gratitude

Introducing: No Stress November

funny-no-shave-november-no-job-decemberHey readers! Can you believe it’s practically November? In the past month, we’ve experienced a major hurricane, countless Halloween parties, and the devastating aftermath of the Brangelina split — and yet somehow, it feels like October went by in a flash.

November tends to be one of my busiest months of the year at work and in school, with my calendar filling up with events and deadlines well before the month even begins. This year, to stay sane at an admittedly crazy time, I’m implementing No Stress November, a 30-day wellness challenge designed to decompress for a few minutes each day. I invite you to join me!

Below is my list of 30 items to complete throughout the 30 days of November. The rule is to do at least one of these things per day (with repeats allowed!), and you are welcome to customize the list to meet your own needs. Planning to tag along? Use the hashtag #NoStressNovember on social media and share what you’re up to! 🙂

Below is my list for the No Stress November challenge. Feel free to use all of these or switch them up based on your personal preferences. I’ll check in throughout the month with my own progress and reflections. Enjoy!

  1. Go for a 30-minute walk outside.
  2. Cook a meal you’ve never made before.
  3. Color in an adult coloring book.
  4. Donate your time to community service.
  5. Get your hair professionally done.
  6. Spend 30 minutes meditating.
  7. Take a full day away from social media.
  8. Lay out by the pool.
  9. Buy yourself fresh flowers.
  10. Test out a new makeup tutorial.
  11. Practice 30 minutes of yoga.
  12. Visit a place you have never been before.
  13. Go out for brunch.
  14. Perform a random act of kindness.
  15. Clean out your purse/briefcase.
  16. Lift weights.
  17. Write a love letter (or kind note) to yourself.
  18. Watch a documentary or TED Talk.
  19. Take extra time to pamper yourself.
  20. Write down 50 things you are thankful for.
  21. Connect with an old friend.
  22. De-clutter an area of your home.
  23. Make a list of places to visit in the next five years.
  24. Dedicate 30 minutes to writing.
  25. Create a fun playlist.
  26. Revamp your monthly budget.
  27. Build something with LEGOs.
  28. Watch stand-up comedy.
  29. Use essential oils.
  30. Spend the day with family.

Participating with me? Let me know in the comments section below, and share your progress on social media with the hashtag #NoStressNovember!

The Freshman 15: Mid-Semester Motivation Tips

Can anyone believe it’s almost March? As so many of us find ourselves inundated with midterms, essays and appointments, we sometimes forget how to cope with our hectic workloads and instead allow the chaos to overcome us. While some of us may become complacent and decide we just don’t care how we score on that psych exam, others feel completely overwhelmed and buried by all of our stressors.

For February’s Freshman 15, I will discuss just a few ways to tackle that mid-semester slump and remain motivated throughout the year. Feel free to add your own in the comments section below!

The Freshman 15: Mid-Semester Motivation Tips

1. Stop telling yourself (and everyone else!) how stressed you are. (Tweet this!)
First of all, stress isn’t always a bad thing — in fact, it gives us that “fight or flight” response that allows us to act in emergency situations! A little bit of stress is good because it helps us perform to the best of our abilities. Second of all, although too much stress can be harmful, chances are that when you complain about it, you’re only making it worse. The more that you tell your friends (who most likely have a lot on their plates as well!) that you’re “stressed out,” the more that you hear those words in your own mind and the more stressed out you become.

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2. Reassess what you want.
During the fall semester of my freshman year, life wasn’t easy. Not only was I constantly sick, but I was in the middle of muddling through my general education requirements, many of which were not of interest to me. In fact, although I had a soft spot for my speech class, I had trouble feeling enthusiastic about any of the classes I was taking, in part because I didn’t have an end goal (a major) in mind. Once I finally chose a major to stick with, I found myself much more excited to go to classes and learn about the subjects I wanted to learn. Moral of the story? Choose a major that you’re going to be happy with. If your gen ed requirements are completed and you still dread going to classes, perhaps it is time to choose a new major.

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3. Cut something out of your schedule.
Grades should come first. If you find yourself so over-extended on extracurricular activities that you’ve worn yourself thin, it’s time to cut back and prioritize what activity is the most important to you. So many of us don’t know when to say “no” because we’re so excited about the myriad of opportunities we have in college, but it is better to do a few things well than to do many things halfheartedly.

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4. Discover a new hobby.
When I think of people with a lot of stress in their lives, Harry Potter always comes to mind. After all, his only surviving relatives despise him, he is constantly in detention, his Potions professor is out to get him (or so he thinks) and every year he has to save the world from the wrath of Voldemort. Harry’s friends provide some solace in his life, but when he hits the Quidditch pitch on his Firebolt broomstick, Harry is at peace (except, of course, when someone tries to bewitch his broomstick or send Dementors after him during a game). The point is – we all need a break, whether we find it in a game of Quidditch or a DIY project. If you don’t already have something that calms you down, find something. Too many hobbies will make you a little eccentric, but one great one will help you ease your mind when you have time to take a break.

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5. Change your scenery.
Sometimes when you’re in one place for too long, you become a little stir crazy. That’s why it’s important to change it up every so often! I tend to study in my room, but if it’s a beautiful sunny day outside, I might bring my textbooks out to the garden at school just for something different. Whether you relocate to Starbucks, the library or a hilltop, you will surely feel invigorated by your new surroundings.

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6. Give thanks.
You may be thinking that this has nothing to do with motivation, but ever since I started this gratitude challenge back in mid-January, I have felt infinitely happier and more inspired than ever. By writing down five things you are thankful for each night before you go to bed, you are challenging yourself to find the good in a sometimes bad day, and you begin to put your own problems into perspective. Try it!

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7. Surround yourself with positive people.
It’s hard to be optimistic when everyone you encounter is constantly whining about how difficult everything is. Find friends who know how to look at the glass half full – you can always learn from those people, and their happiness is usually contagious. Life is too short to be grumpy.

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8. Ditch the social media.
Studies reveal that using Facebook while studying tends to result in lower grades. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that liking your friends’ statuses and browsing pictures from last weekend’s party will not help you get an A in English class. With exams around the corner, you’ll need to know that Romeo and Juliet were star-crossed lovers, but you do not need to know that Robbie and Julia are now in an open relationship. Besides, your mind will be a lot clearer if you spend a little less time on Facebook.

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9. Find a role model.
Having a mentor is an amazing thing when it feels like the walls are closing in on you. If you’ve met an older student that you aspire to be like, ask yourself what that person has done to become so successful. Better yet, ask him or her about it in person! People love to talk about their successes, and if you meet someone that you look up to, then when you feel like you’re about to give up on something, you can always ask yourself, “Would ____ do that?” Role models give us that extra boost of inspiration when we need it.

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10. Practice relaxation methods.
For many people, yoga and pilates are two phenomenal ways to burn calories and calm down from the day-to-day hustle and bustle. For others, they aren’t enough. Find something that helps you slow down when things become too much to handle. Learn how to meditate and breathe properly. These are just a few healthy ways to keep yourself grounded.

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11. Set new goals.
Feeling complacent? Do something about it! Challenge yourself with a new goal to reach. Apply for a study abroad program, learn a new skill, or join an organization that sounds appealing to you. Find ways to keep your college experiences fresh and exciting.

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12. Remind yourself of your positive attributes.
If you feel completely stuck and unable to accomplish what you need to accomplish, this handy trick will help get you out of your rut. In this exercise, you’ll need to list 100 things that you love about yourself. Think you can do it? In early February, I tried this out and was proud of some of the attributes I came up with. You’ll have to think outside the box a bit on this one, but once completed, this exercise really does boost your self esteem/self efficacy and help you regain motivation.

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13. Up the ante on organizational skills.
Sometimes, you just need to be a little more disciplined than usual to get the job done. Perhaps you’ll need to keep a more detailed agenda than usual, or maintain a more organized study space. Click here for tips on managing your time and organizing your life!

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14. Seek help when you need it.
Go to office hours. Meet with tutors and academic advisers. Make an appointment with the counseling center. Do what you need to do to stay on your game; don’t worry about what others are going to think. You should be your biggest priority.

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15. Be sure to address any deeper issues.
Sometimes we aren’t held back by a lack of motivation; rather, we have been affected by something farther beyond our control. Know the difference, and take care of yourself and the issue at hand.

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What topics would you like to see in the future?!

The Friday Five: Holidays to Observe All Year

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s nearly impossible not to have the holidays on your mind. Of course, as much as I enjoy pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce, I absolutely love the holiday’s vibe – the reminder that we should be thankful for all that we have and more. Of course, November 24 is not the only day we should set aside to give thanks — that day should be every day!

This week, I would like to take a look at some of the holidays we should observe more often. Feel free to chime in with your own in the comments section below!

The Friday Five: Holidays to Observe All Year

1. Thanksgiving.
Well, if that wasn’t a given, I don’t know what is. 🙂 We should take some time out of every day to reflect upon how fortunate we are, regardless of how stressful life can be.

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2. Valentine’s Day.
Telling someone “I Love You” shouldn’t be restricted to February 14. Doing something spontaneous and sweet for your significant other will mean a lot more to that person if it happens on a random Tuesday rather than a holiday when everyone feels obligated to be romantic. Similarly, you should show small acts of kindness toward everyone throughout the year, instead of saving up for one grand gesture and a remainder of mediocrity and halfheartedness.

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3. New Year’s.
This doesn’t mean you need to get rip-roaring drunk every night and cheer when the clock strikes 12 — you can save that until December 31. However, many people wait until the New Year (and occasionally Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year) to make amends for past mistakes and to create new goals and resolutions. However, we should spend the whole year working on ourselves, not just one small window of time. If we set reasonable expectations throughout the year, we are more likely to stick to them and see some real results. Besides, it is never too late in the year to reinvent yourself.

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4. Independence Day.
Most people tend to be patriotic around the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or a national disaster, but when barbecues and fireworks aren’t taking place, a lot of us forget what it means to be American. You don’t need to be in-your-face about your nationality, but it is important to be present by recognizing how lucky you are to be where you are. (I understand that some readers do not live in the U.S., so feel free to replace this one with one of your homeland’s own national holidays!)

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5. Halloween.
The spookiest holiday of the year is all about overcoming your fears and allowing yourself to have fun. As Robert California from The Office says in a recent episode, “Fear plays an interesting role in our lives. How dare we let it motivate us? How dare we let it into our decision making, into our livelihoods, into our relationships?” By stepping out of our comfort zones more than once every year, we allow ourselves to develop and grow as human beings (or ghouls).

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What are your favorite holidays, and what have they taught you?

Happy holidays, everyone! 🙂