The slower pace of summer can be an ideal time for reflection and rejuvenation.  It can allow for a review of the past year to highlight what went well and to problem-solve ways to make 2013-2014 at Loyola even better—academically, emotionally, spiritually, behaviorally, and physically.

Given my role as a psychologist on campus who engages in therapy with hundreds of students a year, I am mindful of how this wholeness can get compromised at stressful times when deadlines, projects, and other concerns take precedence over self-care.  Consider taking time for yourself, or with a trusted loved one, over the next few months to review the past academic year and problem-solve ways to be proactive about your personal success for the fall 2013 semester (and beyond).  Here are a few questions to help guide your reflection to improve your self-confidence:

  • What are my values, where do I place importance?
  • How are these values in my life now prioritized?
  • Where am I in conflict with my values in my everyday living?
  • How can I begin to make corrective changes to bring me more in harmony with my values and my priorities?
  • Where do I have to put meaning into my life?
  • What are the “shoulds and oughts to do” that I find myself responding to… but they are not my “shoulds?”

In addition to this exercise, you can also make a self-confidence contract with yourself to establish a foundation for success for next academic year.  Think of it as a personal contract that is meant to improve your awareness and to serve as a guide when you it’s time for a personal review.  For example:

  • What six changes do I want to make in the way I am leading my life?
  • What do I want to add to my life and studies?
  • What do I want to remove from the way I am living now?
  • Where do I have to put more of me into my academics, mental or physical health, spirituality, or behaviors?
  • What do I want to do differently in the next 30 days?

Creating balance for yourself or in relation to others in a mindful way can have far reaching advantages both in the present and in the future.  Congratulations on making it through to the end of the academic year and wishing you a blissful summer of R&R (rest & reflection)!

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I was really impressed by the well-executed graduation ceremonies this past weekend, and had some observations that I would like to share.

Firstly, goodbyes are tough.  We may mask them with hoorays and ceremony, but underneath the joy is a bit of sadness for the grief of transition.  This is true for even the cynics and the grass is greener folks out there because, to mix my metaphors, sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.  Transitions mean uncertainty, a certain amount of anxiety, and the development of new successful patterns.

Next, don’t forget about Hugs.  This seemed to be the main message that Tom Brokaw was trying to communicate.  The information technology age can do a lot of things, but it cannot (at least not yet) substitute for real, genuine human interaction.  I don’t think the man with every award in his profession and tens of millions of dollars in the bank was being trite by suggesting that hugs and empathy will always be better than the next iPhone.  So approach technology with a people first attitude.  We have to somehow get through this flawed world that the previous generations gave us!

Women are taking over and men are supporting it.  I thought this was a great sentiment by Provost Marc Manganaro.  I touched on this in a March blog posting.  We really have a built in gender revolution in the American workforce that is represented at Loyola in the classrooms.  We’re in the process of dispelling the myth that the outspoken woman is a “bitch,” and replacing it with the idea that she is just speaking and that her ideas are probably good ideas.  This happens through education, but it also happens through constant exposure to good ideas from women.  Not surprisingly, this happens a lot at Loyola.

Humility.  Think about it.  I had the opportunity to sit on stage and watch as every graduate walked in front of their family and friends.  I noticed something that I thought was peculiar.  The students that were jumping up and down as they walked or giving shout outs to those in the crowds were not the same people with cords for graduating with honors.  I mentioned this to a colleague and she replied somewhat cynically, “Welcome to Life.”  I’m not saying that celebration is bad and I may have missed some of those that countered this observation, but I think there is a lesson in humility in there somewhere.

Finally, happiness comes through connection.  The biggest smiles that I saw were not from the people smiling with their diploma.  The biggest smiles I saw were students making eye contact with a favorite professor, close friend or a proud parent.  These were genuine and lingering smiles that were infectious to others around them.

-Logan Williamson, LPC
University Counseling Center

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Procrastinating Before Finals?  Click Here!

This is your reminder that working is a better idea than not working.  Read these two tips and then get back to it.  We’re on the count down.

Chunk – Not chunk, or chunk, but chunk!  Putting similar information together to understand them as a concept can help you recall more accurately during test time.  It is the reason we split up phone numbers into (area code) 3#’s-4#’s.  Instead of learning 10 different pieces of info, we look at it as only 3 pieces of information.

State Dependence – Not state, not dependence, but state dependence!  You learn better when you simulate the place and state of your learning environment with where you are tested.  So, try and be rested, fed and happy when you are studying.  Right before a test, try and be rested, fed and happy and you’ll do better.  If you have ADHD and  you study on your medication, make sure you take it before your test too.  Strangely enough, state dependence learning works by studying in the same room as you take the test!

Hope to either see you on Saturday at graduation or next semester!

Logan Williamson, LPC
University Counseling Center

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I had a wrestling coach who used to scream, “tough time!” when there was 10-15 seconds left in a match.  His warning let me know the end of the match was coming and that I needed to work to win and/or defend my progress.  With exams and end of term essays so heavily weighted, this time of year in the academic calendar could be considered “tough time.”

NO SURPRISE:

When I would hear that call, it was no surprise.  I was pretty sure we were at the end of the match, but to have that information gave me more motivation and clarity about the work ahead.  Likewise, Finals means bearing down, intentional sustained focus and the potential for an all-nighter or two.   Your hard work will be rewarded!  This is the culmination of your learning where you are integrating new knowledge with previous studies.  In a sense, the effort that you pour into your studies will help you come out of a winner.

WORK TO WIN:

And it is important to win!  So much can change in the final tics of the clock.  I saw it happen time and time again in my own experience and through watching others wrestle.  I remember joking with a fellow teammate during the state tournament, “wouldn’t it be funny if Michael got pinned here?  He has been dominating the entire time.”  Sure enough, the ref stopped the match a moment later and Michael had been pinned.  During Finals, I’ve seen the same effects.  An extra hour of studying can raise a grade suffering from late homework assignments or a difficult midterm.

DEFEND YOUR PROGRESS:

Alternatively, mailing in your work effort during this time can subvert the hard work that you’ve been putting into classes all semester.  As a wrestler, I was not the best technically.  What I was best at every day was conditioning.  So when I came across someone better than me, I would just wear them out until they were tired.  I would capitalize on someone trying to mail in the final seconds.  With an arduous academic schedule, it takes conditioning to complete your courses, but this is what you’ve been waiting for all semester!  You’ve taken the small incremental steps – going to class, doing as much of the reading as you can, being on top of the many due dates – and now is time to defend that progress by putting in your best effort.

PRACTICAL STUDY TIPS:

1)      The brain requires a ton of glucose and water to perform.  Eat Right & drink lots of water!

2)      Breathe – Your brain also need oxygen to operate at a high capacity.  Try taking a few deep breaths before starting an exam or when you get stuck.  It will act to supply your brain with fuel and it can calm possible test anxiety.  Remember to push your stomach out instead of lifting your chest when you inhale.

3)      Sleep well! – It sounds counter intuitive, but the more sleep you can fit into your schedule the better.  20 minute cat naps can give you 3-4 more hours of sustained attention.

4)      Put off emotional tasks until after finals unless it is absolutely necessary.  As a therapist, I don’t usually suggest avoidance, but sometimes later can be better when your main goal is studying.

5)      Watch, Do, Teach – This is how many medical schools teach and I think it is a great way to gain mastery.  If you think you have a concept down, try teaching it to a classmate or even to yourself.

Good luck during this exam time and finish strong!

-Logan Williamson, LPC

 

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…and All That Jazz!

Spring is in the air, and in New Orleans, that means two things: food and jazz! If you close your eyes, can you imagine sitting on a blanket with your crawfish monica, feeling the heat of the sun and watching local musicians on stage? Now, full disclosure is that I’m not a musician. But there’s something about listening to jazz, about watching the musicians in the heart of their craft that is invigorating. There’s unpredictability yet order to it that parallels much of our own lives as well as the work of counseling.

Two things about jazz in particular strike me: the responsiveness and the spontaneity. I love watching jazz musicians play off one another. There’s eye contact. There’s head nodding. There’s a sense of awareness of the others’ movements.  And with that comes flexibility, a willingness to bend and to stretch in accompaniment of the other. A note gets held. A rhythm picks up. One instrument goes solo. This flexibility anticipates spontaneity. Built into the structure of the sound is an openness that encourages the musician to add his own element, to make a unique contribution as fitting to the movement in the moment and to have the rest adapt.

Like the jazz musician, part of the art of counseling is about being in tune with the other. It’s about listening to genuinely hear and to meet them where they are, knowing that people can make unexpected turns. It’s about then responding in a way that dovetails and yet expands. Of course, this applies not only to the therapeutic relationship but to relationships in a broader sense. What does it mean to be aware of those closest to you? How do you balance contributing your own sound while being flexible to allow room for the other to be spontaneous?  Can you see the strength in emphasizing interpersonal relationships and flexibility to create something both familiar and new?

-Brooks Zitzmann, LMSW

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Loyola Students have just gone through a period of midterms, or at least a barrage of due dates that filled up every waking moment and even stole some sleeping ones.  This process was difficult for the C student, just as it was for the A student.  Working toward long term goals such as getting a good grade in Organic Chemistry or graduating with a degree in Creative Writing are tough.  While we are built for achieving long term goals (see: Pyramids, Great Wall of China, that 10 page research paper that wouldn’t write itself), it takes a certain amount of motivation to get there. 

Motivation is tricky.  I do not suggest using the same strategies that the builders of the Pyramids used to get A’s on your upcoming finals.  I’m a pragmatist at heart, so truthfully I recommend anything that works – but let me tell you what experience and research say are the most effective.

Eat Your Vegetables:

Behavioral research shows that motivation to start and continue a task is best done through carrots… or reinforcements.  Compliments, snacks, Netflix breaks, video game time outs, naps, walks outside, walks inside, skipping ahead to an easier assignment, talking with a friend, going to the gym, deciding to check Facebook or Twitter or Instagram and not because you did it compulsively, going for a meal with friends, having a cup of coffee that you enjoy instead of chug, getting a high five, receiving a high five, going for a drive, going for a streetcar ride… the list goes on… are all better ways to build rewards into your study habits rather than punishing yourself through procrastination, sleep deprivation, locking yourself in a room, failing a test, avoiding telling your parent why you got a D on that paper, telling your parent that you got a D on that paper, feeling guilty for taking the unearned videogame break, missing meals, gaining weight, isolating yourself socially, no one giving you a high five, pounding your 3rd Red Bull of the day, or writing run-on sentences.  Why is this?  Because we are better at avoiding punishments than learning from them.  This will always be true, but it is especially true when we are not aware of why we are here.

Grow Your Own Carrots:

The other half of motivation is relying on an internal reason to achieve your goals.  So why are you here?  I went to college to make my parents proud.  I went to make myself proud.  I went so that I could make money later in life and I went to learn how to learn.  I went so that I could write run on sentences as a rhetorical strategy and not because I have poor grammar skills.  I went so that I could live a Liberal Arts life – using the depth and breadth of my knowledge to understand a complex and changing world.  I went so that my critical thinking skills would surpass those of my high school self and so I could compete with those whom I admired.  I went to dedicate my life to be able to serve students to the best of my ability.  That’s why I’m here with you … now.

When your internal reason is your center, you can put the extra hours into studying and not feel like you are sacrificing.  Studying and learning can become carrots or reinforcements in and of themselves.  Pretty soon, you’ll be on your way to passing that Organic Chemistry test and designing plans for your next Pyramid.

-Logan Williamson, LPC
University Counseling Center

 

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Intimacy in College:  A Jesuit Perspective

A notion in popular culture is that sexuality and spirituality are on opposite ends of the spectrum, somehow antithetical to one another. Yet, sexuality, like spirituality, is a gift and out of gratitude for this gift, one is called to consider and act responsibly. The Jesuit notion of cura personalis – care for the whole person – encourages us to look past this seeming impasse when considering these gifts. After all, what constitutes a whole person? Part of that answer is one’s sexuality. The concept of ‘wholeness’ stretches us to understand that sexuality is integrated into a person alongside our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical aspects. As such, sexuality not only requires our attentive care but also needs to be understood as affecting – and affected by – our spirit, emotions, beliefs, and bodies.

When we think of sexuality as disconnected from the other aspects of who we are, it is defined in strictly physical terms. Seeing sexuality in the context of the whole person broadens our ideas of intimacy. Intimacy entails not only our physical bodies but also engages the other aspects of who we are.  At its best, intimacy encompasses a range of behaviors that allow us to feel comforted, soothed, and delighted in and with each other. It encourages a deepening of emotional connection between persons. It is grounded in the beliefs and thoughts that we have about others and about relationships. Intimacy is based on trust in relationship and care for the other, and yourself, as a whole person.

Of course, understanding when and how to be intimate can be a difficult process. Other Ignatian tools can be helpful in navigating through this.  For example, the reflective process of discernment can be used as a guide to better understand and make meaning of one’s own sexuality. What is it that is motivates my behaviors? Will this interaction bring about more peace and joy for the other? For myself? Similarly, the concept of magis urges us to consider what actions are for the “better.” What is the “better” way to interact with the person to whom you’re attracted? What behavior will better express respect for the other as a whole person, not just as a sexual being?

Being with and for others means shaping your decisions, including decisions about your sexual expression, in ways that will be most life-giving for others as well as for yourself. A challenge of maturing into adulthood is to synthesize these aspects of yourself, to allow them to inform one another, and to trust that your relationships – with yourself and your partner – are a fitting expression of gratitude to God for the gift of sexuality.

Brooks Zitzmann, LMSW

**While you are here, click on our recent posts for a variety of different topics!  In fact, bookmark the Care for the Pack Blog as we update it twice a week!**

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I am often asked a version of this question: What can be done to end sexual violence?

Of course, the simplest answer is for each person (yes, that includes each person reading this) to behave in ways that are not sexually violent, that is, to seek consent within all intimate interactions. This may require learning what consent is, how it works, and the role of alcohol in obscuring consent. It may require an open, honest conversation with your partner or reflection on why and how you choose to engage in intimate behaviors.

There’s a larger question here as well, a question of culture and environment. What do we do (or omit doing) that creates a culture that actively promotes or passively allows sexual violence to happen? Answers to this question (there’s lots!) can serve as a springboard for action. Do we blame victims (“Why was she wearing that, and so late at night?”)? Do we believe that alcohol eliminates responsibility (“But they were both drinking.”)?  Do we fail to question perpetration (Not asking “Why did s/he assume the other wanted this?”)? Tomorrow (4/9/13) from 12:30p.m. to 1:30p.m. in the Octavia Room, we’ll explore with Dr. Charles Corprew the question of what it means to be masculine in the college campus environment.

Teal is the color of sexual assault awareness. Increasing our self-awareness as well as awareness within our communities can bring healing. Below are action steps toward standing for an environment of sexual non-violence. Whether you pick one of these or come up with your own, commit to finding one way to bring “teal” into your life!

  1. Wear a “Teal Heals” button one day this week.
  2. Explain what your Teal Heals button means to a friend.
  3. Understand that alcohol impairs one’s ability to legally give consent.
  4. Challenge victim blaming language when I hear it.
  5. Avoid using “rape” as a slang or humorous term.
  6. Educate myself about power based personal violence.
  7. Talk to one male friend about the importance of involving men in prevention.
  8. Talk to one female friend about the importance of involving women in prevention.
  9. Attend Take Back the Night planning meetings (begin in September 2013).
  10. Participate in Take Back the Night in fall 2013.
  11. Integrate information about power-based personal violence into one class discussion.
  12. Volunteer at a local shelter serving victims of domestic violence.
  13. Write a letter to the editor of the Maroon with your reflections on the importance of addressing interpersonal violence.
  14. Discuss with friends a media portrayal glamorizing sexual violence and why this is disturbing to you.
  15. Read about the Advocacy Initiative on the UCC’s webpage.
  16. Commit to attending an Advocacy Initiative training.
  17. Speak to a student organization leader about ways your group can promote non-violence.   Organizational involvement can be part of reducing a culture of sexual violence.
  18. Write a blog about your interest in having a less sexually violence community and submit to the UCC for posting.
  19. Tell someone you know that too many students will be victims of violence and you want to reduce it.
  20. Put “ending gender based violence” on your Facebook page “what’s on your mind” window.
  21. Focus one course paper or project on advocating an end to sexual violence.
  22. Understand that “No” means “No.”
  23. Share statistics with my friends about sexual violence.
  24. Seek professional help if I suspect that my friend has been drugged (e.g., LUPD/TEMS, a hospital).
  25. Ask someone who appears upset if they would like to talk.
  26. Remember that survivors deserve to be trusted, not doubted.
  27. Talk to my friends about what defines consent.
  28. Account for the people I came with to a party before I leave or change locations.
  29. Encourage a friend to call the University Counseling Center (504) 865-3835 if I suspect a friend may have been sexually assaulted.
  30. Remember that every woman is someone’s daughter.
  31. Act from the belief that every person has inherent worth and dignity.
  32. Understand that being “masculine” does not mean being violent toward my intimate partner.
  33. Validate my friends by trusting their experience.
  34. Understand that wholeness includes mind, body and spirit and that sexual violence threatens each of these.
  35. Challenge the “Hook Up Culture.”

-Brooks Zitzmann, LMSW
University Counseling Center

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A Needed Response

This 27 second video was posted on YouTube in response to the Steubenville Rape case that has been much reported on by the media in recent months.  If you are not aware of the case then you can certainly find more information online.

As a man, I completely agree with the video’s tenor and perspective.  I was raised with the idea that men should treat women with respect and protect those in need of protecting.  Taking advantage of someone in a vulnerable situation is a terrible thing.  Inexplicably there has been a variety of responses to this event including victim blaming of the girl involved and a well-publicized empathetic response by CNN anchors towards the convicted rapists.

There is a concept from social psychology, “Cognitive Dissonance,” that lends an explanation to why there are other reactions than abhorrence at this event.  Cognitive Dissonance is the discomfort we feel towards a situation when we have to hold two competing ideas in our mind at the same time.  For instance, a person that victim blames may  struggle with the conflicting ideas that on one hand their world is made up of generally good people who would not harm and humiliate someone in this way and on the other hand the fact that this woman was so abused.  The rationalization that comes from this is that there must have been consent in some form or fashion – however loosely contrived – in the amount of alcohol she drank or the clothes that she wore.

Returning back to the video, I believe that it cuts through cognitive dissonance with its simplicity.  When faced with a decision to help another we oftentimes complicate the situation rather than act.  In this case, the best action is to act compassionately and with regard for the person’s safety.

Next week is Sexual Non-Violence Week across the country and on Loyola’s campus.  This is an opportunity to look at how we can cut through the cognitive dissonance and see the moral simplicity of sexual violence.  No one deserves rape and no one will ever ask for it.  Therefore, I think a charge to the men on campus is in order, a charge to treat women with a higher level of respect, including the most basic form of respect that is sexual nonviolence.  Because, as the video points out, that’s what real men do.

-Logan Williamson, LPC

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Intro to Psych 101

Many people throughout the ages have viewed the change process differently.  One that has risen to the top has been Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  It has risen because it can be manualized, quantified (albeit this is up to debate), and it works.  I don’t qualify its ability to work because of how often I’ve seen it make long lasting change within my clients.  I want to lay out a couple of its main principles in the next two blog posts.

As Monty Python says, one of these is not like the other.  You can change your thoughts fairly easily.  For instance, don’t think of a big elephant.  Gotcha.  You can change your behaviors fairly quickly as well.  I can start typing a sentence or I can sto… p.  The thing that I cannot do is directly change my feelings.  To wit, a therapist, parent or professor can’t tell you to stop feeling a certain way.  “Stop feeling so depressed Jenny!”

However, we are not slaves to our feelings and we change them constantly.  The flexibility of emotions and gradations of emotions are important concepts here.  There is a difference between feeling pleasant, giddy, happy, and ecstatic.  Once you have been able to identify an emotion that you would like to change, it is important to address the feelings that you are having by looking at what thoughts and behaviors that are associated with that emotion.

-Logan Williamson, LPC

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