Sunday, September 28, 2014

Stress: The sensation that bites back

Have you ever not been able to take a half hour out of your day just to shower? Or have you left the house with sandals on, just because you could not find socks in time to leave? Have you ever rushed through errands during your free time, just so that you can go back to your abode two hours later and not have to leave again?
This is my life right now.
To the person who told me that my senior year would be the easiest of my life: thank you for telling me a blatant lie.
Never have I ever been more pressed for time, money, or experiences in my 21 years of life. How do I cram senior projects, class work, jobs, graduate school and internship research, extracurricular activities, a social life, and a balanced diet into 24 hours each day? I am convinced that it is not humanly possible to do so. 
Basically, I am a 21 year old who is already looking forward to retirement, and I have not even lived life in the "real world" yet.
The arrangement of words that I use the most each day is "I am just so stressed out" (insert exasperated sigh here).  
Although I have a lot on my plate, I am unwilling to drop anything. I committed myself to a full schedule, thinking that I would be able to balance everything and still have time to take advantage of the activities that I will miss after I graduate. At the moment, I am struggling to keep my head above the flood of "stuff to do." 
However, I like to think of this quote from the Bible:
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." - Luke 12:48
I have never had this much responsibility or power in my entire life. Not only am I in charge of my future, and my own time management, but I also guide and work over underclassmen through my extracurricular activities positions. They rely on me to be there and not flake out. 
This quick start to my final Fall semester of undergrad ever has allowed me to learn some things about dealing with stress: 
  1. Take a deep breath. 
  2. Drink a cup of tea (preferably green).
  3. Go on a jog or work out... expend some pent up energy. 
  4. Take a half hour to let Netflix be your therapy. 
  5. Call your mom. 
  6. Doodle.
  7. Bake some cookies. 
  8. Talk to your best friend and let her/him vent to you too. 
  9. Close your eyes. 
  10. Clean your room.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shenandoah National Park

After one of the busiest weeks of my entire life, I decided to reward myself by going on an adventure through a club at my university. The plan was to leave on Friday night to drive three hours to Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia. We would be backpacking and backcountry camping for the weekend. I had signed up and gone on trips through this outdoor adventures club before, but I had never participated in an overnight trip like this one. I love being in the great outdoors, but I had never really been tent camping before, until this past weekend.

 I took a step out of my comfort zone, and decided to give it a shot. I left with a group of nine, with two experienced club leaders who know what they were doing. They would be guiding us through the park and helping us survive the weekend as smoothly as possible. The club also provided us with backpacks, sleeping bags, food and cooking items, tents, sleeping mats and camp chairs.
 Our group left our university on Friday evening, so when we got to the park, it was after nightfall. We hiked about a half a mile along a fire road from the parking lot to our camp site. After finding a flat, well-hidden place away from the road, we set up our tents and I spent my first night in the great outdoors. The sounds of the night were not hard to get used to, but it was a brand new experience for me... I kept trying not to think of the signs we had seen, warning us about bears (at least we were using bear bags).
 Saturday was spent hiking up Old Rag Mountain. The total distance up the mountain, to the summit is about seven miles, but the second half of the trail is all up hill. The scenery and sights were beautiful. We hiked under the threat of rain, but eventually the clouds gave way to blue skies and great views.
 My groupmates and I only brought three packs full of lunch, snacks, and gear for our day hike, so we took turns sharing the load. I also brought along my brand new camera and took over 200 photos during the weekend.
Some other important things to bring on a trip like this would be:
      1. Non-cotton shirts and comfortable shorts/bottoms
      2. A hat
      3. Pre-broken in hiking boots and hiking socks
      4. A water bottle (and water treatment so you can drink right out of streams)
      5. A properly-fitted backpack
      6. Face wipes (since you won't be showering...)
      7. Bear bag equipment (for tying up your food and good smelling toiletries)
      8. A map
      9. Headlamps 
      10. Camp shoes for after your hike!
 Although some of the rock scrambles on the way up were challenging, the hike was incredible and the vistas were exhilarating. I had never been so high up, with such a great view of our earth as when I was on top of Old Rag. The sight was contemplation-worthy.
If you would like to learn more about Shenandoah National Park, please visit the park's website:
Although I am no expert, if you have any questions about my backpacking and backcountry camping experience, feel free to leave a comment!

Friday, September 5, 2014

15 Tips for Freshmen:

The first few weeks of college are full of new experiences, meeting new friends, and growing up. Here are a few tips from a senior, to the freshman class:

  1. Do not sweat the small stuff- These things do not really matter in the long run.
  2. Please take that lanyard off of your neck- Wearing the classic college lanyard around your neck seems like a no-brainer right? Wrong. This act immediately marks you as a freshman. Although nearly every upperclassman has done it in the first few weeks of his or her freshman year, it was quickly learned to be the biggest faux pas a college student could ever make. 
  3.  Do not be afraid to talk to your professors- These brilliant people are here to help you, and they genuinely enjoy seeing you grow and flourish as a student, and as a human being.
  4. Learn how to do your own laundry- It’s about time.
  5.  Beware of procrastination- This demon lurks behind technology screens, right after dinner time, when it is too early to really be worried about impending due dates and homework.
  6.  Participate in club trips- If your university is anything like mine, there are incredible clubs on campus which offer unique and exciting opportunities to try new things. How many people do you know that can say they have gone on a weekend retreat, been caving, and made a daytrip to NYC all in one semester?
  7. Take the time to get to know the library, and the library staff- Honestly, I hardly set foot in the library during my freshman year, and now, I visit it daily. I even have a usual cubical spot. It took me a while to have the courage to ask the library staff for help with finding sources and doing research for projects, but now, I wish I had begun to do that years ago.
  8.  Do not let the drama get to you- It is inevitable, but do not dwell on these issues, young grasshopper.
  9. Get involved on campus like it is your job- This is a fantastic way to build lasting friendships, get to know the university, and gain useful life skills.
  10.  Get to know your surroundings- Even if your university seems like it is in the middle of nowhere, who ever said that there was nothing to do in the middle of nowhere? There are so many amazing adventures to be had, right your backyard.
  11. Take advantage of the workout facilities and fitness classes that are provided- Do you know how much a gym membership costs in the real world?
  12.  Expand your horizons- Join a club that you never would have joined in high school, take an interesting class that has nothing to do with your major, befriend the person you are standing next to in the wrap line.
  13. Take part in your college's traditions-You're one of us now.
  14. Do not be afraid to talk to upperclassmen- We do not usually bite and are actually quite nice.
  15. Be yourself- So cliché, I know, but coming to college is a fresh start and a chance to let the real you be embraced by the people who surround you. You will make lifelong friends during the next four years, who love you for who you are.