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Navigating Post-Grad Life

I want to first acknowledge that this post doesn’t take into account the additional struggles + loneliness COVID-19 has caused over the past two years, as I graduated in 2018 + can only speak to my experience. For those who have graduated during the pandemic or will be graduating this year, this article has a lot of information + advice about post-grad life with the added impacts the pandemic has caused. 

With all of the excitement that graduation + “adult life” bring, we aren’t usually told about or expecting life post-grad to feel really, really lonely + isolating. You probably will move into a new place, start a new job, + your friends will no longer be down the hall or street — some may not even be in the same timezone as you! For me, it felt like my friends were leaving one by one — by the time my birthday came around in October, I realized I didn’t have many people to invite out. 

Loneliness is only the beginning, though that’s not to say that there isn’t good in this next stage of life! The years following graduation are filled with new experiences + opportunities for so much joy ++ growth. Below are some common experiences that I myself faced post-grad, along with ways to help cope so you can enjoy this *new* chapter of your life!  

The Myth of Post-Grad Joy 

As this article from the Southern New Hampshire University Newsroom states, you won’t find the term “post-grad depression” in the American Psychiatric Association’s dictionary. Still, research shows how real it is + the impact it has on recent grads. 

We’re conditioned to be joyful + celebrate moving forward, but we don’t acknowledge the hurt that can come from ending this phase of your life. When you think about it, by the time you graduate from college, being a student has likely been part of your identity for the past 15-20 years. Two decades of your life have been different versions of similar experiences throughout school, + realizing that you won’t be a student again is a huge change that’s often overlooked. 

Once the ceremonies are over, your “future” comes at full speed. If you don’t have a job lined up after graduation — much like myself, who didn’t land my first full-time gig until eight months post-grad — you may even start to question your purpose, + the comparison game only amplifies. Your social media feed can quickly fill up with photos of your peers celebrating their new life + successes. Although we know social media isn’t reality, it can still hurt to see others doing “better” compared to you. 

It’s important to remind yourself that everyone is on a different journey. + if you find yourself feeling bad about certain people’s posts, now is the perfect time to unfollow + refresh your feeds without worrying about seeing the person around campus. There’s an ill-conceived notion that you need to have your life figured out by the time you graduate, but the truth is that now is the time for growth, experimentation, + truly finding yourself. 

Preparing for A LOT of Change

Chances are you’re not going to stay in your college town after graduation, so your next move will put you in a new neighborhood. After spending the past 4+ years within the same few miles, this can be a significant change that’ll force you to find new routines // commutes // things to do. Your gym, coffee shop, favorite restaurants, etc. will change in the blink of an eye, which may cause some grief. We often associate grief with death, but grief can be caused by any drastic change, especially one you had no control over. 

These feelings aren’t just limited to the months following graduation. Last year, I lost my job of 2.5 years + had a hard time accepting the grief that I was feeling because of this loss. It’s comforting to remember that change is inevitable, being something that every single person goes through, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to navigate. Change can feel like both a good + bad thing at the same time, + that’s okay. Be sure to give yourself grace during this time of change ++ remind yourself that there’s no timetable for you to adjust. 

Navigating New [+ Old] Relationships

Post-grad life really tests the friendships that you have already. Living in different states, being on different work schedules, + even being in different stages of life can take a toll on your friendships. It’s so easy to get caught up in your own world that you forget to reach out to those close to you, + your friends do the same. On the other hand, you might have friendships that fade, + you’ll find that it was actually for the better. While you may have to now plan to hang out with friends, this also means you can choose not to see others. 

It may be the case that you never really had to “try” making friends — natural friendships formed by sharing the same classes, living on the same floor, or being on the same team // in the same club. Post-grad is different. At work, you may only have a few, if any, co-workers that are the same age as you. The same goes for the gym or workout classes. School is a natural environment to create friendships, so don’t be surprised if you start having trouble forming new connections. The biggest (+ hardest!) advice is to put yourself out there. Most people won’t mind having a casual conversation + you never know where it might lead! There are also apps + groups to help you form those connections post-grad — check out these 12 friendship apps

Maximizing Free Time + Minimizing Burnout 

College kids keep themselves busy. In college, I had a 20 hour/week internship, a full class load, + sat on multiple executive boards. Once I went full-time, I realized I had so much free time when I would come home from work… + that was it. I didn’t have to study. I didn’t have to make time for board meetings or group projects. I also realized I didn’t really have hobbies or didn’t care to do the same things anymore. 

I think being active was one of the biggest changes I went through post-grad. For one, I no longer had access to my campus gym + realized just how expensive gym memberships + class passes could be. I also realized how ingrained working out was to my identity while in school, recognizing that part of the “student grind culture” included being active as a way to cope. When I was no longer in the environment of “eat, sleep, school, + workout,” I realized exercising was actually really low on my list of ways I wanted to spend my time. 

Once your busy life starts to slow down, you may not know how to spend your free time. While it can feel overwhelming at first, it’s the perfect time for you to find new hobbies or pick up old ones [like reading for fun!], experiment with different activities, or enjoy the much-needed rest. 

While you’ll likely feel the positives that slowing down brings, it’s also the time that the effects of burnout will catch up to you. Most students who have a “go, go, go” mentality set aside their stress + fatigue — when you always have something to do, it’s easy to “push through.” You may have even developed harmful coping mechanisms like high alcohol + drug use or heavy exercise. For me, therapy was crucial when navigating my burnout + finding new ways of coping with my [new + old] stressors. 

Finding the Path That Works for You

Navigating post-grad life will truly have you going through all of the emotions, + everyone will have different experiences with it. The two most important things to remember, though, are that you’re not alone ++ there’s no “right” experience or path to have during this time. If you find yourself struggling post-graduation, know that there are so many resources + ways to help yourself that you can find throughout the rest of the mental health resource guide.

 

My Experience with OSFED: Navigating a Lesser Known Eating Disorder

I never expected to have an eating disorder. It still sounds weird to say that; it’s never been a term that I’ve been able to identify myself with. I usually say that I have eating issues, or an unhealthy relationship with food, or disordered eating. But if I tell someone I have an eating disorder, I feel like I’m making it up. 

It’s hard to pinpoint when my relationship with food became unhealthy, but I do know that a lot of my habits are correlated with bad body image, which started in high school. I used to think that wearing my hair down made my face look fat, so I always wore it up in a ponytail. I have a larger chest size, so I used to wear sports bras all the time + do YouTube workouts that claimed to help make myself smaller. Somewhere along the line, around junior/senior year, I turned to trying to control my food, thinking that if I looked a certain way, I’d be happier. I started measuring out my granola for breakfast. I started taking the yolks out of eggs. I googled calories  + would panic if I couldn’t properly estimate something + if my calculations showed that my breakfast  + lunch added up more than 500 calories, I would feel out of control. 

The summer before my first year of college, I had a plan to avoid the “freshman 15”. I’ve seen family members go through it + have heard comments made about people from my high school who gained weight in college + I didn’t want that for myself. I wanted to prove to the world that I was capable of making responsible food choices + that I was somehow “better” than those who gained weight in college. I know this is a horribly fatphobic thought – but my mind was too overridden by fear to care. I had a fantasy of coming home too skinny, to the point where people would comment + tell me to eat more. If I was underweight, then I thought I would have “wiggle room” to eat whatever I wanted without fear. I downloaded a calorie counting app once I hit campus + documented everything that I put in my mouth – even breath mints. I worked out 3-4 times a week + would panic if I couldn’t get enough workouts in. The app stressed me out when I couldn’t find certain items from the dining hall on it, forcing me to google + create an estimate that I always doubted. I would do my best to eyeball the portions that the dining hall served me + wished I still had my measuring cups with me. I substituted popcorn for some meals + if I started feeling hungry for a snack, would drink water + tell myself that I wasn’t really hungry. I have no idea if I lost any weight at this time because I wasn’t weighing myself, but no one seemed concerned. 

I ended up having a horrible first year of college due to COVID-19 + a toxic roommate situation. I came home for the summer stressed out + trying to process all the bad feelings I had from the year. My self-esteem was at an all-time low ++ I developed GI issues that left me constantly bloated, which made it even worse. I tried cutting out certain foods, like dairy + gluten, for a week, increasing fiber in my diet + drinking more water but nothing seemed to work. I was so frustrated – I felt like I was doing everything “right” but nothing was working. While I wasn’t using the calorie counting apps that I had, I was still calculating everything I ate [at that point I had a lot of numbers memorized]. Yes, I still ate dessert + yes, my portions of food looked normal. I wasn’t drastically thin. But I would feel guilty on days I ate less healthy + would worry that I was making my GI issues worse. I would exercise more on some days to burn more calories. I would constantly check my body in the mirror, worrying that my bloat would never go away + that everyone else saw it too. 

I knew that my relationship with food wasn’t healthy, especially my thoughts about it. But, I didn’t fit into the boxes of the more commonly known eating disorders; anorexia, bulimia, + binge eating disorder. I’m someone who likes to have a name for my problems, so I spent a lot of time on google trying to find out what the heck was going on. I was always frustrated because I never got a clear answer; I had a problem, but not one that the internet seemed to understand. It also doesn’t help that a lot of my eating habits, my calorie counting, + my guilt are a lot of things that society thinks is normal dieting behavior. 

I ended up transferring to Emory University for my sophomore year + still had a fear of gaining weight. I started seeing a nutritionist for my GI issues, which of course led to me talking about my food fears  + my habits that felt unhealthy, but didn’t seem to fall in the category of an eating disorder. She suggested a few times of the idea of me getting a psychiatrist assessment, but I wasn’t sure. I finally decided to do it after I attempted (unsuccessfully) to make myself vomit after eating a cookie. It was then I was finally given an answer: I have OSFED, which stands for Other Specified Feeding + Eating Disorder. 

OSFED is a type of eating disorder where you are involved in disordered eating habits, but don’t fit diagnostic criteria for any other type of eating disorder. You may fit some criteria for other eating disorders, but not all of the criteria, or you may fit different criteria for multiple types of eating disorders. The minute the psychiatrist diagnosed me, I felt an immense amount of relief – I finally had an answer! After so many months of self- doubt, I got that validation that I needed. This isn’t to say that you have to have a diagnosis to have a legitimate problem, but for me personally, having a name to call my problems grounded me + made me feel less alone in my struggles. It’s almost comforting knowing that there are others out there with OSFED + can relate to some extent what I am going through. When I find out about people who have recovered from OSFED, it gives me hope that there will be a day where I can live life without having this fear + guilt over food + my body weighing so often on my mind. 

In learning more about OSFED + EDs in general, my eyes have been opened about how complex EDs are. When I was younger, I used to think of most people with EDs as being significantly thin or obese + only having bulimia, anorexia, or binge-eating disorder. I used to think that you could easily tell that someone has an ED based on how they act. Even when I was older + started learning that those ideals weren’t true, I still would hold myself up to those standards + use them to say that my own experience wasn’t valid. But there are many people suffering from eating disorders + there are many different behaviors that people engage in that may not look like the image of EDs that are commonly shown in the media. However, among those different experiences, you can also find common ground with other people who have EDs. I have friends with EDs + we definitely have different experiences with different levels of severity but we also have similarities in how we view food + how we navigate overcoming our EDs. What’s important is that ALL our experiences are valid + we ALL deserve a chance to get help + break free from our EDs. 

As a transfer student coming from a bad college experience, I set out looking for a club where I could be a part of a close-knit group of people. One day I was scrolling through Instagram + came across Emory CHAARG’s account. I looked at all these pictures of cool workouts + groups of girls looking like they were having the best time + thought that sounded like a great club for me. However, I was also worried that, being focused on workouts, it would be the type of club that focused on unhealthy diet culture habits that would make my OSFED worse. I decided to DM the account + asked if it would be a good fit for someone with body image issues + an eating disorder. They told me that CHAARG is a super safe space + that they focus more on how they feel after a workout, not what it makes your body look like. I decided to join + it was the best decision I made. The moment I showed up at my first workout, everyone welcomed me + made me feel included. I have a great small group + overall I love trying new workouts + growing close with this awesome group of girls. The person who I messaged with was right — I have yet to hear anyone talk about their bodies or about food in a negative way. In fact, I’ve heard girls praise each other for how strong they are + what they’ve accomplished in their lives that has nothing to do with weight or appearance. Some of our bonding activities have involved making cookies + going to Sweetgreen after workouts + trying the newest Crumbl menu. With CHAARG, food isn’t something to be afraid of, or something that needs to be “worked off”, but something to enjoy. Bodies aren’t picked apart or made fun of, but celebrated in all shapes + sizes. I’ve never felt shamed for any food choice that I’ve made + on the few occasions I mention my struggles with my body image, these girls always let me know that I’m supported for who I am + not what I look like.

My journey with OSFED continues to have its ups + downs. The other week I had Panera for the first time without overthinking or stressing out about calories. A few days ago I felt anxious about having a gyro. Eating disorders, like any mental illness, are never going to have a straight path to recovery. But as long as you have a strong support system, + surround yourself with people who remind you that there’s more to life than calories + beauty standards, you’ll start relearning how to live free from the control of an ED.

 

Mental Health Post Breakup: 4 Resources To Use

Mental Health Post Breakup: 4 Resources To Use

In the beginning of February of this year, I went through something that I was convinced I would never have to go through again – I was broken up with on a random Monday after 4 years of dating. Now, don’t get me wrong, looking back I probably did see it coming + had been overlooking many issues that had arisen in the relationship. But, in the moment, I couldn’t have been more shocked, anxious, + heartbroken. While I am still working through this time in my life – this period of new growth, I’ve discovered many resources along the way that have really helped me as I embarked on this journey that I did not necessarily choose. While I do not wish anyone to have to go through this period of pain + longing, I do hope that you find comfort in these resources in the same way that I did ++ that you begin to choose what truly makes YOU happy as you embrace your new *single* era. 

Here are the 4 biggest resources I’ve used during my healing journey post breakup: 

Therapy

First + foremost, the number one thing that helped me immediately post-breakup was therapy. 

I had already been going to therapy prior to the breakup, but even if you’ve never seen a counselor – I definitely recommend checking out therapy during your breakup + healing journey. Seeing my therapist during my breakup gave me a sense of relief. Even weeks after the initial breakup, I still come out of my therapy sessions feeling like I can breathe again + like I have unloaded a week’s worth of feelings ++ emotions about the relationship with someone who will always listen. While we often turn to our friends + family for advice during this season of life, sometimes it is beneficial to hear opinions +  insight from someone who is unattached from the situation. 

Check out CHAARG’s guide to finding a therapist here! 

#BreakupTok

Immediately after the breakup, I felt a really strong desire for comfort. This is where I turned to breakup TikTok which actually became a really beneficial + integral part of my healing journey ++ still is a few months later. The breakup side of TikTok reminded me that I was [+ am] not alone in my feelings, in my healing journey, or in my experience, which brought me the comfort that I was looking for immediately post-breakup. Seeing others going through these same intense waves of emotion as me, + still coming out stronger on the other side, was both comforting + empowering for me during the initial season of the breakup. 

During the first few weeks of my breakup + even up until now, TikTok was ++ is the only form of social media that I kept on my phone. I knew that if I went on social media, I would be tempted to look my ex up + see what/how he was doing… which I also knew would be damaging to my mental health in the fragile state that many of us are in post-breakup. While I feel like now, I do not have as strong of a desire surrounding social media as I did in the beginning of the breakup season + I would trust myself to redownload it at this point, I have enjoyed my time unplugged so much that I have not redownloaded any social media apps for the time being! Initially, I decided to keep TikTok since it is very curated to the types of content that we want to be seeing, so when I wanted to see only #breakuptok, that was all that I saw ; ) 

An account that I found through breakup Tik Tok was called theblondeinpink + her breakup  TikToks, as well as her podcast, Main Character Moment really helped me during the first part of my breakup journey ++ reminded me that I was going to be okay. I have now listened to all of her podcast episodes + always tune into the new ones every Tuesday ; )

Books 

Books were also a place where I found comfort right after the breakup + right now. I discovered a book called Attached. The Science of Adult Attachment and How it can Help You Find and Keep Love by Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel Heller, M.A. which is all about attachment styles in relationships. I really enjoyed this book because it helped me learn a lot about my own attachment style + how it was presenting itself in my former relationship. I was also able to identify patterns in attachment styles that I saw in my past relationship + partner. This book helped me reflect on issues that existed with both of our perceived attachment styles + how I can help develop a secure attachment style in my next relationship. I highly recommend this book, I was able to learn a lot about attachment styles, as well as reflect on the attachment styles that my former boyfriend + I brought into our relationship, which helped answer some lingering questions that were in the back of my mind. 

Journaling 

Journaling is another tool that helped me a lot, as it allowed me to sort out some really big feelings + emotions that I was experiencing ++ discover that these feelings may change over time. It kept me in tune with my emotions + assured that I was  working through things rather than avoiding the tough emotions surrounding the relationship. I found journaling prompts through TikTok + by asking my therapist for healing prompts that I should work through. Check out some of my favorite journaling prompts below!

  • One journal prompt that I got from my therapist that helped a lot was creating a list of what I deserve in a relationship. I listed them out after I reflected on them + hung them on my mirror to remind myself of what I am deserving of in a relationship, + reminding myself not to stop until I find what I deserve! 
  • I also found myself journaling a lot about what I would want to say to my boyfriend, if I were to reach out. This helped me a lot in terms of feeling like I was “getting things off my chest” + really helped me to relax at night since this exercise seemed to clear my mind very well if I felt that I was feeling chaotic or anxious at the end of the day. 
  • A journaling resource that I purchased was the breakup pack cards from the game “We’re Not Really Strangers,” which came with 50 cards that are intended for people to use when journaling after a breakup. A sample of what one of the prompts is like from the pack is “Write about 3 things that you enjoy about being single.” The cards can be found here: We’re Not Really Strangers: Breakup Edition

While I could talk for hours more listing resources + advice that have helped me over the last few months, these were the biggest resources that brought me comfort when I needed it, but also pushed me out of my comfort zone during my healing journey. I have also been making sure to carve out time for the things that bring me joy + fill up my cup during this time period – things like working out, being outside, spending time with family ++ friends, or even something as small as making myself coffee in the morning that I know that I will enjoy. My biggest piece of advice would be to give yourself grace after your breakup + let yourself feel all of the emotions that come with this period of growth. Know that there is no timeline on healing from a breakup + that it is okay if sometimes you feel like you have taken one step forward ++ then two steps back. You will get through it + look back on the healing journey as a time when you learned a lot about yourself, what you deserve, ++ when you’re ready, even how you want to show up in your next relationship. 

Working With The Doubt Inside Your Head: My Experience With Imposter Syndrome + Tools to Overcome It

Throughout my life I’ve been privileged to work + learn beside several highly driven, talented, + intelligent peers.  I’m beyond grateful for all of these experiences + each has helped me grow tremendously.  However many also caused me to question – did I deserve those opportunities? Was I worthy of these interactions? + were my abilities enough to “keep up” + be valuable in these collaborations?

As the accolades I achieved continued to accumulate, the questions in my head became louder.  Soon enough I entered a vicious cycle where my own self-induced question of my abilities manifested my core fear – not being a useful project member/intern/employee/student/etc.  I was fearful to critique a teammate’s ideas out of the possibility of being wrong in my analysis, + surely did not speak up when I didn’t understand something they discussed to avoid looking “dumb”.  Only in rare circumstances did I share an idea – and when I did, it was preceded by “I’m not sure if this will work but..”  By doing so, I forced my teammates to assume I had no ideas, no ability to enhance group discussion, + held only the ability to execute basic tasks. 

It took me several years to slowly start to become more confident in my abilities + willing to accept that I deserved to be where I was.  I owe much of this to the friends + family that gave me the external validation I needed in some of my times of doubt, + to the peers + professors who insisted my thoughts + ideas be heard even when I deemed them not worthy of sharing.  Over time, I’ve learned to separate my logic from my emotions + recognizing when it’s imposter syndrome speaking, + when it’s reality speaking.  While I still find myself facing these thoughts + questions from time to time, I can definitely say I’ve become better at accepting my competency + learning to be comfortable speaking up, asking questions, + allowing myself to learn from failures.

If you resonate with parts of my story you’re not alone.  These thoughts are extremely common especially amongst highly achieving individuals.  A multi-study review published in 2019 found up to 60% of medical students, PhD candidates, + college students experience this + many of the studies cited found prevalence was higher in women specifically[1-6].  So how do we learn to work with these thoughts?  Here’s 5 ways I’ve found helpful (from reading literature on the subject + experience): 

Learn to separate logic from emotion + use the emotion for good.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is not to ignore those feelings or try to pretend they don’t exist – they’re there, + they’re real.  What we can do however is recognize this is what I’m feeling, + separate it from “these are the facts I know.”  

Example: When I won an academic merit scholarship my junior year, emotionally, I felt as though others were as smart or smarter than me, seemed to pick up material more quickly, had more intellectual questions than me in class etc.  Logically however I knew I took the same classes + had the same opportunities as everyone else that was considered.  I knew that I studied hard + I earned the grades I did on exams + assignments, and performed as I did on presentations and projects  which got me this award + therefore I deserved it.  Once you’ve separated that emotion from logic -take that emotion, isolate it + use it for good.  This may seem completely counterintuitive, but this article from Harvard Business review sums it up well! [7]  The jist of it is this:  the feelings of nervousness/wondering if we’re belonging or deserving of our positions show how much we care + also that we want to continue to grow!  This is good!  In this example: wondering if we deserve the scholarship makes us question if we really mastered the material taught to us at a satisfactory level.  To use this for good we should use it as motivation to continue to study hard, do well in future classes, + enhance our academic merit.

Pattern match what you have not what you don’t have.

Another great tip from a woman in the tech industry.  In her article detailing her experiences with imposter syndrome she discusses how in times of doubt we tend to look for patterns of qualities that others in our equal positions have that we don’t [8]. “They all got over a 95% on this exam, they all can do X,Y,+ Z easily, they all contribute ideas in groups, etc, etc”  What we fail to often do, is pattern match what we do have –  “I have strong technical communication skills, I was able to critically think through this problem, I also did well on this exam, etc.” 

Focus on where you are not how you got there.

It’s no secret that talented + deserving people get denied opportunities. It’s also no secret that there are thousands of factors that go into many high profile decisions.  Ultimately we will never know nor can we control these factors.  In any high profile accolade we achieve or opportunity we get, there is likely another deserving person out there – but none of that discounts that it is us who is deserving to be in that position or with that opportunity.  It is useless to fixate on why we got here over them – they are not here and asking the question of “would they have done better?” does no one any service.  Rather, we need to focus on the fact that we were chosen + selected + put our best effort into making the most of that opportunity out of respect for ourselves and those who were potentially equally as deserving but were not selected.  

Learn to exercise intellectual caution without self-doubt.

Something I struggled with for a really long time was finding the balance between being confident in my idea’s merit, but not giving a false sense of certainty that it would work.  In many fields, mine included, decisions will impact lives.  False certainty or premature acceptance of an idea can have grave consequences so a certain level of doubt + caution is not only smart, but critical.  Naturally this can be hard to do while battling thoughts of imposter syndrome concurrently.  I often found myself hesitant to give ideas out of fear of them having bad outcomes + not being challenged.  One way I found helpful to combat this was to eliminate “I don’t know” from my vocabulary when presenting ideas.  When presenting ideas in a group – if I was unsure about an aspect of the idea, rather than saying “I don’t know if this will work” I’d say “If we can verify X, Y, + Z, I think this idea is plausible” or “I think we should try this, but we’ll have to look into this as well”.  This allowed me to share my legitimate intellectual concerns, while presenting confidence in my idea’s merit to be taken seriously by my peers.

Normalize your standard.

I often found that my fears that I was underperforming stemmed from unrealistic expectations.  I held myself to a standard that I should already know everything + was afraid to ask questions out of fear of looking dumb for not knowing.  The reality is – we are all here to learn.  If we already knew everything, we wouldn’t be there!  Instead of telling yourself they are going to find you out or that you don’t deserve success, remind yourself that it’s normal not to know everything + that you will find out more as you progress.  Additionally, consider the greater context – nobody knows everything.  There’s a reason that every major innovation or problem solving committee involves a large interdisciplinary team from various backgrounds of expertise – because not one of them alone could answer any question relating to every facet of the design or problem.   Most people will have experiences, moments, or occasions where they don’t feel 100% confident. There may be times when you feel out of your depth + self-doubt can be a normal reaction. If you catch yourself thinking that you are useless, reframe it: “the fact that I feel useless right now does not mean that I really am, I just may be out of my comfort zone or area of expertise.”

Sources:

  1. Gottlieb, M, Chung, A, Battaglioli, N, Sebok-Syer, SS, Kalantari, A. Impostor syndrome among physicians and physicians in training: A scoping review. Med Educ. 2020; 54: 116– 124. https://doi.org/10.1111/medu.13956;
  2. Clance PR, Imes SA. The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy. 1978; 15(3): 241- 247.
  3. Topping ME, Kimmel EB. The imposter phenomenon: feeling phony. Acad Psychol Bull. 1985; 7(2): 213- 226.
  4. Villwock JA, Sobin LB, Koester LA, Harris TM. Impostor syndrome and burnout among American medical students: a pilot study. Int J Med Educ. 2016; 7: 364- 369.
  5. Henning K, Ey S, Shaw D. Perfectionism, the impostor phenomenon and psychological adjustment in medical, dental, nursing and pharmacy students. Med Educ. 1998; 32(5): 456- 464.
  6. Qureshi MA, Taj J, Latif MZ, Rafique S, Ahmed R, Chaudhry MA. Imposter syndrome among Pakistani medical students. Ann King Edw Med Univ. 2017; 23(2): 107- 111.
  7. Imber, A. A. I. (2021, May 17). How to make friends with your inner imposter. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2021/05/how-to-make-friends-with-your-inner-imposter
  8. Yan, E. (2021, April 18). My impostor syndrome stories (guest post by Susan Shu). Eugeneyan.Com. https://eugeneyan.com/writing/imposter-syndrome-susan/ 

 

The Other Break Up: An End of Friends

My name is Caroline + I recently finished my master’s degree at Boston College. I’ve been at Boston College for a while – I completed my undergrad degree here as well + was the Treasurer ++ Ambassador for Boston College CHAARG. I’ve also been a CLC [Chapter Leadership Consultant] for the past two years on Team CHAARG, ++ now am transitioning to an RCL [Regional Chapter Lead] for the 22-23 school year!

Before heading off to college, you might hear advice like this: be careful at parties, talk to everyone in your dorm, study a lot, + have an open-mind when meeting new people. What they might not tell you is this: friendships in college can be tough + they will change. 

I look back on my first day at Boston College + know that I am not the same person I was moving into my dorm. It’s no secret that we all change + that includes our friends + friendships. We cannot expect all of our childhood [or freshmen college!] friendships to stand the test of time + as I’ve learned, that’s okay. 

I always thought that the friends I met my first few weeks of college were going to be the friends I had for the rest of my life. Does this sound familiar? A lot of people will tell you “you’ll meet your best friends on your dorm floor” or “your sorority pledge class will become your best friends” – but it’s also important to remember that maybe that *won’t* be the case for you! 

In March 2020 the world changed + I saw myself changing too. The pandemic granted me the time to slow down + see changes I wanted to make for myself. I realized I wanted to make a change with some aspects of my life because they were no longer serving me in a positive way + bringing me joy. I no longer had a strong desire to go out + party three times a week. I no longer wanted to drink for the sake of getting drunk. I began to realize that this would also mean  some of my friendships were going to change because of these things I just no longer wanted to do! I also realized the kind of friends who I wanted in my life were people who would support the person I wanted to become [not just who I was] + enjoy new shared experiences with me. 

As I began realizing that I wanted new friends, I began asking myself these questions:

  • What do I want for my future self?
  • Are these the friends that help me be the best version of myself?
  • What experiences do I want to have with my friends? What are things I don’t necessarily want to do with my friends?

I began to let go of my past friendships + make new friendships on campus [keep in mind – this is my junior/senior year of college]! While this isn’t what freshman Caroline saw for herself, I am so grateful that I had the confidence + grace to let my old friends go. 

That being said – the memories I have with old [or no longer a part of my life] friends will always be a part of it. The experiences and times we shared together will always be building blocks to who I am right now + I wouldn’t change any of it! I am here today, the person I am, because of the experiences with those old friends + just because they aren’t in my life anymore doesn’t mean I am not grateful for them! 

I am happy that I had the flexibility to see when friendships weren’t serving me anymore + find friends that share the same values I do + can grow with me ++ support me in the ways that I want to be supported. While I haven’t had these friendships for long, these are the friendships that have had the biggest impact on my life ++ I’m confident will continue to do so. If you’re going through a friendship break up right now, know that you are not alone. There are people out there who will love you for you + it is OK [heck – it’s healthy!] to change. 

The CHAARG Guide To Finding A Therapist

Hello my CHAARG friends! I’m Lilie, a CLC on team CHAARG + MSU CHAARG alum [go green ; )] This past year I re-started the process of trying therapy + I want to share what I learned with you all. 

The Backstory 

I felt really overwhelmed during the process of applying to vet school in 2020 while I was still at MSU. The pandemic hadn’t hit yet + I just felt like my life was falling apart around me because I wasn’t getting into many schools. I went to MSU’s counseling service + my experience was, in summary, poor. I was told my options were to find someone to provide me long term care outside of school [without any guidance] or join group therapy. I was also getting the vibe that I had overreacted about my needs + that it was totally expected for me to feel this stressed. I walked out discouraged + confused ++ didn’t go back. *Disclaimer: my best friend went with me that day + had the opposite experience with the counselor she spoke to. I’ll talk more about this later but if you don’t find a good fit on your first try, keep. trying.

After that experience, I abandoned the idea of finding a therapist + didn’t revisit the idea until January 2022. I found myself feeling overwhelmed by veterinary school, being far from home, missing my friends + the honestly missing life pre-pandemic. Everything I’d avoided talking about was catching up to me. However, the same person [my best friend] I went with to find therapy at MSU had found her therapist match in October. She was so honest with me about her experience that I was inspired to start again + find a therapist for myself. 

I contacted my university services + found my perfect match right away [honestly, out of sheer luck] but I wasn’t able to stick with her long term because that wasn’t what my university had hired her to do. She “puts out fires” for all of the professional schools at my University. I was so upset but she encouraged me to find someone else for the long-term process who could continue to guide me through the feelings that veterinary school brings on. While I’m happy that I did it, it was daunting + uncomfortable. I hope what I learned in the process can help to streamline your journey! 

Finding A Therapist Is Like Dating

Preface: It will probably take longer than you think to find someone who can see you. Many people are seeking therapy right now! In my experience, I had to email offices to follow up + place a few phone calls/week to try to find someone taking new patients. 

This can be a discouraging feeling. It’s okay to take breaks in reaching out, but don’t give up – you got this! 

Your Online Search: 

  • First impressions mean something! When looking for someone, ask yourself how you feel reading their bio + seeing their photo [if they have one!] online. You will be sitting to chat with them about your life + if you don’t like the vibes from your first impression on a search engine, you may not like their vibes in real life [not always but this was a tip recommended to me by my counselor at school].
  • Learn about how they were trained. I was also encourage to look into what the letters after someone’s name means. I had no idea how important it would be to me how a person was trained BUT it manifests in how they practice. Therapy is a practice + my goals may differ from what some people offer! Learn more about the different letters after someone’s name + what they mean here.
  • Check out different types of therapy. Some people specialize in different types of therapy, too, like CBT, art therapy, coaching, etc. + if you’re interested in a certain technique, you should ask about that in your first session OR use the filters to someone who can offer that to you on Psychology Today’s search engine. Find the different types of therapy here!
  • Below are the search engines I used to find my therapist [note: this is not an exhaustive list, it’s just the resources that I used + might help you]!
    • Blue Cross Blue Shield “Find a Doctor” Search Engine. *BCBS is my insurance provider, but most insurance providers have a feature like this that will show you doctors in your area that are covered under your insurance.
    • Psychology Today. After using this search engine I googled the people that I thought would be a good fit for me to see if I could find any reviews or more info on google/yelp!
    • Headway.co. Pro: many people on this site take insurance + have almost immediate availability! Con: I didn’t end up using this platform because they asked me to pay a monthly fee to receive services.
    • SAMHSA. *Note: I’ve linked the search engine rather than the homepage. The homepage has a lot of information for services related to substance abuse as well.
    • Alma. Another great telehealth service similar to BetterHelp but works with your insurance!

Financial Barriers: 

It’s no secret – therapy can be expensive. This is one of the reasons I didn’t want to look into long-term therapy in 2020. However, in my most recent search I learned a few ways I could help myself to finance the experience.

  • University Resources: Despite my experience at MSU with one counselor – I am so happy I started here. First, it was free [bonus woooo!]. Second, a lot of counselors on campus are used to talking through issues that people at your college/university are going through + have an easier time ~relating~ to you [double bonus]. Every campus is different in what they offer students. If your university does not offer long-term counseling services [like mine] it can also be helpful to have a relationship with someone on campus who can talk you through the process, recommend therapists they know, + to support you in finding someone who is the right fit for you! *Note if you live near a college or university, look to see if they offer mental health services for people in your community!
  • If university resources aren’t an option: Do you have health insurance that covers mental health services?
    • Yes: If you do, you can search for therapists through their website OR you can put your insurance info into the PsychologyToday.com search engine + find therapists in your area who accept your insurance.
    • No: Sites like BetterHelp offer mental health services at affordable rates [starting at $40/week + they offer financial aid!] in comparison to traditional practices.

**Check out this article for other tips on how to get treatment if you can’t afford it.  

Your First [Therapy] Date 

It can be intimidating to go to your first therapy session – so we actually wrote an entire blog post about what to expect during your first therapy session

*Note: if you go to your first therapy session + feel like it might not be your thing – that is okay. Traditional talk therapy is not for everyone. I encourage you to talk to someone about other options for you! You can also share with your therapist that you maybe didn’t totally *feel* it with them + get recommendations for other therapists or techniques to try. 

Are They *The One*? 

Take some time after the session to think about whether or not you see your relationship with them working out. Ask yourself…

  • Did I feel heard//comfortable sharing?
  • Did they offer the energy that I would like to receive in this space [there is no right or wrong but there is definitely personal preference. For example, I like someone who can offer sarcasm//quick wit + who tells it like it is] 
  • If applicable, do they offer any specific therapy services I’m looking for [ex: art therapy]
  • Do I like video call therapy//in office therapy [whichever you try!] or would I prefer something else?
  • Do they ask me to do things outside of our time that I feel will contribute to my goals? 

With all of these questions, it’s important to keep in mind that the answers should align with what you see yourself taking from this experience. This is for YOU. Note: If you feel misaligned + it isn’t obvious to you why  feel free to continue shopping for therapists or take a break. This process is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Like all relationships, don’t feel pressured to stick with it if it doesn’t meet your needs. Shopping around can be frustrating + time consuming but it is rewarding to find someone who checks all your boxes + encourages you to be your best you.

It’s Not A Marriage! 

One of the most important things I wish I knew before starting this process [in 2020] was that when I graduate therapy I don’t have to start all over if I want to come back unless I want to. I had this preconceived idea that I’d be in therapy for life once I started or would have to find a new provider every time I potentially re-started. This is not the case! ++ It also means if after a few months of seeing someone if it’s not working out, you can still find someone else! 

There are a lot of confusing things about the process + maybe you still have questions that I didn’t touch on today. I’m not an expert by any means but I am always available to chat//answer questions to the best of my ability : )  pls DM me @lilie_inchaarg or email me at clc.lilierose@gmail.com

Grieving The Living: My Experience With Unconventional Grief

When I was 11 years old my mom began stuttering + struggling to come up with words. From there it seemed her health snowballed day by day. Her speech deteriorated rapidly then she began losing motor functions on her left side + started having seizures. Doctors spent years poking + prodding her, diagnosing her with things like MS + Brain Cancer before they reached the subsequent diagnosis of RVCL, a rare genetic disease. The degenerative disease quickly robbed her of her independence. The ability to walk, talk, + do all of the things that brought her joy like knitting, nights out with friends, + playing with our dogs, seemingly leaving a shell of who she once was behind.

Upon diagnosis, she was given ten years to live + every year it seemed we lost a bit more of who she was. I struggled to understand why I was losing the woman I knew to be my mom. The one that corralled my friends + I to ++ from school. Chaperoned every class field trip. Spent summers dropping me off at sleep-away camp. Packed my lunch with me every night + tried her best to cook dinner… even though she wasn’t the greatest cook. I came to resent her for getting sick, unable to separate my feelings about her illness + her actually being ill. This is something common for people experiencing unconventional grief, grieving someone that’s still technically living but not in the same way you knew them. For ten years I spent every day grieving my mom until she finally passed in September of 2021. After her passing, I was inundated with messages consoling me of my loss but for me, her death was the easiest part. I knew she was finally at peace + so was I because it felt like the last piece of the puzzle was finally in place. If anything I could have used those messages every year since her diagnosis but the people around me struggled to understand that. To them, grief was something that came after death but it commonly begins long before death arrives. We grieve the loss of so many things along the way, personality, independence, stability, hope, future dreams, + countless other losses. Grief is about so much more than just death.

Many people experience grief after the passing of a loved one but I experienced it during. Death is often viewed as the basis for grief but mourning the deceased is only one facet of it. I hope by sharing my story I can help others feel seen on their journey with unconventional + anticipatory grief.

1.] Don’t let others tell you how you’re supposed to grieve

For years people would make comments like “at least your mom is still here, you just need to value the time you have with her because she’s not dead yet.” But to me she was dead. The woman who raised me was no longer the woman that was present in my life + she wouldn’t be the same person in the years to come either as her disease accelerated. These comments diminished how I felt about my grieving process + made me feel like I was taking the wrong approach. Don’t let others tell you how you’re supposed to grieve. Unfortunately, there’s no dedicated formula or guidebook + no amount of self-help books will give you the exact answer you’re looking for. Anticipatory grief lessens the grief following a loss for some, while others’ grief following a loss may not be impacted at all. However, you’re grieving know that your process is normal + take it at your own pace, not at one that others try to prescribe you.

2.] Find your people

It’s easy to feel like you’re all alone in a wide-open field when grieving. For me, this loneliness quickly turned to self-isolation + I cut off all my friends, bottling up any negative emotions that tried to surface. It’s hard at first, I will be the first person to say that but you have to find your people + lean into them throughout this process. This can mean, friends, community, family, therapists, support groups, or a combination of all. Therapy was + still is the biggest tool for me. Having someone I can share my emotions with in a neutral environment is so beneficial which is why I’m rounding out my seventh year in it! This year I will be joining my first support group for other families affected by my mom’s disease. Being in an environment where others genuinely understand what you’re going through + can sympathize from experience is something I think I would have benefited from throughout the process.

3.] Write down your most treasured memories

At times it’s easy to get caught up in the illness, losing sight of who the person was. One way I combat this is by writing down some of my most treasured memories as they come up. Then on the bad days, I have a collection of uplifting stories, quotes, + pictures that can help ground me.

4.] Let yourself grieve

Losing someone to disease, addiction, traumatic brain injury, etc. is painful + it can be hard to acknowledge losses along the way when they’re constant. I encourage you to let yourself feel your emotions at the moment + to know that they are completely normal. Acknowledge that even though your loved one may not be dead yet you are still allowed to grieve. When someone formally passes you may experience a sense of relief that is completely normal but can quickly turn to guilt. Feeling relieved doesn’t mean you love the person any less. Mindfulness is one tool that’s helped me stay present + aware of the emotions I’m coping with as they come + go.

5.] Take care of yourself

Easier said than done, right? CHAARG has helped me find great ways to take care of myself by exploring a new workout every week surrounded by a community of supportive women to get my mind off things. Some other ways I take care of myself are through yoga + meditation. Sometimes taking care of yourself just means letting your emotions out. As college students, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have time to ruminate on your own thoughts but sometimes that’s exactly what you need. This can help you come back with a clearer mind as you approach daily tasks.

 

A Perennial Pandemic: My Lifelong Journey with Depression, Anxiety, + Realization

Hey CHAARG community!  My name is Madison Borkovich, + I am the VP Membership of the largest CHAARG chapter ever at Pennsylvania State University.  I am a junior double majoring with honors in Human-Centered Design + Development with an application focus area in Security + Risk Analysis, as well as Film Production.  I also minor in Information Sciences + Technology, with a certificate in Presidential Leadership Academy, a selective program which I am a web + social media intern for!    

When I received a call to write in to the national blog for Mental Health Month, I undoubtedly picked it up.  Throughout my life, I have been not only an avid writer, but also, a first-hand advocate for mental health recognition + support.  My way with words has helped me to influence many people + reach unthinkable heights, so I had to ensure that my achievements translated into helping CHAARG, a movement which has changed my life.   

Just like all of you, I assume many roles: a dedicated student, an active family member, a wholehearted friend, a hardworking employee, + an unforgettable leader in CHAARG.  Furthermore, I am many things that define me: a role model, an advocate + activist, an aspiring lawyer, ++ a vessel for the future.  However, I have come to learn that though I have struggled with them for about twelve + seven years respectively, I am not depression + anxiety, ++ they do not define me.  Let me take you through my journey.  

I’m not really sure exactly what kicked things off: maybe it was because I was a target as one of the few “gifted” people who got pulled out from my class a lot, possibly because I was super tall for my age + looked older, or, who knows, a couple of girls in the fourth grade population could have just been bored one day.  But, at the young age of nine, my short, yet intensive, journey with bullying began.  One of the many immediate lowlights that comes to mind is when I was sitting in the lunch room with some friends, + an infamous fellow student dumped her entire pack of Goldfish crackers (pre-crushed by her + her two sidekicks) into my hair right before our concert performance.  

Though things subsided by middle school, some damage was already done.  I felt like an outsider who was ugly outside + weak inside, ++ wondered why I was so sad all the time.  Even though I was enrolled in therapy, it didn’t really help.  What was wrong with me?  

As all of this was occuring, I was also undergoing a lot of ups + downs at home, which continued from about third or fourth grade all the way up until I left for college.  Though I have always known that my parents care deeply about me, a lot of the time, I have not been able to resonate with them frequently, or truly feel that I am understood very often.  This missing piece to the puzzle of life, combined with some moments at home which deeply damaged my confidence, growth, + perceptions, only added to the struggles with deep sadness ++ paralyzing thoughts that had by now begun to consume me.  

The summer before high school came around: a time rife with transition.  By this time, I was a straight A, multi-instrument-softball-playing student who had collected a plethora of awards + activism accolades.  I was ready for this new challenge in my life in terms of coursework, organizational involvements, + leaving a legacy… but instead, I got toxic relationships.  To make a long story short, over the next few months, I got tied up with an I-thought-was-good-but-was-actually-awful crowd.  A much older boy used my naivety against me to emotionally cheat on another girl, friends chose a side + turned against one another, ++ the whole thing ended with tears on my birthday in Orlando coupled with me having to make a report with district counseling services which went on to our local cyber crimes officer.  

Then came college: the best time of my life.  I was thriving in independence, my roommate was my best friend, + every day was a new opportunity to pave my way ++ make an impact.  With stellar involvements, especially this new fitness group called CHAARG, a 4.0 GPA, + the Happy Valley community, the times that I laid in bed not wanting to wake up the next day or sat in my room worried to an extremely concerning point about my future seemed so far away that they could well have been in another universe.  I left for spring break ready to rejuvenate from the pressures of the elite Schreyer Honors College, my leadership roles, + my demanding coding, technology, ++ production courses: only to then be out of physical school for almost two years.  

Though nice at first, online learning in my home environment eventually sent me back into a spiral.  When I finally did come back to college, in a twist that I never would have seen coming, I had roommate drama that I ended up in the middle of. The weight of the chaos began to drag me down, + the more I tried to be a fixer, the worse things got for me internally. With a thesis, the hardest classes I had ever taken in my life, + my new role as the VP Membership of CHAARG for 529 members (!!!), I was past the brink of madness, + something had to change.  I was tired of the depression + anxiety yo-yo, of my hair falling out from stress, + of feeling like I was carrying a two ton elephant on my chest while keeping up the “she’s so perfect” appearances that everyone else bestowed upon me.  

So, I re-enrolled in therapy… + though there was an immediate relief of being able to tell someone else all of the wild, MTV-episode-like DISASTERS that were going on in my life, things actually got… worse?  I couldn’t believe that I felt this low.  Despite me doing every textbook thing to get help, nothing was effective.  I wanted to stop the sessions that I had started to view as a waste of my time + money.  But, I persevered.  I was honest.  My therapist said… “Would you be opposed to medication?”  Although there is a huge stigma in my family about it, I said: “Jena… if you think it would work… I would try absolutely anything to feel like the self I want to be again.”  So, after again prevailing through the seemingly endless two weeks of my not-being-able-to-sleep-through-a-night side effect, while attending more sessions, I felt a change. 

Let me get things straight: it wasn’t like a magic pill gave me my life + power back yet.  Am I where I once was?  No.  Will I ever be?  Who knows?  But, it was a combination of advocating for myself + addressing both interior ++ exterior causes that got me to where I am today.  My brain is my biggest asset, + maybe that tradeoff is that it has the chemical tendency to take me to extremes.  If I were having an allergic reaction to shrimp or shellfish, I would make sure to inject myself with an Epi-pen.  So if my mind is prone to these unfavorable reactions, why would I not treat it the same way?  Also, though anxiety has been harder, I have always been aware of what externally will send me into what I call “a depressive spiral.”  So, then came the question of: how do I stop the spiral?  Once it starts, as I told my therapist, I just know I can’t… so, it dawned on me, I had to do whatever I could to make sure it didn’t.  

Though different tactics may work for different people, I have found my big thing: boundaries.  Never in my life before college have I had a firm boundary.  Sure, I told people not to do things, or that I wanted X, Y, or Z, but I always let myself be swayed, pushed, guilted, manipulated, or threatened.  Not anymore.  Now, I set clear expectations, +, most importantly, hold firm in them!  Also, I realize how, go, go, go, my lifestyle is.  It is taxing to take around twenty credits a semester, be involved in so much, + go out three or four times every week.  Although I am a HUGE seize your life type of person, I now know when I can let loose, + when I have to cut back on the partying + play catch up for a night.  

In addition to my relationship with myself + my mind, I have also reassessed my relationships with people.  Before, at times, I would put quantity on the same scale as quality.  After my internal work, now, I will scream from the rooftops to cut off dead weight!  If a relationship of any sort is not serving you, let.  It.  GO!  Also, get a support system!  In addition to my sister (most of the time, LOL), I would not be the person I am without two of my best friends + fellow Penn State CHAARG execs, Caitlin Ramage ++ Olivia Wright.  Last for this blog post, but certainly not least; find validation within yourself.  Though I am still working diligently on this one, do not seek your happiness in other people’s words or actions.  If you want to accomplish a goal + others doubt you, prove them wrong.  When someone says your outfit is ugly, wear it so well that people stop you everywhere you go to compliment you.   Meet every can’t, won’t, + never will be with a “watch me.”  

In my darkest times, I would say I probably had about one depressive episode a week, + a completely-shutting-down anxiety inducing situation around twice a month.  This semester, I have had one–one!– episode which lasted a few days, + though it rears its head, there has not been a single time that anxiety has left me physically + mentally immobile.  It’s about progress: not perfection.  After over a decade, I can confidently say that I will struggle with mental health problems for the rest of my life.  But, now, at 21, I also know something much more essential: that, just as I have in the past, I can + will equip myself with an increasing amount of tools to build the self, impact, + future that this world needs.

 

Post-Grad Life + the Pandemic: Bringing my Anxiety to Light

Hi! My name is Leah Maxey. I graduated college in 2019 with a degree in food and nutrition sciences. I currently work as a registered dietitian + area manager for a professional food service company (learn more about what I do here!). I am also a registered yoga teacher + have always identified as the busy bee, always go go go, + never rest kind of person. Even though I studied health sciences + preached taking care of your own mental health, I struggled to take care of my own. I’ve had an eating disorder since I was about 16, + at 21, during the fall after I graduated from college, I was diagnosed with anxiety. I remember listening to this CHAARG podcast episode during college + feeling like I did not relate to it at all. I didn’t feel like I identified with having anxiety in college. I felt social, happy to be around people, willing to speak up, + overall like I handled my stress well. It wasn’t until after college when I realized I struggled with anxiety a bit more than I knew. 

After I graduated, I left for the summer to work at a summer camp in Virginia. That fall, I started my dietetic internship. When COVID started, my dietetic internship switched to virtual, my yoga teacher training was canceled, I moved back home with my parents, + I worked from home from then on. During post grad, I was just as busy as I was during college, but I lacked the social aspect + a motivating community like CHAARG, especially when I was at home 90% of the time. People aren’t meant to have limited interactions with people! I believe the isolation from COVID + living at home were large factors to my anxiety, but so was not managing my stress in healthy ways + not doing tasks that helped reduce my anxiety. 

Just like I learned with my eating disorder – anxiety can be a roller coaster. It can be overwhelming, difficult to understand, + hard to be aware of how it presents itself in our lives, our bodies, + our minds! It took trial + error for me to learn what coping mechanisms helped + what triggered my anxiety. Below are a few things I’ve tried that have helped me cope with anxiety: 

  • Therapy: I tried therapy for three sessions, then didn’t go back until about two years later! Therapy can work, given time + that you are in a place where you’re ready to work through things.
  • Medication: I tried ‘as needed’ anxiety medication, which truly just made me more anxious because I didn’t know when or if I was going to be anxious that day. It did help though, on the days I did take it, + I am thankful to have been exposed to that before starting daily anxiety medication
  • Yoga + Reflection: This has been my favorite way to manage my anxiety! Staying active, going outside, doing breathwork, meditating, + journaling are all aspects that help me cope with daily anxiety. I’ve found that being present + aware of my body has helped me identify my anxiety so I can work with it.

Everyone will have their own ways to manage anxiety, + talking to friends who can relate, listening to podcasts, or reading books about mental health can help break the stigma + reassure you you’re not alone. 

My biggest piece of advice is this: it’s okay to be on medications that help improve your mental health. We all need help + there’s nothing wrong with that. Trust yourself, advocate for yourself, do some yoga, breathe, talk to people who support you + understand you, + trust that it gets better.

10 Ways To Spice Up Your Run

Most runners (if you run, you are a runner!) know that it can be hard sometimes to get out + do our workouts — we feel like running will be too hard, too time consuming, too boring, etc. I’ve been running for 7 years now +  I have definitely felt this way before!  The good news is, there are SO many ways to make your runs more enjoyable! Here are some of my favorite ways I like to add a little something extra into my workouts:

#1] Treat yourself after your run. Maybe it’s your favorite smoothie, stretching + rolling while you watch TV, or a bubble bath. You could also run to a destination, like a coffee shop, for a reward. My personal favorite post-run reward is a scoop of Ultima electrolyte powder in my water or a Chobani Complete yogurt drink!

#2] Make a running playlist. The CHAARG Run Club playlist on Spotify is a great place to start! Add songs that have a great beat, remind you of good memories, or have a positive, powerful message. 

#3] Find YOUR running gear. Wear gear that makes you feel comfortable and confident. I always run in these Aerie bike shorts (when it’s warm enough) and a pair of goodr sunglasses. Wearing these things makes me feel confident + ready to run!

#4] Track your runs with an app. We use Training Peaks in CHAARG Run Club to keep track of our workouts, but other apps such as Strava or Nike Run Club can be an awesome way to keep track of your progress. I love Strava because I get to see a map of my running route after my run, add pictures + comments to my runs if I want to, see my personal bests, + keep track of how many miles I run each week. 

#5] Break up your run with exercises like squats or lunges. When I ran cross country in high school, my coach made us do a workout called Power 200’s. We had ten minutes to run as many 200 meter repeats (about .12 miles) as possible while stopping to do 15 squats in between each one. This made the workout go by so fast, + we got some strength work in as well!

#6] Run with a friend. I know it’s not always easy to find someone to run with, but if you can, it’s a great way to make the time go by faster! 

#7] Switch up your route. Running the same route all the time can get old; try driving to a trail or public track, running in the city or at a metro park, running on the treadmill, or even running your usual route backwards!

#8] Listen to a podcast or a guided workout. It’s easy to get caught up in an interesting podcast, which can make a run go by a lot faster. My favorite health + wellness podcast is Emily Abbate’s Hurdle. Guided workouts are amazing, too. When I listen to them, it’s like a coach is right there with me! You can find some guided workouts on the Nike Run Club app.

#9] Use music to add some variety to your runs. Sometimes I will listen to my favorite songs and speed up when I hear the chorus or the bridge—whatever part of the song is the most upbeat. It’s a great way to incorporate some speed into your runs.

#10] On a treadmill: Increase your speed by the minute. When I want to do more than just run at a steady pace on the treadmill, I’ll set my speed at 5.0 (for example) and each minute increase my speed by 0.1. So, after 10 minutes, I’ve gotten all the way up to 6.0. You could also do the same with the incline on the treadmill if you’re walking. Getting faster as your body is getting more tired is a great way to increase endurance + a fun way to make your run go by quicker.

Personalizing + switching up your running routine can help boost your motivation + improve the quality of your runs. If your runs have been boring lately or you’ve been feeling unmotivated, one of these tips might be just what you need!

How To Take A Break

Our world has drastically changed in the last few years. With remote/hybrid learning + living becoming the new norm, it’s easy to get overworked + burnt out. Now more than ever, it’s super important to listen to your body + mind! If you need a break, you deserve to have one!

Sometimes taking a break is easier said than done. Maybe you’re taking 18 credits this semester, maybe you’re working two jobs, maybe you’re commuting to class. These are all incredibly valid, busy schedules! But without any kind of break, how can you expect yourself to perform? Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup!

If you’re struggling with taking a break, check out these tips:

#1] Unplug from your phone + computer… even for just 15 minutes!

Between work + school, we are constantly on our phones + computers! These tools are so helpful in our day to day lives but can also be the cause of a lot of stress! To help give yourself a break, set aside time out of your day to completely unplug. Whether it’s 15 minutes, an hour, or more, take the time to be present off your device. Making this a part of your everyday routine will tremendously help in the long run!

#2] Take a break from working out

Our bodies need rest – seriously! While we absolutely love working up a good sweat, there are times when we need to step away from the gym. It can be really scary to take time away from working out due to the fear of losing progress, but ultimately, it’s so important to remember that your body needs to be well rested to support your activity. If your body is tired + needs the rest days, listen to it! Pushing yourself too hard will only lead to more stress. The gym will still be there for you when you’re back from your break ; )

#3] Try a new journal technique 

Journaling is an awesome way to unwind + clear your head. Writing out your thoughts or intentions for even a few minutes every day can help you take that step back to pause + reflect. New to journaling + don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered! Check out our guide to intention journaling.

#4] Make your favorite meal

Cooking can be super therapeutic! If you’re feeling really stressed, take the time to make your favorite breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert! It’s so important to fuel your body, even in times of stress. Making a meal that brings you joy is an awesome way to take a break, plus you get a tasty treat at the end ; ). Need inspiration? Check out the CHAARG Blog for lots of delicious + easy recipes.

#5] Watch your favorite show or movie

There’s truly something so relaxing about hanging out + putting on your favorite movie or TV show! Watching that feel good movie or show that keeps you coming back for more is a great way to rest your body + mind. Looking for a new show to watch? Check out these TV recs from the CHAARG community!

#6] Take a walk

No matter if you’re somewhere warm or feeling the winter chill, getting fresh air is so good for your mental health! Even taking a super brief walk can really help clear your mind + keep you active. Throw on your favorite playlist or The CHAARG Podcast + get those steps in!

#7] Dive into a book 

Reading is an incredible way to take a break + escape to another world! Whether you’re into fiction, biography, or self-growth, reading gives you the chance to sit back + enjoy some time off. Even if it’s only for a few minutes each day, give yourself the time to read. If you’re looking for new recs, check out our winter reading list – these are amazing books!

#8] Relax + take a nap!

Who doesn’t love a relaxing mid-day nap? Taking naps is an awesome way to rest + reset! You could listen to a meditation, calming music, or just let yourself sleep in the quiet. Cuddle up with your coziest blanket + enjoy a well-deserved nap!

Though it can be challenging to truly rest with so much going on, it’s so, so important to remind yourself that you deserve a break, physically + mentally! Stepping away from work + giving yourself time to reset is super healthy to practice – you’ll come back from that break ready to crush your goals!

Let us know your favorite way to take a break in the comments!

How To Move Past An Abusive Relationship

Trigger Warning: Emotional Abuse, Abusive Relationships

How does one even title such a tough topic? How do you even know that you had been abused to begin with? It took me about a year and a half to finally admit to myself and those around me that I had been abused in a previous relationship. 

Sometimes abuse isn’t physical, it’s emotional, verbal, + sexual. It’s when you are crying on the floor, having trouble breathing because your nose is so runny that air can’t come in or out, + the reason you are crying is because the person you love is angry with you for the third time that week ++ you just don’t understand why. You had done everything that they had asked but the one night you wanted to stay home and be with your friends, that’s the problem. That you had been texting them every detail of your day + night but missed one tiny detail ++ that sets off a full rage of anger. Do you see an issue with this? I didn’t for a long time. It wasn’t until my current boyfriend asked me why I apologized for not telling him I was hanging out with my friends, or that I was in class, or that I was at work, that I had realized that those types of conversations aren’t normal. 

When my ex and I had first broken up, it felt like I was hit by a train. He would tell me that if I talked to any other man the way I did him, he would have broken up with me months ago. I was completely under the impression that I deserved to be treated the way I was, but that was false. Thankfully, I had an amazing group of people to back me up and to be by my side when it ended. Though I will never know how to fully “move past” my abusive relationship, here are some tips that have helped me: 

1] Surround Yourself With Good People

I have no idea what I would have done had it not been for my friends at school + eventually my boyfriend now. You’ll know who the good people in your life are when they come. Normally they will be the ones who tell you it’s time to leave, + when you fall apart they help you pick up the pieces. 

2] Find Your Healthy Distractions

This one is a bit odd, but find those things that make you happy. Going MIA on my phone was the best because my ex hated that, he hated when he could not get ahold of me without a reason beforehand [I know toxic]. Go to the gym, take up a new hobby, join a new club that you’ve been wanting to, or start a CHAARG Chapter ; ) Being the founding ambassador for Millsersville CHAARG was my healthy distraction, putting all my energy into something that made me happy and I can be proud of at the end of the day. Last thing my ex ever said to me was, “I wish I had convinced you to never do CHAARG.”

3] Tell Someone

You are not alone. For so long I tried to move past this on my own, keep this information to myself. That if I didn’t think about it or talk about it, it would go away. Abuse can leave behind unseen scars; not wanting to open up to people, flinching when someone tries to touch you, the way someone speaks to you causes you to react in some way that in the past probably wouldn’t have. Telling someone there is a problem is the first step to healing. 

4] Seek Help

Your friends, though great for ranting and helping you get through the tough days, are not professionals. Talk to a counselor, go to therapy, + find a group who have gone through similar things. Going back to that last point in telling someone, it’s one thing to tell someone but another to do something about it. You can try to heal on your own but it will cause more harm in the long run. Get help! 

If you can take anything from this, please know you are not alone. People love you, people want to see you happy. If he/she/they are not making you happy, it’s time to go. It is easier said than done to leave + when you do it will hurt, but when you find that happy spark, then you’ll have done something that the other person couldn’t. You will have made you happy, strong, + powerful. 

Please note — If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. 

For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or  1-800-787-3224 (TTY).