Unexpected Calm

by Beth Royston

It’s safe to say I was worried about what was going to happen when the coronavirus finally hit Portland. I was extremely ill over winter break and for most of this term, and have been dealing with a lot of trauma about what happened to me. Some of those trauma symptoms were exacerbated by staying inside for long periods of time — and that’s what I was about to do as coronavirus continued to spread. 

I was unsure how my mental health would be impacted, especially with not being able to work as much as usual. I’m a productive person and getting things done is what makes me happy and fulfilled. Sometimes getting through a single two-day weekend at home was difficult, but I felt strongly about wanting to keep myself and others safe and therefore resigned to stay home. I had fought really hard to keep myself going to classes and work this term, battling physical and mental symptoms, and when I felt like I had finally reached a point of things being okay, I was about to be thrown into the fire I had spent so much time gently easing into.

Surprisingly, though, things have taken a turn for the better. I think I’ve been so occupied with keeping tabs on friends and family members and others affected by the coronavirus that I haven’t had time to worry about myself. A lot of my anxieties have faded, and I’ve had a lot to work on to keep myself busy. I usually prefer to take one or two online classes alongside one or two in-person classes, so I wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with our new format. I definitely miss being on our beautiful campus, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to still attend classes. 

I’ve found that keeping a daily routine, eating healthy, trying to get outside for walks, and keeping busy has helped my mental health a lot. I’m looking forward to being on campus again, but I’m glad that I’m not putting myself or others at risk, and I’m thankful that my body seems to have decided to give me a break from my amplified anxiety. 

I’m very thankful that I am safe and healthy and all of my loved ones and friends are too. Continuing to hear about some of the things going on can be anxiety-inducing, but I try to watch how much I’m checking the news and reading stories and balance it out with things that I enjoy. Hopefully, things will be back to normal soon.

A Listening Ear

by Beth Royston

I knew that I wanted to squeeze in some more volunteer work this term, in order to feel as prepared as possible for my application to my graduate program in the fall. However, I was almost out of the house 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. already, and wasn’t sure if I would be able to make time to add another commitment on. I heard from a couple of my psychology professors that crisis counseling was a great way to break into psychology volunteering, but to be honest, I was a little intimidated by thinking of going to a center, taking calls, and essentially getting empathy exhaustion. Then, I’d have to go home at night and probably go to sleep right after, which I knew wouldn’t help me feel cheery. 

With a bit of research, I found I could actually apply for a volunteer position with a text line and take conversations on my laptop. I’ve only been doing it for a little over a month, but to be honest, I wish I had started much sooner. I really appreciate the ability to choose my schedule, and change it week to week. There’s also the ability to debrief with other counselors when hard conversations happen, and you receive constant support from your supervisor. 

It is tough though, especially when you can tell someone doesn’t feel better after talking with you, and there’s not much more you can do for them. My hardest conversations are with younger people that text in, and may have a harder time understanding that we can’t say or do certain things for them when they’re clearly in need. But I’m glad that I’m giving some of my time each week to volunteering and offering my trained and compassionate ears to people that really, really need it. 

I currently put in about four or five hours each week, shifting back and forth between splitting that up into two days and doing it all on Saturday. However, over spring break, I’ll probably be putting in a lot more time. 

It’s great practice for my future as a therapist to learn to leave it behind when I close my laptop and to learn that you can’t fix everything for someone, only be there for them to provide support, resources, and validation of what they’re going through. But that’s still pretty special, in my opinion. It can weigh on me sometimes, and it’s not for everyone, but I think I’ll probably be volunteering for a long time.

Go Thorns!

by Beth Royston

It’s February, which means my fingers twitch toward the bookmark in my web browser, wanting to carry out the urge to check it one more time, despite knowing  I’ll get an email anyway. I have to smile at myself — years ago, if I knew I’d be frothing at the mouth to get my hands on good seats for a soccer match, I would have denied it. 

I played sports as a kid, but organized events were another thing entirely. I also hated growing up in my California hometown, so I never felt any real pride for local sports teams. My mom is an avid soccer fan, but I didn’t often watch with her, instead preferring to preserve my own life force. Sometimes she would get so excited I feared she would squeeze all the air out of my lungs (Love you, Mom). 

However, since coming to Portland, I knew I should eventually take part in a Portland rite of passage — seeing a soccer match at Providence Park. Needless to say, I was hooked. I’ve now been to both Timbers and Thorns games, but I prefer the Thorns. It’s a really wholesome atmosphere — you can’t look anywhere in the arena without seeing a giant pride flag being waved vigorously, and the energy of the cheering crowd is infectious. Our team is good, too, and a lot of fun to watch. I feel represented and welcomed in the crowd, where the atmosphere is never murderous even in the face of a loss. I feel represented in the team, too. 

I’d recommend going to a match this spring when the Thorns start playing again. Maybe you’ll too join the ranks of fans who give in for an overpriced beverage and a scarf. It’s worth it for the experience, I promise.

I imagine much of my joy comes from feeling like I’m part of something, feeling pride in my home team and getting to watch these amazing, diverse women excel. I’m sure it would be dangerous for my mom and I to both go to a soccer match, we’d probably be cutting off each other’s circulation out of excitement, but we’ll probably do it anyway. 

New Beginnings

by Beth Royston

I’ve blossomed into a self-disciplined person who is nearly unrecognizable from my high school self. For a while during high school, I suffered from severe depression and social anxiety; I was very unmotivated to pursue college and a career, and felt hopeless about my life. I wasn’t that much of an outsider and had a lot of friends, but simultaneously felt like I didn’t fit in or belong. 

I remember when I began to unenthusiastically research schools, Portland State caught my eye immediately. Having always lived in a suburban area, the idea of being directly in the city was appealing, and the lush, green, forested surroundings sounded like a dream. I had been half-interested in psychology, but once I sat down and really started to evaluate what I’d want to study, it seemed instinctually right. A fire was lit under me when I took AP Psychology, and plans formed to make my dream more realistic by the day. I remember I was so anxious about getting accepted to PSU because I wasn’t confident about the grades on my application. I think I submitted too many letters of recommendation and didn’t sleep right at all while I was waiting. The morning I found out I was accepted, I cried. It felt like my ticket out of how awful I was constantly feeling and how out of place I felt, and my first real dreams were forming.

Now I’m a college junior, majoring in Psychology and “flourishing” is the perfect word to describe my college experience. I have a high GPA and, more importantly, a new take on life. While my mental illness struggles never really went away entirely, they drastically improved. I look at things differently and really enjoy the flexibility of college. I get to choose what I study, especially in my upper level years, and make my own schedule. The stress of finding my own apartment and paying bills turned out to be the kind of struggle that turned into grit. The responsibilities of my own adult life made me take on discipline and genuine care for my own education and future. College isn’t for everyone, but I was really transformed by the lifestyle change when I was having the hardest of times, and that’s definitely something to be grateful for.

Winter Wonderland

by Beth Royston

I’ve slipped in snow and plummeted headfirst into an icy road with cars coming, but I still can’t quite bring myself to adopt the same dread regarding snow that a lot of my friends have.

Growing up in California, snow was always a special treat requiring a several-hour drive up the closest mountain. It was magical and also one of the few times I was permitted to eat instant ramen, clustered around steaming cups with my cousins, our cheeks red from chill. I was already looking forward to Portland’s actual seasons instead of 365 straight days of heat, but I was gently warned not to have high hopes of snow. I moved here in September 2016, and that winter was one of the biggest snowfalls Portland had experienced in a while. I was nothing short of elated being able to walk out my front door and jump into a snowbank.

Snow also meant stress: being stuck downtown during rush hour after a shift at the restaurant I worked at, realizing it would cost several hundred dollars and take several hours to get an Uber, because the buses had stopped running. I eventually went home with a coworker for the night and the next morning one of her saint-like roommates volunteered to drive me home from North Portland to West Linn, cheerfully chatting with me as we skidded on ice and I feared for my life. It can mean missing work, which seems fun until you remember you’re a self-supporting student and your paycheck is kind of important, but I don’t think I’ll ever truly gripe about it.

When the first few flakes start to drift down, even if they don’t stick, snow holds a timeless kind of magic for me. I secretly hope for another absolute coating, but we’ll have to see.

Stress My New BFF

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By: Sara Kirkpatrick 

As college students, we struggle with stress on a daily basis, from weekly assignments, to midterms to final exams. Stress has become the annoying classmate sitting next to us in lectures, constantly demanding recognition and by default, holding us accountable for everything we could have done differently or better.
I have always been submissive to stress’s ability to not only overpower me physically, but to also drain me emotionally. With winter term finals just around the corner, I have decided to redirect my attitude about stress, and instead of avoiding it, I am embracing and befriending it.

Identifying stress as my new BFF not only gives me complete control over my stress reactions, but research has shown that stress actually works in our favor by strengthening our relationships with oxytocin also known as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone,” because it is released when people snuggle up or Body Image 2.pngbond socially. Even playing with a pet, such as my cat Miko can cause an oxytocin surge. This concept of befriending stress was introduced to me through my SBA Organizational Behavior course, which highlighted an inspirational TED talk by Kelly McGonigal.

As students, I think we have a deeper responsibility to find ways to manage stress, which is why learning how to befriend stress not only teaches us to stop and listen to the messages our bodies and mind are sending, but gives us the skills needed to become smart, decision-making professionals. These are the soft skills future employers will be looking for!

Want to make stress your BFF? Check out the TED talk here.

A NEW LINK TO THE JOB MARKET

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By: Sara Kirkpatrick 

Just like you, I am one of 28,076 students currently enrolled at Portland State University. All of us are followed, liked, shared, and/or linked by millennial-driven platforms; each of which are working hard to promote our professional self image.

As a career driven student, I allocate a majority of my time to the top business networking platform, LinkedIn. I am excited to start using its new standalone, “LinkedIn Students” app, which is currently available for download. The LinkedIn Students app is solely equipped for helping soon-to-be college graduates search for future employment by providing an easy and convenient way to explore jobs anywhere in the world.

According to Forbes, “The tool offers personalized job recommendations and postings based on the career paths of LinkedIn’s more than 400 million users. The app’s algorithm iLINKEDIN STUDENT IMAGE1s guided in part by the career paths of professionals who graduated from the same college and with the same major as a particular student.”
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I like that the free app also offers career-
related content and videos, which consist LINKEDIN BLOG IMAGE3
of articles about interviewing and negotiating a salary – to name a few. Student-friendly features include a ‘star button’ that gives students a way to indicate preferences and transform LinkedIn Students into our own digitalized career consultant.

Have you tried the new LinkedIn Students App? If not, download the app using the link: https://students.linkedin.com/

The generation to end smoking?

IMG_2069 by Steph Holton

Spring has (finally) hit Portland. The sun is shining and I’m taking full advantage: I’ve got my Nikes on and my feet hit the pavement in rhythm to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” I think how nice it is to run in the fresh air after a winter spent doing treadmill workouts. Grinning to myself, I turn a corner onto the park blocks and, mid-breath, run through a cloud of second-hand smoke.

This is infuriating on multiple accounts, but the two that are most easily articulated are: 1) the smoker is no more than twenty years old, and 2) the Park Blocks are a part of PSU’s smoke-free campus.

As a non-smoker who has lost family members to cancer and emphysema, it’s easy for me to get angry, and sometimes it’s all too tempting to hit cigarettes right out of my peers’ hands. But I know that even though anger is often the catalyst for change, an end to smoking is going to require patience and open conversation. The campaign known as Truth (thetruth.com) is committed to making ours the generation that ends smoking, and it’s doing so by spreading, well, truth. Truth is continually exposing big tobacco and giving us the facts about the effects of smoking on the environment and society. For instance, did you know that a cat or dog whose owner smokes (around the pet or not) is twice as likely to get cancer?

We’re the products of the Information Age. And as such I believe that, armed with information, smokers and non-smokers can join together in the campaign to eradicate smoking. PSU has recently made the commitment to creating a healthier campus by banning smoking on all campus property, and the first contribution we can all make as Portland State students is to respect these tobacco-free zones (map below).

PSU - Smoke Free Map

Invasion of the Smartphones

IMG_2069 by Steph Holton

My day starts and ends with my cellphone. In the morning it acts as an alarm, dutifully blaring out “Urgent” by Foreigner, and in the evening, much as I hate to admit it, scrolling through Pinterest is the lullaby that puts me to sleep. Now, I know these two smartphone-enabled acts are not uncommon, and neither are they excessive uses of the technology. But what about the hours of use in between?

I’ve found that, increasingly often, people are less hesitant to admit how completely dependent they are on their phones. This is the information age, after all, and what is a Google search here and a minute to check Facebook there really hurting? Well, our individual and collective productivity. You know what I mean: You block out two hours for homework, sit down at your desk, then fast forward a hundred and twenty minutes – you’ve watched a half dozen YouTube videos and done maybe half an hour of actual work. Even as I type this, I’m desperately attempting to abstain from going to the open browser window to look up every little whim that pops into my head.

Is this a problem for me? Yes, absolutely.

Is it becoming a societal problem? I don’t know – what do you think?

What I do know is that if I could quantify the amount of extra work I’d be getting done every day without my phone as a productivity-roadblock, I think I’d be at least a tad horrified. So I’m making a New Year’s resolution to power-down more often.