Sneak Peek into the Semester

I had hardly read past the firetruck-red cover of Jean M. Twenge’s book when I felt the alienating feeling of defensiveness flush through me. The title itself was enough to put me on edge. iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy– and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood and What That Means for the Rest of Us. “Is Dr. Twenge really suggesting that I am less rebellious, less happy, and less prepared for life?” I scoffed to myself.

Pushing aside my initial reaction of opposition, I kept reading to learn that, yes, Dr. Twenge is including me, including all of us, in this ominously negative ensemble called iGen. “They were born after 1995,” Twenge writes. “They socialize in completely new ways, reject once sacred social taboos, and want different things from their lives and careers. They are obsessed with safety and fearful of their economic futures, and they have no patience for inequality based on gender, race, or sexual orientation. They are at the forefront of the worst mental health crisis in decades… Teens are physically safer than ever, yet they are more mentally vulnerable” (3). 

As she unpacks her data drawn from more than 11 million respondents and over multiple decades, Twenge explores the psychology of the iGen’er in various contexts and caveats. She dives into the lifestyle patterns, behaviors, attitudes, and the implications of the internet and social media on mental health. She appeals to parents, educators, and employers to understand us despite generational divides in order to interact with us successfully. 

Though there is much merit in the pursuit of understanding us, an arguably more pertinent issue is that we understand ourselves. Hope College’s student-led initiative Press Pause is here to give us the tools to do just that. Based on the 2017 American College Health Association National College Health Assessment (ACHA NCHA) survey data, Press Pause plans to bring students information regarding their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. 

To kick off the second year of the Press Pause campaign, you can expect blog posts from both myself and wellness experts, print materials throughout the campus, and a new common language about what it means to “press pause” and take care of yourself. Here’s a sneak peek into the Fall 2019 Semester: 

September: S.M.A.R.T. Goals

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

November: Sleep

December: Stress Management

As you gear up to come back to campus, give yourself a moment to “press pause,” pay attention to your head and your heart, and feel energized for this new year to learn and grow. Let’s show Dr. Twenge that we are completely prepared for this life because we are intentionally practicing what it means to “press pause” every day.

Stand and Stare

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”

That’s a nice idea, I thought instantaneously as I scrolled to the next thing on my feed, not registering the words under my fingertips. My mind was in every place yet no place… that party last night, the subsequent gossip, the stats test on Monday… I yawned as my eyelids grew heavy. The rest of me was numb. I was disengaged from life and my motions were menial. I closed the app, looked around my dorm room weakly, and, almost without a thought, reopened the same app, refreshing the feed as if a new post from the past three seconds could entertain me out of oblivion. 

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”

The same message blinked at me from my fluorescent phone screen. I blinked back. I don’t have time to stand and stare, I scoffed, ticking down my list of commitments. My social work and Spanish classes. The cross country and track team. Mellon Scholars. My off-campus job. And, most recently, I accepted the position as the student intern for the Press Pause campaign. Yup, I sleepily thought, submitting to my drooping eyelids, too busy for that nonsense. I drifted to sleep, allowing my brain to enter a withdrawn state. Yet, somehow, the message burned in my mind. 

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”

A small part of the crowded and loud place that is my mind struggled against my endless thoughts for undivided attention. I tuned into its jeering. Hannah, it reminded me, press pause. With a start, I snapped awake, blushing at the irony of my own negligence to slow down when I myself am the one promoting Hope College’s wellness initiative. With this responsibility and privilege comes my personal commitment to slowing down enough to notice the choices I’m making, the relationships I’m building, the thought patterns I’m leading.

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”

I permitted the line to consume my mind fully, mediating on its words and wondering what it might mean in the Press Pause campaign. It could seem self-indulgent to stand and stare in self-care. It might seem like a lost cause attempting to rewrite the social norms around drug and alcohol use. Awareness and personal wellness may seem frivolous when we have the stress of school and careers to attend to. Yet I opened the app again, this time allowing myself to read the entirety of the poem “Leisure” by William Henry Davies. As I read the final line, I was again struck by the urgency carried in these simple words. With conviction, I realized it’s time to drop the excuses and commit to a better way of living. 

“A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”

The Fear of Moving On

If there is any universal truth I have heard from my fellow soon-to-be graduates, it is that the prospect of leaving this place is daunting at best, and terrifying at worst. That isn’t to say that there aren’t many people who are prepared to leave; there are many who are excited to. It is not the leaving that is scary, but the part that comes after leaving; the “real” world.

If you’re feeling stressed, don’t worry; it’s not just you. According to the Chicago Tribune, post-graduate depression is quite common. And there are many concrete reasons for this. Mainly, the drastic change in purpose and routine, the stress of entering the workforce, and the loss of a tight-knit community. It can also bring sadness and depression on the opposite end of the spectrum; leaving college can be disheartening if you realize you didn’t quite have the college experience you wanted.

Don’t let this bring you down even more, though. There are several step you can take to help alleviate some of these symptoms.

Deactivate your social media for a while.
Social media may be a fun way to pass the time, but it isn’t doing your mental health any favors. A study by the University of Pittsburgh found a link between high rates of depression and high rates of social media use. Researchers hypothesize that it has something to do with the augmented reality people can create using social media; seeing other people put up a facade that they have it all figured out makes us feel worse when we don’t.

Find an outlet for your passions.
One of the amazing things about college is that you spend so much time doing work that is meaningful to you. You take classes that interest you, and most likely you do an extracurricular that *sparks joy*. However, leaving college can be quite different; most people aren’t scoring their dream job right after graduation, and that means working in an environment that can be quite understimulating and passionless. Whether it’s joining a band, attending classes in the community, or volunteering with a cause you love, try and find something that brings you joy. It might bring you passion and ground you during your transition into post-grad life.

Seek professional help.
You might not be able to shake a period of depression on your own, and that’s ok. Seeing a therapist, even if only for a few sessions, can help you work through some of those emotions that are keeping you down. And, you might find that therapy is a long-term treatment that significantly improves your mental health. If you’re looking for a therapist, try this search engine from Psychology Today, or search your insurance company’s website if you have health insurance. Don’t give up hope if therapy seems too expensive or out of reach; many therapists provide low to no cost options for people without insurance, or whose insurance does not cover therapy.

As you embark on this new journey, try to enjoy it! Change is scary, but also rewarding and fun. And know that wherever you end up, you have a community you met at Hope that you can rely on for support.

Have a question you want to ask, or a topic you want to suggest? Fill out this form, or email us at presspause@hope.edu.

“You are not a brain on a stick”

This week, we have a guest post from Dr. Kristen Gray! Dr. Gray is the director of Counseling and Psychological Services here at Hope College, as well as a teaching faculty member for the Phelps Scholars Program. With decades of clinical experience, Dr. Gray has 

Self-care is mostly about doing a few simple things – sadly, most people find those simple things to be rather difficult to do. Despite that, consider giving a few of these a try.

Since you, as a human, are more than just a brain on a stick, focusing on academics all day every day, as well as into the early hours of the morning is not a great idea. To be at your best and function fully as a thinking, feeling and breathing human, you might consider getting close to 8 hours of sleep, during the dark, and at about the same time every day. Regular and plentiful sleep aids in focus and memory and moods!

And when you are not sleeping, try moving. Movement is a wonderful way to care for you because it can decrease feelings of anxiety. Try this: grab a friend and walk to Eighth Street, walk all the way down to the Police station – wave at the dark windows on the lower level (it’s where the gym is located and there could be police working out), turn around and walk all the back to campus. This should take about 15-20 minutes and is the perfect walk to relax and have a pleasant chat with a friend. If no friend is available, then enjoy the window shopping and find out if you get a free donut at Cranes Bakery!

Here’s a quick word on being over-committed: do not say yes to anything! It’s time to scale back on all the things you have agreed to do and focus on what you need. And by need, I mean scheduled and plentiful study time, adequate sleep (see the paragraph above), time to be with friends, and even some quiet time. Being over-committed does not help anyone since it means everything you do get a little bit less of you and your energy than it really needs. So say good-bye to something!

One last tip: breathe. Take just 5 minutes a day to sit quietly and breathe. Or sit quietly to pray. Or sit quietly to journal and reflect.

So there you have it: sleep, move, say no, and be quiet. You’ll be feeling better in no time.

Have a question you want to ask, or a topic you want to suggest? Fill out this form, or email us at presspause@hope.edu.

Welcome to Press Pause!

What is Press Pause?

Press Pause is a student-led initiative created to address the specific health concerns of students at Hope College. Every month we plan to bring students new information regarding their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.

What sparked this campaign?

There were two main factors in starting this campaign. The first part was that in 2017, we had students take the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment (ACHA NCHA), a survey that collected information on all areas of student health. From these results, we saw that students were thriving academically, but were struggling in other areas of their life.

The second factor was student initiative; many wonderful students have expressed their needs to Hope, and we wanted Press Pause to be a way to provide resources to fulfill these needs.

What are we going to be talking about?

Over the next few years, Press Pause will be covering a wide variety of topics; sexual health, mental illness, sleep, healthy eating and exercise and so many more. For our first month, we have a very exciting and pertinent topic: self-care! Come back on Wednesday to learn more about self-care resources for students and how to incorporate self-care practices into busy student life.

How do I join the conversation?

Subscribe to our blog! We’ll be posting new content every other Wednesday. A form to subscribe is in the left-hand navigation bar.

Have a question you want to ask or a topic you want to suggest? Fill out this form, or email us at presspause@hope.edu