Self-love and Balance: The Ongoing Inner Struggle

adelle-labrecqueBY ADELLE LaBRECQUE
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong

…I want to swim away but don’t know how, sometimes it feels just like I’m falling in the ocean. Let the waves up and take me down, let the hurricane set in motion, yeah, let the rain of what I feel right now come down, let the rain come down…
-Blue October-

As the days are getting shorter, the darkness noticeably more depressing, it becomes all too easy to watch ourselves increasingly slip into a few common winter routines that may—or may not—benefit our overall well-being. Of course, a few lazy weekends here, an “I-couldn’t-make-it-because-we-were-completely-snowed-in” excuse there, and the occasional mistake of oversleeping are not all bad—until they become routine…our new daily habits. I’m not talking about those well-deserved nights spent binge watching a new series on Netflix, or the hermit-style long weekend we need to “get away from it all.” I’m talking about those unhealthy routines that we all get into from time-to-time, that continually weigh at our energy levels, waste our time, and make us experience silent inner-stress when we indulge in them. Those negative habits and routines that become depressing, downward-spiral behaviors after a point, even to the most positive of personality-types.

As we go about our week, struggling against daily inclement weather conditions, everyday mental and emotional clutter weighing at our shoulders, making our way through yet another research paper—and all the while working against life’s seemingly unceasing deadlines—in, and outside of school.

After the long work day (and now in the dark, by the way), we pick up our sons and daughters from childcare exhausted, footing the daycare bill while we’re at it, smile, silently cringing at the time it takes to watch our little ones zip their winter jackets. Suddenly, we’re reminded via text that we need to pick up those prescriptions at the pharmacy before it closes, and cringe again.

We breathe deep, take our children by the hand and ask about their day, while marveling at the various art projects they’re carrying that will certainly make it to the fridge tonight. We listen to their playground adventures and learn about newly made friends, while internally visualizing our unplanned pharmacy trip and balancing our checkbooks in our minds. As they ask from the back seat what’s for dinner this evening, we hope there’s enough left-overs in the fridge for little mouths tonight. We will gladly eat cereal on this occasion, for the spectacular trade of minimal time spent in the kitchen later.

Surely, these circumstances—familiar to so many of us—can begin to feel like more than just our regular day-to-day stressors. In fact, for a large number of people, these stressors can feel overwhelming to the point that the ongoing unbalance feels out of their control.

As I mentioned in my last Whalesong article, anxiety, feelings of helplessness, depression, and suicide, are all very common personal and social problems in the 49th State.

As we put in those long hours, work against deadlines, rarely take advantage of our sick days, build-up our overtime, all with the goal in mind to make positive change happen for ourselves. We remind ourselves that our hard work will pay off. However, sometimes something as simple as an uplifting reminder from a friend or coworker can truly go a long way in regard to our momentum, emotional well-being, and feelings of value and self-worth.

As you have likely noticed, I put great emphasis on the subject of general well-being and suicide awareness. It is with great excitement and gratitude that I introduce to the reader a highly effective, uplifting, “peer-based” program that UAS has implemented on-campus, called “Sources of Strength.”

Below is an email directly from our on-campus Sources of Strength representative, Chelsea McKenzie, briefly describing the program, including both the local middle and high schools active programs, and the university programs:

The [middle and high school program] trains students as peer leaders and connects them with adult advisors at school and in the community. Advisors support the peer leaders in conducting well-defined messaging activities that aim to change peer group norms influencing coping practices and problem behaviors (e.g., self-harm, drug use, unhealthy sexual practices). The program is strength-based and promotes eight critical protective factors that are linked to overall psychological wellness and reduced suicide risk. These eight factors, or “strengths” are: mental health, medical access, healthy activities, positive friends, family support, mentors, spirituality, and generosity. Specifically, program activities aim to reduce the acceptability of suicide as a response to distress, increase the acceptability of seeking help, improve communication between youth and adults, and develop healthy coping attitudes among youth. The program is also designed to positively modify the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of the peer leaders themselves…The UAS program’s main focus will be the same: to provide the highest quality prevention for suicide, violence, and substance abuse, by training, supporting, and empowering peer leaders to impact their friendship networks; and to end discrepancies amongst populations by creating an inclusive and positive campus environment…with some slight modifications to accommodate the fact that we are now working with adults instead of youth. As a club, our plan is to meet twice a month to talk about issues facing the school (such as depression, suicide, discrimination, drug abuse, etc.) and try to come up with ways to raise awareness while also spreading positive messages and promoting the 8 sources of strength.

With this knowledge, I challenge you, the reader, to do engage in two (perhaps a little unusual) tasks this week: 1. Spread the word about Sources of Strength in conversation—like a ripple effect, this will reach the people who need it. 2. Keep the positive flow going! Make a point to take a few moments out of your day to tell your classmate, coworker, friend, colleague, etc. something that you genuinely admire about that person—completely out-of-the-blue. Better yet, if this is someone you are quite close to, write it down. This will give them something to re-read throughout the day. Having something physical to hold, carry around, touch, and see, really helps to solidify and maintain our upward momentum. Which leads me to my next big point: feeling good about yourself and your appearance. Make the effort. “Dressing for success” can be directly related to how to positively you present yourself to the world. Just like you wouldn’t go to a black-tie event wearing your dirty gym shorts and old faded tee-shirt with the hole in the armpit, it’s equally important that you take care of yourself in these moments of stress. When you’re feeling strong about yourself and your appearance, it creates a “domino effect” in other areas of your life throughout the day. Do this every day of the week, and you are setting yourself up for a darn good one. Think about how you feel in your absolute favorite items of clothing. What is it about them that makes you like them so much? Is it the way they feel? Are they super comfortable? Do the colors flatter your skin, hair, and eyes? Is the design and fit naturally flattering to your physique? Give these things some extra thought. Make your new mantra the following: “There is always time for self-care.”

This is coming directly from the girl who goes days without brushing her own hair. And what is my result, you ask? Avoiding eye-contact with others, (and all general contact, for that matter), head facing down in a cell phone while I walk, a hushed persona in an effort to not be noticed in such a ridiculous state, and just an overall feeling of lower self-worth. If you aren’t feeling “appealing” to yourself, you probably aren’t looking all that strong to others as well, due to your overly self-conscious body language. We are naturally attracted to those who display confident body language and kindness to others, such as strong, poised posture and a smile, (Retrieved from YouTube; Ask Kimberly; November 2, 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5AONeBfzu4). Sometimes, an overall uplift is as simple as a fresh, new look. Get that haircut you’ve been putting off for weeks. Clean that messy car that makes you cringe every time you get into it, praying that no one asks you for a ride. Feeling like you need to update your makeup routine? Call that friend who rocks the art of makeup and invite them over. Have a few cocktails, and make a night of it. Play around with some fresh color palates that flatter your features and personality.

So, with that, take care of yourselves, readers. Watch out for those “winter routines” as they set in, and monitor your well-being. Dress for success and feel strong as a result—trust me, it works wonders. Spread the word about Sources of Strength and remind yourselves that whatever stress you are undergoing, “this too shall pass.”

…Fear in itself will reel you in and spit you out, over and over again. Believe in yourself and you will walk on. Fear in itself will use you up and break you down, like you were never enough, and I used to fall, now I get back up.…
-Blue October-

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