Mental Wellness, Physical Wellness

Maintaining Wellness With a New Schedule

From Guest Contributor: Maddie Pelchat

Regular self-reflection is a key tool for general health and well-being, so at the end of the first month of co-op, I looked back on my first few weeks masquerading as a working engineer, and realized I had not prepared myself well for the transition from school to work. Don’t get me wrong, my co-op is much better than my first. I am so grateful for my shorter commute, beautiful view, wonderful friends, and learning experiences, BUT I realize now that I had no game plan for maintaining my health with my new 9-5 schedule.

I added BS/MS last year for Environmental Engineering, which I see as an exciting addition to my career path, however, to do so I had to switch co-op cycles, which meant that I was in classes from Spring term of 2018 through Winter term 2019 (4 straight terms–good riddance!). I had become so used to my flexible class hours where I could come home and eat a snack, take a nap, or do some yoga if I really needed a break or some extra energy between classes and studying. On co-op I leave the house at 7 and don’t return until 5. Most nights I go straight to a night class or extracurricular meeting. The first few weeks of co-op I failed to take time to cook real, healthy meals, stopped doing yoga (my mental and physical exercise), and consistently slept significantly less than my body had been accustomed to. My co-op schedule was definitely different than my class schedules, but I knew it couldn’t really be as bad as I was making it out to be for myself. Therefore, with some self-reflection and planning, I made some changes to my routine that allow me to both physically and mentally thrive.

First, I joined my co-op’s (free!) gym, which I know is a special perk so I’m taking advantage of it! Joining this gym means that I don’t have to go out of my way to work out, which was preventing me from exercising the first few weeks. Through this gym I am able to take two yoga classes a week! Secondly, I started biking to work on good weather days, keeping my bike in my co-op’s bike room and using the locker room showers to get ready each morning. This change was really hard at first because waking up early and immediately throwing oneself into heavy exercise can be rough, but after telling myself to get over it a few times, I ended up really enjoying my biking commutes. Lastly, I started making an effort to grocery shop in a way that made for faster, but still healthy meals that could easily be taken on the go, such as instant oatmeal or veggie snacks. I also realized that when I really didn’t have the time the night before, I could always fall back on the salad bar or healthy entrees at my co-op’s cafeteria. Through self-reflection about  my situation, I found that my co-op held a lot of the answers to maintaining my health and well-being. As this is an adjustment for most working individuals, you may also be able to ask your coworkers for tips on how they maintain a work-life balance. They may have some great ideas or resources that you didn’t know were available to you until you ask. Ultimately, I believe it’s possible for anyone to utilize self-reflection during transitional periods to see where changes could be made to adapt to a new healthy and happy schedule!

Mental Wellness

Finding My Motivation

From Guest Contributor: Kerianne Chen (SWE President, 2019)

When I transitioned back into classes after co-op this year, I found it especially difficult. Between co-op, summer classes (which were very relaxed), and studying abroad last year, I had not been in real classes in 18 months. I had little to no motivation to actually get my work done, pushing every little assignment off until the last second, resulting in poorer quality work, and ultimately left me a very stressed out and anxious person. While this term has not been my hardest academically, I have definitely struggled the most with finding my motivation.

After a week or two, I finally felt more comfortable with my schedule, and began actually making time to do homework each day rather than pushing it off. I found that instead of keeping a long running list of all the tasks I needed to get done for school, for SWE, for life (a very long and daunting list!), I found that sectioning each of the tasks off works much better for me. I now have a digital sticky note with what tasks I need to work on each day of the week. If I have a homework assignment, I try to split it between two days, one to start and get an understanding how long it will take me, and a second to complete it (usually the night before it’s due). I still have moments when I look at the list and my brain says “no” but it is easier for me to pick something small to work on so that I feel accomplished. If I plan well enough, I usually have one day a week that I don’t do any class work outside of actually attending my classes. That time is important for me to unwind – watch TV or play video games for too many hours, read a book in a sunny spot, or take a nap with my cat.

The bane of my existence this term has been a 3,000-5,000 word research paper. It is for a 2 credit class that is required for graduation, but has caused me more stress than any of my 3-4 credit core Civil Engineering classes. Through some basic research, the proposal and abstract were not too difficult to write – it was basically just writing the intro of a paper and then giving up (which is what I wanted to do). Then came the draft. I told my advisor I would get him a draft by Sunday or Monday, and avoided it all weekend, until Sunday evening. After complaining to my boyfriend that I was quitting school, a tearful call with my mom fleshing out paragraph ideas, and a short night’s sleep, I did it. A first draft! It was only approximately 2,000 words, but it existed, and I had started with nothing. Taking my draft to the writing center helped to validate my writing, as the peer tutor said that it was a solid paper, and helped give me some areas to work on expanding my thoughts. While I still have to work out the second draft and final paper, I feel a little more confident that I can do it.

So now what? Well it’s true – procrastination is best conquered by just starting. Start small, pick a chunk of the assignment that you can handle doing. And if you feel like I did, that there is no reasonable section you can do – talk to someone who can help you work through. Take it one step at a time, and take short breaks when you finish a section. Each time I finished writing a section of my draft, I set a timer for 10 minutes, and walked around, looked at social media, or had a snack. I hope that this may help someone else who is feeling overwhelmed with an assignment. It will probably be difficult, but you can do it. Even if isn’t your best work, you should be proud that you completed something that you had trouble with, and remember it next time you are struggling to get started on something.

Mental Wellness

Mental Health Awareness Month

I’ve spent the past few weeks thinking about the best way to address Mental Health Awareness Month on this blog. Mental wellness is such an important aspect of our mission as the wellness committee and therefore, I wanted to do it proper justice. I jotted down some ideas and for most of the month have been reflecting pretty heavily on my own mental health with the hopes of figuring out the “right” thing to write. Over time, I realized that with all the stigmas surrounding mental health, sometimes the best way to start the conversation is to be open and candid with others. So, that is what I am going to attempt to do by telling you some of my own mental health experiences. It may never be the “right” or “perfect” thing to say, but I hope that by saying anything, I can have an impact on someone and get the conversation turned towards mental health awareness.

Before even really starting, I have to say that I struggled with the idea of having “my own mental health experiences”. In my mind, I always downplay some of my struggles thinking “oh but I have never been diagnosed with…” or “oh but I have never tried to…”, which leads to “so I can’t really say that…”, which is a problem in and of itself. No mental health obstacle is insignificant. Just because someone else you know might have stories, feelings, or experiences that you may consider “more severe” doesn’t mean that yours are invalid or not important to address. Mental health looks different to everyone, and the size or scale of your lived experience can not be compared to that of others.

**PREFACE OVER**

For years I’ve struggled to love my body. It feels weird to write that despite the fact that I know I am not alone. Like many females I know, it started in my early middle school years when I was concerned about when I would get boobs or the fact that I would gain weight and then suddenly grow (my mother had to move the buttons on my uniform skirt to match the current state of my fluctuating body). Since then I’ve had good days and bad. It doesn’t typically have defining moments when it changes from good to bad, so I’ve never really known when it will hit me. Through the years I’ve tried many things to address how I felt about my body — some were good, such as joining Positive Body Image and Support Group for Girls in high school, while others were bad, such as agreeing to text my friend everything that I ate to hold myself accountable. (That last one is something that lasted for a while and I am not proud of it.) Despite all of this, nothing drastically changed. ~Fast forward to freshman year of college~ I stayed fairly active, playing field hockey and lifting at the gym. However, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t struggling with my overwhelming desire to purchase and consume an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s from Northside every day and then feeling like garbage. I don’t think I necessarily gained the freshman fifteen, but mentally I felt like I did.

One day, I went for a 4 mile run after not having run for a bit. During that run I thought, “I could run further if I trained. I think I could even run a half marathon.” Please note, I never had any running aspirations before this very moment. In fact, I had previously hated running, but suddenly I was on a mission. I signed up and trained religiously for 6 months. I felt like a new person. Sometimes towards the end of my runs, I would get emotional thinking about accomplishing my goal. I loved this new me. I felt strong and powerful. Even better, this new me felt like anything was possible and I could accomplish goals that I had never even dared to dream before. This didn’t mean that all of my insecurities magically went away, but it helped a lot. Then Summer rolled around (*cue the ominous duh-duh-duh*). For a lot of people, I know the change in weather is stressful — smaller clothing, the “beach bod”, the sweat (so. much. sweat.). Personally, I think I own one pair of shorts that I feel comfortable in other than my running shorts. Although being on co-op meant that I wasn’t wearing shorts all that often. Regardless, a lot of my insecurities and negativity came flooding back as the amount of time I could dedicate to exercise dwindled with my increasing responsibilities at work.

This time of my life seemed drastically different than before. I could not get out of my head, and it was affecting my personal relationships as well as my relationship with the greater female population. I began a viscous practice of comparing myself to others to try and make me feel better. I remember thinking, “Well at least I…” or “I’m glad I don’t *insert negative thought about someone else’s body*”. Now many of you reading this might think that I sound like a mean person, and I would agree with you. During that time of my life, my brain was being mean to me and especially mean to those around me. Even if I never verbalized those thoughts, I regret having them and wish I could apologize to everyone I’ve ever done that to because nothing was wrong with any of those people and no one deserves that. It was my mindset that was wrong. It was truly a secret, ugly characteristic. At this point, I’d like to say that I think this is a moment in time that shows how unpleasant the road to body positivity and self love can be. It isn’t a very scenic route, but rather it has potholes and trash and it gives you the worst road rage you’ve ever experienced. I know that isn’t fun to imagine or hear about, but that is exactly why I am writing this–because we need to talk about it no matter how hard it is.

Recently, in a conversation about mental health with an important older woman in my life, I disclosed that many women that I know had previously inflicted self harm at points in their life. This woman stopped walking and grabbed my arm to examine it. Upon finding nothing more than a few stray freckles she remarked, “we are so lucky that we didn’t have to deal with that”. Now this woman is incredibly smart, so I thought that was a pretty naive thing for her to say given that not all scars are visible — mental and emotional scars are very real and present for many people. PLUS, loving yourself is an ongoing process/battle. We are never really done “dealing with it.” Just because you don’t physically see that someone is struggling, does not mean that they aren’t. Lean into those conversations and make it known that you are open to listening, someone to lean on, and most importantly an ally and advocate for those who need one.

A few weeks ago, I ran another half marathon. Along the route, I joked with my dad saying “smile” everytime we passed a camera. No one really looks good at mile 12 or 7 or 2 for that matter, but fake it ‘til you make it, right? However, when I got the link to my pictures, it wasn’t my smile that my eyes were immediately drawn to. “Oh my gosh my legs look so big” I thought. “Ugh why did I wear that bulky raincoat? It isn’t flattering.”. So I stepped back and took a beat. 1. You wore a raincoat because it was raining. 2. Those legs are the same legs that carried you 13.1 miles and set a new personal record. They are strong. What you are looking at is muscle. Love them. Be grateful for them. Cherish their abilities. This is my new strategy for when I am feeling upset about my body. I think of all that it allows me to accomplish and I work on being grateful.

These are just some snippets and stories of moments in my life where I wanted to love myself more or how I tried to change my mindset or the conversation I was having (internally and externally) about mental health. It doesn’t cover the panic attacks that I sometimes have or the germaphobia that makes me wash my hands repeatedly or the OCD that has me put a cup down on a table 9 times just to get it to land perfectly and be positioned correctly. These tend to crop up at stressful times in my life. Honestly, I think I’d benefit from talking to a therapist, maybe even just once. Yet, I can’t seem to get myself there. I’ve thought about it and then I put it off until things seem better. I “talk the talk” telling others that it is okay to not be okay, encouraging them to reach out if they need help, or telling them that they should embrace therapy without shame. One day I hope I can “walk the walk” too.

Please take time this month to check in with yourself and those around you.

 

Mental Wellness

Spring Term Reset

With each new term at Drexel, I have the same feeling I do at the start of each new calendar year. It is fitting then, that I like to make resolutions or goals for the upcoming few months. These goals are in a wide range of categories from academic, to career, to health goals, to political engagement and environmental conservation. By breaking up my goals per term, they are a lot easier chip away at than when made on New Year’s Eve or Day. Often, those goals—made with the hindsight of the year before and the hope of the year to come—feel insurmountable a few days later. However, if i take those goals and break them up into more achievable pieces that I can tackle each term, it allows me to feel like I have made significant process and that motivates me to continue. That doesn’t mean that I achieve all of them or that they are easy, but approaching them is a bit less daunting. This process also provides me with a space to reflect on the past term, while actively planning for the one ahead of me. As important as planning is, reflection is an often neglected part of our growing process that is so important! This reflection can be on the last term, the last 6 months, or my last co-op as I prepare to start a new one. I have included some examples below.

Reflections:

  1. During the past 6 months, I have seriously struggled to get sufficient sleep due to a number of factors, including an inconsistent sleep schedule.
  2. I tended to stop running during stressful weeks of the term in the Winter, which didn’t make me feel less stressed, but rather, more stressed.
  3. Last co-op, I felt fairly isolated from people as I was not used to being in an office rather than a social, college campus.

Goals for Spring Term:

  1. Establish a more consistent sleep schedule. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep.
  2. Aim to Run 3x per week until field hockey ends and then reevaluate exercise schedule.
  3. Find ways to easily socialize with people over co-op.

How Will I Work to Achieve This?:

  1. I will turn my phone on Do Not Disturb at 10pm. I will alter my sleep schedule in my FitBit so that it reminds me to go to sleep earlier.
  2. I will plan what days I am running at the beginning of each week. I will have my running clothes and equipment out and ready to be used when I get home from work or for when I wake up in the morning.  
  3. I will sit with people at lunch at work. I will establish certain nights of the week that I come home from work and see friends.

These are just some examples of the process that I like to go through. Your process may look different—everyone needs to find what works for them! If you have a method for your goal making process, please comment it below! If you have goals you’d like to share, please also comment them below!

 

Mental Wellness, Physical Wellness

The 7 Dimensions of Wellness

Listen to the first podcast of Wellness Revolutionaries that addresses the 7 dimensions of wellness with host, Blake Beltram, and guest, Alessandro Giannetti. Blake Beltram is a co-founder and evangelist at MINDBODY and Alessandro Giannetti is a healer and the founder of Guided Light Healing. Check it out here!

The 7 Dimensions of Wellness:

  1. Physical [Discussed at minute 13:49]
  2. Spiritual [15:58]
  3. Occupational/Vocational [21:00]
  4. Environmental [24:55]
  5. Emotional [28:13]
  6. Intellectual [36:22]
  7. Social [38:28]

    woman wearing black sleeveless dress holding white headphone at daytime
    Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com
Mental Wellness, Physical Wellness

Finding my Metaphorical and Physical Rock

From Guest Contributor: Manisha Rajaghatta

Back in middle school, I found myself enrolling in a rock-climbing program through my town’s recreation center. I had never had much exposure to it except in summer camps when I was little, but this slight familiarity was comforting as I explored different after-school activities.

It started with top rope climbing. For those unfamiliar with the sport, there are three major types of climbing when indoor: top rope, bouldering, and lead. Top rope is the one most people are familiar with, where the climber is in a harness and is attached to a rope as they climb up routes on tall walls. The slack is picked up by a “belayer” who also ensures safety and helps them down securely. This is the type of climbing our after-school program focused on and where my love of climbing really started.

As I got older and started climbing with robotics teammates in high school, I was introduced to the world of bouldering.

ManishaROCKS.png

This is when you free climb with mats to catch your fall at the bottom of the wall. These routes, like their top rope counterparts, involve a variety of hold types: volumes (like the one my feet are on in the picture above) that project off the wall for added complexity, and “top outs” where you can climb up and over the top of the wall.

While there is also lead climbing where you feed the rope as you climb, my experience has limited me to top rope and boulder climbs. The interesting components of this sport are the two different workouts you can get depending on the type: bouldering is like a sprint, focusing on testing your strength, while top rope climbs are like a marathon, testing your muscular endurance and ability to climb for a long time. This enables the tuning of a workout to target different physical wellness – combining climbing, with cardio and weight training, allows for a comprehensive workout as rock climbing is truly a whole-body workout as legs, arms, back and abs are all used when approaching a route.

This physical component has made rock climbing a passion that’s grown over the years in addition to sports and other activities I’ve done. My athleticism is worked on overall throughout the week depending on my workouts and in turn, so is my brain. Rock climbing is very much a mental sport as well as physical since your biggest enemy can be your motivation and willpower. By training my brain to keep going through a climb or moving on a route, I have been able to work on my focus and internal drive in all aspects of my life. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll never get through the route, and further, you won’t be able to climb at higher levels and try moves that are super fun. Especially on the top rope climbs, the combined test of motivation and endurance really pushes me to be able to achieve my best, both in the sport and in life. It’s a stress reliever in so many ways whenever I get to the rock wall and I find it as a great escape when I need to step back from anything and revisit it with fresh mind and body.

This is actually a part of the sport that has always resonated with me, no matter what is going on in my life. Regardless of the challenges, physical and mental, that life throws at me, rock climbing is always there for me to blow off steam and push myself to achieve more and do better. I’ve left rock climbing temporarily a few times in my life because of time/life choices or injuries.

The first time was from middle school to high school as the transition had me pursuing other activities and in a way, forgetting about rock climbing during my weekly schedule. The second time was freshman year of college, again because of time commitments. The third time was actually for a super short time this past year as a result of a rock climbing injury. Each time, I found myself rediscovering the sport and finding how it fit into my life in a new way each time. The first time was a social activity to do with friends, the second time was a way to blow off stress while getting back into working out, and the third time was a way to maintain my love for the sport as a hobby but also as a competitive sport.

The key takeaway from this has been that no matter what has been going on in my life, rock climbing has been my metaphorical and physical rock to keep me grounded. Each time I’ve drifted from it, I’ve found my way back because it’s something that makes me feel physically and mentally complete. Without it regularly in my life, I find myself itching to get back to the rock wall and trying a new climb. It’s a way to keep me mentally and physically well and if I hadn’t found something like this, that I could rely on no matter what my life throws at me, I’d be very unbalanced.

Mental Wellness

how we ACT affects how we feel

From Guest Contributor: Maddie Pelchat

I first asked my mom if I could go to therapy during a stressful time in my life, the end of high school, when I was being told that my successes and failures in school and college applications would affect the rest of my life. The weight of this pressure along with undiagnosed depression slowly broke me down over time until I realized that I was not able to battle this alone. I started therapy, and these initial cognitive-behavioral sessions helped me to break down irrational thoughts and allowed me to develop a healthier way of thinking. Although a lot of the emotions I was feeling were due to events out of my control, I left each session with a better perspective on my life and it allowed me to flourish and be proud of myself.

After leaving my hometown for college, I decided that I had the mental skills to manage my stress, and put therapy on hold. This past year, after battling a rough seasonal depression worsened by a difficult co-op experience, I was feeling the pressure begin to build again. I was anxious about maintaining my GPA, and adding to my resume before my next co-op cycle. I felt that I wasn’t good enough and was constantly comparing myself to other women in engineering. I finally decided that enough was enough and I enrolled in the Drexel Counseling Center’s ACT workshop.

This workshop is one hour a week over three weeks, and I enrolled at the beginning of the term so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed taking time away from studying! This workshop was like group therapy, and there were a few other people attending each week. I didn’t have to share if I didn’t want to, and even if I did the workshop felt like a no-judgement zone, so I felt comfortable despite it being my first therapy session that wasn’t one-on-one. First, we discussed things in our lives that made us feel positively and things that caused more negative emotions. For example, spending time with my family makes me feel loved whereas illnesses in my family scares me and makes me worried about the future. Taking time for myself makes me happy whereas GPA monitoring makes me anxious. We discussed ways to move towards the positive feelings rather than away from the negative ones. Running away from our problems doesn’t make them disappear, and this was a lesson that was extremely important for me to learn. For example, if classes were stressing me out, it wouldn’t help to ignore my work, but rather I could look forward to a family dinner or a night out with friends after studying, to reduce the focus and stress surrounding my work.

This workshop put my core values into perspective, allowing me to make the best decisions for my life and for my mental health. I learned not to compare myself to others but rather to focus on my own happiness and personal goals. The workshop also introduced me to mindfulness, which I have now incorporated into my life in a daily yoga practice. It is important to take time each day to remove oneself from the chaos of school or work and to focus on simply being. I truly believe that this workshop changed my way of thinking for the best and I hope that I continue to uphold what I’ve learned through ACT when making decisions and thinking about my future. I feel much more calm and satisfied with my life and I recommend taking time for therapy or mindfulness practice to anyone feeling stressed or unsatisfied in their life.

For those that are interested, SWE is holding an event with Dr. Gotlib from the Drexel Counseling Center on Psychological Flexibility on Monday, January 28th from 7-8pm in the Hill Conference Room. Please come and join us!!

For more information on workshops through the Drexel Counseling Center, please visit this page.