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  • Study Hacks You Haven’t Heard of Before

    If there is one thing that will keep you clear-headed whilst studying, it is productivity hacks. Working smarter, not harder, is a sure-fire way to keep the dreaded burnout at bay and to get you the grades that you have been stressing over all year. If you have read endless articles about the ‘best ways to increase your productivity’, chances are you are sick of hearing about to-do lists and the Pomodoro technique . Though they can be super helpful, sometimes you just want something fresh to keep you motivated (and awake) - so we thought we would give you some lesser-known productivity hacks, ideal for stressed-out students everywhere. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that though these hacks will help you to a certain extent, you cannot just rely on shoes and Mario Kart (no context spoiler alert) to get you through exams. Get the basics (sleep, nutrition etc.) sorted before you start adding these to your routine. Anyway, enough of the introduction, here are some study and productivity hacks we bet you haven’t heard of before. Put Your Shoes On You might have heard of ‘getting dressed as if you are leaving the house even if you are working from home’, but let’s be honest, no one wants to change out of their comfy pyjamas. To combat this problem, we have an easier version of this hack for you - put your shoes on. This look might not win you any trophies at The Fashion Awards, but it can increase your productivity. Research has found that dressing up for work can improve your performance , and if it works for the 9-5, it can work for your study sessions too! The idea behind this, is that even if you are not changing what/how you study, you will subconsciously feel more prepared to do the work. By getting ready (even a little bit) you are shifting your mind into productivity mode. Plus, if your shoes are dirty, it will stop you from climbing back into bed. So grab your trainers and get going! Record A Time Lapse Of You Studying You do not have to be a StudyTuber making 8-hour-long ‘study with me’ videos to film yourself while you work. In fact, just recording those 45 minutes of revision you do each afternoon can be enough to increase your productivity. Recording yourself might sound a bit off-putting, but remember that you will not be posting these videos anywhere – it is just to keep you focused for a set period of time. We have all been there - saying that we will do an hour of studying before going out for drinks, but when the time comes to sit down and work, you procrastinate and get distracted in minutes. This is where recording yourself can help. First, it means that your phone will be in use for the entire time that you are studying, so you will not be able to scroll without ending the recording (bonus points if you put ‘do not disturb’ on while you are doing this). Second, it is like having a non-judgemental minder watching you work and reminding you that you should be studying every time you are tempted to procrastinate for ‘just 5 minutes’... give it a go and let us know what you think! Mario Kart Music If you were on TikTok in late 2020 you might have seen this phenomenon go viral, but if not, chances are you are very confused right now. Essentially, lots of students found that listening to upbeat, fast music (a far cry from your stereotypical low-fi chillout study music) such as the soundtracks to Mario Kart (particularly coconut mall ), helped them write essays faster when working towards deadlines. We cannot vouch for the quality of your writing, but if you are feeling really drained, giving this hack a go might help give you that burst of energy needed to get those references done. Do A 9-5 Creating a study schedule and sticking to it is hard, and life (including cooking meals and doing that load of laundry you have been putting off all week) can often get in the way. A way around this, and something that can really benefit you when it comes to transitioning from university to a graduate job, is to do a mini 9-5. Depending on what you are studying, you will likely have one or two days off each week to do your own thing and catch up on work. Designate one of those days as your ‘9-5 day’ and treat your studying or university work as a job. Clock in at 9, give yourself an hour’s lunch break, and clock out at 5. Then, enjoy your evening knowing that you have done a full day’s work. If a 9-5 is a bit too much, try a 10-4 or even an 11-3 to get started. Switching up your studying mindset can make all the difference! There you have it, some study and productivity hacks that you (probably) have not heard of before! If you have got any hacks of your own, or decide to give these a try, let us know or help someone you know out by telling them about it. Now go out there and smash it! The Grad Soc connects students and companies through internships , and provides career/employability support and resources to help students and graduates get jobs. Check out their internship options 👉 https://thegradsoc.com/internships Follow them on Instagram and TikTok to keep up to date with their latest tips and tricks Sources [BePineapple]. (2020, October 26). 2 hours of mario kart music | study motivation [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3HfVcaH0nE&t=1515s Hernandez, P. (2020, October 26). Teens are using mario kart music to finish last-minute homework . Polygon. https://www.polygon.com/2020/10/26/21534379/mario-kart-music-homework-studying-nintendo-spotify-super-star-coconut-mall-switch-teens-college Scroggs, L. (n.d.). The pomodoro technique. Todoist. https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/pomodoro-technique Sharma, R. (2019, August 17). StudyTube: The community of youtubers using revision and university to boost their platforms. inews. https://inews.co.uk/news/education/studytube-youtubers-revision-university-influencers-followers-a-levels-gcses-326390 Smith, R. A. (2020, September 20). The science behind wfh dressing for zoom. The wall street journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-science-behind-wfh-dressing-for-zoom-11600626704

  • 9 Practical Networking Tips for Students

    In college and university, the connections you make matter. Unfortunately, many students overlook the essential skill of networking when searching for a job, internship, or reference. Networking helps you build genuine relationships, establish your presence, and create professional opportunities. Students who master this valuable skill can jumpstart their careers even before graduation. A 2020 LinkedIn survey showed that over 70% of people get hired because someone they know made an introduction or connection. This survey also states that hiring managers are 52% more likely to interview a candidate referred to them by someone in their network. Networking may seem complex, but it is simpler than you might think. In this article, we will give you 9 practical tips to help you make the most out of each networking experience. 1. Start as Early as Possible Many students believe that you have to wait until graduation to start networking. This could not be any more wrong. The earlier you start networking, the more seeds you can plant throughout your academic journey. Those seeds can eventually grow into fields of professional opportunities. No matter your year, there is no wrong time to start building relationships. Getting started is the hardest part. But once you get going, it only gets easier from there. It is important to note that starting early does not mean to rush yourself. Your life is not a race. Relish in your adventurous college years. But enjoy your life while giving yourself permission to meet more people. 2. Talk to Other Students and Alumni Remember, you are not the only student trying to form a network. Most students in your classes are in the same boat as you. Get to know your classmates. This can introduce you to new friends who can help you find a job or internship, and who you can form strong relationships with. You can also exchange opportunities you find in each other's respective fields. Along with current students, connect with recent grads. Career expert and HelloHive CEO, Byron Slosar, discussed this method during an interview with CNBC. He says this is very useful because alumni are more likely to provide "timely job insight". Slosar also states, "You are increasing the likelihood of leveraging someone who has just been through the interview process and was successful in the eyes of the company." This networking tactic can be beneficial for college students nearing graduation. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with alums, and your school’s alumni network probably has a social media presence - but be sincere in your connection messages and avoid spamming people. When reaching out, try highlighting your connection and acknowledging their work so that you can introduce yourself and form a connection before asking for their insight. 3. Use Social Media to Your Advantage Today, the most popular way to network is via social media. Social media is a powerful networking tool, providing instant access to a global network of people, groups, and businesses. If you are not already on social media, now is the best time to make that account. You can create your own platform and showcase your personality with every post. This allows potential employers to learn more about you and gives you the chance to make a positive first impression. You can use this digital innovation to connect with brands, stay updated on job listings, and chat with employees about the company. Social media is not just a place to watch short, funny videos. It is also where life-changing connections can be made. 4. Join Clubs and Find Networking Events Colleges and universities are home to many internal networking opportunities. There are clubs that support almost every interest, and club events frequently occur on campus. This can be a great way to network with people who share your passions and hobbies. Career centers and job fairs are other great places to network and find job opportunities. Make sure to stay on alert for any events hosted by your school. Networking events are not only limited to campus grounds. There are plenty events you can find online. Platforms like Eventbrite or Meetup can help you find virtual and local communities specific to your field and interests. You can also use social media platforms like Meta or LinkedIn to discover relevant online groups. When joining clubs or organizations, pick ones that you are genuinely interested in. Having a shared interest makes it easier to spark conversation with others. At first, it may seem scary, but remember that most people there are experiencing the same feelings. If you start the interaction by being authentic, it can ease the tension for everyone involved. 5. Focus on Proving Value, Not Getting Hired When networking, many individuals, particularly young students, often make the mistake of trying too hard to get hired. The point of networking is not to "get a job" - it is to meet people, build fulfilling relationships, and find places to provide value to others. Remember, it is called networking, not self-working. You will go further in life by helping everyone you meet instead of thinking of ways that they can help you. People hire teammates, not employees. So, when you start networking, ask yourself this one question before each interaction: "What can I do to make this person's life easier?" Sometimes you cannot help them, but they will remember you and maybe refer you to someone you can help. "Adding value to others is the surest way to add value to our own lives" - John Maxwell 6. Ask for Help If you are having trouble networking or feel like you have hit a roadblock, asking for help is always best. There is nothing wrong with asking the people around you for advice. Along with friends and family, you can ask professors, counselors, or career coaches who have undergone the same process. If you want help, all you have to do is ask. "Ask for help. Not because you are weak. But because you want to remain strong." - Les Brown 7. Practice Networking Treat networking the same as anything else you want to get better at. Improvement comes from practice. Imagine every networking event as a workout session for your social skills. Each rep (interaction) helps you get one step further out of your comfort zone. A helpful mini tip for expanding your comfort zone is attending networking events outside your field of interest. This will help you gain diverse perspectives, extend your network, and practice adaptability. For example, if you are in the photography industry, try talking to people in the automotive communities. Someone in the cooking space can interact with the medical or fashion industries. Some of the best networking opportunities may be where you least expect them. There is something to learn from everyone. 8. Have a Goal in Mind It is crucial to establish goals before networking with others. Before any networking event, try to identify the people you plan to talk to and what kind of relationship you want to build with them. Creating a list of goals can help you clarify your intentions for each interaction. For example, before an event, whether it is virtual or in-person, identify at least 5 people who you want to connect with and how you can help each other. Meaningful interactions are memorable ones. So, to give your conversations purpose and make them meaningful, set goals and prepare beforehand. Researching the event and the guestlist, writing out a few talking points, and getting into the right mindset will help you network purposefully. 9. Build Soft Skills Most students who graduate leave college with similar core skills. But one set of skills can set you apart from the rest. Soft skills. Soft skills are an essential part of networking. As a matter of fact, they can be the deciding factor in the hiring process for companies. LinkedIn's Global Talent Trends 2019 report shows that over 90% of companies reported that soft skills are equally or more important than hard skills when hiring candidates. In today's business world, employers seek more than just work experience. They value clear communication, active listening, creativity, self-awareness, and initiative. Personality and attitude leave a deeper imprint on people's minds than a resume does. Conclusion As the old saying goes, "Your network is your net worth". Communicating and bonding with others is a skill that pays dividends on your success. Networking can be challenging to navigate, though. These practical tips will help you on your professional journey. No matter your year of study, background, or future plans, networking is beneficial for everyone. This skill increases your chances of getting a job and creates a foundation for fulfilling life-long relationships. Believe it or not, you practice networking daily in your regular conversations. Now, it is time to hone this skill and use it to your advantage. What can you do to start building your network right now? Let us know in the comments below 💬👇 References: Helping jobseekers take their next step. Helping Job Seekers Take their Next Step. (2020, October 28). https://news.linkedin.com/2020/october/helping-job-seekers-take-their-next-step McLaren, S. (2019, March 20). Here’s how you can measure soft skills effectively in 6 steps. Here’s How You Can Measure Soft Skills Effectively in 6 Steps. https://www.linkedin.com/business/talent/blog/talent-acquisition/soft-skills-are-hard-to-assess-but-these-steps-can-help

  • Four Healthy Ways to Conquer Overwhelming Emotions and Intrusive Thoughts

    The first semester of a brand new university year is a stressful time that can lead to overwhelming emotions and intrusive thoughts cropping up. They manifest as a voice in your head that you cannot shake — it might tell you that you are going to fail all your classes, or that you will not be able to make any new friends, get into grad school, or get a job with your degree. These intrusive thoughts can add to all of the stresses that you and other students are dealing with, cause anxiety, and affect your learning. However, you can rest assured knowing that there is nothing wrong with experiencing these kinds of intrusive thoughts. A 2014 study found that about 19 in every 20 people will have these thoughts over three months. But what should you do when they become more frequent and challenging to manage? Fortunately, many evidence-based strategies are informed by years of psychological research to help you brave these storms. Here are four healthy ways to deal with overwhelming emotions and intrusive thoughts: #1 Practice opposite actions When a flurry of intrusive thoughts or emotions hits you in the morning, it can be hard to get out of bed. These thoughts and voices might tell you that there is no point in wasting your time in class if you are going to fail. You might feel an impending sense of doom, a pit in your stomach, and anxiety over the morning classes, all of which can keep you from getting up. Every time you miss class, you fall further and further behind and become more and more anxious. This becomes a vicious cycle where you keep falling behind in class, further fuelling these overwhelming thoughts and emotions. One strategy for conquering these thoughts and emotions is called opposite actions. It comes from Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), which helps you learn to accept feelings and thoughts even if they can be disruptive. Opposite actions allow you to recognize how you respond to these intrusive thoughts and overwhelming emotions, and suggest that you do the opposite instead. In this scenario, rather than staying in bed when you are anxious about classes, taking opposite actions could involve getting up and going to class, office hours, and even speaking with your professor or a teaching assistant about your concerns. In other cases where you might experience anxiety over social outings, opposite actions would encourage you to go out and try to enjoy yourself anyway, overcoming fear and social anxiety. #2 Don’t engage with intrusive thoughts Many people try to argue back against their intrusive thoughts and overwhelming emotions. For example, if an intrusive thought revolves around your friends secretly disliking you, you could try to think of all the fun times you have had with these friends as a counter-example. However, this is just as effective as playing chess with a pigeon. Eventually, the pigeon will just knock down all the pieces and poop on the board. Arguing with intrusive thoughts can deepen the spiral, amplify anxiety, and continue to derail your day. Instead, the next time these overwhelming thoughts or intrusive emotions crop up, try to accept them and let them flow by your stream of consciousness. Do not engage with them. This may take some practice, but in the end, it involves ensuring that your mind is a no-judgment, no-shame zone. Sometimes, it can help to have a few distractions handy that you can do to distract yourself while you let the thought pass, like knitting, drawing, or doing the dishes. #3 Practice identifying your emotional states and triggers Another powerful skill involves learning to recognize what triggers certain emotions. You can start by tracking them on a piece of paper or in a notebook. Write down the emotion, what triggered it, and what this emotion makes you want to do. Then, when you have a week’s worth of notes, you can see if there are specific patterns you can identify. For example, you might have more anxiety or intrusive thoughts after drinking a few too many beers. Or you might have fewer of these thoughts when you spend time in a park with your friends. In addition to recognizing triggers, you can also work on modifying your behavioural responses. Now that you can realize your emotions, you can see if you respond in ways consistent with your values. For example, if you get angry with yourself, you might end up playing video games all night and miss class the next day. Instead, you might implement an opposite action and find an alternative activity that aligns more with your goals and values, like drawing or running. That way, you will not miss class the next day. #4 Ask for help Sometimes, these intrusive thoughts and overwhelming emotions can get out of control. That is okay, too, and knowing that you can ask for help is essential. Whether this is speaking with a trusted friend, family member, or professor, your support system can help you talk through your feelings and emotions. In addition, they may direct you to resources within the university that can help you address your mental health concerns. In some cases, students are not comfortable going through the services within their university and can benefit from community-based resources. This article was written by Simon Spichak, Co-Founder Resolvve. I founded Resolvve to address some of these concerns — we provide students with access to therapists that get your needs, starting at $100 with no waiting list. Many student insurance plans can cover the entirety of a therapy session, meaning that you could try therapy for free to see if it can help. Learn more about Resolvve and how we can help by checking out our website and our Instagram: @resolvvementalhealth Sources Bilodeau, K. (2021, Oct 1). Managing intrusive thoughts. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/managing-intrusive-thoughts Radomsky, A. S., Alcolado, G. M., Abramowitz, J. S., Alonso, P., Belloch, A., Bouvard, M., Clark, D. A., Coles, M. E., Doron, G., Fernández-Álvarez, H., Garcia, Soriano, G., Ghisi, M., Gomez, B., Inozu, M., Moulding, R., Shams, G., Sica, C., Simos, G., & Wong, W. (2014). Part 1 – you can run but you can’t hide: Intrusive thoughts on six continents. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, Vol. 3(3), 269-279. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jocrd.2013.09.002 Spichak, S. (2022, May 19). What is anxiety?. Resolvve. https://resolvve.ca/blog/what-is-anxiety Spichak, S. (2022, Sept 15). Understanding and managing stress. Resolvve. https://resolvve.ca/blog/understanding-managing-stress-mental-health Tile, N. (2021, Aug 2). One simple way to regulate emotions. Resolvve. https://resolvve.ca/blog/emotion-regulation-opposite-action

  • The Biggest Productivity Myths And What We Can Learn From Them

    If you have spent as much time in the productivity space as I have, you will certainly have come across those 'secret recipes' that claim to work for everyone who wants to get things done. However, these claims, let's call them myths, often address specific situations, types of people, or circumstances. If you find yourself in that situation or identify with that specific type of person, that particular tip can be very helpful; otherwise, it might be ineffective and even lead to demotivation. Nevertheless, this does not mean that these myths are entirely false, but rather that they are simultaneously too specific and too general. This may seem paradoxical, but it presents an opportunity to gain insights into how productivity actually works and develop some ideas to enhance your work approach. To illustrate, I have selected the three most common productivity myths that I have come across: 1. What you need is motivation: This phrase indicates that to be productive, you need to motivate yourself and then everything will fall into place. However, while motivation plays a significant role in helping you sit down and get things done, it will not pay the bills. The key to long-lasting productivity is not just motivation; it is about doing the work even when you are not motivated. Some might call this resilience, discipline, or perseverance, but the terminology is not crucial. It is important to recognize that you have to make a conscious decision to be productive and not rely solely on motivation or the inspiration of the moment. What we can learn: Even after making the decision to get to work, it is crucial to be in the right state of mind to continue to work effectively and not be hindered by your own thoughts. Think about what you need to get yourself into that state; there are no wrong answers. 2. Eat the frog: This phrase is often attributed to none other than Mark Twain, although I have never taken the time to verify this claim. The concept involves tackling your least favorite task of the day first thing in the morning. However, there is a potential issue here. Do not get me wrong; I do not think that it is inherently wrong or something that you should not try. Addressing the most challenging task at the start of a work session can indeed provide motivation and momentum. But, there also will be times when you have so much to do, that the thought of starting with the most terrible task will make it impossible to focus or even prevent you from starting in the first place. Sometimes, to tackle your most dreaded task effectively, you need a clear head, which might require dealing with smaller tasks first. Listen to yourself every day to find out what you need to get started. What we can learn: You should carefully consider when to work on each task. Take the time to plan them, and prioritize based on urgency, concentration required, or motivation needed. 3. You need to get up early to be productive: You have likely encountered this claim if you are active on social media or part of the 5 a.m. miracle morning club. Even if you are not, you have probably heard the saying, "the early bird catches the worm." In theory, this sounds fantastic. You wake up early, accomplish your tasks, and then spend the rest of the day feeling content. However, in practice, anyone who has worked on a substantial project alone knows that it does not always work that way. Not everyone can concentrate in the morning, or they may have circumstances preventing them from following such a routine. If you are a morning person, by all means, make the most of that time. But if you are not, or if it is not feasible for you, find a routine that suits your natural rhythm. Instead of focusing on working at a specific time of day, productivity is about making the best use of the time available to you. What we can learn: Everyone has a peak productivity time during the day; that much is true. It may change over time and circumstances, but if you can structure your day yourself, try out working at different times of the day to see what works best for you. Once you find it, take advantage of it. If there is one universal truth about productivity, it is that there is no secret formula. Your ideal way to maximize productivity will evolve as your life changes, and your needs and abilities to work will adapt. So, stay open-minded, experiment with different tips, and do what resonates with you. Written By: Elisa von Minnigerode Elisa von Minnigerode is a PhD Student and productivity enthusiast. Her goal is to help everyone interested in how they can approach their work in a more focused and more effective way to achieve better results. Elisa started sharing tips about productivity and studying in 2020 on Instagram and has been active in the productivity space ever since. IG: @m.y.phd Learn more about Elisa and her work

  • The Positive Side of “Negative” Emotions: Perspective Taking in Emotion Management

    All emotions are a privilege that serve to increase the human experience. Think of a world devoid of all emotion. It does not sound like a fun place, does it? That is what the world would be like if we wished away “negative” emotions. In a world of only “positive” emotions, the human experience would no longer be whole. When we think of the phrase “negative emotions”, we can easily list off a few examples that come to mind. But are these emotions truly negative? When we label something as negative, we immediately begin to dismiss its credibility and fear its occurrence. To better understand this notion, let us discuss a variety of emotions that are labelled as negative, such as fear, guilt, grief, pain, despair, anger, and shame. Fear A very common fear is the fear of death and dying. When we begin to think of this fear, what happens? Our physiological reactions spike, and we experience symptoms such as sweating, heavy breathing, and stomach flutters. Our most immediate response is to attempt to remove ourselves from the perceived threat through means of various coping strategies, such as distraction. By evaluating this fear, however, we can step back and ask ourselves how it is serving us. A fear of dying can be refocused/reframed as a desire to live. When we switch that lens, the fear of dying may serve as a motivating force to live our lives to the fullest. Grief and Guilt What about some of the other “negative” emotions, such as grief and guilt? Many folks who have lost someone close to them may experience grief over that loss, and guilt that they may not have spent enough quality time with them. But even grief and guilt serve us remarkably well as reminders to value the people in our lives. Grief holds a particular beauty to it, as it is a reflection of the value in connection that we as individuals get to experience. Pain and Despair Have you gone through the horrible experience of a breakup? That heart-wrenching feeling of emptiness that follows a breakup that we did not want to occur, can be so emotionally, physically, and psychologically painful. Following these types of breakups, we may often be left in despair with more questions than answers, and feel confused and alone. But why do we experience that pain in the first place? That pain and despair come from loving and caring for another individual. If we did not care about the person who broke up with us, then the breakup would be simply transactional and we would carry on with our lives. Every relationship that we are in facilitates personal growth. Reflect back on a recent relationship that ended. What did you learn about yourself from that experience (i.e. your values as an individual and as a partner)? Anger Anger is an uncomfortable emotion that often comes forward in times of injustice - when we feel as though others have wronged us in some way. Anger’s journey through the body can be depicted in the form of a wave. Have you heard of the term urge surfing? This concept states that an urge comes forward and begins to build to the point where it is completely unbearable. At that moment (the “crest”), the individual has the choice to give into the urge, or to let the wave crash and recede back to the sea. Every time we let that wave recede, it – the urge - becomes smaller. This wave metaphor can be applied to powerful emotions such as anger. If left unchecked, anger can quickly turn into a state of rage – an uncontrollable version of anger with heightened physiological arousal. In states of rage, we tend to bring forward a more primal version of ourselves that can lead to potential repercussions, such as the end of relationships, loss of a job, and a hit to your reputation to name a few. While anger often feels uncomfortable, it acts as a protective version of yourself that comes forward in times of need. In a way, this is like a big sibling standing up for the younger sibling in a time of conflict. Anger, therefore, is on our side, rather than something to fight against. Shame Shame is a survival response that feels personal by nature. It is a body response that is complemented by cognitive schemas that reinforce ideas such as “you should not have done that…you are a terrible person”. Shame is often fortified by the all-powerful “SHOULDS”. A “should” is simply an expectation, created by oneself or another person, that dictates/demands a certain behaviour. When we do not follow through with that expectation, we feel shame as we believe that we are letting ourselves down and that we are not living up to what is expected of us. By understanding what shame is trying to accomplish, we can become aware of its attempt to decrease arousal/stress, maintain compliance, etc. Shame can be maladaptive and used to reinforce false or unrealistic ideas. However, in some instances, shame can be adaptive and reframed as an attempt to cope with dangerous expectations. For example, it can prevent us from going out and overindulging the night before an exam, or engaging in risky behaviours that can have negative consequences. Takeaway Whether the emotion be fear, guilt, grief, pain, despair, anger, or shame, all emotions serve us. However, if left unchecked and unmanaged, we can end up feeling overwhelmed and drowned in them. By noticing these emotions as body sensations that provide us information, as opposed to negative feelings, it minimizes our negative reactions to them. Just as mentioned with anger, we want to minimize the impact of overwhelming emotions on our psyche to reduce distress. By being aware of these emotions and how they affect our body, we can better understand what that emotion is telling us and give ourselves control over how we choose to react to them. This practice of switching focus off of the emotions themselves and onto how they serve us is difficult, but builds resilience. This article was written by Jason Taylor, MA, RP (Qualifying), CCC, CSTIP, CTP IG: @taylored_therapy https://tayloredtherapy.ca/ References Lloyd, A. (2003). Urge surfing. Cognitive behavior therapy: Applying empirically supported techniques in your practice, 451-455. Makkai, T., & Braithwaite, J. (1994). Reintegrative shaming and compliance with regulatory standards. Criminology, 32(3), 361-385.

  • How to Pursue the Life You Want After Graduation

    First things first, CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who recently graduated! The class of 2023 is now moving on to the next chapter of their lives and I could not be any happier for them (partially because I am a part of this wonderful graduating class). Not only does walking across that stage represent the completion of your studies, it means so much more to a student. This moment in your life reflects the countless hours of hard work you put in to get to this point. I hope you fellow graduates rep your diploma with pride, you earned it! After years of long study periods, complex assignments, and strenuous exams, there is one big question that is on every grad’s mind: What’s next? Now that the academic challenges are over (unless you are pursuing further education), there is a new endeavor to face. And that endeavor…is life. Today, we are going to talk about how to identify and pursue the life you want after graduation. Life After Graduation The beautiful thing about life is that we each have a unique experience. We can do various things and have whatever kinds of adventures we want. So, life after graduation can be whatever you are willing to make of it. Many students want to go straight into a career field, some pursue further education, and some change their minds and seek other ventures, such as entrepreneurship or travelling the world. The life you seek is one that you must create yourself. It can be challenging to do so with so many options out there for fresh graduates. I have struggled to find my path. During my journey, I discovered some useful tips on pursuing your ideal lifestyle. Here are 3 things you can try: 1. Life Planning When it comes down to pursuing the life you want, there is nothing better than creating a solid plan to guide you there. A plan is like a blueprint for the design of a house. You have to understand how the structure will look on the inside and out before grabbing the tools and starting to build. Some people have the instinct to wing everything. That may work sometimes, but you are better off making a plan of action to have more control over what could happen. Remember, this is your future we are talking about. The benefits that come from planning are endless. Studies show that life planning has a positive effect on people’s lives. These positive effects include higher life satisfaction, a clearer sense of direction, and an increase in positive beliefs about the future. A life plan allows you to take control of your life and mold it into what you want. This is because you can see your goals, desires, interests, strengths, and dreams all on paper instead of in your mind. You can write out your passions and establish a strategy to fulfill those passions. You can even write out what you want your ideal life to look like in about 5 to 10 years. For example, I would only talk about being a self-improvement content creator and never act. I was nervous about making videos and did not know where to start, because I did not have a clear-cut plan to look at. I recently started writing out my missions and accomplishing them one by one. It gets easier to complete goals when they are visible to you. Now, I have a small but still growing YouTube channel where I motivate and inspire other young people to find their life purpose. Check out my channel for valuable life advice and motivation! This was all possible because I started planning out how I wanted my life to go and my actions followed. You can do the unthinkable if you put it in a thinkable perspective! Life plans sound great but can be hard to make. This is because, like me, people may be confused about where to start. The best place to start with a life plan is the present moment. Ask yourself a couple of questions: "What am I doing in my life right now?" "What do I want to change about my life this year?" Start by writing out some current goals and aspirations. This will give you a starting point and clarify what it is you want in life. You can split your life plan into multiple parts to analyze the numerous aspects of your life. If you would like a more in-depth explanation of how to create an exceptional life plan, visit my other article: The Importance of Life Planning as a Student and Where to Start. 2. Reconnect With Friends This is an underrated method for pursuing the kind of life you want after school. You can utilize the friend group you graduated with or maybe hit up some older friends you made in the past. This can give you a support group of people who are probably in the same boat as you. Reconnecting with friends is something that students tend to overlook, especially in a world where genuine connection is becoming scarce. Friendships are helpful for a few reasons: Business There are so many stories of successful business people making friends in school and working with them to produce something that benefits the world. It is a lot easier to make something happen when you are surrounded by people who want the same results as you. Friends can make excellent business partners when they cooperate and have a shared goal in mind. New Perspectives and Motivation Friends can challenge your beliefs and help you see the world from another lens. They can also be great accountability partners to keep you on track and aligned with your purpose. I cannot tell you how many times my friends motivated me when they saw me slacking on something I cared about. I have done the same for them, and having mutual motivation is an amazing feeling. Living Together Some students want to move out with their friends because they yearn for independence but do not want to break the bank to get an apartment. Having friends as roommates does cut down many of your expenses for items that can be shared (which is helpful in these times). This gives you a chance to live on your own and save some money that you can use to fuel your passions. If you can, try to reach out to some people from school and reconnect. You never know what doors you will open! 3. Practice Skills You Learned In School In the years you have spent studying in your select field, you have acquired certain skills to make you better in that field. Some of those skills you gained subconsciously and some you deliberately practiced. Focus on those skills and use them to propel you into the life you want. This is a time when you can play to your strengths. Maybe revisit some of the college books you purchased to brush up on knowledge or spend time researching on your own. Use this time after graduation to enhance any experience you have in your ideal career. This can be in the form of internships, self-study, apprenticeships, online programs, etc. Write down some things you are good at and find ways to practice new techniques that can give you an advantage over everyone else. You can even pick up old fun skills or interests from back in school to find new hobbies, or rekindle previous ones to see if they will work for you again. All of this can aid in your mission to find or create the life you want. What Life Do You Want to Pursue? If there is one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: your life is yours to live. This is the start of a new branch on your tree of life. Water this tree with the passion you have developed from the time you were in school. Be proud of what you have accomplished, and what you will accomplish as life goes on. Even though the choices are endless, so are the resources to help you make good choices. Your lifestyle should maximize your potential and provide purpose for you. Things like life plans, friend groups, and revisiting past skills can help you with that. Allow yourself to feel the greatness of what is to come. If you cannot see something that you want, create it. Good luck with your endeavors, graduates! So, what's next for YOU? Head to the comments below to share a goal that you are working towards! 💬👇🏼 References Yuliawati, L., & Ardyan, E. (2020). The role of Life Planning in finding purpose and living out one’s career calling among Indonesian emerging adults. Journal of Career Development, 49(3), 538–550. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894845320950834 Written By: Avion Howard Check out more of Avion's work on his Medium page, and stay tuned to his Instagram & Twitter! You can also check out "A Day In The Life of a Grad" - our new series that was created in collaboration with Avion to dig deep into the journeys and perspectives of recent college/university grads, to help future grads find their way. 👇🏼 👇🏼 👇🏼

  • 6 Things To Avoid For A Better Student Experience

    We all want our student experience to be fun! And there are plenty of ways to do that, no matter what year of college or university you are in. The last thing anybody wants is 4-8 years of misery and regret. To ensure that your college experience is enjoyable, there are certain things that you should be cautious about and try to steer clear of. The list that I will be sharing today is full of things that some people might want but never need, and some could land you in major trouble if you do them at all. Here are 6 things you should avoid to have a better student experience: 1. Isolation Many students go to school intending to keep their heads down and focus on themselves. Focusing on yourself is beneficial for staying on track with your goals, but relationships can be just as helpful to your overall well-being. Studies show that mental health problems are rising among younger individuals, including university students. Part of this increase is due to social isolation and a lack of social support. As a student, it is important to create a social life early on, because it gets harder to make friends later in life. After school, you have fewer chances to see people who are somewhat similar to you. Most people make lifelong friends in school or at work, because they see them often and they can relate to them easier. It is also healthy for you to get out and meet people. Research has found that building connections can help reduce things like anxiety, depression, and stress. There are loads of opportunities to meet people at school. You have clubs, organizations, classes, events, etc. And if you need to build up to in-person interactions, there are online groups you can join to help with confidence. It does not matter what you do, as long as you are doing something to connect! 2. Excessive Partying Parties themselves are not a bad thing, it is good to unwind from the stress of student life sometimes. But excessive partying can do more harm than good. The more time you spend out partying, the more likely you are to be influenced into doing something that you probably did not plan on doing. Peer pressure is a real thing - especially at college or university parties. If you are going to attend parties, be aware of what is going on around you and what you are getting into. Remember that you can make your own choices – it is not the end of the world if you say no to something. The danger of parties can arise when drugs and alcohol come into play - they can do serious damage to your body. Research says that drinking or taking drugs in excess can lead to health problems such as cancer, brain damage, and cirrhosis. You do not have to resent parties or avoid them altogether - but understand the risks that may come with them if you do not set limits and stick to them. 3. Unhealthy Relationships We are all shaped by the environment around us. The people you surround yourself with can affect who you become. Because of that, I want to talk about the effects of unhealthy or toxic relationships. A toxic relationship can negatively impact your emotional and mental health. Research has shown that unhealthy relationships can be draining and may lead to an increase in risk for psychological distresses - like stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. It is also important to notice when a relationship is getting to an unstable point and take the necessary steps to fix the issue, so that you can save your sanity and maybe even the relationship if you choose to. Some relationships can be worked on and change for the better, while others that cross boundaries might be healthier to end. One way to assess your current relationships is to audit them. I have done this before and it has helped me learn more about each person I talk to, identify problems within these relationships, and cut off a few ties that were not good for me. The audit can be simple - ask yourself a few questions about the person you are thinking of. Some examples of reflective questions can be: Is the relationship I have with this person mutually beneficial? How so? Where will I be if I keep this person in my life? Would this person help me if I was in need? (and vice versa) Asking questions like these can help you understand how each relationship is going and determine how helpful or harmful they are for you. Flipping these questions and asking yourself if you are being the best that you can be in your relationships, can help you make some positive changes and maintain your healthy relationships! 4. Skipping Class As much as you may not want to, you do need to go to class. Each lecture, discussion, and activity offers a unique opportunity to learn, grow, and develop important skills that will serve you well in your future career. By showing up and actively participating in class, you have the chance to engage with your professors and peers, ask questions, and gain valuable insights that you would not get otherwise. Each class is a chance to build your knowledge and expand your perspective, setting you up for success both in school and beyond. Remember, attending class and fully participating in your education is a choice only you can make. It is a choice that shows your dedication, commitment, and determination to succeed in all aspects of your life. By choosing to attend each class, you are investing in your own future and setting yourself up for success. So, let's make the choice together to prioritize our education and attend each class with enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. Your future self will thank you for it! 5. Living In The Past College or university is a time when you can experience tremendous growth - but the only way to do that is to focus on the opportunities in front of you. It is natural to reflect and think about your past, but dwelling on what happened will only hold you back from seeing what is in front of you. The past should only be used for reference to build a new future - not as a refuge to hide from the present. When you focus too much on the past, it can be difficult to move forward and progress toward your goals. It is easy to get stuck in a negative mindset and feel overwhelmed by past mistakes or missed opportunities. However, by focusing on the present moment, you can build a foundation for what you want your life to be like later on. You can get a jump-start on your growth by being active at school. Participate in extracurricular activities or network with peers and professors whenever you can. This can help you learn more about what is going on around your school - keeping you grounded in the present. 6. Not Planning For Anything I truly believe that planning is one of the most important skills you can develop. It is not just about setting goals or making to-do lists, it is about taking control of your life and creating a roadmap for your future. When you take the time to plan ahead, you are investing in yourself and your future. You are setting yourself up for success by prioritizing your goals, breaking them down into achievable steps, and taking action toward achieving them. Furthermore, planning can help you stay organized, manage your time more effectively, and avoid feeling overwhelmed. By creating a clear plan, you can ensure that you have enough time to attend classes, complete assignments, study for exams, and engage in extracurricular activities. But perhaps most importantly, planning can help you build confidence and resilience. When you have a clear plan in place, you are less likely to feel lost or directionless. Even if you encounter setbacks or obstacles along the way, you can use your plan as a guide to keep you on track and motivated. So, my sincere advice to you is to prioritize planning in your life. Whether you are using a planner, a to-do list, or a digital tool, find a planning system that works for you and commit to using it regularly. It may take some time and effort to develop the habit, but the benefits are worth it. With planning, you can take control of your life and create a brighter future for yourself. If you need help creating a plan, I wrote a previous blog on The Importance of Life Planning as a Student and Where to Start! Make The Most Out of Your School Years College or university can be an amazing experience full of growth, new friendships, and endless opportunities. To make the most out of these years, it is important to avoid certain things that may dampen your experience. Isolation, excessive partying, unhealthy relationships, and skipping classes are just a few examples of things to avoid. School is already stressful enough, the consequences of these negative activities are NOT worth the hype. Instead, focus on building a social life, participating in healthy activities, surrounding yourself with positive and supportive relationships, and attending classes. Your college or university years are a time to learn, grow, and develop important skills that will serve you well in your future career. So, how will you plan to make the most out of your school years? Let us know in the comments below 💬👇🏼 References: Abbot, G. (2021, October 21). How social interaction affects university students' mental health. Psychreg. Retrieved from https://www.psychreg.org/social-interaction-affects-university-students-mental-health/ Department of Health & Human Services. (2016, October 20). Partying safely. Better Health Channel. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Partying-safely Laguna Shores Recovery. (2022, March 28). Dangers of toxic relationships and Mental Health. Retrieved from https://lagunashoresrecovery.com/dangers-of-toxic-relationships-and-mental-health McAlpine, K. J. (2021, February 17). Depression, anxiety, loneliness are peaking in college students. Boston University. Retrieved from https://www.bu.edu/articles/2021/depression-anxiety-loneliness-are-peaking-in-college-students/ Written By: Avion Howard Check out more of Avion's work on his Medium page, and stay tuned to his Instagram & Twitter!

  • Living with Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is one of the most debilitating conditions out there. It is an invisible and chronic illness that affects millions of people around the world. It can make even the simplest tasks seem like insurmountable mountains to climb. Since it is an invisible disease, it can be hard sometimes for other people to understand (or even believe) your physical limitations. Some people do not even believe it is a real thing: my doctor dismissed it for years before he started to take me seriously. I started experiencing my first fibromyalgia symptoms when I was around 15 years old. For me, it started with unexplained back pain and chronic fatigue. Then came the dizziness, trouble sleeping and sharp pains that would come and go all over my body. I felt weak almost daily from the lack of sleep and constantly being in pain. Needless to say, that also took a major dig at my mental health and general well-being. I stopped going out with friends because I had to ‘’save my energy’’ for days when I had to work. I tried every OTC (over-the-counter, not prescribed) medication available but nothing really worked. Then my doctors started prescribing me anti-inflammatories and non-opioid medications. That did not really work either. Just before my diagnosis, I had a plethora of symptoms: widespread pain that felt like aching, burning, and stabbing in my muscles and bones, tender points that were painful to the touch (mostly my neck, my back and my hips), depression and anxiety, numbness and tingling of the extremities, excessive tremors in my hands, and cognitive impairment (known as ‘’fibro fog’’) characterized by memory loss and difficulty concentrating and processing information. My immune system was also shot to hell, I was sick constantly. There is no definitive test to diagnose fibromyalgia, so doctors have to do it through an elimination process - but that can take a long time. For me, it took 9 years. It was debilitating to live all those years with so much pain and unexplained symptoms, with the added disbelief of my loved ones and employers. It is extremely hard to not have an explanation for all that pain, and at some points, I even started to doubt myself. Was I a crybaby? Was it all in my head? Surely, I must be making it seem worse than it really was? Finding out that I was not imagining all of these things, that my condition was real and that I was not the only person struggling with this comforted me - in some ways. This is why I wanted to shed some light on the daily struggles of people living with fibromyalgia. Getting out of bed in the morning can be a real challenge because the pain, stiffness and sore muscles can be so intense that it takes several hours for the body to loosen up. This can lead to a lack of productivity throughout the day. Add to that factor the dread and anxiety of ‘’pushing yourself too hard’’ and having your symptoms worsen during the day. Household chores such as cleaning, cooking, and laundry can be exhausting, making it hard to keep up with them. These tasks require a significant amount of physical energy for those suffering from fibromyalgia, and the pain and fatigue can be overwhelming. Something as simple as washing dishes can feel like an impossible feat. As a result, chores keep piling up and it seems like you can never do everything you want or need to do. Personal care can also be a struggle for those with fibromyalgia. Taking a shower, getting dressed, and grooming oneself can be exhausting and painful. It can take much longer than usual, leading to a sense of frustration and feeling overwhelmed. I used to be really into makeup: I would spend hours creating a complex and creative look. Unfortunately, when I started having tremors in my hand, I stopped doing it because it just became too hard. Social activities can be challenging. Simple outings like going to the grocery store, attending a family gathering, or meeting up with friends can be difficult due to the pain and fatigue that come with fibromyalgia. As a result, many of us often have to cancel plans due to the condition, and for me, that leads to a sense of isolation and loneliness. I wish I could say it all gets better at some point, but unfortunately, there is still no cure for fibromyalgia. The only thing you can do is learn to manage your symptoms with exercise, a healthy diet, and meditation. It is crucial to learn your own limits and to show yourself some compassion, because the outside world will not always understand. Prioritize yourself and maybe take some comfort in the fact that while this illness is invisible, you are not. I see you.

  • You'll Never Find Motivation if You Search For it

    Yes, you read the title correctly. The main reason why we run out of motivation is that we go out searching for it. As a student myself, there have been times when I felt unmotivated to do anything - my first two years in college were pretty much like this. And back then, I did not know how to get out of that rut. We all experience this at some point, so I wanted to write this article for those who struggle with motivation. Not many people know this, but most times, WE are the ones that contribute to our own demotivation. I will explain how in a second - and I want to bring a new perspective on motivation that you can use to help you during troubling times at school or in any other aspect of your life. Why Searching For Motivation Doesn’t Work As weird as it sounds, searching for motivation can be counterintuitive. Doing so implies that your motivation needs to be found elsewhere. If you search for motivation, what you will most likely find are temporary emotional boosts, and you can develop an attachment to these short-term happy feelings that give you a boost in dopamine. Dopamine itself is not a bad thing - a good balance can keep us refreshed. But too much of this chemical in the brain can lead to things like addiction, poor impulse control, and other mental conditions. Motivation is one of the primary things that increase dopamine in the brain, so constantly looking for this feeling and hopping from one resource to the next can negatively impact your life in many ways. One of the worst effects of chasing dopamine, is developing a dependence on whatever source you are receiving your good feeling from. That reliance can end up hindering your performance, because that source can become a prerequisite for any action that you want to take. Consider this, you have schoolwork to do but feel unmotivated to do it, so you start to play some music to help. If you overdo it with the tunes and play them for every single assignment, you can become dependent on that source of motivation. Not only can it be a little distracting, but you might start to struggle when you have to work without music. Over-dependence can lead to a reduction in autonomy, and Research from PsychCentral shows that people who lack autonomy have a higher chance of being influenced by others, developing stress, and being emotionally abused. This is not to say that motivation is bad - there are healthy ways to manage this feeling. The most important thing to realize about motivation is that it is a natural feeling that you cannot outsource. If you want real motivation, you have to understand its intrinsic foundation. Intrinsic Motivation Feelings like motivation, inspiration, drive, and purpose are all intrinsic. Many people do not realize this because they believe that external sources are the only way to receive motivation. Extrinsic sources DO NOT give you true motivation - they often bring out the intrinsic motivation that you already have. You do not have to rely on outside sources to address an inside problem - the greatest motivator you have is yourself. I have spent some time thinking about self-motivation and I want to help others increase their natural motivation. So, here are some actionable tips that you can do today to help build motivation naturally. 4 Ways To Build Intrinsic Motivation 1. The Power of The Reason Why People with reasons behind their actions are automatically more motivated to pursue them. When you create reasons, you feel more in control and confident about your decisions - you have something to shoot for instead of randomly putting things together and hoping for the best. Next time you do something you enjoy, form one concrete objective that you want to accomplish and ask yourself: "Why is this something that I want?" Write your answer somewhere and refer back to it when you need it. 2. Make Your Demotivating Environment Motivational As I mentioned before, external things bring out our intrinsic motivation. So, use this to your advantage by changing up your demotivating environment and turning it into a positive one. This can be something as small as tidying up your dorm room or getting cool decorations. Make the place where you spend the most time, your favorite place. Your environment also includes the people you hang around. Your friend groups and communities contribute to your overall well-being, so make sure that they remain healthy and remove any destructive and demotivating people. 3. Embrace Imperfections There is nothing wrong with imperfection. There are times in life when things will not go how you plan. You will make mistakes. But these hurdles do not dictate who you are, they shape you and help you become the person you want to be. Things may not be ideal at first, but the more attempts you make, the more chances you get to succeed. Embrace the lessons you learn along the way. 4. Motivational People Do Motivational Things Everyone gets motivated by doing something that inspires them. You can boost natural motivation by engaging in thought-provoking or creative activities. Learning a new skill, practicing a hobby you are good at, or helping others, can easily lift your mood and inspire you. Actions like this can also help make you a happier person overall. These are things that positively stimulate the mind. Spontaneity, creativity, curiosity, and generosity are characteristics that can intrinsically increase motivation. A Motivational Sendoff We are all born to feel motivated, even though it may not seem like it sometimes. It can be hard to see your purpose when life does not give you a reason to, which is why you must understand how to build those reasons naturally. Searching outside of yourself to solve an internal problem can cost you. You do not have to send yourself on an endless goose chase to develop motivation. You are already at the best starting place – start within yourself. Thank you for reading! But before we go, I would love to end this piece with a question for you. What will you change about your life today to increase your intrinsic motivation? Let us know in the comments below 💬👇🏼 References: Bajaj, K. (2023, Jan 24). Routines are great, but spontaneity is the key to brain expansion – here’s why. MBG Health. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/why-being-spontaneous-is-key-to-mental-health Brenner, B. (2019, Sep 16). Creativity is your secret advantage for mental health and well-being. Therapy Group pf NYC. https://nyctherapy.com/therapists-nyc-blog/creativity-is-your-secret-advantage-for-mental-health-and-well-being/ Campbell, E. (2015, Sep 24). Six surprising benefits of curiosity. Greater Good. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/six_surprising_benefits_of_curiosity Firestone, L. The benefits of generosity. Psych Alive. https://www.psychalive.org/benefits-of-generosity/ Health Direct. (2021). Dopamine. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dopamine Lancer, D. (2016, May 17). Exploring autonomy, locus of control, and self-efficacy. PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/lib/co-dependency-put-the-i-in-independence#2 Written By: Avion Howard Check out more of Avion's work on his Medium page, and stay tuned to his Instagram & Twitter!

  • The Importance of Life Planning as a Student and Where to Start

    How do you feel when you think about your life? If you asked me this question 4 years ago when I started college, I would have answered: "terrified". My fear had little to do with school itself, I was terrified because I felt unprepared for my own life. I was opening a chapter of life that I had no idea how to read. For a long time, I have been scurrying through life with no intention or plan. I just let life happen instead of making life happen the way I wanted. Within the past year, I have started developing a life plan - a guide to finally give me some direction in school and my personal life. It can feel stressful and frustrating when you do not have a plan in place - especially when it comes to new experiences. Without a guide or anything to give us direction, we have to rely on assumptions and guesses – which can prevent learning, negatively impact relationships, and fuel confirmation bias. Whether you are just starting school, in the middle of the semester trying to figure it out, or about to graduate and find a career - a life plan can help you. I want to use this article to express the importance of creating and implementing a life plan, so I will be going over 3 powerful outcomes that make life planning worth the commitment. I will also explain where to start so that you can begin your planning journey as soon as possible! Plans Give You Control If there is one thing students want – it is freedom, hands down. However, students can sometimes feel restrained and have little control over their lives, because of constant stressors like essays, exams, lectures, personal ambitions, social demands, and work. It may seem impossible, but all of this can be managed and controlled with a life plan. A life plan helps you organize your life into segments according to what you believe should take priority. It also relieves pressure from a heavy schedule. For example, say you noticed your grades slipping because you were overwhelmed by classwork but want to excel in your classes this semester - you can build a plan to organize your work for each class. Now, with an active classwork plan, you have more control over your work and grades. Remember, planning will not only help to improve your grades, it can work for any aspect of your life. Life plans are like personal guides that help point you in the right direction. This is an opportunity to take control of the life that was given to you and make it the best you can. Plans Provide Clarity and Specificity Student life can get very fast-paced, but a life plan can help you slow down and understand where you are, where you are going, and how to get there. We all have dreams and aspirations, but they do us no good just sitting in our minds. A life plan is an effective way to express our thoughts with a specific strategy to turn them into victories. With a plan, you can identify strengths, weaknesses, goals, and inevitable challenges. The more you learn about yourself - the better you will be able to navigate the world around you. I know what it is like to roam around with no purpose or intention - and it is not fun. You spend the majority of your time feeling anxious about every little decision, because you know that there is not much thought behind them. I made choices out of random and unclear thoughts, which is unreliable. However, a life plan is reliable, because it enables you to create your own path with clear goals. A personalized plan can help you build confidence and break down indecisiveness. Add some specificity and make sure your plan is right for you, by asking self-reflective questions to dig deeper. You know yourself best, so you know what you need to address. To spark your creativity, here are some starter questions that you can build from: Why is (specific thing or event) important to me? What are some troubles that I might face when I pursue (specific thing or event)? What do I want to accomplish in (specific thing or event)? How do I plan to succeed in (specific thing or event)? Let your curiosity reign free with your life plan. Branch off from these questions and be as detailed as you can. And remember, do not be too hard on yourself - progress takes time. Planning Leads To Success You make a plan to help you achieve a goal. Whether that is to earn a good grade on your assignment or to beat your personal record at the gym, a plan can help you achieve success in whatever you apply it to. Research from the Harvard Graduate School of Education shows that plans are transformative for students and can be used as great guides to success. Now, a plan by itself is not going to do anything – we have to put action behind our plans. You do not achieve a goal just by thinking about it, you achieve a goal by taking the necessary steps toward it. I have made the mistake of writing out plans and shoving them in the back of my notes on my laptop - never to be seen again. If you want your life to change for the better, you have to remind yourself of the change by making your plan visible. The more you see your goals, the more driven you become to achieve them. Success comes to those who want it and work for it, and making a life plan is an easy way to start your journey to success. Where Does a Life Plan Start? So, life plans sound like a good idea, but how do you even make one? Where do you start? Well, the starting point is simpler than you think. Your life plan starts with you. The beginning can be wherever you desire since it is for your life. Need some direction? Some key aspects of your life can be included in your life plan to make it specific to you and your goals. If you are feeling stuck, you can use these aspects as starting points: Personal Life This is the aspect of your life that reflects self-improvement. Your physical health, mental health, and overall well-being are the main focus of this aspect. Do things that you know will make YOUR life better. Some examples of personal goals can be healthy eating, positive habit-building, exercising, meditating, finding a hobby, furthering your education, etc. Anything that you can think of that personally benefits you can fit here. Social Life This aspect is about relationships. Family, friends, co-workers, romantic partners, and your community are the highlight of this aspect. You can apply this aspect to work on social goals such as meeting new people, strengthening the bonds of current relationships, starting a new relationship, helping out a cause within your community, etc. Career This is where you focus on your desired career path. Many people take jobs they hate because they do not know how to get the job they would love or what their ideal job would even be. Optimize this aspect of your life with goals such as getting your degree, taking internships, shadowing a professional in your field, practicing your craft often, building a good network, experiencing different roles, etc. Spiritual Sense This aspect may be similar to your personal life in some ways. The spiritual aspect is all about the self. This is where you understand your morals, values, and character. Focus on this aspect to strengthen your connection with yourself. Some goals may include religious endeavors, introspection, dealing with controversy, facing fears, confronting negative beliefs and biases, reconciling with the past, etc. I believe that these 4 aspects of life are the most important to consider when creating a life plan. It is up to you to highlight what you think is important within each aspect. Remember to create S.M.A.R.T. goals so that you can be specific, realistic, and driven to achieve them. Also, remember to ask yourself reflective questions like the ones we went through earlier to expand your curiosity and plan to become your best self. Takeaway Student life is a difficult one - but it can be managed with a strong life plan. A life plan is effective for students because it can help give you control of your life, provide clarity, and lead you to success. Every day is a new beginning and a new chance to pursue the things that fulfill you. Spend a little bit of time on your plan each day to keep yourself focused and motivated. Your life plan is yours alone. Make it as personal and detailed as you please, but remember the four main aspects of life that you should include in your life plan. Personal Social Career Spiritual Each area should have specific goals tailored to them that fit your lifestyle and capability. I hope you enjoyed this article and I wish you the best in developing your life plan! What goals do you hope to accomplish with your life plan? Let us know in the comments below 💬👇🏼 Sources: Feiles, N. (2013, July 20). Assumptions are toxic to relationships. PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/blog/relationships-balance/2013/07/20/assumptions-are-toxic-to-relationships#1 Harley Therapy Counselling Blog. (2020, March 18). Assumptions – why they are wrecking your mood and how to stop making them. Harley Therapy Counselling Blog. https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/making-assumptions.htm Walsh, B. (2019, April 3). Planning for success. Harvard Graduate School of Education. https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/19/04/planning-success Written By: Avion Howard Check out more of Avion's work on his Medium page, and stay tuned to his Instagram & Twitter!

  • 15 Benefits of Meditation for Students

    Do you feel like you have a lot on your plate? With everything going on in and outside of school, there might not be time for you to unwind or relax. It may feel as though your mind is on overdrive 24/7. A committed meditation practice can help you slow down and relieve some of that stress. Even if you are not that stressed, meditation can still help amplify your healthy lifestyle. The benefits you receive from this practice are plentiful. So, what are the benefits of meditation? Well, way too many to count! But, there are some main benefits of meditation that are not usually recognized and deserve some credit. In this article, you will learn 15 benefits of meditation for students. 1. Improves Mind-Body Connection The relationship between mind and body can influence your overall well-being and life satisfaction. Meditation helps you become mindful of how your thoughts and feelings affect your body. Remaining conscious of your inner thoughts is an effective way to maintain control over them. The mind and body have to work together in harmony to keep everything organized on the inside. A strong mind-body connection can reshape self-destructive thinking patterns. Healthy thoughts lead to healthy actions. Healthy actions lead to a healthy lifestyle. 2. Reduces Stress Levels Students face constant pressure from stress-inducing events, such as demanding classes, new jobs, peer pressure, and other life experiences. Meditation is a powerful stress reliever because it gets to the root cause of your current stress. You can keep stress low and regulated with a safe meditative space. A study from the National Library of Medicine reveals that meditation encourages your brain to respond healthier to stressful situations. This promotes positive psychology and decreases the negativity that feeds into stressful thinking. 3. Relieves Test Anxiety Are you feeling anxious about an upcoming test? Meditation practice can help calm your nerves. Through meditation, you can reflect on your anxious thoughts and why they occur. The more you learn about your thoughts, the more you realize that they do not define you. Meditation allows you to sit with negative feelings and slowly let them go. After some practice, you will be able to change your existing relationship with anxiety by forming new perspectives. 4. Keeps Emotions in Check Meditation can keep your emotions in check because it supports your emotional stability. Maintaining emotional stability as a student can improve self-control. Usually, people reject negative emotions and try to suppress them. Suppressing emotions only makes them more likely to arise later on in life. Using meditation, you can learn to acknowledge and accept those negative emotions to lower their influential power. Always remember that you are strong and do not have to act on negative emotions. If you can accept your emotions as they are, it can lower self-deprecation and increase emotional control. It may be difficult to meditate while your emotions flare up. It is best to give yourself a safe space with no distractions to explore these emotions. If needed, ask a roommate or close friend to sit with you. Meditation does not have to be done alone, nor do you have to deal with stressful situations alone. 5. Increases Mindfulness Mindfulness is important because it can help you make the most of each moment. You may often spend time thinking about your past or your future, which is not a bad thing - it is important to remember past lessons that you have learned and build plans for what is to come. However, spending too much time away from the present can cause worry and fear. Meditation helps you stay centered and pay attention to what is happening in the present. You cannot build plans for tomorrow without understanding how to approach today. Practicing meditation can increase mindfulness by encouraging you to appreciate life as it is. Studies from ScienceDirect, PositivePsychology, and the NCBI, show that gratitude can lead to more life satisfaction and happiness. 6. Helps Lower Depression Challenges and hardships are sometimes hard to handle and may lead to depression. Even though events cannot be changed, your feelings about them can. Meditation can help redirect negative perspectives into constructive and healthier ones. Research from Harvard Medical School suggests that meditation can change the parts of the brain associated with depression. Parts like the amygdala, a brain region responsible for emotions, get altered by meditation in a way that helps you brush off negative sensations that can trigger depression. 7. Boosts Awareness and Concentration Two useful benefits of meditation for students are increased awareness and concentration. As a student, it is important to strengthen your awareness and concentration to prepare yourself for everything on your plate. According to the National Library of Medicine, meditation can lengthen your attention span, increase your brain power, and decrease the likeliness of mind-wandering. Distractions are prominent in the life of a student. With meditation, you can clear your mind of distractions and concentrate on what is important to you. When your mind is clear, you can put more effort into assignments or tests. Research from Healthline suggests that meditation also aids in self-inquiry, which is essential to the development and growth of an individual. High awareness can also help you realize what is beneficial or harmful to you. Acknowledging these concepts can guide you toward making more conscientious life decisions. 8. Improves Grades This may be surprising, but meditation can help you get better grades. Science conducted by the EOC Institute has found that meditation can affect the brain in positive ways - including increased intelligence and memory, brain expansion, and more use of brain power. Like your muscles, your brain can be trained to improve its performance. Meditation is a good training exercise because it stimulates the brain. Now, you will not be a super genius from one meditation session. This is a process and it takes time to reap the benefits of meditation, but it is definitely worth a try! 9. Helps Establish Healthy Routines Being able to make meditation a part of your daily routine takes discipline. The discipline you grow can encourage you to branch out and create other healthy habits, which can amplify the positive effects of meditation. Some examples of habits you can adopt are learning new skills, exercising, good hygiene, limiting screen time, and eating right. Having these and other positive habits as a student can help keep you robust. Not only does meditation practice foster healthy habits, it also helps you recognize unhealthy habits. Just spending time with yourself will make you think deeply about your daily activities and how they affect you. Mental toughness will start to accrue with the dedication you place into your meditation practice. That strong mentality you form can help you manage unwanted impulses and addictive desires, and keep you set on your healthy routines. 10. Helps You Get Some Sleep This benefit of meditation is a subset of the healthy routines that you can build. Students should not underestimate the value of a good night's sleep. Insomnia and sleep deprivation can cause many problems for students, such as chronic tiredness, lethargy, stress, and more. Meditation gives you the opportunity to release tension and relax, and it is much easier to fall asleep once you are in a calm state of mind. 11. Builds Stronger Relationships You learn a lot about yourself during meditation. So much so, that it can inspire you to want to learn more about other people. Building a great relationship with yourself through meditation can better your relationship skills with others. Meditation can promote positive emotions like kindness and empathy, which we can use to connect with others. Students can develop lifelong friendships, build confidence, and even earn career opportunities by having strong social skills. Do you deal with social anxiety? Meditation can help you relinquish fearful and negative thoughts that make social anxiety so hard to handle. It is not uncommon to feel social anxiety in different contexts. By meditating, you can connect with yourself on a deep level to understand why you avoid social interaction and learn how to overcome that. 12. Increases Self-Confidence A confidence boost is a helpful benefit of meditation for students. Many confidence problems stem from comparing yourself or your abilities to others. Students are often faced with comparisons because of the high levels of competitiveness in academia. Meditation practice helps diminish limiting beliefs that you might have due to constant comparison. When meditating, you spend a lot of time with yourself. During that time, you have nobody else to compare yourself to, so you learn to appreciate your natural being. The way that you are right now is how you are supposed to be, even with your limits. Remember, with limitations comes greatness and strengths that you can use to be the best version of yourself. 13. Gives Your Mind a Break Your meditative space is also a place to take a well-deserved break. Everyone needs downtime, even students. Meditation lets you close your laptop, put the pencil down, and give your mind a rest from strenuous schoolwork. If you push yourself beyond your mental limit, it eventually turns counterintuitive. Overworking yourself can lead to loss of sleep, increased grogginess and fatigue, a decrease in cognitive ability and focus, and all sorts of negative outcomes. Meditation gives the mind the healthy break that it needs to function properly. 14. Improves Your Physical Health Did you know that meditation can improve your physical health? Studies from the American Journal of Hypertension have found that meditation can help lower blood pressure, while other studies show its effectiveness in helping maintain a healthy body weight and manage pain. With meditation, students can de-clutter their minds and create lifelong transformations that can improve their overall well-being. 15. Guides You Towards Your Passion and Purpose One important thing that you should consider is your passion. Everyone has something that they love to do. If you have not found yours yet, that is perfectly fine – students often face tons of pressure with this topic due to a lack of direction or clarity. Meditation can be an exceptional starting point for your self-discovery. As explained earlier, meditation allows you to go deep within yourself. Let your curiosity roam free during meditation. This practice can give you the time and space to venture into limitless possibilities. Meditation can be an opportunity for you to discover your true potential. Everyone has a purpose; you just need to find yours. Meditation can even help you visualize the life path that you want. Seeing yourself accomplish your goals can motivate you to follow through on them. “When your life is on course with purpose, you are your most powerful.” - Oprah Winfrey Want to Learn Meditation? Want to learn how to meditate after reading all of these benefits? An important thing to remember is to find a groove that works for YOU. With everything said, meditation is easier than you think. If you’d like to know more about meditation and how to start, there are plenty of resources and communities out there for you - like Samavira. Samavira is a global meditation community full of like-minded meditators that welcome everyone interested in meditation. Samavira has beginner-friendly resources along with in-depth training that helps you design your own meditation style. You don't have to force yourself into any specific method or technique to reap the benefits of meditation. We value the personal experience that meditation offers and want to share its traditions with the modern world. If you’d like to get started right away, you can download our free Meditation Toolkit to help you start or deepen your meditation practice. You can also follow us on Instagram @samavira.meditation for daily inspiration. About the Author Avion Howard is a content writer who specializes in content related to self-help, psychology, digital marketing, and spirituality. He is a young college student with a passion for mental health. Avion’s goal with his articles is to provide a new perspective that is different from the conventional mainstream concepts. Medium: https://medium.com/@Howardavion LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/mwlite/in/avion-howard

  • My Journey with Selective Mutism

    Selective mutism is not as well-known as other mental health conditions - it is a severe anxiety disorder that leaves someone living with it unable to speak when placed in certain situations or with certain people. It is often diagnosed in childhood, but, in some cases, can continue into adulthood (1). A common misunderstanding that people with selective mutism face, is the belief that they just do not want to talk, but that is not the case. Most of the time, we really do want to talk but are physically unable to get our words out. This led to some awkward situations when I was younger, as most people thought I was being rude or choosing to ignore them. As with all mental health conditions, everyone’s experiences will vary slightly, but here are some common signs of selective mutism (1): Avoiding eye contact Sudden stillness and/or frozen facial expression Nervousness Shyness and withdrawal Poor coordination This article is just about my experiences. Everyone dealing with this condition will not have the same experience, but I hope this will bring some awareness to the challenges of selective mutism (SM). Since I was a very young child, I have always been considered “shy” or “quiet” – most of my school reports are extremely positive, but every year without fail, my teachers would say that I needed to speak up more in class or get more involved in group discussions. I should probably mention that I wasn’t diagnosed with SM while I was in primary school, as we were not aware that it was even a thing. By the time we were aware of it, I was far too afraid to go to the doctor to get a formal diagnosis. So, I went through all my school years without any support of any kind (which I do not recommend at all!). During my primary school years (up to age 11), I was able to speak to my teacher (very little and only about what was absolutely necessary - e.g. answering my name for the register) and my close friends. I remember when I would go to my friends’ houses after school or for sleepovers, I would struggle to speak to their parents. They would ask me what I would like to eat or drink and I would have to get my friend to speak on my behalf. I’m sure most of them must have thought that I was a strange or rude child. My SM never affected my academic ability, if anything I was told I was a bright child. I really enjoyed learning. I often spent hours reading after school or teaching myself about topics, such as different languages or history, that had nothing to do with my schoolwork. I then began noticing more and more challenges. I remember feeling physically sick at the thought of having to attend drama classes, reading out loud in class, or taking part in any form of public speaking during secondary school. This led to me missing quite a few lessons. It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I decided to stop fighting it and learn to support myself. Instead of getting upset that I couldn’t take part in something like speaking during a class presentation, I would offer to design the slideshow, create the scripts, and organise other aspects of projects. University was the next big step, but I learned to use each small thing that I conquered to build my confidence. Answering a question during a seminar might not phase most people, but as someone who enjoys learning, I always wanted to take part in class discussions or ask a question when I didn’t understand something, but my selective mutism didn’t allow me to. I could probably count on one hand the number of times my lecturers/seminar tutors have ever heard me speak up in my whole time at university. I do, however, remember feeling extremely proud of myself the few times I had taken part. I remember sitting there thinking “I know the answer! Should I just do it? Do I put my hand up?” and it turned out that I was correct – but even if I had gotten the answer wrong, I still would have been proud that I even tried to answer! On the other hand, I have lost marks in a module that graded me on participation. We were graded on how often we asked questions, answered others', or engaged in group discussions, but I mostly sat there and listened even though I knew my grades would suffer. I may have come to terms with my selective mutism, but I still have a hard time admitting it to people. I have spent most of my life ignoring my selective mutism. I keep thinking that maybe if I pretend it isn’t there, it will go away. But that is not how mental health works – and as a psychology student, I should have known better. As you may have guessed, I have decided to come to terms with my mutism. It may have been difficult to acknowledge my difficulties, but I can see a difference in my mental health. A recent example of me coping with my mutism would be having to apply for what my university calls “special circumstances”. I was due to present to a “small” group (they think 20 people is small ☹), and I had done all my preparations and felt like I could actually do it! But when the morning of the presentation came, my selective mutism took over. Instead of just taking a lower grade or pretending that I was ill, I decided to explain exactly what was happening. It was the best thing I could have done! I have since received so much support from the university and will forever kick myself for not doing it sooner. Mental health issues do come with challenges, but there are people out there that can help. If you are reading this and are also a student, remember that your school/university wants you to do well and that if there is anything they can do to make your studies easier, from my experience, they will! Take it from me - do not ignore the challenges you face. Some things might feel impossible to overcome, but once you succeed, you will feel like you are on top of the world. Source: 1. The National Health Service. (n.d.). Selective mutism. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/selective-mutism/#:~:text=Selective%20mutism%20is%20a%20severe,untreated%2C%20can%20persist%20into%20adulthood

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