9 Acts of Self-Care to Try in Your Dorm Room

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Student life can be really challenging. College students juggle multiple classes, extracurricular activities, and internships all while attempting to have a social life.

It can be particularly tough on first-year students who are testing out the collegiate experience away from home for the first time. Having that kind independence can be overwhelming to say the least.

That’s why it is essential to practice acts of self-care from the first day of class through finals week.

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How To Feel More Confident at the Gym

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I recently joined a gym after a too-long exercise hiatus. My weekly personal training sessions with Jenn that kicked off my new fitness journey have been amazing, but I knew I needed to supplement the rest of my workout routine and give myself some variation that wasn’t running on the old treadmill in the basement. It was time for a change.

As my shiny new membership tag was scanned at the Croton-on-Hudson New York Sports Club, I was suddenly struck with a deep sense of fear.

You see, as a plus size queer person, I’ve never felt particularly comfortable at gyms.

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10 Summer Self-Care Products under $20!

10 Summer Self-Care Products under $20!

To me, summer is an ideal time to indulge in a little extra self-care. For some, that’s jetting away on a vacation or taking advantage of Summer Fridays, but not everyone has or can afford those perks.

The good news is that self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or require any traveling! Try one of these ten self-care products this summer in your room or by the pool. These items could also make great gifts for the summer-lovers in your life, and they’re all under $20!

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The First-Timer’s Guide to Finding a Therapist

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Please note that any of my tips are just suggestions and not professional, legal, or medical help. If you are struggling with mental health, trauma, abuse, or any other difficult situation,  I strongly encourage you to seek help. Check out this page for some mental health resources. Reaching out for help can feel scary, but it is one of the most important acts of self-love you can do.

Seeking out the help of a therapist for the first time can be nerve-wracking. Have depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can make it difficult to reach out to anyone, let alone a therapist.

I’ve totally been there. Throughout college, I did my best to ignore my anxiety. My friends encouraged me to consider therapy, but I didn’t listen to them. The notion of talking about my thoughts and feelings to someone terrified me, and going to therapy felt like admitting defeat. I didn’t want to believe I needed help, so I bottled it up as best I could. I was also extremely focused on losing weight at the time instead of treating my body with love. By the time I was a senior, symptoms of depression were added to the mix. It was a painful existence that was hidden with a plastered smile.

My depression-anxiety combination was at its’ worst when I graduated in 2015. By this point, I was crying every day. Even a month-long trip through Europe, a dream abroad experience I had planned as a graduation gift to myself, wasn’t as amazing (or distracting) as I had hoped. When I returned stateside, I finally admitted to my parents that I was struggling and needed help.

I visited a psychiatrist first and was given a prescription, but she told me to quickly find a therapist as well. While Lexapro could alleviate some of my symptoms, I still needed to truly figure out my issues and learn coping mechanisms. Taking a pill wouldn’t heal me like therapy could.

So I embarked on my mission to find my first therapist. How did I end up finding one? My aunt, who is an administrator at a psychological hospital, sent me a few suggestions. I ended up picking Hannah Starobin, LCSW from her list. Hannah was an excellent match for me: she was LGBTQ+ friendly, experienced with food issues, and had a great understanding of the theatre industry (I was fully committed to my theatrical career at the time.) I booked my first session and began my first dive into therapy.

Three years later, I’m thankfully in a much better place. I can manage my symptoms more effectively using the tools I learned in therapy (meditation, grounding, paying attention to my thoughts, for example). I now talk to a therapist from BetterHelp.com semi-regularly and still find my sessions to be quite helpful.

I was lucky enough to find my first therapist with the help of my aunt, but there are other ways to find a therapist if you’re seeking one for the first time:

Use an Online Directory

The internet is your friend in terms of finding a therapist. There are numerous online directories that can help. Here are a few I’ve explored before:

Once you find a couple that pique your interest, visit their websites (or profiles) and try to get a better feel for them. Let your intuition guide you through the search. If someone looks friendly or their writing just clicks with you, then reach out. Just make sure to find a few possible options: some therapists book up quickly.

Use Available Community Resources

If I could change one thing about my college experience, it would be to actually use the mental health resources that were provided. Why didn’t I go to therapy when it was freely available to me?? Hindsight is a drag.

If you’re a student, I suggest looking into the services your school offers before looking off campus. I can’t promise that all campuses provide the best mental health support, but you may be surprised to find a counselor you really like.

Some companies also provide mental health support for their employees (though not nearly enough businesses do.) Even if they don’t, check in with your human resources department. They may prove helpful in your search.

There are also community, city, and state resources that could help you find a local therapist. I’ve visited the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in NYC in the past and know they have great information and numerous support groups running. Your local community center may also host support groups.

Try Online Therapy

I honestly doubted that online therapy could be helpful, but I’ve had a great experience with it this year.

This could be an option for anyone who would prefer email/messaging/text-based therapy rather than talking face-to-face with someone, but there are also video chat options. Another benefit is that some of these services offer instant, 24/7 therapy. No more waiting for next week’s session! Online therapy can also be more affordable than in-person sessions.

My friends have used the following online counseling tools and recommend them:

  • BetterHelp – Offering messaged-based and video chat therapy that I’m currently using. They’ll match you with a counselor based on your needs, and you’re able to switch counselors at any time. Services start at $35/week, but they do offer financial aid to those in need!
  • TalkSpace – This service focuses on 24/7 text therapy, but audio and video options can be added at an additional cost. They also offer couples therapy
  • Doctor On Demand – Video chat with any type of doctor through this site and app, including mental health care professionals. More expensive than the services above, but your insurance may be applicable depending on the professional
  • Lantern – Based in cognitive behavioral therapy, this app matches you with a professional life coach who sends you exercises related to your personal needs. The most affordable option on this list

Searching for your first therapist can be intimidating, but taking that first step will be so worth it!

Please seek help if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. Check out this page for hotline resources

The First-Timer's Guide to Finding a Therapist

5 Reasons to Exercise Outdoors

5 reasons to exercise outdoors

Just came back from my second personal training session with Jenn and WOW my butt is feeling it today. It was my first time lifting a kettlebell in quite some time and I forgot how much I like using one.

We concentrated on legs and abs, and pushed through plenty of squats, lunges, kettlebell swings, deadlifts, leg extensions, Russian twists, and alternating toe touches. I felt good on my first two sets of everything and tired by the third set. It’s always the end that sneaks up and gets me! I got through it though, and that’s all that matters. Jenn repeatedly told me I was living throughout the session which helped and made me laugh.

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What a view!

She offered to have this session on the roof of her apartment in Astoria and I’m so glad we took advantage of it on such a beautiful day. I felt totally invigorated out there, especially since it has been raining for the last couple of days. The gorgeous view didn’t hurt either.

It’s a smart idea to mix up your work out environment once in a while to keep things fresh. Here are ten reasons why you should consider exercising outside for a change:

1.) Sun Time

Exercising outdoors is a great way to get some much-needed Vitamin D. Moderate sun exposure benefits your health and can make you feel happy. Just remember to put on SPF before you head outside and reapply as needed.

2.) Save Money

Gyms provide plenty of equipment for varying needs, but they can also be super expensive. You’ll save if you stick to using local roads for running and public parks to exercise in. You may also be able to find free fitness classes and events that take place in parks. Check out the NYC Parks Department website if you’re in the area.

3.) There’s More to Look At

Staring at the same gym walls can feel pretty boring. When you exercise outside, there’s so much to see and hear! Trees, cityscapes, dogs, and cute babies – need I say more?

If you don’t want to listen to the gossipy ladies sitting on a nearby park bench, consider putting on some headphones and playing tunes. Try a Free Trial for Amazon Music Unlimited.

4.) You’ll Work Out Harder

The same workout will obviously be more difficult in the summer heat than in a climate-controlled gym, and that’s good when you’re looking for a challenge. Varying temperature will put more stress on the body and result in a better burn.

The changing terrain and inclination of an outdoor space can increase the impact of your exercise as well. Sand, mud, grass, and rocks all affect your gait and can impact the level of difficulty.

5.) You’re More Likely to Exercise Again

One study found that you’re more likely to repeat exercise sessions if you do them outdoors. If going to the gym is a constant battle, then it might pay off to try outdoor fitness.

I’ll be working out on the road while I’m on my California road trip next week. Stay tuned for a post about that experience, as I’ve never dared to try hotel gyms before.

You can read about how I restarted my fitness journey on this page.

Active vibes to you all!