Starting Over: A New Adventure

I meant to write about this particular subject last night but decided to wait until this morning. I had a meeting at my part time job last night and we found out that our boss is leaving the department and going back to school. He presented a fantastic lecture on finding your path in life and figuring out what you want. I felt sad at the end but very excited for him since he gets to experience what I went through, a great adventure.

adventure

Many grad students come directly from undergrad and start into a master’s or PhD. School is something that they have always known and it’s not too scary to start it. Of course moving to a new city or state and starting school is terrifying, but I have other blogs going over that. This one is about leaving a full time job to pursue education and how this is scary, yet amazing.

This subject hits home for me because I gave up a full time job to pursue a career in something I really had little experience with. This is often the case for those that leave the comfort of their jobs to pursue a degree. I understand how scary this is and how many questions go through your head while applying.

Just a bit of background

If you are unaware of my background, I graduated undergrad in 2016 and went to work for a civil engineering firm. After 2 years of work and 2 years of very comfortable work and paychecks, I left it to come get a PhD in engineering. I know the mixed feelings you get when you see that you are making pennies in grad school. In know the struggles of saying goodbye to the many wonderful individuals you have grown close with. And, I know how hard it is to jump into the unknown, head first, and deal with that anxiety.

These are normal

Let me tell you that these feelings are 100% normal. They are hard to deal with and take a good while to come to terms with, but they do pass. Leaving a job to go back to school is a huge risk, but risks are how you find your way through life. I had a wonderful blog about the comfort zone. Check it out here. I basically said that it is totally Ok to be nervous about these changes. Being nervous is good and it WILL lead to something amazing.

Uncertainty

I always say that the only certainty in life is that life is uncertain. I want to add one more. There are two certainties in life, uncertainty and change. Sometimes change comes under uncertainty and uncertainty definitely goes under change. Things will change, you passions will change, and you will change. Sometimes you need to leave your comfort zone to expedite these changes that allow you to become the person you were destined to become. Being scared and nervous is totally fine, and those feeling will come and go. What you are doing takes courage and guts. Things that cause you to grow.

Don’t let obstacles stop you

If you know what you want in life, go for it. Don’t let anything get in the way. But know one thing, it will be hard. It may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But it is worth it! Trust me, I know. I want to leave you with one of my favorite quote/song lyrics. I’ll post the song below too. It comes from the Hobbit movie from 1977. The quote goes, “The greatest adventure is what lies ahead”. This is so true.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Something to Think About

good and bad

Lately, I have been looking back on all of the wonderful and not so wonderful things that have happened in my life. I have looked at where I’ve been and the direction in which I am going (scary right?). One thing that really caught my attention was thinking about really good things that have happened in my life and really bad things that have happened and how they have shaped where I am currently.

I hope this makes sense

This concept was introduced to me a long time ago when I was starting my mindfulness journey, but recently reemerged from my subconscious. It is the concept of how every event leads to good or bad things happening later on. So our lives are made up of choices, right? Everything you do is a choice and sometimes we make really good choices and really bad choices. At the time these choices may seem good or bad, but these choices, regardless of what they were will lead to something else that may be good or bad.

My choice led to some cool outcomes

I will give you an example because It’s hard to describe really what I am thinking sometimes lol. When I was in undergrad, I used to consume heavy amounts of preworkout. The amount of caffeine was absurd, but I kept drinking it because the workouts were amazing. This choice was a good one at the time because I was in shape, the girls really noticed me, and I was never too tired to do anything. Thanks caffeine. I thought this was the best decision of my life, until I had a panic attack for the first time in my life. So my “good” choice led to bad consequences later on. Just because I thought the choice was good at the time did not mean that it was the best choice for me in life. Some of the best things come from “bad choices” or “bad occurrences” in your life.

The story does not end there, though. See, I had the worst experience of my life for about 6 months. I was it such a bad place mentally that I was worried I would never recover. What started off as a good choice turned into something very, very bad. But, even bad things lead to extraordinary things. If it was not for my mental health, I would not have gone to therapy. Because I went to therapy, I had the motivation and courage to continue with my doctorate. And because I continued, I got a publication, I am now a PhD candidate, and I will graduate. Also, because of the choice of taking prework so much, I ended up creating this blog to help others who suffer from mental health, especially in grad school.

What’s your path?

Everything you do will lead to an outcome. You won’t know it until you experience the outcome later on. So, what I am saying is, just because you think it is the right decision at the moment, might not mean it’s the right decision later on. But, it may lead to something great. We create our own paths in life depending on the choices we make, but we have to make a choice to go on these paths. One day you might be offered a great job opportunity that turns out to be the worst thing later on. You never quite know what the future will have for you.

Forgive me for rambling

I hope my rambling sort of made sense. Just know that if you think you made a bad choice, it may lead to something greater in the long run. Don’t regret the choices you make, unless they are really really bad. Just know that those choices will take you on a different path, one that may turn out amazing. Who really knows?

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Homesick While in Grad School

Photo Of Woman Sitting On Floor

So I wrote about if grad school is worth it yesterday. If you are asking yourself that question, I highly suggest checking that blog out. Here is a link to that one. I was actually fairly surprised how that blog came out. One of the better ones that I have done. Anyway, I touched on a subject in that blog that I think is well worth writing about…being homesick. Well, I wrote about moving away to a new place, but this goes with that.

Homesickness

I know so many people that left their hometown to come to UF. Many people left their home country to come here as well. I couldn’t imagine how hard that is for them. I had a hard time just moving 2 hours away lol. But one thing that we all have in common is feeling homesick.

Homesickness will hit you eventually. I experienced it in undergrad about a month after moving to Gainesville. One day you are just strolling along and the next moment you see or smell something that reminds you of home. For me, I felt homesick for the first time when I decided to make my mom’s mac and cheese recipe. It hit me hard too. Luckily, I am in grad school where I went to undergrad, so the feelings of homesickness subsided and were not as bad when I came back. For almost everyone I know here, this is not the case.

I believe this is about the time of year where people are sending in their applications for grad school. Or, they are preparing to fill out applications soon. This means that there will be a new group of individuals that travels to a new town, to start a new journey. And, man, will there be some rough patches for them.

homesick

You can read a ton of methods to help reduce homesickness online. I want to share just a couple of weird ones that have worked for me. I do suggest trying the other methods as well of these don’t work. Also, if the feelings get too much to handle, seeing a therapist is always a recommendation by me. If you want, you can read about my experience with a therapist (here). Here are a few ways that I reduced the feeling of being homesick.

Methods that I hope help with homesickness

  1. Call your parents/siblings/friends/anyone at least once a week. You can call them everyday but that might make you feel even worse and miss them more. It is good to stay in contact with them though.
  2. Sit with the feelings of homesickness and acknowledge it. Sometimes the best way to deal with your feelings is to accept is and just sit with it awhile. If it is overwhelming, try some meditation practice (check out how to meditate, here).
  3. Pick up a hobby to distract your mind. This helps so much with my feelings of loneliness and I am sure it will help when feeling homesick.
  4. Cook a meal that your family usually makes. Sometimes what we miss most is just the comfort that we removed ourselves from. Food always makes things better too.
  5. Stay of social media!! This is a no brainer but always needs to be brought up.
  6. Join a sports team/club/organization/anything to keep you busy. This will help tremendously because you’ll make friends that will help with your feelings and you will stay busy. Preoccupy yourself with things and the transition becomes easier.
  7. Create new experiences for yourself and go do them. Go find something that makes you happy each day. Focus on those feelings rather than the sad feelings and you” feel alot better. One thing that I did and still do is just listen to calming music and go walk around campus. Look for specific things like birds or flowers. Focusing on doing this will keep your mind from wandering back to the bad feelings and thoughts. Trust me, it works.
  8. Plan a trip to come visit your hometown. Plan a trip and the excitement of going will make it easier to handle each day. Sometimes the thought of myself not seeing my parents for a why was overwhelming and I thought I would never see them. When I planned to go home, I knew that I would see them again and that made me super excited.

I hope this helps

Going away to school is so terribly difficult. You will have ups and downs the whole time you are there. Just know that those moments will pass and you’ll be better off in the long run. I hope these can help. Let me know in the comments ways that you overcome the feeling of homesickness. I think we can all benefit from that.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Winter Weather and Lack of Motivation

I’m starting to think that I write way too much about having a lack of motivation. Honestly, this is such a common occurrence in my life that I can’t help but talk about it. I am quite sure that this is a common problem that all grad students face and it’s about to get a lot harder in the next coming weeks. See, it’s the end of the semester which means a couple of things 1) Thanksgiving break 2) Finals and 3) graduation (if you’re lucky) or winter break. What do all of these things have in common? They all bring a lack of motivation to do work for class. Heck, you’ve probably already calculated the bare minimum score for your final to pass and plan on aiming to get there.

Gloomy weather

Another reason why the end is so difficult is because of the weather. We have some crazy weather events that occur in winter, down in the swamp. We get pretty decent cold fronts that cause for extremely gloomy weather. today is one of those days, you know, the type of day where you binge watch Harry Potter and drink coffee in bed. Yeah, this is that type of day. Below is the current weather radar. Looks like today and tomorrow will be pretty unproductive.

Image preview

For those that are finding it hard to get work done, I get you. I really do. Honestly, you’re motivation to get anything done is going to dwindle pretty quickly. This is normal and everyone, even those working full time, are going to experience it. Just keep on keeping on and be kind to yourself. Doing any work on days like today is an accomplishment that deserves a Harry potter binge watching marathon.

Some motivation

If you are truly unmotivated to do anything, I suggest checking out my blog on how to get motivation and create it yourself (link here). This is probably a good time to hone those skills before the end of the semester hits you. For me, and most PhD candidates, the end of the semester doesn’t mean too much. We usually don’t follow that schedule. For master’s students, this is a stressful time. Make sure to take care of yourself during these times. Also, take plenty of breaks. If you get burnt out during this time, there’s not much time to recover.

Winter is coming

Another thing that might show up during this time is some form of the winter blues. The weather, lack of sunlight, and stress of completing the semester could be a recipe for disaster. I am not sure if this is something that would work for you or not but I recently bought a light therapy lamp (this one). I know, I know, I live in Florida where it has more sun than the rest of the states. This is true but I leave my apartment relatively early and get some late. Also, my office doesn’t have windows so I need a bit f help. I have read great things about these. This might be something good to get to help you through these next few weeks.

I am going to leave you with a video on seasonal affective disorder by my favorite therapist, Emma McAdams. I’ll always send you guys her way. As always, I hope you have a wonderful day. It’s Friday, so do something fun after work or relax.

Panic in Grad School

This morning, I woke up around 4 am to a panic attack. These happen every once in a while, so I’m usually well prepared. Usually, what sets them off, are just random little things. Things such as not being able to go to the gym that day, or will I have enough money in 20 years to eat dinner. That last one was actually something that set off a panic attack. Anxiety is weird sometimes. Last night’s panic attack was set off by a significant worry that I have, writing my thesis.

How do I start?

I am not the type of person to procrastinate. They say that many PhD candidates wait until the last 3 months to write their thesis. I was looking into how I could start writing mine the first week of grad school lol. Procrastination gives me too much anxiety, which in this case is a good thing, and often makes me feel ever worse. So, instead of waiting for the last minute, I get it done or start tackling it right away.

Now my thesis is well underway, but I still have a few more chapters to write. Luckily for me, my papers that I submit for publication are my dissertation chapters. Many students not in a STEM field may have to write papers but their thesis is completely different. That is actually something that my friend is currently dealing with. Her dissertation is much different than the papers she is publishing. So she has a lot of writing to do if she wants to graduate next spring.

Is it so scary?

Woman in Gray Tank Top

I have read many horror stories about writing a thesis. Unfortunately, when you read very negative things about something, you start to look at it in a negative manner. This is how I am starting to look at my thesis, at least at a subconscious level. Waking up with a panic attack because of a writing assignment is nonsense, but it did happen. There are some things that I am going to try to reduce the chance of this happening again. Let me share with you what I am thinking of trying. Oooooo another list from Ben!!!

List of changes that I am going to try

  • Write at least 500 words a day. This is a good start and very easily done. Many of my blog posts are about that and that takes no time at all. As long as I don’t try and make everything perfect, I think I can hit this goal.
  • Every other day, format or rewrite sections of my dissertation. Eventually, I will have to proof read my thesis, so might as well do it along the way. After I write 500 words of course.
  • Take a break from writing ever once in a while. I do this with blogging. Writers block is such a terrible thing to experience whe you are close to a deadline. I don’t want to experience too much of this so I’ll take many breaks.
  • Be kind to myself when I don’t hit my goals. Writing a dissertation is hard. Doing the work is hard, but doable. By beating myself up, I am accomplishing nothing. I want to make this a good experience since it is really a major milestone in my life.
  • Waking up early to go to the gym so I can write at night. When I get home,I tend to make dinner, go to the gym, then watch tv or play with Sirius (I do both at the same time mostly). By switching gears and going to the gym in the morning, I can have the evenings to write, eat dinner, and hang with my favorite cat. I won’t have to worry about getting to the gym either. Also, my sleep schedule will be better.
  • Lastly, I am going to try and get to sleep much earlier than I have been. Mornings have been hard since I go to sleep so late now. Time to switch up my schedule a bit and start my days off early. I have a bad habit of staying up late that stems from undergrad. See, I was a partier so staying up was necessary. I gave that up long ago, but the habit stayed with me.

I think that these are some good changes that might set my anxious mind at ease. Graduating is my goal, but I have to conquer this herculean task. If you are trying to write your thesis, and you are having trouble or pretty anxious about it, maybe try some of these things that I am going to start doing. They might help. If you have any other tips for me to try, please leave them in the comments. The next few months might be stressful for me, but I know I can handle it. I hope you all have a wonderful day. Also, if you haven’t read my blog about what to do when stressed, I suggest taking a look. the link is here. Also, below is a really great presentation on writing your thesis. I suggest checking it out. It is very long.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Everyone Gets Nervous

I was going to write a different blog post today, but I think this is an important one to write today. I had a pretty big meeting today with everyone on my research project. They told us that it was “informal” yet everyone had pretty pre-rehearsed presentations and pretty well put together slides. I had to present my data that I have collected over the past year and present them to a bunch of pretty big named researchers. It was kind of nerve wracking, but I made it through, thanks to the skills I have written about (here).

Holy smokes

Anyway, I noticed something that really caught me off guard. My adviser was showing signs of nervousness. Now when I say this surprised me, I mean “holy cow! he actually gets nervous!?!?!?” My adviser has been a professor for 20 years and every presentation that I have seen him give, he’s very relaxed. So, see him somewhat nervous actually made me less nervous. I realized that give presentations to literally anyone can make you nervous.

Seeing this made me realize even more so that we are all human, and that is wonderful. Now, I want to specifically address grad students. Your adviser is human. They have gone through everything that you have ever and will ever do in your academic career. They still get super nervous during presentations and I guarantee they experience imposter syndrome. Nerve feel like you are alone when feeling this way. It is the process of becoming a scholar. Even the “giants” that we are supposed to be standing on have all been nervous or anxious.

Overall, it was a good day

Today was a good day, not because I got through my presentation without any questions, but because I learned something about people, specifically my adviser and the other researchers. We are all human and trying our best and that is something to be proud and grateful for. It was also a good day because I got orange chicken from panda express :).

I want to leave you with a YouTube video of ways to reduce nervousness/anxiety. As always, I hope you have a wonderful day!!

Do One Thing That Scares You

Lately, I have been really trying to find ways to be a productive as I can. For about a month, I was just running on fumes practically and going with the flow. My motivation to really do anything was lacking and I just wanted to stay home, watch TV, and go to sleep at 8 pm each night. The reason for this was because I hit burn out. PhD students take a comprehensive exam/qualifying exam as well as an oral presentation. I have written about it (here and here). This was a month long stress fest that ended in burn out. In fact, they have a name for this specific burnout called Post-Qual Slump (PQS). They even made a comic about it too (here). Luckily, that lack of motivation has passed.

Because of all this extra productivity that I strive to achieve, I have come to some scary situations that actually aren’t that scary. For someone who is more introverted than extroverted, I tend to get anxious about simple things that require me to venture out of my comfort zone. These include 1) emailing my advisor 2) asking for help 3) calling someone 4) going to things alone and so on and so on. Literally things that are really not that difficult are actually quite terrifying.

Man in Black Shirt and Gray Denim Pants Sitting on Gray Padded Bench

I am not alone. These are very common things that make grad students anxious, surprisingly. So, to make them less scary, I have decided to tackle these head on. Well, I’m starting small by only tackling one thing at a time. Each day, I have been doing one thing that scares me. So for example, this morning, I reached out to someone about information that i need. I asked for help, essentially. Honestly, it wasn’t that difficult to do, but for a minute, I was a bit anxious. I did it anyway.

What I am trying to do is convince my brain that there really isn’t any danger with what I am doing. I am facing a fear, convincing myself that it wasn’t scary or dangerous, then later, my mind will remember that it wasn’t bad. Boom! Less anxiety. This is the same concept that they teach in a speech class. Presentations are one of the scariest things that you can do, if you aren’t adventurous lol. My speech professor told us the best way to get over being nervous and scared is to just do it. This is how I was able to conquer that fear.

Each day, find something that makes you nervous, like calling somebody, or going to the movies alone (surprisingly common fear). Start small and you will start feeling more confident in everything you do. Soon, you’ll realize how easy things are and how not-so-scary they actually are. Below is a great video on how to face your fears through exposure.

I hope that you are able to face all of your fears and take back your life. Have a wonderful day.

Mindfulness Boosted My Productivity

It’s been a good 2 years since I started my mindfulness journey. It started well before I did therapy because I wanted to try before asking for help. Giving in and getting external help is quite difficult for me. It is actually something that gives me quite a bit of anxiety but I am and have been working through that. So, before getting help from a therapist, I started meditating and practicing many of the coping skills I talk about in my Mindfulness section of my blog (check it out here). It helped quite a bit, but therapy definitely helped even more.

After therapy was over, I had to continue with my practices of mediation, journaling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and most importantly, helping others with anxiety! So, while I was practicing all of this, I noticed a ton of really good changes in my life. First, I was happier. Overall, things that would get me sad or anxious didn’t do such thing anymore. I often tell people that mindfulness is like a buffer and sad moments are like pH changes. When you have a bad moment, the buffer takes over and evens you right out again. I am a research scientist that deals with buffers so this was the best thing to compare mindfulness to lol.

A major change that I notices was that my productivity was increasing. I believe this is because mindfulness reduces all of the clutter that is in your head. Instead of spending hours worrying about something, you have the mental capability to calm those thoughts and focus on something else. I would spend literally days focused solely on one ruminating thought. This would reduce productively a ton which would cause even more anxiety in my life. By practicing mindfulness, I was about to compartmentalize my thoughts and focus on things that needed to get done.

Here is a good article by Forbes about how mindfulness encourages peak performance (here). I wish I could link many peer reviewed journal articles, but they always require you to pay for them. If you really need to get work done, take a moment, find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted, and meditate. You don’t have to have a full meditation session though. just spend a few minutes following the breathe. If you need some more guidance on meditation, check out my blog on how to meditate (here). See if that helps make you able to tackle things better. Science has shown that this is a good way to be more productive, so give it a try.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week, filled with stress free days and candy corn. My days have been filled with ample amounts of candy corn lately. So, I may need to go see a dentist soon. Until next time friends, stay amazing!

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

The Uncertainty of Grad School

If anyone knows a great amount about uncertainty, it’s grad students, more so PhD students. There is one question that you should never ask a doctorate student and that is “when do you think you’ll graduate?” I understand that this is a harmless question, but we really don’t know. Our lives are filled with uncertainty about our research, careers, heck, even about if we can eat later. If you are a grad student that is dealing with a feeling of uncertainty, just know that you are not alone.

I wish I could say that a PhD is a straight forward path, filled with a fun research project and a set schedule. It is not. For the most part, the whole project is up to the student to do, and there will always be setbacks. Funding is a major setback for grad students. You need money to be able to work on the project as well as money just so you can eat. In some cases, you may get neither. In other cases, you may get barely enough money to pay for your rent. You just don’t really know.

Feeling uncertain about your future is completely normal. Having anxiety because of it is a normal response but needs to be managed. Grad school will throw so many curve balls that by the end of it. You will be so desensitized to uncertainty that it doesn’t even bother you. I feel like that is a main goal of graduate studies.

Being able to focus on a project and see it through to the end, regardless of what happens, is something that not many people can do. Most projects will have a set goal, timeline, and tasks that need to be complete. Your project might be a brand new scientific addition to the world where you may get weird results, you may go poor in the process, and you may not have a set path for you. Understand that this can be fun, stressful, but fun.

It’s all about the journey, my friends. See, goals are great, but the journey is the most important part. The end goal in a grad program is graduation. That might be years in the future. So, would you rather get the most out of the ride or be miserable the whole time? I wrote in a blog post about finding the good in things. (link here). Things will go wrong, and a lot in grad school. It is all part of the journey, though. You learn to adapt to changes and uncertain events that may occur.

African man with frown look sitting under red light

Here are a few things that you can do to reduce the anxiety that comes from uncertainty in grad school.

  1. Accept that we cannot control everything. If it out of our control then why worry about it?
  2. Envision the best scenario that can happen. Also, envision the worst thing that can happen. Now understand that what is likely to happen is something between those two things.
  3. Keep moving regardless of what happens. You may get pushed back another semester or your experiment failed. These are all things that are out of our control. You must keep moving forward and learn from those experiences.
  4. Seek support from those you trust. Most people have a support system. Go to them and don’t just take all advice from some stranger on the internet (lol).
  5. Look for the honey. Every event that occurs can have some form of good that comes from it. Look for what good came from each event that occurred. Focus on just that and it will make the situation much more enjoyable.
  6. Accept that uncertainty is part of life, and quite an exciting thing too.

Sometimes the best thing to do is just accept that things will not go as planned. There will always be things out of your control that will run the show. If you are truly suffering from dealing with uncertainty, check out this article about the books that can help you with that (link here). I think I might get a few of those books myself.

Before I finish up, I just want to say, it is ok to get anxious every once in a while. These feelings are normal and nothing is wrong with you. However, focusing on these feelings and getting more anxious is not alright. Grad school is a terrifying time in a young scholars life. You may think that you are traveling this path alone, but you aren’t. We are all on this journey. Focus on the good things that come from grad school. Focus on the skills you are obtaining along this journey. And most importantly, be kind to yourself. I wish more people didn’t beat themselves up all of the time, especially for things out of their control.

I hope your week is eventful and full of fun activities. You guys really are the best. Thanks for reading.

My Experience With Therapy

I have written quite a few pieces where I emphasize the importance of therapy. In fact, like 50% of my posts in my “Mindfulness and Meditation” section contain something about therapy. Today, I want to share a little bit of my experience using Talkspace.com and the pros and cons of this platform.

Free stock photo of adolescent age, adult, chair

My experience

I started therapy March of last year. I remember because quarantine hadn’t started yet and that was something my therapist brought up later. At first, it was mostly just texting back and forth. I preferred this method because I am a shy person, and talking about my feelings is hard to do. It was also fairly convenient because I could text my therapist at any time during the day or night. This was definitely a perk of using the app.

After about 3 months of texting, my therapist asked if I would prefer to do a 1 hour, live session, instead of texting. Little ol’ anxious Ben said no, at first, because this made me feel uncomfortable. My therapist understood and was still really supportive. It wasn’t until last fall that I decided to do live sessions.

Live sessions are amazing. You really get to cover a ton of information and learn so much about yourself. It also was a one and done kind of thing, better than texting about my feeling every night. I had a 1 hour session which covered literally everything on this blog. I mostly dealt with understanding my feelings, coping with anxiety, and practicing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Check out this article on the benefits of this method (link here). Needless to say, Talkspace was well worth it.

Of course there were some things that I didn’t like about doing online therapy, mostly the texting portion. If you get the basic plan on any of these online therapies, you may just get texting. I think BetterHelp has a better plan than Talkspace, but I am not sure. If you have tried BetterHelp, let me know your experience with that one. The live sessions are the best attribute of the app but their platform isn’t that good and sometimes the video chat doesn’t work. This can be bad if you desperately need a therapy session and the technology doesn’t allow for that to happen.

I ended my therapy sessions in the spring. My therapist only wanted to see me once a month to check in and that did not occur as she left Talkspace because they didn’t pay enough. It was fine with me because I felt like a new person. Therapy was an amazing decision and I highly recommend it.

Smiling Muslim woman waving hand and having video call

Here are the Pros and Cons for Talkspace that I have noticed

Pros

  1. Super easy and convenient. You can text your therapist at any time during the day
  2. You get to have a one-on -one session with them ponce a week, for an hour
  3. It’s very cheap and may be covered by insurance
  4. The therapists are amazing
  5. They give you recommendations for therapists based on what you are having trouble with
  6. It actually works
  7. They give you weekly updates and reports
  8. Often covered by colleges

Cons

  1. You only get 5 text messages per week from your therapist.
  2. Their more expensive option provides more, but is often not really enough if you need immediate help.
  3. Not all insurance helps, so you will be paying out of pocket.
  4. Their platform doesn’t work well with video chats sometimes.
  5. They don’t pay their therapists that much so some end up leaving.

If you are considering therapy, don’t rule out online therapy. There are so many therapy platforms online that I would say are just as good as regular session. The top three that I would suggest would be 1) Talkspace 2) BetterHelp and 3) Online-Therapy. Whichever you choose, I am sure that it will help significantly. If you are in grad school, or just in a stressful job, taking the time to get help, professionally, can change your life.

If you have experience using online therapy platforms, comment below. I would love to read about your experience. See you in the next blog.

It’s OK to be Nervous

Grad school is a very scary experience. Like most new things, grad school will put you into some very scary situations that turn out to be just fine. You won’t have to do anything too crazy, I promise you that. But, you will experience stuff that may make you scared. Trust me, it’s all part of the process of making you a great scholar.

It is OK to be scared in grad school. You are going to do many things that are brand new to you and you are going to give a ton of presentations. I mean an absurd amount of presentations. Those can be one of the scariest parts of grad school. You may feel a bit nervous about most things. This is good. This means that you are stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring something new and exciting. I actually drew a visual for me on my white board to let me know that getting out of my comfort zone was good.

I suggest drawing this same figure. There are many different versions of this which I will share but this is my favorite because of it’s simplicity. I need to get out of my comfort zone to get to where the magic happens. Grad school is where that magic is and I definietly got out of my comfort zone with this one. Here’s another version.

How to Leave your Comfort Zone and Enter your 'Growth Zone'

I find these visuals to be so motivating.

In grad school, you will traverse through all of these zones to get to where the magic happens. You will acquire so many new skills, and the best part, you will also create a much broader comfort zone.

I often tell new students that the first year will be the hardest. You will be super hesitant to do experiments, meet people, give presentations (link here on how to give great presentations, btw.), etc. This is normal and very much expected but there will come a time where all of the things that made you nervous or scared, won’t anymore. I love seeing when this occurs in new students. They gain confidence in what they do and grow in their experiences.

Embrace the feelings that you get when you are trying something new. Know deep down that this experiences is helping you learn and it is OK to be nervous. You are growing as an individual and that is so freaking cool.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Financial Stress in Grad School

I wanted to write about something that is hitting hard for quite a few of us lately, financial stress. That is the stress of being poor in grad school. I have written about dealing with finances in grad school before and how to reduce spending (link here)(here‘s another great resource). This blog is about dealing with the stress that comes from grad school finances. Being poor for many years is part of the process, unfortunately, and I am here to tell you that your concerns are justified. It may be tough now, but I promise you that it will be worth it.

Couple Sitting on the Couch

One of the biggest anxiety triggers that I have are my finances. Even something as small as taking my cat to the vet caused me to have a panic attack at 2 am. Luckily, I am skilled in coping mechanisms so I was able to reduce anxiety enough to get back to sleep. I am not in the worst financial situation by any means, but I know many people in grad school that are. Financial stress can really lead to many problems and ultimately cause an individual to leave the program altogether. Something that none of us want to happen.

Macbook Pro Beside Papers

The graduate union on campus recently posted a survey about the financial struggles that graduates face. The results were extremely alarming and extremely sad. People were taking multiple part-time jobs on top of working full time just to pay fore housing. Many people couldn’t even afford groceries because they had to pay for other expenses first.

U.s. Dollar Banknote Lot

Grad school stipends are extremely low. I remember receiving my appointment letter and freaking out because I was going to make about 40% less money by going to grad school than staying at my job. I told myself that 1) receiving a PhD will be worth it and 2) this will be quite a great adventure. Man, was I right about both. I think a huge stressor is seeing people that we graduated undergrad with getting senior positions and making six figures while we eat leftover pizza and ramen. It is a struggle.

For those that are reading this and struggling to make ends meet in grad school, you are not alone. It is something that we are all facing and will probably continue to face. I promise you that this will pass and you will get a career that pays you fairly. This is a learning experience and will be beneficial, I am sure of it. There are many resources that I am sure your college provides. I suggest taking a look to see what resources there are and taking full advantage of them.

One benefit is you will know how to manage money really well, a skill many people do not have. You will also know how to shop bargains, have fun without spending money, and I believe you will find happiness in small things, rather than large, fancy, things. This is something that I found to be 100% true. I have started to really appreciate all of the free things in my life such as long walks, trail hiking, and spending time at my pool (I know it’s not free but you aren’t spending any extra money).

This chapter of your life is quite hard. Will it be the hardest part? I don’t know, but it will be difficult in many ways. I hope that financial problems do not cause any extra stress in your life, like it has with me. One day, we will all be OK.

Simple Ways to Reduce Stress Now

I want to touch on some simple ways to reduce stress that you are feeling right now. These are just immediate reducers and may not help for long term reduction. Those methods will need to be practiced separately. Stress affects all of us. Work, life, financial situations, friendships, you name it, it can cause stress. If you are feeling the stress of one or all of these things, try some of the methods that I will share below. Hopefully they help.

  1. Exercise
exercise

Literally just go outside and jog a bit, walk some, or hit up the gym and lift a few weights. You will feel a reduction in stress immediately which will allow you to think clearly and be more productive

2. Use the massager that you bought

massage

If you don’t know what I am talking about, check out my blog about the massager that helped my mental state (link here). Getting a massage has been shown to reduce built up stress, especially in your shoulders. It will allow you to relax, even at moments of high stress.

3. Drink tea instead of coffee

Tea

I don’t know about you but if I am stressed and need to get work done, I drink a big cup of coffee. Sure, it gets the brain juices flowing but I usually have heightened anxiety from the caffeine. Herbal tea can give you the boost you need but also reduce the anxiety that come from caffeine. It can also help you relax as well. There are literally hundred of books and articles about the benefits of tea. Science backs it so I back it.

4. 10 minutes of meditation

Silhouette of Man at Daytime

Meditation is going to help significantly. I have written many blog posts that can be found in my Mindfulness section (link here). Meditation will calm you and bring peace to the moment. 10 minutes of meditation is all you need to gain from this practice.

5. Write down your stressors

Person Holding Blue Ballpoint Pen Writing in Notebook

This is a great method to see exactly what is causing stress. Also, it allows you to see if those are justifiable stressors. Often times, you will be stressed out for things that really are so small. By writing down what your stress is, you may realize that it’s not stressful at all. It is a great method to put things into perspective and I highly suggest trying it out.

6. Play mellow music

I find this helps more than most things. In super stressful time, such as deadlines, maintain focus and reducing panic is a must. Study music is my “jam” lol at that moment because it keeps my focus and reduces stress. It’s hard to be worked up when Mozart is playing in the background. I wrote a blog about my favorite study music. This YouTube channels and playlists definitely help reduce stress. (link here).

7. Breathe

Man Wearing Black Cap With Eyes Closed Under Cloudy Sky

Breathing exercises are phenomenal when it comes to stress. When stressed, we tend to take very short breathes, not allowing ample oxygen to enter out bodies, balancing oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. By taking deep breathes, we send a message to the brain to calm down. The brain will send that message to the body as well. There are a ton of breathing exercising that you can do. The University of Michigan has an awesome article on these techniques and how to do them. Here’s a link to that page.

I really hope that stress is not a part of your life. We live in a society where giving more and more of ourselves is a must in order to get anywhere. This causes so much stress. No wonder so many people are unhappy with how things are. If you are feeling stresses, try some of these methods out and let me know if they worked for you. Take care of yourself out there, and I’ll see you in the next blog.

Take Vacation in Grad School

Selective Focus Photography of Yellow School Bus Die-cast

I’m writing this because I am in desperate need of a vacation, and you probably are too. I am finishing my qualifying exams next week. The exam consisted of writing a proposal, defending the proposal, and taking 5 written exams, one from each committee member. I will have a post on how to pass (hopefully not fail) your qualifying exam very soon. I wrote about preparing for your qualifying exam. Check it out here.

The beginning of the semester

Anyway, let’s get back to why we are here, vacations. Now, school just started for many individuals this week. But for the majority of grad students, this week is just the same as any other week. There is an influx of students but that’s the only difference. Summer is the time to get work done for many grad students. In fact, it could be the only time of the year where you get research done at all (looking at you people who teach each semester). With the constant stress and pressure of having to do a lot of work at once, it can really lead to burnout, or worse…getting kicked out!!!

It’s important

This is why taking a vacation is so important. This also pertains to those who work for a living too. I’ve been in your shoes and know that about half the day is day dreaming about being somewhere else. So this post is for all of you. Vacations are a time where you can relax and not be bogged down with the stressed of work. We live in a society that thrives off of telling people how busy they are? Why is this a thing? Anyway, this is extremely toxic and can really cause problems mentally. A vacation is a good time to get away from this.

Search for how many days you get

Look into vacation days for grad students. Usually, they allow 5 days of paid vacation each semester, sometimes more. These days are separate from holidays so I would suggest taking time off around holidays so you can spend more time away from work. I tend to go places or take time off around Christmas and at the end of summer. My spring semester tends to be really chill towards the end so I may take a few days off then, but more-so during winter break.

Why take vacation?

The main reason to take vacations is so you do not burn out. I believe I wrote a very long time ago that attrition rates for PhDs was roughly 50%. Like holy cow. Many of these students leave for various reasons, but a great deal of them leave due to burnout. Here’s a good article to read about burnout and drop outs (here). It’s sad that some professors don’t see that this is a problem. I had one professor tell me that, because they had to work all the time, their student had to as well. This is flat out wrong. One needs time to rest, because if they are constantly working 1) they will not be productive and 2) they will snap.

Enjoy the ride

When you start grad school, remember that it is a very long process. In fact, it can be much longer than your undergrad. I am finishing up year 4 and could potentially go well into year 5 without finishing. 5 years is a long time to just continuously work and be miserable. Plan to go one trip. Go see friends that you haven’t seen in a while. Go to a new country and explore all of the food places there. But most importantly, just go do something that is not work. Life is so much more than spending your day working on something you probably hate. Life is a gift that was given to you and you need to go out and make the most of it. Grad school is a great way to make your life better, but the journey through grad school needs to also be good.

Rest=success

Most of your best ideas that you will have will come when you are not working. In fact, all of the ideas that I have come up with have been while walking, going to Miami to see my girlfriend, or on a boat, fishing. You give your brain to actually focus on problems subconsciously, and you get the best ideas this way. If you are struggling with a problem, I would suggest you go on a miniature trip somewhere and try and forget about school and that problem. I will bet money that some form of solution will arise. Just make sure to write it down when it does pop up lol.

Final Thoughts

It’s a great time to start planning your next vacation. First, get vaccinated for covid so you don’t risk spreading that to places you go. Next, plan your trip wisely. It’s not a good time to travel to other countries, but going to see your family, that can be an awesome vacation, as well as a cheap one. My next vacation will hopefully be to Canada. I absolutely love going up there during winter and it isn’t that expensive either. Whatever you do, make sure that you commit to it. It is so easy to work all of the time, but that’s not healthy. Live life and I guarantee that you will not regret it.

Wood Carving Reduced My Anxiety

I took up wood carving when the pandemic first started last year. While most people were enjoying making bread in their new bread maker, I was learning how to hold a knife and not cut myself (spoiler alert: I cut myself). I don’t really know what caused me to start making wood carvings. It just piqued my interest.

The start of quarantine was quite an amazing time since we spent more time inside with loved ones. We made bread like crazy. The Tiger King was…well king. And, it gave us more time to try out new things. I remember that after buying a wood carving set, some chisels, and gloves (make sure to get gloves). If you are interested, these are the ones I bought (here and here). I then started watching Doug Linker’s Youtube channel, and basically followed step by step with what he was doing. Even if you aren’t into wood carving, I suggest watching some of his videos.

It only took maybe a week of practice to understand the basics. I bought a whole bunch of basswood (like this) and just carved as much as I could. I eventually got good enough and made a few little figurines for my parents and my girlfriend.

Here are some of the figurines that I made. Each took about 4 hours to make but four hours flies by when you are carving. Each one is about 3 to 4 inches tall, so they are relatively small, but super cute lol.

As the days turned into weeks, I started kind of getting bored with just carving small figurines. So, like any reasonable wood carver, I got bigger tools and started making even bigger carvings.

This was a chunk of wood that I found, about one foot tall, that I carved an owl into. I wanted a bigger project to work on, since I really didn’t have anything else going on, especially in my PhD program. This carving was done with a dremel and then I painted the inside to really make the owl POP!

Well, after getting a taste of something bigger, I wanted to go even bigger. My goal was to learn how to carve with a chainsaw. Now, I am not trained in using a chainsaw so I had to watch a ton of videos on how to do it. The people made it look so simple on Youtube, but looks are deceiving. I bought myself an electric chainsaw (I am a college kid and poor, please remember that), and set out to carve a tiki. The tiki was a Christmas present so I wanted it to be amazing.

It turned out pretty awesome, though, taking pictures of it didn’t really show all of the contours and shadowing that made it really stand out. I will update this post the next time I go to my girlfriend’s dad’s house, where it currently resides.

Through this whole experience, I was also doing therapy. I brought up wood carving almost every session and my therapist kept encouraging me to make more carvings. She told me that having a hobby such as this was an excellent way to calm an anxious mind. I totally agree with that statement because:

  1. Carving allows you to focus on one specific task at a time. If you get distracted, you may cut yourself pretty easily.
  2. It keeps you off social media
  3. If you carve outside, there is a sense of peace that comes over you and you become “one with nature”
  4. IT KEEPS YOU OFF SOCIAL MEDIA!!!

I found that the more I carved, the less anxious I was in that moment. Carving is like meditation, you focus on one thing and stay in the present moment. Instead of focusing on the breathe, like in meditation, you are focusing on the cutting and not getting cut aspect of carving. Soon, you get in almost a trance like state, and all outside distractions tend to disappear. I feel like you can almost use wood carving as an alternative to meditation, that is, wood carving that doesn’t require a chainsaw lol.

College, especially grad school, can be a very overwhelming time and cause a ton of stress. I found that doing a simple task can help significantly. I wrote about how hobbies are great to take up in grad school. If you are looking for a way to pass time, be creative, and get some much needed anxiety relief in, then I suggest checking wood carving out. It is super easy, fun, and inexpensive, which is always a plus. It has done wonders to my mental health and I know it can help with yours.

Is Grad School Hard?

I typed this exact question into google maybe a hundred times prior to accepting my offer from UF. I had come from an engineering background and knew how hard that was, but I always assumed that grad school was way out of my league with difficulty. Boy was I right and wrong at the same time.

If you are just starting or thinking about grad school then you are one to value a higher learning experience. You either want to continue learning more complex problems or maybe you just want to further your career and force your friends to call you Dr. (That’s my plan). Either way, you are starting an amazing journey, that few have done before.

Grad school can best be described by the cartoon below:

Rachel - ppt download

At the beginning, you think you have it all planned out. You start your classes, you get good grades, you move on. Then things get a bit more tricky and more complicated. No matter how much you plan something out, it will always be different. That is especially true in grad school. You may think the project you are working on is easy or the classes seem fair but then things go all over the place and it becomes a bit more difficult. But have no fear, this is how life works and you are resilient.

Grad school is hard but there are far more difficult things in life. You may moan and groan about the difficulties of grad school (being poor, eating ramen for the 10th time this week, lots of work, etc.) but know that those don’t compare to hardships that people actually face in life. I know way too many people that come from pretty tough backgrounds and don’t complain one bit. They have had it so rough but manage to stay kind and keep going. I also know people that complain how hard life is after they just got their second car, paid for by daddy.

In the end, you will face difficulties that will push you to a breaking point. You may not as well. I am finding grad school to be challenging but not enough to where I am miserable. I hope you find it that way as well. The most difficult thing that I face is mental health. This is why I write these blogs, to help you cope with the issues that will arise.

In conclusion, grad school is however hard you make it. It can be quite easy or it could be hell. If you have a good mindset going in, and keep that mindset, you will find much more joy in grad school than you could imagine. On the other hand, if you go in thinking the worst and being negative about things, you will find it quite difficult. Believe in yourself and you will do just fine. If you are having a rough time, check out my other blogs on ways to make it better.

Also, if you need a laugh, check out lovephdmemes on Instagram. Here’s a link.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

New Beginnings: Moving in Grad School

Cheerful modern male and female in comfortable casual clothes unpacking car trunk in green garden of new house while moving in together

I just wanted to post a blog about the new stuff that is happening in my life and how I am reacting to these changes. Many grad students will be going through some really crazy changes right now such as actually going back to school, moving to new places, or even deciding what pizza to get because the pizza place you love closed down :(. My new beginning comes in the shape of moving to an apartment for the first time in 6 years.

The move

I moved into a new apartment today and met my roommate for the first time. He seems like a very nice guy. He just moved here and is going to school to be a lawyer. That’s awesome for me because I don’t have roommates that party all the time anymore. I moved in pretty early this morning and had my friend, my dad and my girlfriend all help me move in. I had enough stuff to where moving with more than myself was much needed. It was great to be able to start a new chapter, which will be the last chapter of my grad school experience.

Stress

Moving, as well as starting my qualifying exam has me quite irritated as well as feeling many different things. I feel lonely, sad, happy, anxious, excited, nervous, etc. I wanted to write this blog to let you know, if you are experiencing these feelings today, or any day, you are not alone. Most importantly, you are human and these things are natural. Sometimes they aren’t completely natural and you may need help, but if you are feeling this way after moving or starting a new chapter in your life, then it’s totally fine.

Always pay attention to the good

This chapter of my life has been stressful as well as the best thing I have ever done. For those just starting a grad program for the first time, know that you will have quite interesting and possibly new feelings. This is normal, and you are not alone. Anyway, I will try and update my blog ever few days. My qualifying exam is two weeks long and I’m on day 1 tomorrow. Light a candle, say a prayer, sacrifice a goat, do something for me lol. I want to leave you with a quote from Robin Williams “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Zoom to Classroom: The Great Transition During Covid

Every single news outlet has something saying how a different variant of Covid is spreading all over the world. You have some news channels saying that it’s “just like the flu” while others say that you are guaranteed to get really sick and die. Seriously? How am I supposed to function with everyone telling me that I am going to get really sick and cause others to get sick? Unfortunately, this is where we are at currently. On top of knowing that different variants are present, we are being forced to go back to school and have in person classes. Talk about stressful times.

Most universities in the US are going back to in person classes which really has many people concerned. I have been back on campus for a year now but I am still extremely concerned when 50,000 students come back to occupy the halls once again. That is quite a good chunk of people coming from all over Florida as well as the rest of the US. On top of that, Florida is the hotspot for Covid cases. Great! Just writing this blog is making me mad as well as a tad bit more concerned.

If you are feel the same way, well, you are definitely not alone. Most of the grad students that I talk to on a daily basis are just as concerned as I am. We are more concerned to get the virus from an individual that just doesn’t care and goes to bars, concerts, and anywhere else where a ton of people are. I get it, those things are extremely fun and I miss going to them, but I also want to be able to see my parents and family without exposing them to something that could potentially kill them.

Like me, you are probably scouring the internet, looking for some way to prepare for the transition back to in person classes. I hope you are finding some really good information that you can share in the comments. These are a few of the best ways to prepare that I have found. I hope that they help you and bring some peace of mind.

  1. Get Vaccinated

The vaccines on the market have all been thoroughly tested and are safe. Please, if you haven’t been vaccinated, go and get one. They are free. This is the best way to prevent going to the hospital. One thing that I don’t understand is why people would rather go to the hospital than get a vaccine. Have you ever been to the hospital in the US? It’s expensive! So, if you want to spend the rest of your life paying off bills, then go right ahead.

However, if you are like me, you’ll see that getting a free vaccine is way better than paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay off a visit that was preventable. Also, the vaccine’s side effect is that it prevents you from going to the hospital. That’s it. There are some cases where there might be a case of some other serious side effect, but those are so rare. Hopefully you have taken statistics and can see that the chances of getting a serious illness from a vaccine is slim to none. Trust the science.

2. Talk to someone about your fears

Woman Wearing Teal Dress Sitting on Chair Talking to Man

Talking with others about your concerns is a great way to easy your worried mind. This is a common fear among grad students and you may find peace in knowing you are not alone. Virtually every grad student that I have talked to has looked for many ways to prepare for this transition. They have talked to their advisers and brought up their concerns. By talking to other people, you may find that there are options that you can take to reduce exposure to Covid. Also, with enough people, you can bring up your concern to the school and they may change in person classes to online for grad students. You never know until you try.

3. Move to the front of the classroom

Brown and Black Wooden Chairs Inside Room

This is one that many people don’t really think of. Where is the least populated area in a classroom? The front row. No one wants to sit right in front of the professor because they think they will get called on constantly, and that’s super anxiety inducing. By sitting in the front row, you will be away from everyone else and have less of a chance of getting Covid. This is what I will be doing. Also, it forces you to pay attention, so you will definitely do better in these classes. There was actually a study done on seat location and performance. Read it here.

4. Learn to meditate to ease your mind

Woman Meditating in the Outdoors

I practically right every article with meditation in mind. This is by far the best reducer of stress and anxiety that I have found. Covid brings a ton of uncertainty which brings anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle, so you need a way to cope. Meditation will allow you to relax and almost troubleshoot your mind. Think of anxiety as a virus in your computer. You need a way to eliminate that virus without paying $100 for virus removal software lol. Mediation is what allows you to go into safe mode, find the virus (anxiety) and eliminate it. I hope this makes sense. I am an environmental engineer, not a computer science major lol. If you haven’t read my blogs about mediation, you can find them here. Please check them out.

5. Wear your mask

White Ceramic Sculpture With Black Face Mask

Other than getting the vaccine, wear your mask!!! These two simple things will prevent you from getting Covid, or seriously reduce the chance of getting it. Listen to the medical experts and stop listening to some person on YouTube that “Did their Research.” No, they did not. There research was reading blog posts from anti-vaxxers that have no clue how to do research. You are an intellegent person and know what good science is. They don’t. If you happen to meet one of these people, ask them if you can see their lab where they test their hypotheses. They probably won’t even know what the word “hypothesis” is. Don’t listen to them. Wear your mask.

6. Exercise outside

Woman Running On Pathway

Gyms will be packed in the fall. New freshman love to congregate in large groups around the machines which will mean that a ton of people may be exposed to Covid. If you are concerned, exercise outside. I have great exercises that you can do that are just as good as going to the gym. Check them out here. Also, if you have an office, spend some time each day and maybe do some yoga. Get your office mates to join you as well. If you don’t have an office, exercise outside is a great alternative. This will keep you far away from crowds as well as increase your mental health. Your mental health is as important, if not more important, than your physical health. Studies have shown that spending time outside increases mental health. Strengthening physical and mental health are essential to getting through this pandemic.

7. Be Smart

Text

If you feel unsafe in any setting, get out of there. Some things may make you feel extremely uncomfortable such as lab meetings, grad school events, etc. If you feel very uncomfortable, please don’t feel like you have to go. For lab meetings, reach out to your adviser. They will understand and probably will make the meeting online anyway. I don’t know a single professor that isn’t concerned about Covid. If you are going back to the lab, be smart by cleaning everything. Wear a mask if you are with someone else. We have been doing this for over a year now so we are all aware of the procedures.

This will be quite the experience for all of us, especially those in states where Covid cases are through the roof **cough, cough, Florida**. We need to work together and do our part to reduce any chance of getting this persistent virus. If you are concerned with going back, you are not alone. ‘ve been back for a year now and I am deeply concerned. But, I do everything that I possibly can to reduce the chance I get sick. I wear a mask, I clean, and most importantly, I practice mindfulness to mentally prepare. Get vaccinated first. Trust me, there’s plenty of evidence that shows the vaccines are safe. Don’t listen to anecdotal evidence because that’s not science based. Trust the experts. Practice mindfulness and mediation to strengthen your mental health and I guarantee things will be fine.

If you happen to get sick, stay away from people. Let your adviser know so they can take the appropriate measures that your college has laid out. Get plenty of rest, and if you feel good enough as well as lost your sense of taste, try a new food that you find disgusting lol. If I lose my taste, I might try mayonnaise…well maybe not. If you have made it this far on my blog, please share with us how you are preparing for this upcoming semester. I would love to know and I know a thousand grad students would also love to know as well. Stay safe friends! And remember, This too shall pass.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How Writing a Blog Can Help With Mental Health

Today is an important day for me. Today, I will have written 50 blog posts. That may not seem like many, but trust me, it’s a ton for someone like me. I started writing blogs as a form of outlet, almost like journaling. My anxiety was creeping back, even though I had a significant arsenal of coping mechanisms. Journaling was not one of those methods that I had tried before. Also, I wanted to give back to the world somehow. There is already too much suffering in the world and I wanted to add a contribution to help, even just one person, suffer a little less.

I received an email today about my blogs. I was so overwhelmed because it was an appreciation email. They loved my writing and wanted to let me know that they loved it so much, they couldn’t stop reading. This is what it is all about, my friends. Blogging is more than just writing about my problems, it’s finding solutions and helping those with the same problems, solve their problems. So many people in this world just care about themselves. I completely understand that mentality because life had me feeling this way for a very long time. I found this was helpful to get what you wanted in life, but you aren’t really contributing in the best way you can.

Two months ago, I decided to take a journey to help people, rather than just help myself. I wanted to help graduate students that were experiencing mental health and giving helpful ways to cope. I also wanted to help with their fitness, but soon found that focusing on mental health needed more of my attention. Don’t worry though, more fitness blogs will surely follow. I found that the more I wrote, the more feedback I received, the less anxious I became. Journaling is a good coping mechanism, but mixing it with giving helpful advice, well that’s a recipe for success.

I have found a little place in this world of blogging, my niche. And in so, I have found that my anxiety, my stress, my depression, have been reduced to levels I haven’t seen in years. I wish I could go back in time and just tell myself that it will be a long journey, but one where you find yourself, at least I have found 28 year old Ben. I may be a lot different in 5 years ;P.

If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, any form of mental health, I want to add one more coping mechanism to your toolbox, and of course that is blogging. It has helped me to express myself and openly to other people. There are so many people in the writing community that have been so supportive. Honestly, the blogging is a way to cope with my anxiety, but, you, the reader, have helped to significantly reduce my anxiety. Thank you so much, blogging community! I owe you more than you know.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Things Not to Tell an Anxious Person

Anxiety comes and goes in waves. Some days you feel amazing, you’re extremely motivated, and nothing seems to bother you at all. Other days, just answering an email causes your hands to get all sweaty, your heart races, and every “what if” situation pops in your head. If this has happened to you, you are not alone. It seems like I know more people that suffer from anxiety than people that don’t. If you manage to get through Grad school without having anxiety then you deserve some form of medal because that is impressive.

I want to share a few things that you should never tell an anxious person. I will offer some alternatives that you can say instead that are more appropriate.

  1. Calm Down“. Instead say something along the lines of “I am here for you”. Let them know they are not alone and that they can talk to you about anything, especially their feelings.
  2. Why are you anxious?” I get this one all of the time. When I am truly anxious, I don’t know why. That’s why it can be scary for people because they don’t necessarily always know why they are anxious. Instead just be there to listen to them. Sometimes when the anxious person starts talking, they figure out why they are so anxious on their own. Just sit with them, listen to what they have to say, and most of all do not try and tell them why they are anxious. You don’t know what they are going through.
  3. I know how you feel.” Don’t say this because you probably don’t know how they feel. This almost creates a competition. Instead, like in the tips above, let them know that you are here for them.
  4. Oooo this is a good one, “Stop worrying!” Ok, let me just stop something that I have been trying to stop my whole life. Man, it’s just so easy. I get this a lot when I worry about big presentations. In fact, I recently did my qualifying presentation for my PhD and was anxious beyond belief. I heard “Stop worrying” from too many people. They usually follow up by “You are prepared.” I understand that I am prepared but that doesn’t reduce the anxiety at all. Instead, help the individual to calm down. Ask them to go on a walk with them, just a short one, and talk to them normally. This works well with my friends. When they are anxious, I suggest we walk to the store and get kombucha. By the time that we get there, they completely forgot about what they were worrying about in the first place.
  5. I think you should see a therapist.” Don’t say that. Yes, therapy is amazing and everyone would benefit from it, but telling someone who is anxious to go see a therapist may cause even more anxiety. Therapy is a major stressor at first for individuals that haven’t done it before. I was one of those individuals. I was so anxious the first time meeting with my therapist that I threw up. Instead of telling them they need to see a therapist, wait until the individual is calmed down and then bring up different ways of coping with anxiety. Therapy will more than likely be brought up by the anxious individual and you don’t have to bring it up. Most people with anxiety have thought about therapy already and some are just too anxious to try it. Be supportive and say that no matter what, you’ll be there for them.
  6. Get over it.” This makes my blood boil when I hear it. I don’t choose to have anxiety. By saying this, you are pretty much telling them that you aren’t there to support them in their time of need. Instead of saying “get over it”, say “This is tough, be WE will get through this TOGETHER.” I wish more people were supportive and helped me get to where I am today. If I had as many people say something like “We will get through it together” then I would have been way better with my anxiety sooner.

Be kind to these individuals. You may have been in their place at one time, looking for help and possibly not finding it. We all have our struggles and we need to look out for each other. Covid had not helped at all, I wrote about it here. Anxiety is on the rise and we need to do everything we can to stop it. Show some love for us that are fighting silent battles, you may just need our help to fight yours.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How to Deal With Anxiety Caused by Covid: My Grad School Experience

We are in the worst pandemic that probably any of us will see in our lifetime. It has been a year and a half since states started to shut down and that’s so crazy to realize. Honestly, the beginning of quarantine was amazing. People started actually spending time with their families. We had Tiger King to binge watch. Bread making was at an all-time high, and toilet paper production was at an all-time low. Those were simpler times. After a while, though, isolation started to take its toll on our mental health. I remember talking to my therapist and she asked how Covid affected my mental state. I hadn’t even considered that was a major issue until she asked. She then told me something that really surprised me. Most of her clients were coming to her because of anxiety due to isolation and just constant worry.

We are all struggling with something in our lives. Now having a deadly virus, mutating, and causing hospitals to hit max capacity just adds even more anxiety to our lives. The media does not help at all. In fact, one of the best things to do is turn off your TV during this time. Just a helpful tip. But seriously, these past months have been some of the darkest for many people. People that had never experienced severe anxiety and depression are not having panic attacks because of quarantine. Grad students, especially me, are being faced with extreme uncertainty about when they will graduate or even if they will. Children are seeing their parents stress which is leading to the child to experience emotions that they shouldn’t at their age. These times are hard.

I want to urge you to get help if you are feeling any form of anxiety or depression due to Covid. Getting help and understanding the main causes as well as gaining the skills to cope will help you significantly. We will see many more individuals experience mental health issues because of Covid. That’s a fact that we are starting to see. The CDC even has a page on learning how to cope with stress from Covid. Some of their recommendations, which I will share here, are as follows: Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, Meditate, Eat Healthy Food, Get Sleep, Get Vaccinated, Connect With Other (Therapy), and Help Others Cope.

I want to expound upon that last point “Help Others Cope.” We are all facing these hardships. You are not suffering alone and there are thousand, even millions, possibly billions of people that are not doing well mentally. If you have a method of coping, share that with the world. Share those methods with your neighbor who just lost their wife or husband to Covid. Share your coping methods with the child whose friends are all sick because they were forced back to school. Share these coping methods with one of your classmates who is so scared to go back to school but has to in order to graduate. Helping others is what we need to be doing. We need to share love and compassion, rather than hate.

There are so many different ways that we can get help. We need help during this time. Don’t be stubborn and think you can handle it alone. That’s when mental problems occur the most. I hope that you, the reader and my friend, will look out for yourself and others during these pretty dark times. Mental issues will be on the rise in the next few years but we can reduce the chance that will occur to us or a loved one by finding methods of coping. I started this blog to help bring peace to grad student’s anxious minds but I also want to help others who may just need a way to deal with mental pain. Please, if you are having a time, seek therapy. I can’t express this enough. Getting the help you need is such a priority. Please take care of yourselves. I love you all.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How I Prevent Panic Attacks

One thing that I, unfortunately, deal with are panic attacks. I can remember my very first one which caused a whole progression of events that led to about 6 months of depression. That panic attack was brought on by pre-workout and way too much stress.

I get panic attacks every so often but they are no where close to the first one I had or the other few that I had prior to therapy. Let me describe to you what it felt like. People often say that it is like having a heart attack. This is 100% true. My heart was racing, I was sweating, my thoughts were going all over the place, and I had the worst anxiety of my life. I honestly thought I was dying, but at the time, I was actually learning a valuable less, how to get help and get healthy. Of course I did was not thinking about that at the moment I was having the attack. In fact, I was having thoughts that were creating more anxiety such as “Will this continue throughout my life? Will I ever recover? Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?” All thoughts that really didn’t help.

I eventually learned that I needed help and that was one of the best things that I ever for my mental health. If you are like me, you do not want to have panic attacks. This is why I want to share a few ways that I reduce the attacks so I don’t have them nearly as bad.

  1. See a therapist

I want to start off with this because taking advice from a stranger online is not the best way to help with the anxiety you are feeling in life. See someone that is a professional and really dive deeper into why this is happening and what can be done to stop it.

2. Give your panic attack a name

Name your panic attack. Tell it that you don’t want it around and that it is not welcomed. This helps for me, though not as much as other methods that I will discuss.

3. Go outside and just breathe.

This is mindfulness and it will help. What I do is put my phone and electronics as far away from me and I go outside and just take a ton of slow, deep breathes. I will immediately feel a reduction in panic.

4. Do Not Try And Control It

By trying to control the panic attack, you can actually make it worse. I did not know this until my therapist as well as many other therapists from books and videos told me this as well. They say that your body will adjust to what is going on and make it seem less bad the next time you have a panic attack. By trying to control it, you can make the next panic attack stronger and you do not want that,

5. If you can, just go on a jog

A quick run or jog usually tires me out. The racing thoughts do go away when you are running so it helps for the moment. It will also tire yourself out so the panic attack may go away quickly. If you have trouble breathing though, do not do this. Some panic attacks will make you hyperventilate so this method of reduction is not advised

6. Go on YouTube and play lofi music. Then think of a place that you feel secure and comfortable.

Picture your “happy place” and stay there for a bit in your mind. Take a moment to really calm down in your happy place. Mine is in a boat, in the Keys. I go there often.

7. Tell yourself “This, too, shall pass”

It is a good mantra to tell yourself. This moment will pass and you will get through it. You will be a stronger person because of it and you will be ready when or if it happens again.

I use these methods when I have panic attacks. Honestly, they aren’t even panic attacks anymore, more like a bit of heightened anxiety that I have learned to cope with. I promise you that you can get through whatever you re going through, but you need a bit of time. Nothing is wrong with you, we all experience this, but sometimes people experience worse panic attacks than others. You can get through this and anything else that is thrown your way. I hope these methods reduce your panic attacks and I hope you get the help you deserve. Have an amazing day.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How a Massage Gun Helps With My Mental State

Ok, I want to dedicate this blog post to the massage gun that I recently bought from amazon. Now, I am not one to just write a post for one particular product unless it has significantly helped me in some way.

I bought a massage gun about 2 months ago that I keep in my office. This is the one I bought.

So at first I bought it because I am terrible when it comes to stretching. I am constantly sore from workouts and needed a drastic change. I also had a discount, which I wish I had for you guys, because these can be awfully expensive :(. I think the discount was like 80% off too so I had to take full advantage of it. Anyway, I received the massage gun and immediately tried it out. It worked like a charm. I am not here to just tell you that a massage gun works on loosening muscle fibers. No, I want to tell you how it has helped with my mental state.

I want to start off by saying that I don’t know what is happening that is making me feel better, but it is working. So apparently I keep my stress in my shoulders. You can tell by the knots that are there. I was about to do a back workout one day when I decided to try the massage gun out and see if I could release those knots and activate my muscles. It did alot more than that. I worked my shoulders and lower back which caused me to relax more than I have in a very long time. In fact, I was so relaxed that I put off the gym until that night.

I tried the same thing the next day, this time before I did some meditation. Holy Cow! I immediately went into a pretty deep meditation and almost didn’t come out of it (lol). The massage gun is definitely causing an increase in serotonin or something but it has allowed me to relax, especially now when I am pretty stressed out. I will have to read some peer reviewed journal articles on massages and reduction in anxiety. I am sure that there is a reason that this is occuring.

For those that want to try something new for your anxiety, I would suggest investing in one of these massage guns. Even if it doesn’t get rid of your anxiety, at least your muscles will be relaxed and I am sure no one will complain about a nice massage.

If you happen to know why my anxiety goes away, let me know in the comments. I would prefer to know the actual mechanisms that come into play and how that affects the body. Thanks guys!

Relaxation: The First Step to a Reduction of Anxiety

One of the most important things that I learned while getting therapy was to take time to relax. This can be 10 minutes a day or a whole week, like what I am doing now. Take moments tp just be in the moment and not think about everything else that is going on in your life. By doing this, I can guarantee that a great amount of anxiety will just disappear.

Relaxation is essential for our bodies to recover. You can only drink so much coffee before you have to stop what you are doing and rest. It’s such a shame that society makes us believe that we need to be doing something every second of each day. It lies to us, tells us to work, work, work and relax later. I have quite a few friends that are almost addicted to working. I ask them, “Why don’t you take time for yourself and just relax?” Every single one of them replies with the same or similar answer. They always say that they want to work hard now so they can have a relaxing future. Now, I understand where they are coming from and had a similar mindset when I was younger, and also pre-therapy. I figured that I have a ton of energy and i should invest that energy into work so I can get a good job and relax later. One thing that I know for certain is there are no certainties in this life.

Working hard is good but it does not need to be your life, especially when you are young. You do not know if you will have money in the future. Heck, you may be poor, tired, old, and unhappy (I hope you are not). But you need to realize that the future is not certain and right now is what you need to focus on.

Life is a journey. It is long but you need to enjoy it along the way. My anxiety comes from living in the future, always thinking about the “what ifs” and never taking time to relax because “what if I don’t have money in 1 year? What if I can’t find a job? I need to start looking even though I graduate in 10 months.” I spend all of my time worrying about the “what ifs” that I don’t relax and enjoy the ride.

Relaxation is essential because it causes your body to cool down. Take time off of work. Use those vacation days and go somewhere you’ve never been. Do it while you can, while you’re young because we have “potentially” only one chance to do this thing called “life” right and I don’t want to be working all of the time, that’s for sure. Relax wherever you go and make sure to really appreciate what is going on at that moment.

Relaxation also means to get off of your phones and social media. We are addicted to distractions and this might just be the biggest distraction we have in the present moment. My therapist said that her clients were stressed out due to social media. They were constantly being bombarded with bad news as well as feelings of inadequacy. Get rid of it, get off it, and go relax! I am doing just that and you should be too.

I want to eave you guys with my current situation. This vacation is something anyone can do and all you need to do is take time off and go and do it. Here is a picture taken yesterday. I hope you enjoy.

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Congratulations, You Made a Mistake

Do you like making mistakes? I sure don’t, but we all do. We all make mistakes in our lives and that makes us human, that makes us amazing! I wrote about the two bad bricks in the wall. The monk cared so much about the mistakes he made that he forgot all of the good that he did. I made a mistake tonight that honestly had about 10 people calling me names and telling me how terrible I was. I was an umpire at a kickball game. I made a terrible call against the team that won and was called multiple names, cussed at, and I honestly thought one kid was going to hit me. That last one might have been a stretch, but maybe lol. You don’t understand that when you call someone names, especially those that you don’t even know, that hurts them… sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, but it hurts.

What would you have done in my situation? Would you yell back at them and tell them and told that they are terrible? Would you tear up and just take it? Or would you laugh about it, because you made a mistake and that means you are human? I chose to laugh about it.

When you make mistakes, they can always be looked at as learning experiences. My experience tonight was child’s play compared to literally any other mistake, but it hurt to be called names. I learned and laughed and tried to have a decent time after that experience, though I paid closer attention :p.

The way you handle these situations is everything. If you let it get to you emotionally then it will drag you down and keep you in a low area. My advice is to be kind to yourself, admit it was a mistake, laugh about it, and learn. Also, in probably a few days, you will forget it even happened. Please do not let a small, insignificant occurrence cause your suffering. When you have anxiety, any little thing can turn into a completely blown out of proportion event. But by changing the way you perceive it and have a little fun, you can make any mistake into a funny story or learning experience.

I admitted that I made a mistake to the team that won. I apologized and they weren’t even mad afterwards, in fact, they were so happy about going to the championship game that they didn’t even care about the call. It was insignificant and I have moved on.

Also, be kind to people, because they will make mistakes. You never know what that individual battles with each day. They may have lost a loved one, haven’t slept in days, battling a mental illness, or literally anything else. Everyone is dealing with someone and by being mean to that person because of a mistake just makes you a pretty bad individual. No one is perfect, and actually perfection is straight garbage. I want to see people make mistakes because that gives them character. Flaws are not flaws at all, they are FEATURES!. Same with mistakes.

Be kind, because this is a wild journey called life, and no one really knows what they’re doing. Have a good night everyone. I love you all.

What I Do When I am STRESSED

I wouldn’t write this blog unless I was in a stressful situation. I have quite a few things going on in my life so I thought I would share what I do to reduce the stress and become way more productive. Stress can cause all forms of problems, so reducing it is key to a happier and healthier life. Here’s a list of things I do

  1. Exercise.
  2. Meditate
  3. Put on classical music or Lofi music
  4. Drink less caffeine.
  5. Read an article with something happy in it. I know this one is weird but changing my mood definitely helps
  6. Follow my breathe. This is more mindfulness than anything
  7. Remind myself that “This too will pass”
  8. Watch the scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams and Matt Damon are at the park.
  9. Watch Good Will Hunting if I have the time lol
  10. Remind myself to look for the learning experience or the good that comes from the stressful situation. This is usually if I can’t control the stress.
  11. Call up someone to just talk to. Sometimes by Talking to someone, your stress will significantly be reduced.
  12. Go on frequent, short, walks
  13. Pushups
  14. Get plenty of sleep
  15. Cook Something or bake something
  16. Lastly, I stop thinking about the work that needs to be done, and I just do what can be done at the moment. Thinking about the work is wayyyyyyyy harder than actually doing it.

This was a pretty long list of things but I know you can find something in there that will help you. Let me know what you do to reduce stress. I would love to add more to this list.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How I Deal With FAILURE!!!

I want to start off this blog telling you that I do not believe that there is such thing as failure when you have tried to do something. True failure comes from not even trying in the first place due to fear of not getting the result you want. People that tell you that they failed an exam, failed a marriage, failed really anything are not actually failing. Ok sorry to be redundant with all of the “failures” lol.

So why did I name this blog “How I Deal With Failure”? It’s because most people would rather see that than something like “How I deal With Finding Out a Different Way of Doing Something Because the Results Did Not Turn Out the Way I Planned”. It’s a mouth full isn’t it?

So let me tell you how I go about dealing with a situation that I was not expecting, or one that I did not like. I simply learn something from it. I have gone through a ton of therapy and have listened to a ridiculous amount of Buddhist talks to change my way of looking at “failures”. They are all learning experiences which means that they aren’t failures at all. Sure, you may have failed an exam, but you learned that the method of studying that you did wasn’t right. Sure, your marriage didn’t go as planned, but you learned that you were not in the right relationship. Sure, I failed an experiment and managed to spill leaded water all over the place, probably causing me to ingest the same concentrations of lead that were found in Flint, Michigan’s water, but I learned that I need to be more careful when it comes to things like that.

The only true failure is when you just don’t try. I tell people all of the time to just try and do something even though they “know for a fact that it will go bad”. The future is completely uncertain and you never know what will happen. I see how my thoughts stop me from even trying something, but I will force myself to do it, and then it turns out it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

By changing your mindset, and I believe this is a major part of cognitive behavioral therapy, you will see that failures do not exist. You you happen to screw up pretty badly, learn at least one thing from it. If you embarrass yourself and call that a failure, laugh about it and make it into a funny memory. Life is way too short to not take risks and worry about failure. I am learning a great deal about not being afraid to fail in grad school. I have been told “no” so many times and I have messed up more times than not, and you know what? I learn something each time and I continue on. I grow from these experiences and you will too. It’s a long process, but my God, it is life changing.

Why Everyone Needs Therapy

As you may have guessed, I suffer from a few different mental issues that are only worsened by my graduate studies. I have learned to cope with these feeling and have completely accepted that they are a part of who I am. I have come to peace with my anxiety and depression and have learned to live and THRIVE, mostly because I went to see a therapist. Let me stat off by saying that, yes.!!!, even you can benefit from therapy. You do not need to have anxious thoughts, or depression, or any mental illness whatsoever to benefit from seeing a therapist. Therapy is for everyone to help find methods to handle the struggles in life. There may be some crazy issues that you may face in the future, and therapy prepares you for those battles.

Luckily, my insurance covers the cost of using the app Talkspace or Online-Therapy. I was so nervous to see a therapist because I truly thought something was desperately wrong with me and therapy couldn’t help out. Boy was I wrong. My therapist was a professional in the field of anxiety as well as, I believe, family therapy. She had been a therapist for like 30 years, so she has dealt with everything. It did take me a few weeks to feel confident enough to truly open up to her.

About 3 months ago, she told me that she only needed to see me once a month because I was a totally different person than when I started. Being told that made me feel 1000 times happier than being accepted into a doctorate program. I have been able to cope with my emotions and feelings ever since. It truly is an amazing feeling.

Everyone should at least see a therapist once in their life. It is a scary thing to go see someone and truly open up to them but I can assure you that it is worth it. Talkspace was a good start and they were relatively cheap. Therapy is a great way of helping you get through every day struggles that you may have, or it might just be the boost and support to allow you to start that new chapter in your life. It allows you to address your fears and emotions and find ways to live with those things as well as use them as tools to progress in life.

Covid has led to a ton of people seeking therapy and that is amazing. People are understanding that something is wrong and want to correct that before it controls their lives. Isolation and loneliness were two big topics brought up by my therapist during the early stages of the pandemic. This really affected people and still does. You should never feel alone. You can be alone but should not feel lonely.

I hope the people that are on the fence about therapy go and see one. It truly was one of the best decisions of my life. In fact, this blog that I have created would not have been started without the help of my therapist. I hope you have an amazing day and I hope this blog was inciteful. Let me know if you go to therapy or someone you know does and how they feel about it.

A Story to Help: Perfectionism

I wanted to share with everyone a story by the world famous, Ajahn Brahm. It has helped significantly because it changed my perception of many of the thoughts I have on a daily basis. I, like many grad students, suffer from perfectionism. This has caused me to not finish projects on time, get rejected from things, and has caused more anxiety in my life than pretty much anything else. I do still strive for the best quality but sometimes I just say it’s good and move on.

So monks tend to build their own monasteries because it is super expensive to get a contractor, and monks don’t have money. Anyway, a Buddhist monk was laying brick to build a wall. He had to learn how to lay brick since it’s really not as easy as the YouTube videos make it seem. After a very long time, the monk was finished. He stepped back to admire his work when he noticed two bricks that were a little out of place. He was furious, enough to go to the abbot and ask for him to knock down the wall so he could rebuild it. That was not going to happen, he had to live with the bricks. Every day the monk walked by that wall, and every day he suffered from having to look at those bricks. The monk didn’t even want people to look at it since he was so ashamed. Until one day, a man was visiting the monastery and was looking at the wall. The monk approached the man who was just entranced by the wall. The man told the monk how beautiful the wall was and how much he admired it. The monk was confused and told the man it wasn’t perfect and there were two very bad bricks. The man looked back at the monk as said “Yes, there are two bad bricks, but I see the 998 good bricks too”.

Sometimes we get so caught up in seeing the “imperfections” in life that we forget that there is so much perfection around as well. This story really made me think about how I get so much anxiety from things I don’t think are perfect that I forget that I do so many good things alongside those not-so-perfect tasks or items. Making mistakes is life and you are human. Plus, those imperfections are not imperfections at all. They are “features” and those features are what make us individuals and beautiful. The next time you doubt yourself or put yourself down for not being “good enough”, look for the 998 good features that you have. I guarantee that you will have a less anxious time and definitely more happiness in your life.

How Adopting a Pet Has Affected My Mental Health

I woke up this morning at 4 am. to the sound of my cat, Sirius, meowing because he was scared and probably pretty hungry. We are currently experiencing a tropical storm and he does not like the noise of the wind. I gave him some food then tried getting back to sleep. I have a pretty hard time getting back to sleep when I wake up because I get anxiety in the morning. So I meditate which usually puts me right to sleep (lol). This routine has been going on for about a year and a half since I adopted him. He wakes me up at ungodly hours and I comply. I love every minute of it. I wish he would sleep through the night, which he does when it’s cold outside, but I can’t win every time.

I remember the day I adopted Sirius. My roommate at the time liked to foster cats and we had gone through quite a few. We were currently fostering Sirius and his brother Regulus. I loved both cats and honestly wanted to adopt both but knew that having two cats was quite a handful. Regulus was adopted first and then we had Sirius with us for a few more weeks until I went to pick him up from an adoption clinic and saw how unhappy he was in a cage. I got him right away and he’s been my best friend ever since.

Having a cat at first caused me so much anxiety. In fact, I had a serious panic attack that very night after getting him. I am a “what if” thinker. I thought of all the “what if’s” that could be thought and it really affected my mental state. Turns out, getting that cat was the best thing I had done for my mental health. Sirius gives me a reason to wake up in the morning. I have to take care of him which helps me take care of myself. Having the responsibility of a pet really gives you a sense of satisfaction as well. Now I am not saying to go and get a pet if you are suffering from depression or anxiety. I am saying that it has helped me significantly. Honestly, even getting a house plant to take care of will help as well. Just know that animals are amazing creatures. Sirius even picks up on when I am sad or not feeling well and he will come over and just lay with me. One weird thing that I noticed, and paid for, was him getting really stressed out when I was super stressed out from an altercation with a roommate. This led to him suffering from feline idiopathic cystitis. That was awful and luckily that is over with.

Having a cat has helped tremendously with my anxiety and has even helped to reduce it. I truly believe I am a better person because of him. It also helps that he’s an awesome cat and everyone loves him too.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Grad School: Hurricanes and Deadlines

Ah, Florida summers! They are filled with pool parties, late summer outings, fun with friends, and lots and lots of time to relax…unless you are in grad school. I am not saying we don’t have fun. Heck, I have a ton of fun until I am given a task that involves me shifting into overdrive to get it finished. This is the case right now. On top of the crazy deadline that I am creating for myself, we have a category 1 hurricane that is about to hit us in the next 12 hours!!! Tonight is going to be fun.

In a previous post, I talked about what to do when everything seems to just go down the drain. This is one of those cases for me and I know everyone has experienced some form of this. I am in a pickle because I need to finish a proposal prior to vacation, pack up all of my stuff because I am moving to a new apartment, and do my qualifying exam all really, really soon. Oh yeah and there’s a hurricane lol This is causing a ton of anxiety but, like the man in my story that I shared, I am looking for the “honey”.

I am not looking for any form of pity though. I want you guys to know that everyone experiences really tough situations and it is ok to vent every once in a while. We all fight battles and take stressful situations differently. This is why it is so important to be kind to one another. I have really been practicing showing kindness towards those that I come in contact with. I listen to what they have to say, because sometimes that is what they need to overcome their struggles. My struggles are very much different than yours, but it does not mean that my life is harder than yours. You may be dealing with some really tough, mental problems, or physical ones that are weighing you down. I want you to know that there are people that will help you and show you kindness. I am trying to become one of those people.

Hopefully the hurricane isn’t too crazy so I can do work on my proposal. I will be stuck inside most of the day so I can hang with my cat, Sirius. I tend to think of him as the “honey” that I am looking out for in my tough situations. For those that are experiencing this storm too, stay safe! For those reading this blog in a different state/country, stay kind! I love you all and know that you are amazing. Good Night!

What to Do When Everything Goes Wrong: Grad School

You will have some pretty bad days in grad school. Experiments will go wrong, you failed an exam, you forgot to pack a lunch, you get the point. I have had my fair share of extremely bad days, where everything seemed to just go wrong, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Lately, I have experienced quite a few failed experiments (I blame the ghost), pretty bad anxiety, and having my cat go in for an emergency vet visit. There’s a long list of things that go bad in my life but I am not here to rant. I am here to help you overcome these hurdles and thrive!!! I will not lie, this post is quite a difficult one but I will try my best. Just know that everyone deals with things a little bit differently, so what works for me, may not work for you. This is the beauty of trial and error. Also, this is why I love to know how people deal with these problems so I can add to the list of coping methods. Anyway, let us get started.

  1. Acknowledge that you are having moments of hardship and tell yourself “This too shall pass.”

I love the phrase “This too shall pass” because it not only tells you that the hardship will end but that good times will end as well. I know that sounds bad but you can turn it into something good. In the tough times, it will give you hope. You have survived every hardship in your life and you will get through this. When you have good times, let yourself know that it will pass as well. You will learn to cherish the good times way more and prepare yourself for bad times. Soon you will notice that the good times last a whole lot longer and the bad moments tend to subside much quicker.

2. Remind yourself that this is part of life and you can learn something from it.

“Smooth seas don’t make skilled sailors”. You will have tough moments but look for the learning experience, look for the good in every situation. Every moment is a learning experience and will help you grow. You are a student, remember. Learning is practically your job and this is no different. Find something that you can learn about in your situation and grow from it. This lesson has helped me to reduce my mistakes significantly.

3. “Look for the Honey”

There is a Buddhist story about a man being chased by a tiger and falls off a cliff. https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/the-tiger-and-the-strawberry-b73de1dccf19. I have a different version that was shared with me and I will share with you now. A man was walking through the forest, when all of a sudden, a tiger jumps out and starts chasing the man. The man (obviously and Olympic runner lol) starts running as fast as he can through the forest until he gets to a cliff. The man sees a vine of the side of the cliff and grabs hold of it, hanging off. He looks down and sees a huge King Cobra below him, and above him, he sees the very hungry tiger. The man, knowing he’s going to die, starts looking for a possible way out, but can’t seem to find one. All of a sudden, he sees two mice come out from a hole in the side of the cliff and start to eat away at the vine. OH NO!!!!!! The man is in a really bad situation. He looks up at the tiger and then notices that the tiger is scraping a tree, which the vine is connected to. In that tree, there was a beehive right above the man with honey flowing out every time the tiger scraped the tree. The man, not knowing what else to do, put out his tongue and caught a bit of honey that fell and it was the best tasting honey that he ever had. The end.

“But Ben, what happens next? Did the man survive? I have so many questions!!!!” I will answer all of those questions in a bit but I want to share something first. The man was in such a tough spot but he looked for something good, even when he was close to death. In situations where you are (figuratively) the man, look for the honey. Find good in everything. You are in grad school and things will get tough but know that there is always something good in every situation.

Ok, so the tiger was reaching over really far and lost his grip, falling down right on the king cobra, killing them both. On the way down, the tiger hit the vine, causing the mice to fall as well but they survived because I want some happy ending for the little woodland creatures. The man climbed up and went home to his family. He survived.

This brings up my last point I want to make in this blog. The future is uncertain. Sometimes we get caught up thinking that the bad times will continue, when really, we have no clue what will happen next. Bad situations can lead to surprising outcomes that you would not have thought were possible. When things go wrong, especially in grad school, reassure yourself that this may lead to something you weren’t expecting, something possibly life changing, and man that’s exciting. To quote the greatest character, from the greatest movie ever “You will have bad time, but these will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to”-Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting

Have a great day.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Let’s Talk about Anxiety Triggers

Grad school can be one of the best few years of your life. It can also be one of the worst times. For me, I can definitely tell you that I have had a wonderful time because I have learned to accept the good and bad moments. It took me a great while to be OK with hearing the word “no” all of the time, or having terrible days in the lab (I blame those days on the ghost that haunts it). Before therapy, I would have panic attacks almost weekly. They weren’t as severe as the very first one that I had but very close. My heart races, I get sweaty and shaky, and my thoughts get out of control. I brought this up to my therapist and she assured me that I am not alone and that I did a great job at describing what a panic attack actually was. Learning this made me think that something was wrong with me but she also let me know that there are millions of people who have this and are coping with it just fine. That was slightly comforting but alarming as well since I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone.

The next plan of action was to determine what set these states of panic off and if there was an underlying cause for my anxiety. Turns out, I had many. First of all, I am a worrier. I have been told my whole life that I worry too much and think of all of the bad things that can happen in my life. That was trigger #1. Whenever something happened, I would think of the worst possible outcome and that would lead to sooooooo much anxiety. It was something I needed to work on. My therapist suggested that I use my hand to help out. If you are unfamiliar with this practice, it entails you holding up your hand and assign different scenarios to each finger. For me, I think of the best possible outcome in a situation and assign it to my pinky. The worst outcome that I can think of goes to my thumb, and combinations of good and bad outcomes go to my middle three fingers. The middle three fingers are the more likely outcomes that will occur in any given situation. Having a visual helped significantly since, well, I am a visual person. Who knew? ;P

Trigger #2 was my sense of perfectionism. There’s one thing about grad school that everyone should be taught at the beginning and that is, if it’s good enough, it’s finished. Chasing after a perfect paper, a perfect poster, or anything perfect is completely unattainable. Grad school is a training experience and perfection just takes way too much time. I was chasing that dream of having a Nobel Prize winning research proposal/manuscript. My god that does not exist. Once I learned that good enough, was good enough, I was able to relax. I still struggle with this since I do want to give my best work, but I am in the last year of my doctorate so I can’t spend too much time perfecting everything.

Trigger #3 was being alone with my thoughts. This one is by far the scariest one. The pandemic definitely did not help because I was alone even more. Grad school is extremely isolating and lonely, so there’s plenty of time to be alone in your head. This is why half of PhD students won’t graduate. The best thing I ever did was take up meditation. This has helped to calm my mind and actually train it to not pester me with obnoxious and flat out wrong ideas. When I am not able to control the thoughts and I start to have anxiety, I’ll go on a walk or go to the gym. You can’t really think of anything when you’re gasping for air from running or doing squats lol.

Let me know the things that cause you anxiety and how you cope. I am interested in how people live with anxiety. Hopefully you found this to be enlightening or just somewhat entertaining. I’ll see you all in the next blog

Peace

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How I Deal with ANXIETY

I used to have to see a therapist because my anxiety was getting way too bad. Fortunately, my health insurance covered the use of Talkspace for no additional cost, and I took full advantage of that. Another great site to use in Online-Therapy. I highly recommend either Talkspace or Online-Therapy. My therapist was so helpful and really changed the way that I look at anxiety. She told me that there are a few things that you should always do when having a panic attack, and I would like to share these with you guys. These are 5 methods that have helped me deal with anxiety.

1. Give your anxiety a name

My anxiety was called Ang. She told me to do this because it convinces your brain that anxiety is a thing and not just a state of mind. Then you can “stand up” to it like you would a bully. I have used this method a few times, mostly to acknowledge that my anxiety is there.

2. Keep exercising no matter what

I walk a ton throughout the day and do my virtual races (see my previous posts). I also go to the gym almost every day. Staying active decreases muscle tension and diverts you from what you are so anxious about. I mean, you can’t really be worrying about something if your doing stadiums lol.

3. Meditate and practice mindfulness

This was a major point that my therapist brought up. Train your mind to be able to cope with things and to be able to calm down in situations where you are anxious. This is a daily activity but so beneficial. I try and meditate right after lunch each day, using my Headspace app. I have seen such a reduction in the severity of my panic attacks and anxious moments. Even last week I prevented a huge panic attack because of meditation. I will have another blog post going over methods to do this so hold on a bit 🙂

Here’s a great book if you are interested https:/amzn.to/3vSo8HR

4. Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

Look this bad boy up on the computer RIGHT NOW! This has saved my life multiple times and I am such a genuine person now because of it. This method focuses on changing cognitive distortions and behaviors by challenging your thoughts. There are so many YouTube videos on this so I won’t get into too much detail, but just know that it works but it takes time. Remember that this is a marathon, not a race.

5. Be kind to yourself

I think this may be the most important thing that you could ever possibly do. We have some really unrealistic expectations of ourselves and beat ourselves up if we don’t meet those expectations. My grad school marathon has been just that and I was miserable. I found that being kind to myself, laughing when I mess up, and being kind to others has helped me become less anxious and happier.

These are just a few of the many methods you can try. I hope that at least one works out for you. Remember, if you have questions about this, message me. I would absolutely love to talk about it. Don’t just deal with anxiety, learn to live harmoniously with it.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Mindfulness and Love throughout grad school

The part about grad school that people do not like to talk about is how isolating and lonely it is. I am particularly talking about the doctorate program. So you are supposed to do independent research, on something that few people even know about, then publish it all by yourself (with the help f your adviser as well :p). That’s a lot of pressure and work. On top of this, you do it practically in the confines of your office, alone. This is what I have been dealing with for the past year. It can become extremely lonely and very easy to slip down into a deep dark hole of depression. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what I do, but sometimes it becomes too much. Grad school is a weird space between being a professional and being a college student. You do extremely difficult tasks, day after day, yet you get paid as much as a dish washer in a restaurant. It’s also very hard for others to relate to what you are going through, therefore adding to the isolation. 

I have a few YouTube channels that I want to share that have significantly helped with feelings of isolation. Of course I will start with the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. They are wonderful and really help to show gratitude and kindness. It is so easy to be a grumpy gills all of the time, but watching some of their talks has really changed my perspective and outlook on life. 

https://www.youtube.com/user/BuddhistSocietyWA

The next is R3ciprocity. Dr. David Maslach is amazingly helpful with any problems that you may have in graduate school. He even has an editing team to help correct errors in manuscripts, if that is something you are interested in. He oes over practically every issue that I have had and comes up with easy solutions. 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5spxk7bNDMGPSHjW_8ndZA

The last channel I want to bring up is fairly new to me. I had been seeing a therapist, weekly, for about a year when one day she said I was good to just see her once every month. I was sooooo happy because it meant that I was getting better. Therapy has been an amzaing experience and I suggest every grad student do it. Well, the next month came, and she did respond to any of my messages or calls. She left the therapy platform I was using so I was out of a therapist :(. Luckily, I found some pretty good videos with therapists that have help a ton. My favorite is Therapy in a Nutshell. The channel is run by a Emma McAdam, who is by far one of the best therapists on the platform. I highly recommend checking her channel out.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpuqYFKLkcEryEieomiAv3Q