Wellness: How to Stay Unplugged
In the last post of this two part series, we considered why unplugging from our phones is important to destress, become more productive, and connect with the people around us. But is unplugging really even possible? Phones have become a ubiquitous part of life in 2019, and in many ways have made life easier. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my phone, and neither would you, possibly (I am thinking about myself and many of our students who got lost while trying to find the Weingarten LRC).
In my last entry, I suggested some simple alternatives to picking up your phone, like taking a deep breath or giving a friend a quick hug. I hope that if you tried them, you felt more connected or relaxed, even if it was only for a moment. My wish is that the more you make unplugging from your phone a habitual practice, the more peace will enter your day, causing you to actually want and need a phone-free space in your life. This is a lot easier said than done, however. Like I tell myself and many of our students, keep trying. Very few things that are worth it feel effortless the first time.
Here are some ideas to help you reduce your daily phone usage:
- Available for both iPhone and Android, the highly-rated forest app plants an actual forest on your phone’s main screen. Help your forest grow by staying off your phone!
- If using an app on your phone to stay off your phone sounds too meta, consider asking a friend or partner to join you in your goals. Set a phone free time when you are together and stick to it!
- Finally, you may wish to consider throwing your phone into the Schuylkill! That’s a joke, but keeping it in a drawer or elsewhere out of site or (gasp) not bringing it with you on your trip to WaWa can help. I’d recommend a cool, dry place.
I hope you enjoyed this two-part series on unplugging from your phone, and good luck!
By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow & Instructor
Wellness: Why You Should Unplug
Crossing Locust Walk during peak hours can be a risky venture. Twice yesterday, I narrowly missed crashing into students on their way to class, their eyes too fixated by whatever was happening on their phones to notice. It’s easy to judge, but I’m sure I too have been guilty of this unsavory behavior. Although body-slamming another student on Locust Walk would be extremely unpleasant, if we were crossing the street or driving there could have been far worse consequences.
We all know that smartphone use has become an epidemic. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, 26% of Americans go online almost constantly. No pun intended, given that another statistic I found online claimed that 40% of people check their phones on the bathroom. For busy students, phone overuse can be a barrier to productivity and focus, or even cause feelings of anxiety as we compare ourselves to photos of our seemingly happy and healthy friends on social media, outside having fun on a sunny day while we are trapped in the basement of Van Pelt.
The next time you reach for your phone (I am guessing it is at some point as you read this short article), consider the following alternatives:
- Take a few deep breaths and a moment to check in with yourself today.
- Stop by to say hello to a coworker or give a friend a hug.
- Get up and walk around for a few minutes.
- Go get a healthy snack or a drink.
- Listen to your favorite song (or try a new dance move, no judging!).
My challenge for you today is to try 2-3 of these strategies. You may find it’s harder than you think. I’ll be back with part two of this series, where we’ll explore strategies to help you unplug from your phone.
By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow & Instructor
Wellness: Mindfulness at ICA Museum
Have you considered how you will practice self-care and prioritize your wellness for the rest of the semester? Consider attending the Mindfulness at the Museum Series at PENN’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA):
“Mindfulness at the Museum is a series of drop-in sessions focused on helping our wider community—inside and outside of the museum—to have access to tools to become more aware. Mindfulness meditation can help us to develop healthier minds and bodies, reduce stress, foster compassion, and increase our memory skills, among many other studied benefits. Participants may discover that this appreciation of the “here and now” extends outside the museum” (Mindfulness Program Series at UPENN-ICA).
- These free drop-in sessions are open to all. No special clothing is required. Space is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. No prior meditation experience is necessary.
While attending a public Mindfulness program series is not necessary, and you can just as meaningfully practice within the privacy of your own space and in the moments afforded in-between, there is so much support and joy in practicing mindfulness in community.
Also, an aesthetically stimulating, yet peaceful space such as the ICA Museum plays an important role in helping us connect to our sensorial system. Awakening our senses and re-connecting to our inner being and the world through them is an essential part of well-being.
Take a study break and practice self-care through Mindfulness at the Museum!
By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow
Wellness: Mindful Attachment, Detachment, Centering, and Focus
We live in a modern world, which in many ways hyper-stimulates our senses through technology and high-speed connectivity. What are the wellness implications of our new norm: 24×7 data availability, data connectivity, and data sharing?
It’s no wonder that we are over-committed, restless and unrested, and fatigued. We call it brain fog when processing demand surpasses our own body’s limits. Limits, what a concept, huh? We push and push ourselves, expecting to produce continued, increased and optimal output, like a machine.
In the Academy, our students report increased difficulty focusing, prioritizing, and making decisions. They experience stress, anxiety, and social isolation. In addition to seeking professional counseling and support (e.g. Penn CAPS, Penn Advisor, etc.) when needed, we can also develop and refine some metacognitive wellness practices to help us pause, center ourselves, and focus on what is important. Consider the practice of attachment, detachment, centering, and focus:
Identify Your Attachments
Become aware of your attachments. The things that we’re attached to tend to trigger a physical, emotional and/or psychological reaction in us. Is it family? friends? school work? professional obligations? the causes to which you’re committed? We pour all of our energy into external activities, commitments, and triggers, herein, our attachments.
Practice detachment. Once you identify your attachments, practice noting and letting go. If you can’t let it go, then set it aside momentarily. That from which we cannot let go has power over us. Practice ambivalence. It does not mean that you do not care anymore, it does mean that you put a distance between you and the trigger, so that you can behold it from a distance and with reason, without it enveloping you. What can you control, and what does it make sense to acknowledge as ultimately outside your sphere of influence?
Focus on What Matters Most
Re-center and focus on what truly matters to you the most. What is most important to you? What is essential to your wellness? What feeds your inner being? Who is in your love circle? Who is in your support network? When you re-center yourself and start focusing on internal growth factors, a.k.a. healthy attachments, you will start restoring, recharging and fostering healthy energy, rather than seeing your energy slipping away in a myriad of activities, obligations, and conflicts.
The process of attachment, detachment, centering, and focus is not a one-time task. It is not an esoteric state of being; it is not an arrival. It is an active, daily practice, which is part of an intentional and iterative process. By practicing this process mindfully, and returning to it over and over again, you can develop a healthier and more sustainable wellness state of mind. This will support your studies and personal and professional life. Modern life has a way to pull you away from your center, from your true mission, towards sources of hyper-stimulation, which can often be triggering and draining. Close your eyes, breathe, and practice returning to center, over and over again. Resist, channel, and flourish.
By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow
Wellness: Mindful Transitions
“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.” – Nikki Giovanni
Whether you are an undergraduate living away from home for the first time, a graduate student new to Philadelphia, or even a returning student planning for life after Penn, chances are you are undergoing a period of transition. As the semester begins, it’s important to recognize that we are all experiencing change in one form or another. Although this can bring uncertainty–sometimes manifesting as anxiety, or lack of focus–there is also an upside. Transitions can lead to tremendous personal growth. In the words of the poet Maya Angelou,
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
- Have there been times when you felt frustrated this semester?
- Did you get lost on the way to a new class, or struggle to understand an assignment or reading?
In addition to feeling frustrated (because this is a valid way to feel!), try to acknowledge these moments as a vital part of your journey – as a student, a learner, a thinker, and a member of the Penn community.
While transitions are necessary, there are ways to make them gentler on your mind and body. Notice how you are feeling. If you experience negative thoughts, like “this is too hard,” “I’m frustrated,” “I feel lost,” or “I’m not smart enough,” try to stop judging yourself or comparing yourself to others.
Instead, realize these thoughts are normal, take a deep breath, and let them go. Don’t forget to pay attention to your body. You might feel tired, or tense, or hungry at hours that are not normal for you. Try to attend to what your body needs, whether it’s more sleep, a long walk, or eating delicious and healthy food.
Wherever you are in your academic journey, remember that the staff of the Weingarten Center are always here for you. Whether it’s helping with time management skills, identifying additional resources on Campus, or just talking through how you will manage a stressful week, we are committed to helping all Penn students cope with transitions!
By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow & Instructor
Wellness: Semester Closure & Gratitude
Whether you have just graduated in May 2018, have some final courses to complete during the summer, will be a returning student in the Fall, will be going away for an academic internship next semester, will be taking a gap year, a leave of absence, and/or simply enjoying and relaxing this summer – the end of an academic year and the possibilities for the summer ahead can be emotional, exciting for some and perhaps nerve-wracking for others. Either way, it is helpful to intentionally reflect on bringing closure to the academic year.
Gratitude is a great way to stay connected to others, be they faculty, staff, and/or peers. Take some time to reflect and perhaps journal what you are most grateful for this past semester, year, or cumulative journey at Penn, thus far.
These need not be major events, but could be moments, passing interactions that made a difference for you, insights gained, thoughts and gestures observed and appreciated, or a concrete act.
You need not be the explicit beneficiary of a direct act of kindness, support or favor. Perhaps you simply observed and appreciated a peer’s contribution to a class or project, or their voice, orientation, views, approach and/or work ethic. In fact, acknowledgment and validation is a great form of expressing gratitude. Gratitude that builds up and encourages is more authentic and valuable.
Even if there were some challenges, starting with gratitude is a great way to gain perspective, find common ground, open up conversation, or gain a sense of closure. Finding the pearl in the sand can help bring resilience and transition us to the next stage. Gratitude is a great counterbalance to challenging situations, as it can be more humanizing to stay connected through gratitude, despite of differences, than to completely disconnect.
Students often ask me if they should purchase an impressive “gift” as a token of gratitude. But that is not necessary at all. In fact, depending on ethical rules, faculty and staff may not accept physical tokens. A simple note or email that expresses your thoughtfulness in gratitude can help you release your appreciation and connect with the individual through acknowledgment. Keep it short, specific/authentic, and professional.
Gratitude is a great way to network, bring closure to milestones, transition to other stages, and connect to your inner self – as you grow and develop alongside others in your academic career. Gratitude will restore your sense of positivity, by affirming your perceptions in relation to others, and as a result, validate, build up and strengthen your own, intentional community.
By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow & Instructor
Wellness: Building an Intentional Support Infrastructure
Hello Folks! We’re coming up to that time of the year again. With the end of the Spring semester in sight, we’re ramping up for our last mid-terms, formalizing and consolidating major projects, and looking ahead to Reading Days and Finals.
Wait a minute, why is Weingarten asking me to Stop, Pause and Reflect when I’m just ramping up, building momentum, and taking the leap?
That’s right! WE CARE ABOUT YOU! Being a critically reflective and conscientious student, professional and human being calls us to slow down, reflect and make the necessary adjustments. Today, we’re reflecting on how to build an INTENTIONAL SUPPORT INFRASTRUCTURE for ourselves and others! Regardless of where you are in your PENN program, whether you’re a first-year undergraduate or advanced post-doctoral or professional student, building an intentional support infrastructure is ESSENTIAL to your SELF-CARE. We underline the term, intentional, because intentionality fosters change and growth.
Every member of the PENN community comes from different and unique walks of life. Some of us have had superb, built-in support infrastructures in the past. If that applies to you, perhaps the support sought you out and you didn’t even have to look for it. Others may have had to be more self-supportive and independent while being selective about identifying and seeking supports and guidance from others. Now, we’re all at PENN, and things may look a little bit different, and/or your personal predicament may have changed a little or a lot.
At Weingarten, we want to emphasize that it is not about academic achievement solely, but about personal growth, and developing essential and healthy life skills that will take you beyond your immediate academic career and support you in your life beyond PENN.
So, what does it mean to build an intentional support infrastructure?
- First, acknowledging that you cannot do it all alone, that you need an intentional community, and that part of being a successful individual is to be able to identify and optimize what your support resources are. The idea of the self-sufficient Ivy League student operating out of a figurative island is a myth!
- Check out our PENN FACES website and program for real stories of successes and failures, ups and downs, hardships, self-discoveries, and resilience!
- There is no SHAME in asking for HELP! In fact, we encourage vulnerability, honesty, transparency & candidness! Check out Brené Brown’s TEDxHouston’s talk: The power of vulnerability.
- Second, accepting that you’re a unique individual and that your identity, background, needs, experiences, circumstances, and contexts are different than others. Push out those old, self-defeating thoughts, “everyone else is doing it… everyone else seems to be handling it fine… I don’t want anyone else to know what I’m really going through…”
- Instead, try these validating affirmations:
I am enough…
My needs are essential for my growth…
I will seek out support and utilize resources available to me with agency, confidence and hope…
I will consider ways in which services and resources enhance and strengthen my own gifts, talents and strengths.
- Third, take an inventory of the resources available to you at PENN (and beyond).
- Fourth, be open and flexible to the fact that how you may have previously accessed and utilized support resources and services may be different than how you may need and experience them now and in the future. Give it a try! And if it doesn’t work the first time, try again differently! Also, you may need to combine a particular set of services and resources for a particular goal, need, situation or time in your life, so take a creative and hybrid approach to how you build your own, customized and intentional support infrastructure!
- Fifth, offer your support to others. At a time when everyone is so busy and technology often masks the reality of people’s lives, reach out the be there for someone else, make time, offer your empathy and understanding, and take action where appropriate and consented. Helping others will elevate and strengthen your own intentional network of support.
So, next time you look ahead and/or introspectively before you charge ahead with actualizing and executing your goals, projects and paths, make sure that you have also take account of the very intentional support infrastructure that you’ll need to inspire, fuel, accompany, scaffold and/or intervene – so that the quality of your trajectory will be a successful one, regardless of outcomes. You may begin by asking:
- Who will be my study/project partner?
- Who will give me moral support?
- Who will be my accountability partner?
- Who will I go to for inspiration?
- Who will I go to for consultation, advice, and/or mentorship?
- Who will I turn to for technical support?
- Who can I go to if I struggle?
And remember, our doors, hearts, and support resources are always open and available for you at Weingarten. Come check us out!
By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Specialist and Research Fellow