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6 Ways to Mentally Prepare for the Holidays

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5 people sitting around a table holding sparklers wearing Santa hats during the holidays.
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I would be lying if I told you I loved the holidays. Although many of us enjoy spending time with relatives, we all can agree there is a time limit to our interactions with them. With the added stress of a global pandemic and the recent U.S. presidential election, I think we all need to put in more effort in protecting our mental health and sanity this season. These are 6 ways to mentally prepare for the holiday season. 

1. Non-competitive gingerbread house making

Many people’s favorite way to ease into the holiday season, whether or not the spirit is in the air, is by building the most extravagant gingerbread house the world has ever seen. There is no specific time for a gingerbread house competition and no age limit to making one. The crafting aspect of this project has enough therapeutic qualities for us to accept the holiday season has started and it may be time to hang the holiday wreath.

It also does not hurt to accept that half of the fun in creating the gingerbread house is eating your masterpiece as you build.

2. Holiday movie marathon

The world outside is uncertain and fickle, so the movie ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’ is one that can be stagnant and comforting. To be frank, to properly prepare or navigate the holiday season, we have to do things we like to do. This is especially hard for holiday hosts and newly returned college students. The comfort of rewatching old favorites will put us at ease when the aunts ask questions that become pointed and accusatory.

Considering half of the holiday battle is finding our own peace amidst the chaos, there is no harm in looking to Hallmark for escape.

3. Read up

You’ll likely find yourself needing to steer the conversation away from certain topics. Therefore, it is time to start reading again. For many students, the beginning of the holiday season is the onset of finals, making life a slew of stress on top of more stress. The one thing that we can control is our free time. Never let your assignments take control of you. Scheduling time to read one chapter from that book catching dust on your shelf might be the best way to mentally prepare for the Facebook conspiracy theory quoting cousin. 

A woman in a holiday sweater sitting on a window sill reading a book next to a puppy with a Santa hat on.
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4. Out with the old, in with the new

Find time to declutter your space. With the impending extravagance of the holiday season, it is easier than ever to start to feel overwhelmed. Mentally, we need to make our living space as comforting as possible even if we may have to give up some comfort when meeting with relatives during the holidays. Minimalizing your room or your home before the rush of the holidays, can help the holiday to-do list seem less taxing.

Even though holiday cleaning is the worst, reimagine this project as your effort to carve out your own space for only positivity. 

5. Christmas photoshoot

Given the circumstances, Christmas may be light this year. Still, the soft weeping of our wallets should never stop us from making sure we still look good and feel good. It is a right to put on our best to parade around the house this holiday season. Many of us spent a large portion of our year in ‘Zoom’ attire. We deserve to change our appearance this season and build the confidence we might have lost somewhere between March and past Marches. Before you lose your sanity, grab your friends, siblings, pet, whomever, and share some laughs.

A boy in a grey sweater smiling at the camera with his arms crossed next to a Christmas tree.
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6. When all else fails, sit at the kids’ table

The family gathering has begun but you can’t seem to shake the feeling of dread. When in doubt, find your little cousins. When it comes to kids, there is a range in their understanding of the way the world works around them. For many of them, even if they understand, they do not care. Your little cousins will not ask you about your plans after college or a thousand and one questions about your university’s vague plan on keeping students safe from contracting COVID-19. Your little cousins just want to tell you funny stories. Maybe even play games on their many gaming devices.

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College Life

5 Critical Questions to Ask When Moving in With Your First Roommates

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Three women moving in together

The situation is this: you’re officially renting your first place. No more close-quarter dorms or parents looking over your shoulder. You might be feeling a variety of emotions, depending on why you’re moving out. Anxiety, excitement, and sadness are all valid. On top of all that, you are looking for your first roommate. Don’t worry— you’re not alone, even if you’re moving out only after your freshman year of college! In fact, you’re in good company. According to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of people first moving out is 19.

One of the most important things, besides remembering to pay rent, is getting along with your roommates.

Whether they’re people you’ve known for years, or someone you are just meeting now, chances are you don’t really know all of the ins and out of living with them. Who will buy the toilet paper? Who washes the dishes?

Here is a list of questions to ask your roommates when moving in together!  

Which roommate buys the paper products? 

As silly as it may seem, this is an important question to ask! You don’t realize how much toilet paper, paper towels, or tissues you may use. The last one is especially important if you have allergies. Last year, the average person spent $120 annually on paper products! 

You have to be prepared if you don’t want to buy your own stock every week or so. If the roommates are already set up, send them a text if you can, or learn when you get there. But if everyone’s newly coming together, have a discussion with your roommates and decide on what sounds good for you! It might be that everyone buys their own stock. Or it could be whoever’s out just buys it! Maybe everybody chips in! It’s up to you and your group. While you’re out, don’t forget to get plastic wrap and foil, too! 

Do we want to share dishes? 

This is another thing that depends on if you’re all coming together for the first time, or moving into an already established house. If you can’t get a hold of the people you’re moving in with, it’s smart to have two full sets for yourself. Then, you can wash and alternate just in case. If you’re moving in with a whole new group, however, it’s important to convene on this. This way, you may be able to get a larger set of dishes for cheaper with everyone chipping in. When getting dishes, however, you also have to remember to get kitchen utensils and appliances, if they’re not included. It’s probably not reasonable for everyone to have their own toasters, but it might make sense for everyone to have their own spatulas.

Who pays for WiFi? 

Considering a student’s reliance on the internet, you need to know who the WiFi will be under. If you’re moving into an already established household, it’s easy! Just learn who pays for it and make sure to pay them your share every month. If you’re moving in with a whole new group, you have to sit down and decide who will pay for it. Be on the lookout: if you already have a phone plan, you might be able to get a good deal on an internet plan too. 

Do we want to share food? 

You don’t want to be the person stealing food from your roommates, after all! If you’re with friends, you might feel comfortable sharing food. However, if you’re moving in with strangers or acquaintances, you might not. Roommates might want to share some items, like spices or baking products. Things like meat, yogurt, or cheese might be a little too much to share. Similarly, you might want to figure out if you want to cook together, especially if you’re with friends. This is important to know not only for budgeting, but for knowing what times you can use the kitchen! 

What furniture do we need?

Again, your response will change if you’re moving in with a pre-established group or a new one! Pictures from the landlord should answer most of the questions, but it’s important to make sure the pictures are up to date! If there is no furniture, Ikea and Target are great options for new cheap furniture. But if you’re on a bit of a budget, don’t worry! There are plenty of options on Facebook Marketplace or at local thrift stores.

Figure out what you need for common areas like living rooms, and keep in touch about what you find. 

Moving into a new place for the first time is an exciting experience, but it can also be terrifying. Despite that, there’s definitely no reason to panic. Just keep these questions in mind, and you’ll be ready to take on the world!

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College Life

Learning Styles: How To Recognize Yours & Maximize Your College Studies

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People sitting around a table in conversation.

We’ve all heard the phrase “I’m a visual learner” or “I’m an auditory learner” before, but what does that actually mean? These statements refer to the theory of “learning styles.” This is essentially stating that we all have a predisposition towards taking in information a certain way. This theory goes as far back as Aristotle in 300 BCE, but has gone through a few evolutions since then. One of the prevailing models of learning styles currently is the VARK model, created by Neil Fleming in 1987, which stands for visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic learning. 

This is a breakdown of the types of learning styles, how you can recognize if you belong to them, what that actually means, and ways to improve your learning utilizing that knowledge.

VISUAL LEARNER

How to Recognize It: 

Visual learners are, shockingly, focused heavily on images and visualizations. Do you feel as though you only really remember something if you see it? Do you think as much in images as you do in words or feelings? Do you rely heavily on visual cues when interacting with other people? If these are true, you may have a visual learning style.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Visual learners thrive off of graphical information. Being presented with a chart or diagram makes sense and you’re great at decoding images. When asked to explain something, you’re pulled to visualize it in some way, maybe with gestures or a drawing, and you are great at making that leap between what’s in your head and what exists in the real world. However, when that visual element isn’t at play, you may find it harder to remember information or conceptualize something new to you.

“Visual learners learn best by seeing. Graphic displays such as charts, diagrams, illustrations, handouts, and videos are all helpful learning tools for visual learners.”

Tips for Learning with this Style:

Since visual learning is your wheelhouse, play to that strength. Use study tools like flashcards, concept and thought maps. Try to find videos or images describing concepts you’re trying to understand.

“Since sight is key, visual learners need materials in front of them to help get the information fully committed to memory.”

Simple things as well, like color-coding notes or highlighters may help you retain and file information more efficiently. Try out a few of these ideas and see how it works!

AUDITORY LEARNER

How to Recognize It: 

Do you feel at your best during lectures? Do you prefer podcasts over just about anything else? Do you have a habit of talking aloud to yourself to keep on task? You might be an auditory learner. 

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Auditory learners thrive off of sound. When they’re left solely with reading or still images they may find it difficult or impossible to focus, whereas they feel perfectly at home listening to a teacher talk about the very same topic. To many people, lectures and podcasts might be understimulating, but to you, they’re perfect. Auditory information sticks in your memory and you remember whatever you’ve heard really well. Additionally, verbalizing your ideas is something you’re good at, and you are great at getting your point across with words. Conversely, if you have to learn something another way you might have some difficulty. Schools focus heavily on visual assignments like reading and graphics, so you might find it difficult a lot of the time to thrive in modern classroom environments.

Tips for Learning with this Style:

Listening and speaking help you learn, therefore do them as much as possible! Ask to record lectures so you can replay them for yourself later. Raise your hand and talk in class, as verbalizing your ideas will help you remember them later.

“Talking about your ideas and voicing your questions will increase your understanding of the material.”

Additionally, as simple as it is, reading assignments aloud can also help you retain the information. Just hearing the information out laud might be all it takes for it to click.

READ/WRITE LEARNERS

How to Recognize It: 

Are reading assignments your favorite? Do you feel completely comfortable with essays and writing assignments? Maybe you like to write on your own time, or never leave home without a book? You might learn best through reading and writing. 

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Reading/Writing learners work best with the written word. Text is easy to recall for you and putting your thoughts down as words is a simple task. Essays and other papers are not the source of stress you might’ve seen many other people experience and a long reading assignment is something you can really sink your teeth into. However, graphical depictions, lectures, and other methods of instruction might slip past your hearing altogether. You really need to have the words in front of you before they make sense or are retainable.

Tips for Learning with this Style:

Words work best for you, so use them! Write out study lists, take extensive notes and reread them to review. Take any term or information that’s important, and rewrite it. The act of putting it down in your own words will help you retain it, and so will simply rereading it. Phrase whatever you can into words and you’ll really be able to master the information.

KINESTHETIC LEARNER

How to Recognize It: 

Have you been told since you were a kid that you have too much energy? Do lectures and long assignments leave you fidgety and desperate to move? Did you buy a fidget spinner during the craze a few years back? You might have a kinesthetic learning style.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Kinesthetic learners learn best when their bodies are being engaged during the learning process. That means muscle memory is something that forms incredibly quickly for you, maybe after only one or two tries. You might also have a fast reaction time and feel constantly energetic. However, all those traits may detract from traditional classroom learning. Staying still for long periods of time may stagnate your brain and cause information to go in one ear and out the other.

Tips for Learning with this Style:

The most important thing to remember with a kinesthetic learning style is that your body needs to be involved in some way. Walk around your room while looking at notes, use a fidget-toy during class to help you focus on lectures, make notations and marks on whatever you’re studying. The act of tying the information to movement will help it stick.

“Often, those with a kinesthetic learning style have a hard time learning through traditional lecture-based schooling, because the body does not make the connection that they are doing something when they’re listening without movement.”

Learning styles are a great tool for your educational journey, even into college. Hopefully, these tips will help you maximize your learning by playing to your strengths with your learning style.

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College Life

5 Ways to Tell if You are a Workaholic

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been working from home as students and employees. Many have fallen into the cycle of overworking without taking time for themselves. Here are a few ways to tell if you are becoming a workaholic, as well as ways to have a healthier work routine. 

1. Working countless hours a day 

One of the easiest ways to identify workaholism is when you lose track of how long you have been working. Getting up from your desk and not knowing the time, missing meals, or realizing that you have worked into the early morning hours are all signs of this phenomenon. The solution to this is simple: create a daily work schedule that allows your brain and body to relax, allocating time for meals, sleep, and other leisurely interests you may have. This will not only be beneficial to your mental health, but also to the content of your work, as many studies have shown a correlation between being well-rested and creating quality work.

2. Losing contact with friends and family due to overworking

The isolation caused by the pandemic makes it extremely hard to feel connected to the people in our life, especially if we do not regularly see them. For people who are naturally introverted and work-driven, quarantining makes it easy to use work as a coping mechanism for loneliness and other negative emotions that may be exacerbated due to the pandemic. Luckily, in our age of social media, we can stay in contact without physical presence. 

A black and white photo of a women sitting at a table, stressed.
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If you feel like you have been losing touch with family and friends, make a goal to reach out to them on a weekly basis. Even something small like checking on a loved one will keep you “in the loop” with those that you cannot regularly see in-person. It is important to remember that we will eventually go back to regular contact with these people, and that in the meantime, it means a lot to just reach out and let them know we are thinking of them. 

3. Deprioritizing your mental health due to overwork 

We have witnessed an astounding drop in the general public’s mental health due to COVID-19, and burying oneself in work is a common coping mechanism that people justify as “quarantine productivity”. Without regularly seeing the people who make sure we are doing okay, the pandemic has forced us to be much more accountable for our own mental health, which is extremely challenging if all our time is consumed by work. 

A women sitting at a table doing work on a laptop.
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Like the other solutions on this list, keeping track of your mental health comes down to maintaining healthy routines and checking in on yourself, since contact with others may be difficult. Making sure you do enjoyable activities everyday is integral to keeping your mind healthy. While working may be an easy distraction from dark thoughts or feelings, it is not a solution. Maintaining habits that make you feel relaxed or happy will be much better for your overall mental health. 

4. Dropping hobbies due to an obsessive focus on work

This sign of being a workaholic is as easy to identify as it is to fix. Ask yourself, “are the things I do for fun still a part of my daily or weekly routine?” If the answer is “no”, then most likely you are replacing your hobbies with additional work, which produces anxiety and sadness, as you are more stressed and spending less time doing things you truly enjoy. Simply prioritizing your interests and hobbies, one or two days a week, is a great way of counterbalancing a heavy workload.

A cartoon of a women doing many tasks at once, speaking on the phone, on the computer, holding a purse.
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5. Missing out on sunlight or fresh air on a daily basis

One of the easiest ways to make sure you don’t overwork is to get outside, at least once a day, and take a walk or run around your neighborhood. While this may seem easy enough, it can be extremely difficult to motivate yourself to leave the house once you have already started working for the day. Therefore, it’s great to go on a morning walk or jog before you start working. It will leave you feeling more content and energized, so you can start your day on the right foot.

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