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Category Archives: Features
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
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
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
We live in a culture that emphasizes a strong work ethic and external determinants of success. As a result, we often measure our worth as humans according to our performance. To some extent, wanting to achieve a certain standard of living can motivate us to accomplish needed tasks. However, this way of thinking becomes problematic when we become stressed out from the demands we place on ourselves.
Another way of viewing our worth is with the concept of unconditional human worth. This term suggests that we are valuable as people not because of things we do, but because our essential, core self is unique, precious, of unchanging value, and good. Claudia A. Howard (1992) has come up with five axioms to describe unconditional human worth:
1. All have infinite, eternal, and unconditional worth as persons.
2. All have equal worth as people. Worth is not comparative or competitive.
Although you might be better at sports, academics, or business, and I might
be better in social skills, we have equal worth as human beings.
3. Externals neither add to nor diminish worth. Externals include things like money,
looks, performance, and achievements. These only increase one’s market or social
worth. Worth as a person, however, is infinite and unchanging.
4. Worth is stable and never in jeopardy (even if someone rejects you).
5. Worth doesn’t have to be earned or proved. It already exists. Just recognize,
accept, and appreciate it.
When worth equals externals, self-esteem rises and falls along with events. This can be problematic because our lives would be like an emotional roller coaster. In contrast, when worth is separate from externals, self-esteem remains constant. It is likely that we will still experience negative emotions due to events that happen in our lives. It is okay to feel the emotions, but we want to separate uncomfortable feelings from feeling bad about the core self.
Information retrieved from: Schiraldi, G.R. (2001). The Self-Esteem Workbook. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.
Posted on 28.03.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
Most students have already heard that it’s an important part of college life and professional development to have good working relationships with your professors. If you are a quiet or introspective person, you may find it difficult to solicit the time and attention of your professors. Many people have a great deal of trouble speaking up to ask for help with assignments or better understand a grade, or keeping professors appropriately informed about illness or other emergencies. The two most important things to remember about your professors are that (1) professors are often extremely busy people with a wide range of responsibilities besides teaching and many students asking for their time; and (2) professors are often very committed people who are excited about their courses and really want you to understand the material.
Professors tend to appreciate it when students come to office hours with a specific question or problem. This could be a question about an assignment, a wish to go over a partially completed assignment, or a question about something that was covered in class. One way to get to know your professor better is by stopping to ask about things that you’re interested in. These conversations don’t need to be long—a couple of minutes after class, or a short office visit can be informative for you and also help your professors get a better idea of who you are and what interests you.
If you have something positive to say about a class, say it. If you got some particularly useful, or even critical, feedback during a class session, let the professor know what you’ve been doing to make use of it. Or maybe last semester, you learned something that has changed the way you approach your artwork or your studies. A brief note mentioning this to your former professor will mean something and keep you on that person’s radar.
When you have a special request, be courteous and professional. Professors know that sometimes computers really do crash, that health problems really do arise, and in general, that there are extenuating circumstances that prevent work from getting done on time. In the event that you need to make a special request, here are some guidelines to follow. (1) Acknowledge that you are asking for special treatment; (2) briefly state the reason for this; (3) indicate what you have done so far to complete your assignment, and if it’s relevant, any obstacles you have encountered; (4) if you can say so honestly, express enthusiasm for the course or the assignment; (5) frame your request as a question; and (6) thank the professor for his or her time. Your request may or may not be granted, but you will have asked in a respectful and professional way.
Posted on 5.03.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
By Samantha Fenno
Consuming alcohol is one of many things college students do to unwind, feel more comfortable at parties, be more sociable, or just have fun. While alcohol can be pleasure-enhancing, it can also quickly become dangerous and even deadly. College students are particularly at risk for binge drinking. It may surprise you to learn that medical authorities define binge drinking as consuming more than 4 drinks per event for women, or more than 5 drinks per event for men. After this point, the body’s ability to maintain coordination and judgment are highly impaired. Students drinking at this level place themselves at risk of becoming involved in unwanted sexual situations, car accidents, muggings, pedestrian accidents, physical altercations, and police arrest for underage drinking, public intoxication, and DUI. Binge drinking is unfortunately very common on college campuses, and particularly dangerous on an urban campus such as ours. Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning and death–a terrible event on many college campuses every year.
Do you, or does a friend, sometimes drink more than 4 or 5 drinks in an evening? If you do, cutting back would be in the interests of both your health and your safety. You can stay safest by eliminating alcohol consumption altogether, but you might also consider the following tips for keeping drinking safer:
–Memorize standard drink measures. 1 drink = 12 oz. beer = 5 oz. glass of wine = 1 oz. shot of hard liquor.
–Count your drinks. Put a number of rubber bands around your wrist that represents the number of drinks you think it’s safe to have. Take one off each time you order a drink. If you run out of rubber bands, it’s time to stop drinking.
–Avoid doing shots. Hard liquor adds a lot of alcohol to your system and it may take awhile for you to recognize how intoxicated you’re becoming until it is too late.
–Carry a water bottle. Don’t drink alcohol because you are thirsty. Alcohol dehydrates your body, which can cause you to want to consume more alcohol. More alcohol ultimately will not quench your thirst, but it will make you more intoxicated and put you at risk. Drink water when you are thirsty.
–Hang out with people who drink less than you typically do. And drink only as much as they do.
–If you have trouble controlling binge drinking, seek help. Binge drinking is a warning sign for alcohol addiction and dependence. It is also sometimes a standalone problem. Students do not have to be at risk for alcoholism to end up in dangerous situations from over-drinking once in awhile.
If you are worried about binge drinking or have questions about your alcohol consumption, consider calling Counseling Services at (312) 369-8700. You can also check out the online drinking assessment on our web page (http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org/screening/COLUMBIACOLLEGECHIC). Counseling Services therapists can assist you in assessing your alcohol consumption and addressing any issues you may have with it.
Posted on 2.03.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
By Elizabeth Burns
Since some level of stress and anxiety is inevitable, we can all benefit from learning to address feelings of worry or uncertainty as they arise. No matter what your level of anxiety, the first steps to coping with the symptoms are similar. While it is certainly not easy, the process of managing and reducing anxiety starts with some very basic ideas:
1) Relax and breathe.
First, learn to observe your body and mind when you begin to feel anxious. Can you put a name on what you are feeling? What does it feel like in your body? What thoughts are going through your mind? It is important to get to know what your anxiety looks and feels like so you can be acknowledge when it is happening. Relaxation and breathing exercises, such as mindfulness meditation, can teach us to observe our thoughts without getting carried away by them. Mindfulness is a popular idea in psychology and mental health so there is plenty of information online and in the community. Here’s one place to start.
We all know that we should exercise … but did you know that there is scientific evidence that says exercise can reduce anxiety? Check out this New York Times article for some interesting studies on exercise and anxiety. Consistency is important; find 30 minutes each day and make exercise a part of your routine. Making exercise a priority and placing it on your schedule can help make sure it happens. You might also invite a friend to work out with you!
3) Eat right!
It’s not surprising that what we put into our body impacts the way we react to the world. Edmund J. Bourne, author of The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, suggests that foods such as caffeine, nicotine, refined sugars and salt (as well as many other things we already know we shouldn’t eat) can aggravate levels of anxiety. Try to create and stick to a healthy diet for a few months and track how your levels of anxiety change over time.
As you can see, the first steps toward reducing anxiety are things you probably already know you should do. Unfortunately, there is no magic for erasing stress and worry from our lives. Start with some of these basics and if you need more guidance or if your symptoms are interfering with your day-to-day life, call Counseling Services (312) 369-8700 to make an appointment with a therapist. You can also check out Emotional Education, a group offered by Counseling Services, which meets each Tuesday and Thursday at noon at 731 S. Plymouth Court.
Bourne, E. J. (2000). The anxiety & phobia workbook Third edition. Oakland,
CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Reynolds, G. (2009, November 18). Phys ed: Why exercise makes you less
anxious. New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/phys-ed-why-exercise-makes-you-less-anxious/
Davis, J. L. (2009, December, 31). Coping with anxiety. Retrieved f http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/coping-with anxiety?page=2
Posted on 3.02.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
The free HIV/STD testing at Columbia College is cancelled until further notice. The Chicago Department of Public Health is no longer able to serve our college due to severe budget cuts. If you are in need of a referral for STD/HIV testing please contact Counseling Services at 312-369-8700 or Student Relations at 312-369-8595.
Posted on 31.01.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
By Elizabeth Burns
Classes, presentations, meetings, work, assignments, phone calls, internship, emails, dinner dates, parties, assignments … the amount of activities to participate in and the information you receive each day can be overwhelming. Managing life as a college student is stressful! The good news is that stress and worry are often a very normal and necessary part of life. Anxiety is your body’s natural response to danger or uncertainty; it can keep us safe and motivate us to get things done. However, when feelings of fear or worry make it difficult to function in your daily life, there may be something more going on.
Check out the symptoms of anxiety disorders below. Although there are several different types of anxiety disorders, most have similar symptoms which can be both physical and emotional:
• Feelings of apprehension or dread
• Trouble concentrating
• Feeling tense and jumpy
• Anticipating the worst
• Fear of losing control or going crazy
• Pounding heart or chest pain
• Chills, sweating or hot flashes
• Stomach upset or nausea
• Shortness of breath
• Trembling or shaking
• Muscle tension
• Headaches, feeling dizzy
Managing life as a student is difficult and some level of anxiety, uncertainty, worry and stress is just a regular part of life. If the symptoms above are interfering with school, work, relationships, or other areas in your life, consider calling Counseling Services at (312) 369-8700 to learn more about anxiety or make an appointment with a therapist.
Posted on 30.01.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña
Counseling services would like to welcome Rosemary Magaña as the new full time staff therapist. Rosemary’s first day was December 12th and has been trained and is ready to meet with Columbia students for the spring semester. Prior to coming to Columbia, Rosemary worked at UCAN in their Clinical Counseling Services program, serving families and children involved in the child welfare system. While at UCAN Rosemary was also able to work with students in the the community, she addressed their mental health needs and provided support for academic success. Rosemary is a Chicago native, is fluent in Spanish and enjoys traveling and learning about different cultures. Rosemary has a special interest in working with first generation students and is looking forward to providing therapeutic services to Columbia students.
Posted on 13.01.2012
Post by Rosemary Magaña