Little Acts of Self Care

I’ve been thinking about self-care a lot lately, primarily because I’ve been feeling pretty constricted by midterms (shouldn’t those be over??), final papers, looming final exams, etc. I feel like my life is scheduled to the minute, and with a schedule like that, who has time to read a book (for fun) or take a bubble bath (or a place to take a bubble bath, for that matter)?

To solve this, I’ve been trying to think of little ways to take care of yourself. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

1) Eat. Okay, seriously. I hear people say almost every day that they didn’t have time to eat, which is so tragic. Personally, if I don’t eat, I get even more anxious and emotional, and am just a general mess. If you take care of your body, your brain will feel a whole lot better.

2) Along the same lines…sleep. Do your laundry. Clean up the pile of clothes that has been accumulating since you started studying for that test. Doing the little, mundane-feeling things can take a load off of your stress levels. Besides, doing somewhat mindless tasks gives your mind a chance to rest.

3) Breathe. Taking deep breaths is so easy and so calming. You can do it literally anywhere, from the middle of class to a subway platform. Taking a breath to put things into perspective is one of the most helpful things for me–especially because, after I take that breath, I realize I had been taking shallow, panicked breaths, thus continuing the cycle of panic (i.e. bad thing happens -> freak out -> stop breathing properly -> bodily response creates more panic -> feeling of panic escalates…etc.) Taking a second to breathe takes you away from the overwhelming stuff and into your own little safe space.

4) Listen. You know those songs that you just feel in your gut? The ones that you could be in the middle of a circus, but if that song comes on, it will get your attention? Well, those songs are the ones I want you to remember for moments when you’re feeling like you need a little love. In those moments, sit (or lie or whatever) down and just listen–not while you’re doing work, not while you’re in the gym, only when you force yourself to put the world on hold and listen.

5) Be an active participant in your life. Check in with yourself to make sure you’re doing things that you can handle and that you enjoy. It’s so easy to get caught up in life and stop paying attention to the way you feel or the things that you’re doing, but giving attention to these things is easy and can help you to make sure you’re living your life the way you want to. An easy way to do this is to create a gratitude log or a highs and lows log each day, detailing what you’re grateful for or what your best and worst moments were throughout the day. It will help you to be present and mindful in the everyday.

What little things do you do to take care of yourself? Share any ideas you have in the comments!

A college student walks into a doctor’s office…

In the spirit of taking care of personal health during the flu season I wanted to share some information which I think is a good step towards greater agency over personal health.

For many of us coming to college is the first time we are faced with making our own doctors appointments, dealing with insurance claims and all the other things that come with taking care of your own health without our parent’s help.

An important part of being able to understand your own health and advocate for yourself is to know your medical history. It can be helpful to know what you have and haven’t been vaccinated for, when your last physical was, or what medications you’re allergic to.

One way to access this information is through electronic health records (EHRs), which are available online. More and more doctors offices are switching from paper to electronic health records (83% of healthcare providers offer EHRs, according to ehrintelligence.com) and some even have smartphone apps where records are accessible. Not all doctors offer EHRs yet, but if yours does, it might be worth it to take a look and familiarize yourself with any important information.

Getting access to your EHRs is fairly simple, but the process can vary from doctor to doctor. Generally, you need to:

1) Contact the doctor(s) you have had in the past and ask if they offer online access to health records.

2) If they do, ask how to set up an account. Because medical information is protected by certain privacy laws you will generally be asked to sign a waiver allowing your records to become accessible through an online account and you may be required to physically go to your doctor’s office to sign the waiver form—although online, faxed or verbal consent is also accepted by some doctors).

3) Once the waiver is completed, your doctor will notify you when your EHR account has been activated, and you will be able to see your medical history online.

4) Many EHR portals are also available on smartphone apps such as “MyChart”, so that once you’ve created an EHR account you can also download an app to access your medical history on your phone. This can be especially useful when you are at the doctor’s office if need to answer a medical question on the spot and you can look up the answer on your phone.

Doctor’s offices and medical processes can be confusing and intimidating, and having a better understanding of your own medical history can help you have more agency over your own health.

To health and wellness!

Helen

Some Thoughts on Women & Suffering

*trigger warnings for sexual assault and self-harm*

Hey yall!

This semester (and throughout my time at Barnard, truth be told) I’ve been thinking a lot about women and wellness in the world, especially the relationship between women and suffering. I’m studying English lit and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality studies, so I end up spending a lot of time reading about both fictional and real women who suffer, and also thinking about the ways those different narratives influence us.

There’s a lot of really interesting, super relevant, non-academic reading around about this. I really like longform journalism, so I’m including a couple of articles I’ve read in the last year or two that are really interesting to read, especially as a student on this campus at this moment in time, when I think collectively a lot of us are considering gender and culture especially as they manifest in our generation.

1. The Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain, by Leslie Jamison

http://www.vqronline.org/essays-articles/2014/04/grand-unified-theory-female-pain

This is an essay from a really incredible book called The Empathy Exams. The book is about suffering, pain, medicine, gender, and the way we interact with and pathologize bodies. This essay takes into account so many interesting literary and contemporary examples of narratives and fetishizations of female pain, and the way culture sometimes poeticizes and worships the wounded woman. 

2. Your Friends and Rapists, by Sarah Nicole Prickett

https://medium.com/@snpsnpsnp/your-friends-and-rapists-e9217439b8e6

This is a really striking, intimate essay on sexual assault and the cultivation of culture that permits it. It’s hard to read, but really thought-provoking, and really relevant to the crises and campaigns that many of us are involved in at Columbia.

3. Call It Rape, by Margot Singer

http://blog.longreads.com/2014/08/05/call-it-rape/

This is another super intimate and personal collection of stories about youth and sex and violence. It’s poetic and difficult and complicated. It includes some intriguing and heartbreaking conversations about what constitutes rape.

4. Where Are All The Women, by Sarah Nicole Prickett

http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/im-sick-of-ladies

The census, then, suggests that where there weren’t always girls, there are girls now, girls everywhere, girls who will celebrate a dozen 29th birthdays and still be girls… Girls are forever. Women, I know, are for life. This is another article by Sarah Nicole Prickett about girls and women, the word bitch as an identity, men, “ladies,” privilege, bodies. It’s personal and it’s quick and it’s snappy and relevant. You might like it.

These are hard but they’re also smart and worthwhile.

Happy fall break, friends.

Much love,

Lily

Gettin’ Busy

A friend just posted this article about the pervasive “I’m so busy” complaint/excuse/assertion that on this campus, is a generally accepted response to the question “how are you?” The article aims to promote mindfulness in considering how we actually spend our time, and maybe even more importantly, how we choose to talk about it. Of course, there are times when I am actually overwhelmed and feel like I can’t think straight because of the length of my to-do list; but being more deliberate about when I choose to employ that excuse is something I can commit to.

Yes, midterms are happening, and this may feel like a particularly crazed moment to post an article about mindfulness in how we talk about our schedules, but maybe this is a better time than any other to reconsider this “too busy” narrative we’ve gotten so comfortable with. Check it out and see if any of the methods help you feel more in control of your time!

http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203358704577237603853394654

xx,

– Gabrielle.

And that kids is the story of how I met…

I student-teach first grade and one of the biggest things we tried to drive home to the kids the first week of school is that they should try to be friends with everyone in the school. When you see someone sitting alone at recess, you should invite them to play. Of course this led one little boy to ask “But what if it’s a girl?”

Here at Barnard we don’t have any teachers to help us make friends. Yet somehow there is this pervasive idea that during your first week of college you are supposed to meet your best friend forever that will become your future suit mate and eventual god-parent to the children you didn’t even know you were planning on having. This idea often leads to friendships based on artificial commonalties. During NSOP I was briefly friends with a girl whose sole commonality with me was that we both came from states where it was illegal to pump your own gas (Shout out to NJ and Oregon!). While some people may be lucky enough to make their friends that quickly for many other people it could take weeks, months, even a few semesters before they find their friends. Eventually though you WILL find friends who share your interests, your values, your guilty pleasures, and eventually some future life experiences. Below a few peer-eds share how they met some of their closest college friends.

“I met all of my best friends at an academic summer camp that we all went to from 6/7th grade up to 12th grade. So we’ve literally known each other since we were 11 and 12. I met two of them in class and one of them while playing flag football.” -Kyara

“I didn’t really get settled in my friend group until my sophomore year. I’d met one of them in our FemSex section the spring of our first year, and we liked each other so much that we started cooking brunch in the Barnard Quad kitchens every Sunday morning before FemSex (and then would often debrief after FemSex). During our sophomore year, she introduced me to my other two best friends, one of whom had been in my First-Year English class and one of whom I’d never encountered. It all just fell together slowly, without our realizing it was happening, but by the end of sophomore year, we were a group — and now we live in the same suite.”- Caroline

“I met a few of my closest friends on my freshman hall (although we didn’t bond til second semester), and some others through well woman (not even peer eds, just sitting in the office and hanging out!). Maybe I’m not particularly outgoing… That’s mostly how it happened!”- Lily

“I met my best friend on the Dems campaign trip! Lots of bonding time” – Michaela

“I met mine in Reacting to the Past and it turned out she lived on my floor. It led to many nights in character as French citizens during the Revolution.” – Rachel Katz

As you can tell, very few people met their best friends the first week of school. People made friends in classes, in clubs, and even by just seeing someone in the same place. Go to places that you like to be- that’s where you will find people like you. How did you meet your friends in college? Comment below!