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- Dear I love the internet,
- Dear Babbs
- Maintaining Old Friendships while Cultivating New Friendships
- Not for Everyone on Sleep Hygiene: It’s More Than Just Brushing Your Teeth Before Bed
Written by: Carly Maletich, clinical intern
We have all experienced those “a-ha!” moments where it feels as if an idea has finally come together or a concept makes sense for the first time. Interesting enough, these “a-ha” moments often happen in the shower. Researchers attribute this to the fact that the shower has become one of the few spaces where people are uninterrupted and removed from subliminal messages, technology or even other people. Having these “break-through” moments can become harder and harder the more we fill our daily lives with distraction.
So why do we fill our lives with distraction? Good question! During these temporary voids of distraction, our thoughts often return to insecurities, fears and stress. To escape these internal voices of self-doubt, we often tune into the quickest and easiest distraction—technology. But this addiction to stimulation is not an issue that exists only in today’s society. I think it is safe to say people have always struggled with managing distractions and staying focused, it’s just now much easier to escape these spaces of quietness more than ever before. Below you will find three tips on how to reduce your internet usage. Carving out sacred space or moments of quietness where you may experience more of those “a-ha moments” can, in turn, cause you to be more present with others and with yourself.
1.) Establish a daily pattern for unplugging: Is there a day or time that you often are not on the internet? If you already have a space and time that you are not online, why not get intentional with that time and identify it as a “sacred space” where you put your phone away and choose not to look at it for 30 minutes. Turning your phone off during class can be a great start. Experiment and see how you feel. Were you able to pay attention better? Was it nice to know you couldn’t check your email or facebook account and had to listen? Removing the distraction in spaces that already do not lend itself to social media or phone usage is a great place to start.
2.) Start small: The goal is to start small and then gradually expand that space of “no technology” until you feel as if you are able to unplug without experiencing overwhelming anxiety. Fill the space with something you love like going for a walk, jogging without music or your phone, or sitting in a safe space by the lake with your phone off or in a park with a book.
3.) Clearly set the boundary with others: When you decide to turn your phone off and you are expecting a call simply text the person saying, “I will be busy between 2:00-4:00 but after that I am free.” Treat your sacred space the same way you treat time that is valuable to you. Honor it and communicate to others that you are not available during those designated times and that you will get back to them afterward.
Creating sacred space is becoming an increasingly popular topic of discussion throughout America. You can start experimenting with this concept today, and you will likely become more tuned in during these last few months of school.
Belsky, S. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://99u.com/articles/6947/What-Happened-to-Downtime-The-Extinction-of-Deep-Thinking-Sacred-Space
Posted on 23.04.2013
Post by jstrobel
Dear I love the internet,
Pintrest, facebook and twitter are great ways to stay connected, however, you are right in that it can also become addicting. When you find yourself needing to flip through old texts when talking to a friend or surf the web when you are chatting with your mom on the phone, it might be time to put on the brakes and take a step back. While technology can operate 24-7, our bodies and minds cannot. We need rest, time away from the constant messages and the opportunity to tune into the relationships that matter the most. Learning how to create boundaries around social media can be challenging at first, but also very rewarding in the long run. Think about what aspects of your life you would like to change. When do you want to be on your phone versus when is it a time when you want to stay off of your phone or the internet? How many times a day do you think it is reasonable to check facebook? When do you know it is becoming an addition and taking up too much of your time? Only you know the answers to these questions. My recommendation is to sit down with a sheet of paper and identify what you want to change about your relationship with social media. The next step is to place some boundaries around your usage. Below are some points that may be encouraging and help you to identify your goals moving forward. In this digital age we all have to watch how much we rely on the internet to fill open space. Good for you for being willing to take a step back!
Posted on 15.04.2013
Post by jstrobel
I feel like I can’t shut my brain off. It is constantly racing and I’ve recently noticed I’m kinda addicted to facebook, twitter and pintrest. On top of that, I check my texts and emails constantly—even when I know nothing new has come through. In addition to my social media accounts, I find I am constantly checking my favorite shopping websites. I’m not addicted to shopping, but I just love to look at pretty things. I feel like I’m constantly filling empty space. I’m not willing to get off facebook or shutdown my twitter account or stop shopping, but it would be great if I could “unplug” every now and then. Do you have any suggestions how I should go about this? I’m tired if feeling like I can’t handle life without technology.
I love the internet
Posted on 15.04.2013
Post by jstrobel
Attending college requires most students to strike a balance between maintaining old friendships from home and developing new friendships with other students. Leaving behind old friends who have provided so much support over the years can be challenging. However, college gives students an opportunity to start meeting new friends and creating new memories.
- Keep in mind that making new friends does not mean you will lose touch with your friends from home nor does it mean that your relationship with friends from home will be less meaningful. Your relationship with your old friends is simply changing; the way that your friendship works will just be different. Instead of seeing your friends from home every day, perhaps you call, Skype, e-mail, or write letters to each other. Moving away from home and attending college gives you an opportunity to reinvent your old friendships. You will likely strengthen your relationship with your friends from home as you work together to maintain a bond that is important to both of you.
- Give yourself permission to meet new people. Sometimes students get stuck thinking that making new friends will require them to abandon their old friends. Students also sometimes believe that new friends will not be as wonderful as old friends or that making room for new friends will lessen their commitment to their old friends. Continue to make time for your old friends and look forward to seeing them in the future (remember, old friendships are not ending, they are simply changing). However, be open to meeting new friends who can support you and make you feel more “at home” while at school.
- Always carry the positive aspects of every friendship with you. As you reflect on your old friendships, you will likely remember both good and challenging moments. Yet, your relationship likely grew and continued because an individual added something positive to your life. Cherish those positive memories and allow them to give you confidence while you are at school. Additionally, determine which friends at school will help you grow and change and which friends will provide you positive support when you need it.
- Accept that you will likely not meet your new best friend away. Remember that your friends from home are so special because you have built memories and experienced life together for awhile. Challenge yourself to meet new people and to “put yourself out there.” Attend events that you are invited to, join an organization that interests you, and invite others to be a part of your life. Be patient with yourself and the process of making new friends. Give new friendships a chance to develop and understand that creating a best friendship takes time and mutual effort.
Posted on 19.11.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
Although it probably seems challenging, continue to reach out to people and to “put yourself out there.” There are so many people that attend Columbia with a very wide variety of interests. It is likely that a group (or multiple groups) on campus share similar interests with you (you just need to find them). Consider attending events on campus or in your residence hall. Meeting people that live around you is beneficial because they are easily accessible and getting together with them is simple. Check out different event posters in your residence hall or the Tally-ho – which lists campus-wide events and is posted in every elevator. You could also take the initiative to organize an event on your own. For example, if you enjoy cooking, invite people from your residence hall to cook dinner with you. Additionally, spend some time researching various student organizations that Columbia offers. Find an organization (or a few) that sparks your interest and attend a meeting. Challenge yourself to introduce yourself to some of the members and perhaps you can connect with a few people. Meeting people with similar passions and interests as yourself gives you an easy topic to discuss and hopefully empowers you to start a conversation.
Most important, remember that not everyone has found their best friend on campus. Even if it seems as though most people are already connected; people are still looking for opportunities to meet more friends. Have patience with the process of making new friends and remember that many, many students are trying to manage their new surroundings and find their place at Columbia, just like you.
Posted on 9.11.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
I have not really met the people that I want to meet atColumbia. I’m not really clicking with anyone and can’t find a group of people that I feel comfortable around. It seems like everyone has already made their best friend and that I missed my chance. What should I do?
Posted on 25.10.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
When it comes to exams and public speaking it can be incredibly frustrating to put in the time and be completely prepared, only to totally fail or appear as if you didn’t know what you were saying. The first thing you need to do is to take a deep breath and realize you are not alone. This is a very common problem for students and individuals in numerous working professions.
The first thing you can do is to gain some control over your anxiety. People who have test anxiety or public speaking anxiety may experience sweaty hands, dry mouth, increased levels of perspiration before, during and after their speech, dizziness and nausea, trembling hands or difficulty concentrating. Here are some tips that will help to alleviate your symptoms of anxiety.
- Prepare Well: Cramming only increases your anxiety. Get ahead of the game and prepare well.
- Watch Self-Talk: Don’t let negative thinking cause you to lose your confidence. When you hear negative thoughts entering your mind, chose to let it go and replace it with a positive thought like, “I am smart enough to do well.”
- Visualize Success: When studying take two minutes to imagine yourself in the exam room feeling confident and clearheaded. Just as elite athletes use this technique prior to competition, you too can use visualization to perform your best.
- Use Relaxation Strategies: Use muscle relaxation strategies or meditations prior to your exam to make sure you are calm and collected. This technique is also helpful in clearing your mind of distractions before you sit down to study.
- Stay Healthy: Make sure you are getting regular exercise and adequate sleep. Eat a good breakfast and watch your consumption of caffeine—this may be greatest cause of your anxiety!
- Arrive Early: Nothing will increase your anxiety more than having to rush to your exam. Take your time and arrive 10 minutes early.
- Focus During the Test: Take the easiest questions on the exam first, then come back to the more difficult ones. If you feel your mind wandering, stop and refocus on the question or take a moment to breathe deeply.
- Accept a Little Anxiety: Recognize a little bit of anxiety can help you get motivated. The challenge is learning how to harness your anxiety so that it works to your advantage and does not debilitate you during the exam or while studying.
- Expect Setback: Recognize there will always be roadblocks. Learn from your mistakes and move forward.
- Reward Yourself: Rather than worrying about how you did after taking the exam, plan something fun that will help clear your mind and allow you to move forward in your day.
In addition, the following tips will help to decrease your anxiety while speaking in front of others and improve your overall performance.
- When reading a speech or material out loud
- Recite the passage you will read over and over to yourself prior to giving your presentation. Use a mirror or even a friend to practice in front of the day before to make sure you are prepared.
- Re-write (by hand or word processor) the passage you will be presenting prior to your presentation. In addition, add underlines, bolds and spaces when the passage calls for more inflection or a pause.
- Focus on each individual word, even the little ones. When we read we automatically skip over smaller words – a, as, if, to, etc. – to allow us to read more quickly. When you recite out loud, make sure you place the same amount of focus on smaller words as you do on longer more complex words.
- Take inordinate pauses at the end of each sentence.
- Look up at your audience at the end of each paragraph.
- Picture the audience nude
- Okay, let’s face it. This can be flat out weird or terrifying depending on who is in the audience. But in reality, you need to be able to make the audience less intimidating. Rather than looking at the audience as a whole, focus on three individuals who are warm and appear engaged. These individuals should be sitting in different areas of your audience. Purposely look at these individuals and choose to ignore everyone else. In a way, pretend that you are having small conversations with these “friendly” audience members. By doing this, you will appear as if you are looking at everyone, when in reality you are only looking at three individuals and not the entire crowd.
- Take long, deep breaths prior to delivering a speech. Deep breathing controls accelerated heart beats, loosens tight neck and shoulder muscles and helps pump oxygen to the brain, increasing focus and ultimately reducing public speaking anxiety (stage fright). Taking the time to breathe will ensure your speaking does not speed up and will help you to concentrate on your material.
- When you feel your voice quivering take a moment to pause and repeat a self-soothing phrase such as, “you know this material and you are doing great” or “it’s okay to take your time, you don’t have to rush.” Taking a few seconds to silently repeat an encouraging phrase to yourself when you feel flustered is always more beneficial than blurting out something and can even strengthen your speech, allowing the audience to reflect on what you just said.
- Don’t apologize for being nervous or taking a pause
- Admitting you are nervous can help lighten up the audience and bring a smile to people’s face, however, you also bring attention to your anxiety that most likely otherwise go unnoticed. The best way to break the ice if you feel overwhelming tension or pressure prior to starting your speech is to use an open ended question to get the audience engaged and talking right off the bat. This will have the same effect as saying “I’m nervous, so you guys can laugh” without the audience actually laughing at you.
So give it a try! These tips are likely to increase your confidence and improve your performance while speaking in front of others or taking a test. If you are having trouble with your schoolwork in general, a trip to the Learning Studio is an additional resource that can help you to achieve a higher GPA. Finally, a therapist at Columbia Counseling Services can work you individually to decrease your anxiety and help you to establish solid study skills. To make an appointment at Columbia College Counseling Services, call 312-369-8700. We also offer the following group services: Emotional Education, Redefining Relationships and Social Success. To learn more about our groups please visit: http://www.colum.edu/Students/Health/counseling-services/group-therapy/
Response written by: Carly Maletich
Overcoming public speaking anxiety. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.bravina.com/public-
speaking-anxiety/overcoming-public-speaking-anxiety.html Hanson, R., & Mendius, R. (2009).
Cuncic, A. (2012, July 8). Test anxiety: Ten tips for coping with test anxiety. Retrieved from
Posted on 9.10.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
I am a diligent student and enjoy school, however, sometimes I feel like my anxiety is getting the best of me. I studied forever for my music exam and seriously knew the material, but I got so worked up and anxious right before the professor passed out the test that my mind went blank! I literally failed the exam and am so frustrated with the fact that my anxiety caused me to forget the material. On top of that, this last week I had to speak in front of my class and totally made a fool of myself. While I had spent hours memorizing the material, and knew my speech well, my hands got so sweaty, and I was shaking so badly that I could barely concentrate. What am I supposed to do about this!?
What Am I Suppose to DO?
Posted on 4.10.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
Spring is finally here in Chicago! But all I want to do is be outside with my friends. I know we just finished spring break and there is only about a month of school left, but I cannot seem to motivate myself to finish my school work. The Oak Street Beach, Lake Front Trail, Lincoln Park, Millennium Park, Grant Park, and, to be honest, all parks are calling me. What do I do?
Wanting To Be Outside
Dear Wanting To Be Outside,
After a Chicago winter (even a relatively mild one), it is not unusual to experience “spring fever” and want to enjoy sunlight and warmer temperatures, especially if you’ve been affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of mood disorder—like depression—that tends to occur at a specific time of year, typically winter. It is also fairly common to have difficulty refocusing on school work after spring break because the end of the academic year seems so near. These desires, however, need to be balanced with an appropriate amount of time spent on school work, especially since there are fewer weeks after spring break this year than is typical at Columbia.
As you finish your semester, try to keep both time management and a balance between work and play in mind. You should allow yourself some time to take in the sun’s rays; if you do not do so, you may experience some anxiousness due to excess energy (a common symptom of spring fever) and/or resentment about having to be inside when you’d rather be out—not to mention trouble focusing. When we want to do one thing (i.e. be outside) but force ourselves to do another (i.e. sit in the lab to work on a project and/or study), we often find ourselves doing neither. We may sit in the lab, but our mind tends to be unfocused, daydreaming about beautiful Lake Michigan and dozing on the grass. The best way to respond is to set time limits. Plan to spend 1-3 hours in the lab and then reward yourself for your work by eating lunch outside or going on a walk. If you know that you will get to be outside—and that you will be at a specific time—you will be less likely to spend your homework/study time thinking about whether and when you can enjoy the fresh air. Planning your schedule to accommodate being outside also allows you to focus on the task at hand and make the most of your study time. By completing homework during the study time, you will be more able to enjoy the time you do have outside because you will know it is well-deserved and you are not skipping or ignoring your responsibilities when you choose to be outside rather than doing schoolwork.
Another way to integrate your desire to be outside with academic work is to rearrange your social schedule. Often, students think the best time to hang out with friends is in the evening. But it is more difficult to take advantage of the sunshine if you’re only allowing yourself to socialize or take time off during the evening. Consider arranging a mid-day picnic or urban hike with friends during the daylight and plan to study in the evening, after the sun sets and temperatures inevitably get somewhat chillier. Or, if you like being outside to exercise, rather than socialize, change your exercise routine. If you typically go to the gym at a specific time, try going outside instead. Take up running, biking, rollerblading, or another activity that allows you to be outside. Figure out why you like to be outside and what you prefer to do when you’re out. Once you do that, you can make the most of your time outside to maximize the benefits of relaxation or taking a break. Regardless of how you choose to structure these last several weeks of the semester, ensure that you allow yourself some time outside and enough time to finish your school responsibilities. Even if your time outside is limited for now, you will have more time come May.
Posted on 18.04.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
Mindfulness meditation is becoming an increasingly common tool suggested not only by psychologists and therapists but also prescribed by medical doctors, specifically psychiatrists. Are mindfulness and meditation just part of some new age phenomenon loved by yoga practitioners and energy healers, or is there something more behind this ancient practice?
What is Mindfulness?
Buddhists have practiced mindfulness for thousands of years because it alleviates suffering. Buddhism presupposes that everyone suffers but an individual may choose how to react to her or his suffering. Mindfulness, which seems like a simple practice but is deceptively involved and requires patience, encourages us to change our relationship to suffering. Instead of allowing regular life events or changes in our environment to get us down, mindfulness operates by helping us learn to focus on what is happening in the present moment. As practitioners of mindfulness, we are asked not to focus on what happened in the past, how an event in the present is similar to or different from an event in the past, or even whether an event in the present will change our plans for the future. Mindfulness asks us to focus on an event for what it is—something that happened right now. Mindful attention helps us to acknowledge, without judgment, the task at hand. And, in so doing, it energizes us, develops clarity, and incites joy.
The Brain, the Mind, and Mindfulness
We often think of the brain and the mind as the same thing. Neurologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals, however, distinguish the brain and the mind as two separate entities. The brain is comprised of approximately 3-pounds of tofu-like gray material containing 1.1 trillion cells, including 100 billion neurons; it is a part of the body. By contrast, the mind is a process regulating energy (within our bodies and between our bodies and other people and our environment) and information. To over-simplify an extremely complex process, the mind develops throughout the lifespan as a result of neurons firing, establishing patterns of connections to other neurons in the brain. As neurons become connected or linked, patterns often form among neurons such that certain neurons typically fire together. Our mind, then, learns to process new information based on which neurons fire, employing a “top-down” process. In other words, we begin to interpret and understand something even before we have fully observed it because of how our minds quickly and automatically categorize information. When we train our minds through practices like mindfulness, we are able to prevent our brains from automatically engaging in a top-down process. Instead, we are more fully able to observe our environment and process information using a bottom-up approach—observing and processing before interpreting or classifying. This allows new systems of neurons to link or operate together, thereby providing for a more integrated brain. A more integrated neuron structure then leads to more flexibility, adaptivity, and cohesiveness in our brain, mind, and interpersonal relationships. Accordingly, mindfulness actually does more than reduce suffering; it alters how our brains and mind conceptualize information and function and often improves our relationships with others.
How do I practice Mindfulness?
A basic definition of mindfulness is “moment-by-moment awareness” (Germer, 2005, p.6). As you begin to practice mindfulness, you may lie down, sit, or stand, though sitting is generally preferred. (If you try lying down, you may find yourself falling asleep.) Beginning practitioners tend to focus on the breath, noticing inhales and exhales. As you attempt to focus on your breath, try not to judge whether you’re breathing slowly or quickly; try not to think about what you were just doing or what needs to be done when you finish your practice. For the period of time you practice, simply sit and attend to your breath—inhales and exhales—without questioning whether you’re doing it “right” or “wrong.” Because of how we have been trained and how busy our lives typically are, you may find your mind wander onto other stimuli or thoughts. This is frequently referred to as “monkey mind,” since monkeys are always swinging from place to place via the treetops. If you notice this, simply refocus on your breath and acknowledge that you, too, are human and your mind will wander occasionally (or, initially, a lot). By practicing mindfulness, you are attempting to train your mind, and you will find your mind more able to focus as you practice. If you practice regularly, you may eventually wish to transfer your focus from your breath to bodily sensations, your emotions, and eventually each activity in which you are engaged.
Germer, C.K. (2005). Mindfulness: what is it? what does it matter? In Germer, C.K., Siegel, R.D., & Fulton, P.R. (Eds.), Mindfulness and Psychotherapy (pp. 3-27). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Hanson, R., & Mendius, R. (2009). Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, & Wisdom. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Siegel, D.J. (2006). An interpersonal neurobiology approach to psychotherapy. Psychiatric Annals, 36(4), 248-256.
Siegel, D.J. (2007). Mindfulness training and neural integration: differentiation of distinct streams of awareness and the cultivation of well-being. SCAN, 2, 259-263.
Siegel, D.J. (2009). Mindful awareness, mindsight, and neural integration. The Humanistic Psychologist, 37, 137-158.
Posted on 18.04.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña