Spring Forward, Fall Back

As the new school year sets upon us it is important to find inspiration to restart, reassess, and recommit.  Some of you may be beginning your college journey, while others may be looking to synthesize the last three years’ knowledge about yourself and the world.  Regardless of your point along the path, taking stock can only serve to make sure your bearing is true.

Spring Forward
Take this semester as an opportunity to spring forward.  Studies show that the involved student is the successful student.  This is the sort of study that has a great deal of face validity to it.  Of course students who engage other students, make friends in different spheres, and seek out new experiences are going to bond more, work harder, and feel more accomplishment when they succeed.

If you are not involved yet in the many different activities and organizations on campus, check out our new online service OrgSync.  It puts information about every student group on campus in one place alongside a regularly updated calendar for events so you never miss out.

If you know you are going to be needed a job in a short nine months, make an appointment with one of our career counselors.  Building a relationship with one of them can help you make that jump from graduated to employed.

Say you want to work on yourself – make an appointment with the University Counseling Center and meet with one our therapists on staff.  We take pride in helping students through difficult times and sustaining the healthy student body here at Loyola.

Health is multifaceted, so take care of your body as well as your mind and set fitness goals now for the new school year.  There are a variety of different classes available and staff that can help you work out effectively and safely.

Take a look at the offerings from Mission and Ministry such as CLC groups, the Awakening retreat, mission trips to Jamaica and Belize and attend to your spiritual side.

This is a short list and not meant to be exhaustive.  Do your own research and take a (second) look at the fraternities/sororities on campus, our excellent athletics, and Student Government.  Get involved from the beginning and you’ll find that Loyola is so much more than just the number of hours that you are taking this semester.

Fall Back

Fall Back into good habits.  You are here for a reason.  You are an accomplished student who has had experience at balancing academic, social, and personal demands.  Trust yourself to be able to handle the fresh set of challenges that are laid out before you.  Trust yourself that you know the difference between a night you need to lock yourself in the library and a night to explore the wonderful city of New Orleans.  Trust yourself that if you feel a little homesick, you can find extra resolve by connecting with friends around you.

Take advantage of your Strengths Quest results and reflect on how you can make assignments and activities compliment these strengths.  Accept that there are some things that you do better than anyone else you know and other things that require help to do well.  Enhance these strengths and make yourself the expert for others to rely on when they need a great researcher, presenter, writer or group leader when you are assigned your next group project.

Lastly, Fall Back on those that support you and give back to those people when your spirit is feeling generous.  This may mean picking up the tab on a late night Taco Bell run for your friends or a phone call to your parents to say thanks for the Walmart run they made right before dropping you off.  This college thing is fun, but it is tough too.  Give back when you can because a grateful spirit will maintain this support system in a genuine and meaningful way.

Good luck this Fall Semester and remember – Spring Forward and Fall Back!

Logan Williamson, LPC
University Counseling Center

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Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama’s former Chief of staff and current mayor of Chicago, once (in)famously stated, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.  And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”  This statement came at the outset of the current worldwide recession.  Politically, it was a sticky message at the time, but rationally it holds water.  His statement mirrors a sentiment that Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in his book Outliers.  Gladwell looks at different times in history where individuals with certain talents were able to take advantage of the changing culture, technology and economic circumstances of their time to become successful.  He references the generation born around 1830 that were able to take advantage of US expansion and industrialization as examples.  He also cites software giants like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Bill Joy and others who were primed to take advantage of the advent of the personal computer.  Gladwell suggests that generations who miss being mired in war, depression or other societal circumstance have the opportunity that can make the difference between success and failure.  With the USA winding down wars, the economy finding its feet, and the world still trying to sort out how to comprehend 1.2 Billion people on Facebook, I feel like the generation coming out of college and graduate school is primed for this type of success.

So I ask this question to you.  If generations who come into the workforce as a recession is ending have distinct advantages over those who had to bear the consequences of it, what then do you have in store for us?  What new industry will you pioneer?  What new invention, device or service will you take mainstream that will impact every single person’s daily living?  I actually wish this wasn’t so rhetorical, because I’d like to know.

Here is the catch though.  That next big thing will take work and a lot of it.  I talk to a lot of people about motivation and the will do the work that is presented before them.  Gladwell talks about this too.  He recounts a story about a turn of the century Jewish immigrant looking for ways to make a living in the New World.  This man went out into the city with a pad and a pencil and wrote down everything that people wore in the streets.  He noticed a few small girls playing hopscotch wearing embroidered aprons and ran home to giddily share his idea with his wife.  That night they proceeded to make 40 aprons and sold them all the very next day.  This was the beginning of his lifetime in the garment industry.

Gladwell’s insight is that once we find our passion, that one thing that we want to do, it will transform hard work into something completely different.  His words are better than mine to describe this process.  “Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have a meaning.  Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig.”  College is designed to expose you to a diverse set of ideas that will inspire you towards meaning.  So grab your pen, find your passion, and make this coming semester one that marks the beginning of the next big thing.  You can even squeeze in a jig or two.

-Logan Williamson, LPC

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One of the most significant dilemmas of the modern age is the tension between social media and privacy.  This tension is felt and discussed in every major field.  Examples are readily available in Politics, Sports, Government, Entertainment, Law, Business, Psychology and the list goes on.  Specific to the Loyola student, there is no shortage of advice from professors, career coaches, and parents about what to include and leave out of your social media profile(s).

Like with most solutions to general problems, it is safest to trend towards the middle ground.  The concept of moderation is not new, but is sometimes a rarely applied filter on a college campus.  I think the reason for this is perspective taking.  College students decide what to post in order to maintain, promote or connect their social media persona with their social circle.  However, when a new filter is applied (ie. job hunt, roommate search, professionals researching professionals/clients, etc.), those professionals/potential roommates/future in-laws (yup.) are not living on a college campus and make different judgments on your decisions.

This brings up an interesting point about judgments as well.  As a culture and specifically on a college campus, we are taught that judging others is wrong and even dangerous.  But challenge yourself and your thought process… what kind of judgments are you making when on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr?  These automatic judgments are the rationale behind the cautions.  We have done a semi decent job as a society acknowledging that having an automatic racist thought is wrong (we haven’t quite perfected this one), we probably do worse when we encounter overly differing political views, and we are downright terrible at judging someone who is tweeting about how many pots they have smoked.  I bet you judged me for that intentional turn of phrase too. Lawyered.

Combining these points – because people will automatically make judgments & the judgments vary based on who is looking at your postings/tagged pictures/information, be purposeful about your social media use.  Go through your Facebook/Tumblr/Instagram every once and awhile.  You’ll be surprised at how some things that seemed on the fence when you posted it a year ago seems over the line now.

This is not to say that you should portray yourself as an unblemished person either.  Personally, when looking for a roommate I rejected someone for being way too into death metal (no offense, Metallica is about my limit), but welcomed someone with quite differing political viewpoints.  When looking for jobs I have Googled every single potential employer and I imagine they have done the same to me.  I eventually decided that I could easily have personal social media life (high privacy settings) and a professional social media life (no privacy settings).  That was the filter that I applied to my social media life.  What did you choose?

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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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