5 Things: Keeping Myself #Healthy, #Focused, and #Engaged

As a full-time graduate student and graduate assistant with two additional part-time on-campus positions, managing my time, stress, and workload has been a challenging process. As a result, there are 5 things I like to do, almost daily, in order to keep myself grounded, whole, and functioning — or healthy, focused, and engaged as my title suggests (oops!).

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1) Making the bed before leaving the house. Sounds trivial, but it works. Every morning, after I put my “game face” on and dress in the weather-appropriate clothes, I make the bed. I place the two pillows at the head, drape the gorgeous white comforter over the edges, strategically position the camouflage pillow and teddy bear to add some color, and toss the brown throw blanket over the feet of the bed. Voila. Done. The reason I do this is simple: Every time I come home from an exhausting day, I at least come home to a clean slate. In the nine to twelve hours that I am on campus, my bed remains in tact, untouched by the worries and stress of the day, and ready to engulf me in a layer of comfort, trust, and deep satisfaction.

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2) Having a regular workout routine. Sounds obvious — because it is. For the past 10 weeks — well, let’s say it’s more like 12 because of spring break and conference season — my programmate and I exercised 25 minutes a day as part of the T25 workout program. Exercising daily helped me survive my first winter in Vermont. It kept my mind off of the never-ending to-do lists and improved my overall concentration. Sure, I saw results and I felt extremely good about myself for doing it, but more importantly, I established a wonderful relationship with my friend and colleague in this program. We enjoyed working out in each other’s company so much that we signed up to do a 5K Mud Run in Boston, Massachusetts that fundraises and brings awareness to multiple sclerosis (MS).

3) Having two reusable water bottles: one for home and the other on-the-go. Sounds excessive, but it’s also really practical. To give you some background information: I have two reusable water bottles that are the same model and type, but differ only in color (one blue, one black). I typically keep one water bottle stocked and filled in the refrigerator and the other comes with me wherever I go. I am a water fiend. I drink water like a fish. It helps to have one water bottle with me to fill up when I’m on the run or going to class, and by the time I come home, I have another water bottle just waiting to be picked up. I also prefer to drink cold water so having one in the fridge helps me save time on my other daily routines and errands and ultimately helps me stay fully hydrated. If you’re looking to get into reusable water bottles, I highly recommend the Thermos Nissan Intak Hydration Water Bottle. It’s affordable, sturdy, keeps the mouth piece protected from hands and other germs, does a good job at preventing any leaks, has a textured exterior for good grip, and comes in many different colors!

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4) Starting a gratitude journal. Sounds time consuming, but extremely fulfilling. I first learned about the gratitude journal after a conversation I had with my colleague, friend, and programmate, Trina S. Tan back in November 2014. Unapologetic plug: You should definitely read some of the amazing work she’s done in her own blog here. Now, back to last semester: I was in a heavy funk and was still transitioning into the Vermont life. I had a hard time being away from California, especially since I was (and still am) in a long distance relationship. I remember seeing Trina writing in this journal ALL THE TIME, even in church! And sometimes she would text me to tell me, “I wrote about you (basically describing our most recent of hangouts) in my journal.” After struggling and feeling so isolated last semester, I knew I needed to take control of my life again.

At the end of the day, I write down at least three things that I am grateful for that have positively impacted the way my day went. Since last November, writing in my journal has furthered my practice for patience, appreciation, and self-reflection. It has given me so much to be grateful for and continues to shed optimism in challenging moments. It also helps me appreciate the smaller things that happen in my day-to-day interactions, whether that be somebody buying me coffee in the morning, giving me a ride home from class in the rain, or finally having time to do laundry again.

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5) Taking a nap when needed. Sounds like a waste of time, but it’s completely worth it. Naps work, they really do. I still haven’t mastered how long the perfect nap is for me, but I find that when my mind is dazed and confused, I come out of a bit more level-headed and refreshed. If it’s not a nap, spending ten minutes to close my eyes and visualize how much work I want to get done also does the trick. And if you end up sleeping longer than you’re supposed (which happens, trust me) don’t be mad at yourself. Your body obviously needed a moment to recover and you’re giving it the love that it so desperately desired. 

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In closing, each of these things has allowed me to stay healthy, focused, and engaged. Making the bed has taught me how to be more responsible. Consistently working out has helped me become more accountable to myself and to others. Having two reusable water bottles makes for a more efficient day. Writing in my gratitude journal further practices the art of mindfulness. Lastly, taking a nap has allowed me to prioritize my personal health and wellbeing.

As a graduate student and student affairs professional, it’s not always easy carving time out of my day to practice self-care and living in complete balance with my personal and professional life. However, I have learned that finding ways to keep myself rejuvenated and grounded are essential to my overall wellbeing and spiritual development. Taking some time out of the day to do the little things that are important to us can help us do our work more efficiently and effectively while living our life with appreciation and integrity.

In closing, here are some questions to guide you or reground you in your own journey to a healthier lifestyle: How can you make time to do the little things that can sometimes have the largest impact on your levels of engagement and productivity? How do you practice self-love and self-reflection? What do you do to integrate balance in your life?

Final Thoughts About #NASPA15!

It is my hope to not only share my experiences about #NASPA15 via written prose, but also through visual media. I enjoy creating videos that help express my thoughts and beliefs, particularly through a medium that can be equally engaging and creative. Thus, this short 3.5 minute video offers a brief introduction to who I am as a graduate student and professional, provides some reflective pieces about my time at the 2015 National NASPA Conference, and expresses my gratitude towards the NASPA Shares Initiative that helped fund my trip to New Orleans.

Enjoy! 

Also, shoutout to the music used for my video: Janelle MonáeDance Apocalyptic. I believe it is important to represent artistic, influential, and talented individuals of color within my life’s work. It is my hope to lend my gratitude and highlight an amazingly gifted woman of color like Janelle. Dance!

Reflections on #NASPA15 from a first-time attendee

“Finally.” With the help of some professional development funding and one of NASPA’s scholarship initiatives for New Professionals and Graduate Students, I was able to attend and participate in my first National NASPA Conference which took place in New Orleans this year.

As a first-time attendee, here are some of my general thoughts and reactions to the conference as a whole.

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10 quick thoughts:

1. It’s true – you do not have to go to everything. But do go to some things. I did my best to attend a handful of educational sessions and socials throughout the day. But I also made sure to enjoy my time being in New Orleans and so I skipped out on some featured sessions, resource fairs, and community meetings. At the end of the day, it was a great balance of exploring the city and (re)grounding myself in the work that I do as a scholar practitioner.

2. Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed if you decide to do things by yourself. If you want to explore the city, do it. If you want to attend a session because it is relevant to you and may not be of interest to your friends, go to it anyways. If you are hungry and need time to reflect, have lunch by yourself. It is okay to do things alone. Sometimes as a field, we place a large value on networking and community building – for good reasons, of course. However, I have also seen such community-organizing work place a sense of shame or guilt on individuals for not going to that “one thing” when all these independent folks wanted was to have some quality “me-time”.

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3. Small improvements – large victories. Even if you only make one new connection at a reception, don’t discount its significance. For example, although I am currently in NASPA Region I due to graduate school, I decided to attend the NASPA Region VI reception because I thought it might be good to network with current professionals if I ever wanted to get back to California (and I do, someday down the road). Although I literally only met three individuals that night and re-introduced myself to a former UCLA colleague, I felt accomplished for what I achieved that night: new perspectives, an understanding as to how these receptions look and function, and a new Twitter follower.

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4. Do not be afraid to ask for help or a hangout buddy. Ask for clarification: what is the opening session and what do they do there? What is a Knowledge Community and which “meetings” can I attend? Who is she/he? Hey, what are you doing for lunch? Do you want to have dinner tomorrow? What are these ribbons for? As a first-time attendee, give yourself permission to be “selfish” your own self-advocate. The more you know, the smaller the conference starts to feel.

5. Do not forget to thank the people who took the time and energy to make sure you felt included, supported, and welcomed. Identify at least three individuals that have been largely influential during the conference and express your gratitude for them, to them. We can easily build, validate, and sustain our communities with these little touches of compassion and appreciation.

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6. When it comes to lunch or some kind of coffee break, be sure to get in line at least 10-15 minutes before a session ends. Once the session ends, everybody is out and about. Either practice waiting with patience or instead, engage in more strategic planning – you choose!

7. If you cannot avoid the lines then make the most of it. Sometimes standing in line when waiting for food or coffee can bring about the greatest of conversations and the newest of friends. True story: A friend and I were waiting in line for Subway and the three individuals in front of us were graduate students from Baylor College in Texas. We talked and laughed and they invited us to sit down with them for lunch. We exchanged business cards, added each other on Facebook, and ran into one another several times throughout the conference.

8. Try and connect with both new and old friends of your alma mater. It was great to see some friends from my college years, but it was also wonderful to hear from professionals that are currently at the university. Do not be afraid to post an announcement to your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets asking if there are any “_______ alumni” in the area. I found that by asking to connect with individuals at the conference, people connected me with their connections and the whole conference scene became that much smaller. It was also great to reminisce and talk about familiar street names and campus buildings again. Talk about navigating with courage, right? #gobears 

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9. Get to know not only the people at the conference and the professionals at the various institutions, but the people who actually live, work, and breathe in the city as well. Talk to the locals. Ask them for their recommendations. Say please and thank you and wish them a good day. With an influx of 7800 people in one city, having a level of respect and politeness can go a long way, especially to those whom are working in customer service-oriented positions.

10. When the conference is all over, give yourself some time to truly reflect about your experiences there. What did you learn about practices, strategies, cultures, and/or programs within higher ed and student affairs (name at least 5 take away messages)? What was the best part about it? What was challenging about it? Who helped you along the way? Who are new colleagues and professionals that you would like to keep in touch with? And what would you do differently if you were to go again next year?

And there you have it. My ten thoughts about the conference as a first-time #NASPA15 attendee.

What do you think? Anything else you would like to add that a first-time attendee should know and think about?


And in case anyone is interested, below are my #outfitsofNASPA that I wore for the week in New Orleans. I think I did pretty well :) Any outfits you were particularly proud of? Please share! 

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2014 UVM HESA Google Hangout Sessions

Hello! The University of Vermont is excited to host several Google Hangout Sessions for prospective graduate students interested in the Higher Education & Student Affairs Administration (HESA) Program. This is a great opportunity to speak with current HESA graduate students about their experiences and get some insight into the program!

It is also our hope that these sessions provide a more in-depth and personal perspective from current UVM HESA graduate students that identify as one or more of the following: Person of Color (POC); Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ); Queer Person of Color (QPOC); and Returner to the Academy (taken time off after undergrad).

Please feel free to participate in whichever Google Hangout Session you identify with most! You can register through the following link: http://go.uvm.edu/uvmhesa14

Returners to the Academy (took time off after undergrad) Hangout:
Wednesday, October 15, 8PM EST

People of Color (POC) Hangout:
Thursday, October 16, 8PM EST

General Overview (HESA, academics, assistantship, etc.) Hangout:
Thursday, October 16, 9PM EST

LGBTQ Hangout:
Wednesday, October 22, 8PM EST

General Overview (HESA, academics, assistantship, etc.) Hangout:
Thursday, October 23, 8PM EST

Queer People of Color (QPOC) Hangout:
Thursday, October 23, 9PM EST

If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact the 2014 UVM HESA Google Hangout Coordinators: Eric Carnaje (ecarnaje@uvm.edu) and Jeffrey Tsang (jeffrey.tsang@uvm.edu).

If you have questions regarding Admissions to the program or Graduate Assistantships, please email: sagrads@uvm.edu