharing a laugh with the person who made your morning coffee or smiling at a stranger on your daily walk to class. Human connection is all about finding meaningful moments with other people that make you feel good on the inside. 

Whether it’s giving yourself a hug every morning, buying your roommate a coffee to put a smile on their face or calling your family every once and a while, the benefits that come from real human connection will never diminish.

How to start life planning

What is Life Planning?  

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash 

To me, life planning is using a planner to organize all aspects of your life, from academic to social to fitness and more! Anything can be tracked in a planner. I got my first life planner my freshman year of high school and have been life planning every day since. As someone who is always busy, and joins way too many extracurriculars, I have found life planning to be a way to calm the chaos in my life and keep track of everything.  

Different Types of Planners

There are many different types of planners to choose from. My favorite planner brand is Erin Condren. Her stationary company is based here in Austin, Texas, and her store is located at The Domain. I love Erin Condren planners for their beautiful covers and their simple, yet colorful layouts on the inside. The planners are also customizable, so you can change colors, add your name, initials, pictures or whatever you’d like! A basic Erin Condren planner goes for about $60, but every year on Black Friday they have a flash sale where all planners are 50% off! Another popular brand is The Happy Planner. Their planners are similar to Erin Condren but are easier to find, as they can be ordered online or bought at Walmart. But really any planner can work for life planning as long as it fits your needs!

There are many things to think about before purchasing your life planner, especially since it’s something you’ll be writing in for an entire year. Spiral or no spiral? As a leftie, a spiral can get really annoying sometimes. How do you want your planner’s layout to be — Daily? Weekly? Monthly? These are all things to consider. My favorite layout is a weekly vertical layout, where each day of the week is divided into 3 sections. I like to think of the sections as morning, afternoon and night.  

Pens, Stickers, Accessories and More!

I like to use planning as a creative outlet by using a variety of different pen colors, handwriting styles, stickers, highlighting and doodles. What I like most about using a physical planner instead of a digital one, is that paper gives you the freedom to write and design whatever you want all over it. My favorite pens for planning are the Paper Mate Flair felt tip pens. These work well with my Erin Condren planner because the paper is thick, like an index card, so I get consistent lines when I use them. For thinner paper, I would recommend ink pens. I like Paper Mate InkJoy pens because of their vibrant colors.

When planning, having different-colored pens is important so you can color code. At the start of each semester, I match each of my classes to a color, and write down all things pertaining to that class in its assigned color. Not only does color coding make your planner look pretty, but it’s proven to make you recall things faster as well.

According to Kwik Learning, “When we color code things we need to remember, it makes it easier for our brain to associate with it. Our brain reads and interprets colors faster than text. Multiple studies have shown that our brain will recognize a shade of color to an assigned task faster than text alone. This means we have a better chance of remembering an appointment if we color code that information.”  

Besides color coding, I like using stickers to add an extra flair to fun events in my planner, or make important events look more eye-catching. For example, I’ll add a little cake sticker to birthdays in my planner or add a sticker that says “important” on a test date. Even though I am in love with Erin Condren’s brand, I think The Happy Planner actually has better stickers, and they are cheaper too. I like to buy The Happy Planner sticker packs that contain over a thousand stickers. My favorite pack is the Essential Planning pack, which includes stickers like “remember to water your plants!” stickers, birthday stickers, bill reminder stickers and habit tracking stickers.  

Lastly, I would say a planning essential is to have some sort of bookmark to keep track of what week you are on. Nothing is more annoying than flipping through your planner trying to find what page you were last on. Personally, I like bookmarks that attach to the spiral in your planner so they don’t fall out.  

So, Why Should I Plan?

Photo by STIL on Unsplash 

I like to think of planning as something more than just keeping track of things you have to do. It’s relaxing, rewarding, calming — it’s what I believe has gotten me to where I am today. When you have everything you need to do written down, you can avoid that feeling of; “Am I missing something?” I like to use my planner as sort of a guide. I can see what I have coming up for however many weeks I am able to plan ahead. 

My favorite time to plan is at night or right before I go to bed. At night, I tend to scramble in my head and worry about all the things I have to do the next day, and the next day, and the day after that, and next week, and next month, and next year and… it gets to be a lot. Especially when I am trying to fall asleep. Planning at night gives me a way to dump all of those due dates and to-do lists out of my head, and when I’m done, I feel so at peace, totally free of that feeling that I am going to forget something.  

With midterms coming up and as the semester starts to get busier, planning can be a tool for you to stay on top of your work and manage your stress!  

My Method of Planning

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash  

Step 1: The first thing I do when planning each week is put down my base schedule. What I mean by this is putting down your weekly schedule of things that are consistent and are not going to change, like my class schedule. 

Photo by Morgan Severson

Step 2: Once I’ve done that, I have a basic outline for my week, and I start to add in due dates, events and stickers.

Photo by Morgan Severson

Step 3: I like to write a little overview of my week on the left side to-do list, listing things by priority of what I need to get done first. If there is something going on for the entire week, I like to write it above the dates at the top of the page, making the words span across the page. 

 Photo by Morgan Severson

Step 4: From there, I use the empty spaces to get an idea of when I am free throughout the week. The empty spaces leave me room to plan things that come up on short notice, so I will write them in the day before or day of, like a trip to the gym!

Photo by Morgan Severson

VOILA! You are all done planning and ready to conquer your week ahead!

Featured Image by Alyssa Lindblom

10 Tips for a Smooth Transition from Online to In-person

We’ve all spent the last year glued to our screens, whether it’s trying to decipher what our professor is saying or scrolling through Tik Tok. In the midst of all the Zoom meetings, Discord chats, and Slack messages we have forgotten how to thrive in an in-person learning setting. So, here are ten tips on how to thrive during the transition from online to in-person learning, interaction, and life.

1. You need to calm down

After more than a year of spending time stuck at home with Tiktok being our only form of social interaction, it can be tempting to just say yes to every social invitation that comes our way. But, no matter what you do you cannot make up for the dumpster fire that was 2020, and acknowledging that is important. The pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives and that includes social interaction. It’s okay to want to stay in on a Friday night and binge-watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” you don’t need to force yourself to go out in the fear that you will regret it if there is another Lockdown. Understanding that we cannot make all our decisions based on the fear that the past will repeat itself will only benefit us in our post-pandemic life. 

2. Develop a routine

A big part of the anxiety that accompanies our transition back to in-person classes is ambiguity. Being able to have routines— even for the smallest parts of our lives— can help immensely. Whether it’s having a three-step morning routine that involves making your bed, putting on clothes, and making yourself look presentable for class, or an elaborate make-up routine, having one part of the day remain constant will help structure the rest of your day.

3. Get an alarm clock

It can be tempting to use your phone as an alarm but it’s also the reason you’re late every day. Not only is the alarm on your phone designed so that the snooze button is more prominent than the off one, but it also enables you to scroll through social media first thing in the morning. Having an actual alarm clock not only prevents you from mindlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed, but it also means you’re going to hit snooze a lot less. If you’re like me and are paranoid about not waking up on time, keeping the clock at the farthest end of the room will ensure that you wake up. 

4. Engage with your classes

Zoom university has made it easy to not engage with material during class and going back in-person seems especially daunting when you can’t whip out your phone and scroll through social media when your professor goes on a long and boring tangent. However, identifying aspects of each class that you enjoy, whether it’s the friends you have made in that class or your genuine interest in the subject, will make you dread it a lot less.

5. Treat yourself

Whether it’s getting Boba with friends, watching a movie, or gorging on a pint of ice-cream(I am definitely not speaking from personal experience), find a way to reward yourself at the end of the week. The treat doesn’t need to be expensive— it could even be dancing to Taylor Swift music in your room. These treats act as a reminder for what a great job you’re doing and also motivate you to get through the week.

6. Stay safe

We are still in the midst of a pandemic and following COVID guidelines are crucial for keeping yourself and your fellow Longhorns safe. Make sure you download the Protect Texas app and fill out your symptom survey daily as well as get tested weekly. Wearing a mask in classes may seem strange, but it’s the only thing stopping us from going back online.

7. Plan, plan and then plan some more

Now that we are in-person, having a daily planner is essential. Not only does planning your day the night before gives you peace of mind, but it also means you won’t accidentally forget a class or a meeting. Having a monthly planner as well will help you keep track of your assignment due dates. Google Calendar and Outlook are great online planners, but nothing beats pen and paper. 

8. Catch some ZZZs

Lack of sleep is overhyped in college. Just because Brad from your Econ class hasn’t slept since Tuesday and is feeling great doesn’t mean you should follow in his footsteps. Lack of sleep catches up on you when you least expect it and it makes you more prone to illness. With the endless stream of assignments, it can seem hard to get seven hours of sleep but remember those hours of sleep will prevent you from the embarrassment of being woken up by your professor in your eight a.m. class. 

9. Find your style

Now that pajamas are no longer the informal uniform of college students across the world, finding something to wear in the morning can seem foreign. But remember it’s also the perfect opportunity to play around with new styles and try out outfits that are cute from the shoulders down— now that you’re no longer a box on a screen.

10. You are not alone

Remember that you’re not the only one navigating this “new normal” and, yes, you will make mistakes but remember so will everyone else. We are all in this together (cue cheesy High School Musical music) and going back to in-person classes means we are moving forward away from the catastrophe that was the pandemic.

Featured image by Serena Rodriguez