Stirring the Pot: Stayin’ Studious Without Losing a Screw

Trying to survive in college is stressful in and of itself; add exams, lack of sleep, and anxiety to the mix and you’re in for a rough time. Here are some helpful tips to stay sane yet studious.

Typically, I like to do investigative pieces — this is a bit of a deviation from my normal style but I found it quite fitting as we’re finishing off midterms and on the cusp of finals season. Yep, the exams and deadlines are here and we’re all in a frenzy of stress, anxiety, and a lack of sleep (which we all know we desperately need). The eyebags are forming, and so is the long, expensive list of Venti Starbucks Nitro Cold Brews, Monsters, and Guayaki Yerba Mates. But to be honest, I just hope you’re all doing okay. Or at least surviving. Anyways, I just thought I’d share some ways to not go completely batshit crazy from all the damn stress you’re probably facing right now. (And trust me, I’m  quite knowledgeable on the subject, as I’m a literal human ball of worry.)

ORGANIZE!

I know this isn’t a fresh, new idea, but it’s honestly the best way to assure you don’t feel as if you’re literally drowning in an ocean of papers, projects, and deadlines. And it’s a lot simpler than it seems — you don’t need to buy an expensive planner or be a bullet journaling master to tackle time management. Simply get a piece of paper (or use your phone notes app if you prefer) and just write out everything that’s stressing you out — all the things you have to do, and when they need to be done by. Literally just spill your brains out onto the page.

By releasing everything from your head to a documented place allows your mind to be relieved from all the pressure of remembering these tasks. Then plug them into your calendar! Plan out the week day-by-day and suddenly your tasks will seem much less daunting: as long as they’re spread out into time chunks — cramming is not the move! 

PRIORITIZE YOURSELF!

Assure you’re keeping your best interests in mind when making decisions. If you know you have a fat paper to write in TWO days that you have yet to start, then it’s probably in your best interest to take up your friend’s last-minute, yet extremely enticing offer to go to that party. Let yourself have enough time to complete your task without the pressure of the deadline waving over your head — pulling an all-nighter while chugging two sour apple reigns from the 7-eleven across the street is not the best situation to be in (coming from personal experience!). Not only can this lead to a mental breakdown (guilty), but it means you’re not doing your best work. But I know you’re still going to procrastinate, so to assure your all-night cram/work session won’t completely destroy your health, make sure you’re taking short breaks in which you leave your workspace and take a stretch or stroll. If you’re going to consume high quantities of caffeine, make sure to balance your water intake with the caffeine (not only will hydrating keep your mind sharp, but it will make the caffeine much more effective and long-lasting). Also, assure you’re eating healthy snacks — some of these could include nuts, berries, granola bars, or yogurt. NO TAKIS. PLEASE.

SLEEP!

Sleep is a precious gift. I know us college kids cherish (and I mean CHERISH) our sleep despite sacrificing it constantly. I know all the doctors tell us we need roughly 8 hours of sleep but honestly, I know I’m not getting it and it’s completely MY FAULT. Sleep is extremely crucial if we want our mental health to be in tip-top shape — one way to combat the lack of sleep I know we all have is by taking power naps. No, not four-hour naps that send us into another dimension of time, I’m talking about 15-20 minute naps in between classes. This short bit of sleep can give you the power to push through the day and be productive when you’re feeling like you can’t keep goin’ anymore. But make sure to be self-disciplined: don’t keep hitting snooze, but give yourself an incentive to get up, such as a good ol’ cuppa joe.

BALANCE YOUR TIME!

One of the most important tips I can give you is to just be self-aware of your productivity. If you know you’re overworking yourself, make sure to give yourself time to relax, let loose, and have fun! Reward yourself for your hard work when you know you deserve it. Make plans with friends or just let yourself sit back and veg on the couch! But this goes both ways: if you know you’ve been slacking a bit and you’re stressed from your lack of productivity in the face of a million daunting tasks, don’t be too hard on yourself.

Beating yourself up and calling yourself a failure isn’t going to do you any good. Remind yourself that you are capable of doing great things, pull your bootstraps on, and get your shit done! Take it little by little, assuring you’re not trying to get too much done in a short period of time. Honestly, the hardest part of doing anything is just starting. Type out that title page, start that outline, pull out that textbook, and break out those highlighters. Tell yourself that the task is NOT bigger than you and that you can take it.

Make sure to stay focused though — as I said before: if you know you haven’t been too productive lately, make sure to be intentional about how you’re spending your time. Don’t lay in bed for six hours if you know you have things to do, even if they’re stressing you out. In the end, your lack of productivity will make yourself feel MORE stressed in the end, and can affect the way you view yourself, which has a direct correlation to the quality of your mental health!

LOVE YOURSELF!

I hope some of these tips help you out. But honestly, give yourself a damn break. You’ve got this! You’re doing great. I know all these things are easier said than done, but just make sure you’re taking it all little by little. It’s not the end of the world if you mess up. We all do it – none of us are perfect students – or perfect people at that. Just try your best, plan as much as you can, and make sure you’re doing everything that’s in your best interest. You’ve made it this far, and honestly, that’s a huge achievement in itself! And as I’m sure you don’t hear this enough, I’m proud of you.

Written by: Olivia Flores
Featured Image: Prescence.io

Peep This Joint: Saba – Care for Me Album Review

Filled with an overwhelming sense of grief and emptiness, Chicago rapper Saba unveils the candid experience of losing a best friend over a senseless murder in his sophomore effort, Care for Me.

The album released last year on April 5 and highlights Saba’s emotions over the death of his cousin, Walter Long Jr.

In a time where mental health awareness is higher than it’s ever been historically, Care for Me provides a refreshing and therapeutic musical experience for those who’ve been through similar grief. 

The project begins with Saba singing, “I’m so alone” on the two-part track “BUSY/SIRENS” featuring R&B singer, theMIND. Lamenting over the loneliness of losing his right-hand man, the rawness of the track is palpable as Saba raps, “Jesus got killed for our sins, Walter got killed for a coat / I’m tryna cope, but it’s a part of me gone / In this packed room I’m alone.” 

Saba’s personal grief intimately captures and processes the darker side of mental health issues that individuals worldwide experience and can relate to. Tracks such as “BROKEN GIRLS,” “GREY,” and “LOGOUT” featuring Chance the Rapper explore notions of heartbreak, loneliness, and insecurities over social media.

Tracklist cover from: Genius

Despite these overarching somber themes, Saba skillfully structures and balances the tracklist with moments of light-hearted nostalgia. One track that exemplifies this is the track “SMILE” which recounts Saba’s childhood experience living with his grandmother. In it he expresses his desire to escape the confines of Chicago that remind him of his gloomier days, “All that I am is my family these days / Moment of madness I can’t seem to evade,” and “Our parents’ parents are from the South / And if I make a million dollars / I’ll vacation in the South.” Songs such as these help even out bleak nature of the album.

The most compelling record overall though is the penultimate track, “PROM/KING” which runs a lengthy seven-and-a-half minutes long. Despite the long runtime, the album reaches a climax with Saba at his most intimate and rawest form as he goes from recounting the details of his prom night where he first met Walter to describing his last interactions with him before receiving the news of his untimely death. 

Saba opens up the first part of the song harkening back to his earlier days as a young high school student rapping, “This remind me of before we had insomnia / Sleepin’ peacefully, never needed a pile of drugs.” Over piano keys and minimal drums, Saba flows effortlessly as he gives listeners the rundown on what happened during prom night. The production then switches as Saba turns the subject matter towards reminiscing on Walter’s final days. In the final bars of the song, Saba paints a vivid picture that reveals how he found out the news of his cousin’s death:

“Ten minutes into the session, I got a call from a number/ 

That I don’t got saved, but I answer anyways/

She says, ‘Hello, Malik, have you or Squeak/ 

Talked to my son today? He was just on the train’/

We got in the car but we didn’t know where to drive to

Fuck it, wherever you are my n–a, we’ll come and find you…”

As Saba spits the final verse, the drums on the beat speed up in an anxiety-inducing pace to convey the same anxiety Saba felt in his chest as Walter’s mother reveals to him that Walter is missing. 

Picture taken from: Genius

Overall, I consider this album to be a perfect 10/10 in my books. Through this album, Saba was able to put words into the same feelings and emotions of depression and anxiety that I’ve been struggling to deal with. In doing so, the Chicago rapper was able to produce a body of work that resonates not only with me, but countless other individuals going through times of grief and depression. If you’ve asked what my top rap album of 2018 was, Care for Me takes the spot.

For the love of hip-hop, please peep this joint if you haven’t already!

Rating: 10/10

Written by: Johann Oribello

Stirring the Pot: Psychedelic- Assisted Therapy – A ‘Trip’ for Treatment

A look into the use of psychedelic-assisted therapy for the treatment of people suffering from mental illnesses such as PTSD, anxiety, and addiction.

LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, DMT, and MDMA. When reading those words, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, those are just party drugs.” Or maybe something else comes to mind – you might think of barefoot hippies rolling at Woodstock while bearing buttons that read ‘End the War in Vietnam!’ But these drugs are so much more than just the stereotypes in which they are associated with.

Prior to the counterculture movement of the 1960s, psychedelic substances were used as healing tools in sacred ceremonies performed by indigenous tribes; one example of this is the use of peyote by the Native Americans of the Southern Plains. These substances are not just party drugs – they’re tools that can be used to help treat individuals with mental illnesses such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction.

Last summer, out of sheer curiosity rooted in some late-night YouTube conspiracy theory binge, I spent some time doing research on psychedelic substances and their effects on the brain. Fascinated by the plethora of information, I fell into a spiral of articles, TED Talks, and case studies detailing how these ‘college party drugs’ actually had tremendous benefits on the treatment of mental illness. Specifically, I came across an interesting article which entailed the history of psychedelic substances and specific results from a variety of treatment studies performed on patients. Prior to doing any research, I had very little knowledge of how these substances operated, let alone that there was even a world of benefits that they offered besides some sort of ‘trip.’

So let’s get into how these substances actually affect the brain on a chemical level. 

When the brain is on a psychedelic substance, think of it as being unhinged from incoming sensory information – it has the ability to conjure up images and feelings from deep within the subconscious. Think of it as opening a portal to the user’s mind, allowing them to come directly into contact with feelings that were unrecognizable before. When we sleep, our brain isn’t using incoming sensory information to produce the visuals we see in our dreams; rather, it uses information already held in the subconscious. This is why dreams are known as revealing the individual’s inner fears and desires they might have previously been unaware of. But as we’ve all faced the frustration of forgetting an interesting dream, we know that their contents are extremely difficult to track.

Psychedelic substances help with that – rather than waking up from a dream and forgetting everything but the largest details, you would have the ability to consciously access those same visuals and feelings, just awake rather than asleep. For this reason, hallucinogens (each serving a different, yet equally valuable purpose) are great tools for the treatment of mental illnesses, as they allow patients to get in touch with their deep-rooted issues. For example, MDA (an empathogen) helps facilitate the bond between the patient and their doctor by increasing empathy. MDMA, on the other hand, helps reduce fear in patients, allowing them to open up and trust their therapist; this makes treatment much more effective, especially for patients suffering from PTSD.

Then we have the classic psychedelics, substances such as LSD and mescaline which provide the “portal effect” which allows patients to look into themselves and experience a “trip.” When undergoing a session, the patient is monitored and is placed in a relaxed setting, where the therapist guides the patient through their psychedelic experience, helping them pick apart everything they see, hear, or feel. But it isn’t just the concept or process of the treatment that astounds me – it’s the results. For example, in one study performed on individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, “Outcomes included a significant and sustained reduction in PTSD symptoms…with 83% of participants…showing a reduction in symptom severity of more than 30%…some members of the experimental group no longer met criteria for PTSD as stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder…” (Tupper). But the best part about psychedelic-assisted therapy is that there are few (if any) serious adverse effects. The main reason for this is because the substances are being used in a monitored, controlled manner – all harms come solely from associated behavior, something that only arises from a lack of supervision. This is why researchers prioritize setting, dosage, and safety when structuring treatment sessions.

Psychedelic substances simply make the process of treatment easier and smoother for both the patient and their therapist.

Even just one session can be enough to invoke intense personal reflection which has astounding effects on a patient. In one example brought up in a TED Talk I viewed during my research, the speaker explained how one patient suffering from PTSD was essentially healed after just one session of treatment – during his first psychedelic experience, he was able to get in touch with the root of his trauma; in doing so, he was able to discover (with the guidance of his therapist) how he could take that pain and flip it in a positive light, using it as inspiration to continue living.

While this form of treatment still contains laws and is far from a golden solution, it is still a beneficial form of treatment with proven results and little adverse effects. While I know my target audience isn’t necessarily old, cynical boomers against psychedelic substances, I still think we collectively need to open our minds (pun definitely intended) and look at hallucinogens from a more mature lens. While LSD may be trademarked for use at three-day raves, there is a whole other world of uses for these substances: uses with the power to transform troubled lives forever.

Sources:

Doblin, Rick. “The Future of Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy.” TED, https://www.ted.com/talks/rick_doblin_the_future_of_psychedelic_assisted_psychotherapy?language=en#t-349702.

“Psychedelics: Past, Present and Future: Mark Haden: TEDxEastVan.” Amara, https://amara.org/en/videos/bFTI1ihsSaOU/info/psychedelics-past-present-and-future-mark-haden-tedxeastvan/.

Tupper, Kenneth W, et al. “Psychedelic Medicine: a Re-Emerging Therapeutic Paradigm.” CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal = Journal De L’Association Medicale Canadienne, 8872147 Canada Inc., 6 Oct. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4592297/#b3-1871054.

Written by: Olivia Flores
Photos taken from: Vox

In the Pink: What I’ve Learned From Writing Love Letters

Love letters

Love letters have allowed me to grow my heart, and feel comforted during those times where I feel I have no one else to do so.

A number of weeks ago, I went into Marshalls with a friend and ended up spending money I didn’t have. What else is new, amirightttttt? I used $7 to be exact and ended up subtracting it from my allotted gas money. Wow, you might be thinking. 7 dollars is like two entire gallons of gas and then some if you go to Arco or a similarly cheap station. You must’ve purchased something awesome to be wasting gas money so frivolously.

Yeah! I bought paper.

Specifically, I purchased a bundle of colorful and declarative greeting cards with uplifting and inspiring statements printed on the front sides. They trumpet things like “Your smile lights up the room” and “The world is better with you in it.” At this point, you might now be thinking Giiiiiiiirl, how on earth is that a good purchase? You literally have paper at home and pens and a perfectly functional right hand that could’ve written out those phrases for free.You’re also right.

But here’s the thing, you fiscally responsible creature; I’m writing love letters.

And I need wonderful paper to match.

For the past few months, I have been mailing handwritten letters to my family and friends back home. I moved to San Diego at the end of the summer and am now living the furthest away from my loved ones than I ever have. It’s really only about 100 or so miles, which isn’t a lot to those students who come from the other end of the country or world. I have always been very close to my family and friends, though. We congregate for every holiday, celebrate every birthdays and recognize every little accomplishment with a big dinner out. We have always found excuses to enjoy each other’s company and suddenly, I am not showing up at my sisters’ school functions, or my uncle’s parties and it breaks my heart.

I’ve spent many tearful nights missing my family, and there’s been plenty of times where I’ve come close to packing it all up and leaving this new school without a degree, just so I can be back at home.

I miss being surrounded by people who I love and people who love me.

That’s something I’ve found that no one really talks about when discussing the transition to living at a school away from your friends and family. I went from being surrounded by an unconditional support group to now living among people who honestly don’t care about me. And why would they? They don’t know me. My parents, on the other hand, have adored me since I was a crying alien-looking thing fresh out of the vagina and have loved me every second since. They will love me even when they read that I’ve written the phrase “fresh out of the vagina” which is not how they raised me to speak. Yet, I’m betting they will tell me how proud they are of this post anyhow. I will never find that sort of love anywhere else.

Despite the brutal loneliness that has sucker-punched me in the goddamn face, I can’t quit school. I don’t want to. I’m learning so much and have a hell of a lot more growing to do. But I discovered almost immediately after I moved here that I needed to find a substitute for all that love and affection I’ve become accustomed to. It was taking a serious toll on my mental health to go from a situation of ever-present love to one of indifference and apathy. It’s like The Lumineers sing in that one song: “The opposite of love’s indifference.” I agree, Wesley Shultz, I totally and wholeheartedly agree.

I was in need of some coping tools. And ASAP. Enter love letters.

It took a very long time, but I have discovered that a hand-written love letter is the best conduit of magic. When I began writing said letters, I was skeptical. It felt archaic and a little pretentious. I kept going, though. And after some time, I started to gain some mega spiritual benefits. It’s been so therapeutic and cathartic. I buy the nicest paper, use my very best pens and fold the letters lovingly into crisp envelopes stamped with gorgeous stamps. It’s ceremonial from beginning to end. In these letters, I confess my love to my parents, siblings and friends. I’ve written notes for my cousins and grandparents. Hell, I’ll confess my love to you, too, if you send me your address.

For me, the happiness is in the process. I have shifted my mindset from victim to fortune’s favorite. Instead of focusing on lack, I acknowledge the surplus of love that exists in my life. My goal was once to not feel so far away, but now it’s about expressing my gratitude and affection. It’s nice to tell people I love them. I don’t know what it’s like for them on the other end, but I imagine it’s also nice to hear that you’re loved. I don’t try to create poetry or worry about whether the string of words I’ve chosen fully encapsulate the tenderness in my heart. I just write. I write until my hand cramps and my vision blurs.

I’m happier for it. I don’t feel so victimized by my loneliness. I feel grateful and joyous and alive. So when you think about it, isn’t 7 dollars worth of gas a small price to pay?

Written by: Monica Vigil