Self-Care: How to Survive Finals Week (and Life in General)

Burnt-out. Stressed. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Tired. Worried. If you talk to any college student during the month of May and ask them how they’re feeling, you’re likely to hear one at least one of these adjectives. (Or perhaps it’s more likely that you already are a college student who knows these emotions very well.) With finals (and graduation for some) on the horizon, the last few weeks of the semester are an especially challenging time for students who are overburdened with final exams, papers, and culminating projects. It’s a wonder that we’re able to survive this month semester after semester.

But how exactly do we manage to make it out of finals week alive? If you’re anything like me, you might complain to all of your friends and family members every waking minute of the day and end up spending more time worrying than actually studying. If I had a quarter for every time I tell someone how stressed I feel during finals week, I’d probably be able to buy a whole semester’s worth of textbooks! However, throughout the past four years that I have spent at UMBC, I’ve come to realize the importance of doing something about that stress.

The answer is simple: self-care. Many of my close friends who know that I’m an avid fan on NBC’s Parks and Recreation will tell you that I live by the motto “Treat Yo’self”. Taking care of yourself through actions that preserve your physical, mental, and emotional health is essential in maintaining motivation through times of high-stress. However, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. We live in a society that pushes for productivity and efficiency at all times. In my own life, I often feel extremely guilty when I trade in my textbook for even just a half hour of Netflix. I feel as if I should be studying 24/7. Although I am certain many of my classmates share with me in this mindset, practicing self-care is actually likely to increase your productivity and energy at work and in school. Among other benefits, self-care is likely to help prevent burnout, aid in maintaining healthy relationships, and improve self-esteem.

You don’t need to wait until you feel stressed to practice self-care. Whenever you feel that you need a break, give yourself one! Taking care of yourself does not make you a selfish person. We all need time to recharge our batteries so that we can make the most of our lives and perform at our full potential.

Self-Care_wallpaper

Self-care will look different for different people. Find out what works best for you, and do what makes you happy! Here are some resources that may be helpful to you during this finals season.

33 Quotes to Inspire Self-Care

The Importance of Self-Care

Self-Care Strategies

50 Ways to Take a Break

Self-Care Comic

Tips for Vitality and Serenity

If you’re free on Thursday, May 8th between 12 and 1pm, stop by the Women’s Center to make your very own self care box with us! More information can be found here. 

FLYER

The Cognitive Dissonance of Internalized Victim-Blaming

This is a guest post that the author asked to be posted anonymously to allow for privacy while still sharing an important experience.

**Trigger warning for extensive discussion of sexual assault and victim-blaming**

I’m an ardent anti-sexual violence activist. I’ve read the feminist literature and participated in consciousness-raising activities. I’ve attended awareness rallies  and signed petitions. I advocate on behalf of survivors and I adamantly oppose victim-blaming myths, language, and practices. My position on the issue is pretty well summed up by the quintessential Take Back the Night chant, “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, ‘yes’ means yes and ‘no’ means no.”

But I have a confession.

I know a rape survivor. And I sometimes blame her for what happened. I feel like a horrible feminist, activist, and human being for even thinking it. But sometimes I blame her.

I think about how she had been going out to bars so much lately and how she’d had so many close calls already. Why didn’t she just stay home that night instead of acting like a stereotypical party girl?

I can’t believe she pre-gamed so hard and so fast just to save a little money and calm her social anxiety before going out. She always overdoes it and never learns her lesson.

I wonder why she went to that club where the bouncers were infamous for predatory behavior toward women. She should have known they wouldn’t help her if she needed it.

I ask myself repeatedly why she smiled and chatted politely with that obnoxious self-proclaimed “military stud.” I know he was pretty forceful and she didn’t want to be rude, but she really should have just told him to leave her alone from the start. Maybe then he wouldn’t have dragged her body like a rag doll onto the dance floor.

I really wish she would have watched her drinks better. If she had then maybe she would have been able to keep her eyes open and she would’ve been able to get her tongue to form words. I know her arms felt like jelly, I know he was literally holding her upright to keep her from slumping onto the floor, I know she tried everything she could to push him off of her, but couldn’t she have just, I don’t know, tried harder?

I feel nauseated when I think about how he hugged her afterward while using the pretense of friendly affection to get his hands all over her one last time. The image plays over in my head and I want to scream, “Do something! Make him stop!” Yes, I know, jelly arms. But come on! Who needs upper body strength and basic motor function when you have resolve? And she did have resolve, right?

I cringe when I think about how she still sometimes worries that photos will someday show up online, publicly documenting her violation while framing her as some sort of carefree and tipsy exhibitionist. But who is she kidding if she thinks she lives in a world where women can make mistakes and not fear public shaming?

I feel angry when I remember how for months after that night, instead of going sober altogether she kept up with the habits that had gotten her into that situation in the first place because she figured, well, what did it matter now. And how could she have the nerve to be upset just a few weeks later when she very narrowly avoided an even worse incident but by the benevolent intervention of a few strangers? She should have known that literal unconsciousness would be interpreted by some as fair game.

And I can’t forgive her for just turning and walking away when she saw him again a couple months later, outside that same club, chatting up some other young woman. I know it’s not her fault and his actions that night and any other are his responsibility alone. But I still can’t forgive her.

It makes me sick inside to think it, but every time I try to shut it out it just creeps up again. I know all about how rape culture minimizes violence and shifts blame from sexual predators onto victims. I know it’s bullshit.  And yet I still hear that tiny voice in the back of my mind.  If only she had…If only she hadn’t…If only, if only, if only. If only she’d just not gotten herself raped.

I told you it was a horrible confession. Do you think I’m a sufficiently terrible person yet? A failure as a feminist and an even worse advocate for survivors? What about when I tell you that the rape survivor I’m talking about, the one I just can’t stop blaming, the one I just can’t seem to forgive — is me?

I am the survivor.

She is me and I just can’t manage to stop blaming her for what happened. Me. I can’t stop blaming myself.

And that is the truly toxic nature of rape culture. As a feminist activist, I vehemently and wholeheartedly deconstruct and combat victim-blaming myths and language, all while still struggling with its hold over me. There’s an almost painful cognitive dissonance to it, really. That’s why I’m so outraged when I see rape culture being constantly perpetuated in the media, the justice system, or in my own life. Regardless of the intent, I know all too well how much damage is done by blame-shifting rape apologia. Because there’s no condescending admonishment that survivors haven’t already heard in their own minds over and over again as they try to push through the guilt, shame, and trauma and find their way toward self-forgiveness.

This internal struggle is part of what motivates me to advocate for survivors of sexual assault. To support and empower them to overcome their own internalized victim-blaming. To help them see past their “if onlys” and realize that the only “if only” that matters is “if only the perpetrator hadn’t decided to assault them.”

I fully reject victim-blaming and I say honestly to other survivors that no matter what they were doing or what they were wearing or how much they were drinking that what happened to them was not their fault and they did not deserve it. Absolutely, one-hundred percent, bottom line. And I hope that one day I can say that same thing to myself and believe it just as much as I believe it when I say it about survivors of sexual violence.

 

Rebuilding Manhood to Reduce Sexual Assault

Rebuilding Manhood, the weekly discussion group for male-identified students at UMBC, focuses on a wide array of topics that relate to manhood and masculinity in our society.  The topic of sexual assault, and the role that rape culture plays in perpetuating sexual violence, is one such topic.  The issue of sexual violence is often framed as ‘a women’s issue,’ but violence against women, as author and activist Jackson Katz notes in his book The Macho Paradox, is more about men and their issues, as men are the ones committing the vast majority of violence, and the ones “whom women have been conditioned to fear.”  This is why the topics of sexual assault and rape culture are an important aspect of Rebuilding Manhood.   If we are serious about reducing sexual assault in our communities, it is critical that men understand the role that they can play in helping facilitate this process.

The importance of getting men involved in sexual assault prevention was reaffirmed to me after our campus’ annual Take Back the Night event.  For well over an hour, brave individuals shared their stories of sexual assault with the crowd of 200 people that were gathered together to support this important cause.  What really struck me, as I thought back on the stories told throughout the evening, was that not a single person victimized by someone they did not know, and quite frequently it was by someone they fully trusted.  Whether it was a parent, a significant other, or a friend, none of the attackers were strangers.  This is disturbing for many reasons, but understanding why men feel that they have the right to take advantage of someone who cares about them, and someone who trusts them, is what relates most to the work we do in Rebuilding Manhood.

The fact is that most men are not rapists, and would not consider committing sexual violence against someone else.  The problem comes when men are told in subtle ways, and women in not so subtle ways, that all men are potential rapists.  It is ironic that people think that feminists believe this to be true, when it is actually our larger culture that tells men to be overtly sexual beings, that teaches women strategies to be constantly on guard against the possibility of male violence, and that argues that women are to blame for sexual assault because they were wearing the wrong thing or were in the wrong place or were at a party and should have known better.  These beliefs and these arguments are telling men that they are unbridled sexual beings whose default setting is apparently that of a rapist, because all it takes for such a thing to occur is for someone to come along showing too much skin, or to simply exist in a space where they are around men.

As a man, these beliefs offend me to my very core.  Men are not debased animals, controlled by primal urges which somehow override their ability to ask for consent, or to respect the decisions that are made by their fellow human beings.  In Rebuilding Manhood, we examine the thoughts behind these types of beliefs, and how these are reinforced  on a daily basis, whether it is through rape jokes, ignoring the catcalls that women face on a daily basis, or by the constant repetition of phrases like “boys will be boys” and “that’s just how men are.”  Rebuilding Manhood believes that men can be so much more, and that they can be allies to women and to other men.  Women are not the enemy, any more than men are the enemy, and the cultural ideals about manhood and masculinity need to be rebuilt if the amount of sexual assault and violence against women is ever going to be reduced.

Clothesline Project at UMBC

The Clothesline Project is a program that started back in 1990 and has been established “to address the issue of violence against women. It is a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt.” Here at UMBC we do this project twice a year – in October for Relationship Violence Awareness Month and in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Survivors of sexual violence are welcome to decorate a shirt with their feelings and message. Then the shirts are anonymously hanged on a clothesline display, shoulder to shoulder in Commons Main Street “to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against [anyone].”

For the past three years that I have been part of UMBC community I have seen this project and its strong impact on the community. This is a great chance for anyone who has experienced violence to share their stories in a safe setting, and also practice self-care. Making these shirts is an act of therapy in its own way. Last semester for the first time, I made my own shirt. I shared my story with many people without putting my name out there. I was able to take a story out of my chest and feel so much lighter immediately.

As a student staff member at the Women’s Center and a Resident Assistant, I had the privilege of being involved with this project more closely. Last semester with the help of the Women’s Center and some of my Resident Assistant co-workers, we were able to hold another t-shirt-making event in the residential area. This event has happened before in the residential halls, but seeing the work in person was such a powerful experience. Seeing people coming in, making shirts, and sharing their stories shows how they trust us, which challenges us to provide the best support we can as Resident Assistants and Women’s Center community members.

I personally believe having this project on campus is a great opportunity for our UMBC community members to express their feelings about their experiences with sexual and gender-based violence.

There will be a Clothesline Project display on Wednesday, April 30th from 5:15-7:15 in the Harbor Hall court yard.  Shirts and supplies will be available for any survivors who wish to create a shirt that tells their own story. Shirt-making for the Clothesline Project is also available year-round in the Women’s Center.

Women’s History Month CWIT Spotlight: Ebony Tongo

March is Women’s History Month!
Last year’s Women’s History Month’s national theme was Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored last year’s theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields.
Since last year’s spotlights were so meaningful and successful in highlighting the important work of women in STEM fields, we’re back at it for year two. This year’s national theme is Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment. Though there is no specific mention of STEM, it is impossible to deny that acts of courage and commitment from women (and their allies) in STEM occur everyday. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 2nd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women’s History Month.
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Ebony Tongo, Chemical Engineering Major
President of UMBC’s Society of Women Engineers
Describe what sparked your interest STEM and the journey to choosing your major.
What primarily sparked my interest was the fact that I was always told that I couldn’t do it. Being continuously told that engineering was for men made me want to do it even more. I guess I like a good challenge! I chose chemical engineering because I realized just how diverse the job prospects were after graduation; from cosmetics to consumer goods to refineries it seemed like there was nothing they couldn’t do!
Tell us about an internship, research experience or project that you are proud of.
An internship I am really proud of was the one I did last year at the L’Oreal Research and Innovation campus in New Jersey. It was my dream to work for a cosmetic company and acquiring the internship alone was something to be proud of. I really liked that my project had a direct impact on the company, my findings would actually be used in their formulations. It was really cool.
Who are your role models in the engineering or IT field?
My role models tend to shift every now and then, I think women who are able to balance a strong work life and home life are the ones that really inspire me. They are the ones I often ask “how do you do it?”. Every time, its a slightly different answer but one thing still remains the same – hard work!
In your experience, how has being a woman in engineering or IT demanded character, courage or commitment?
There are definitely some moments that stick out to you more than others. You constantly wonder why your opinion is being disregarded first hand or why you need to speak louder to get your point across. It’s an ongoing battle but it takes a lot of character, keeping professional and realizing that you have to gain the respect of people and not just expect it to be handed to you. If you do good quality work, people will notice and you won’t need to speak up so loudly any more.
The Center for Women In Technology (CWIT) is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the creation of technology in the engineering and information technology fields. CWIT efforts begin with nurturing a strong group of Scholars, grow to building community resources for other women in these majors, extend to fostering a healthy gender climate and ITE pedagogy in College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) departments, and finally expand into outreach efforts to increase interest in technical careers. A successful program for female-friendly engineering and information technology education at UMBC will help make UMBC a destination for women (and men) interested in technical careers and serve as a national model for other universities.
Learn more about the CWIT community at http://www.cwit.umbc.edu/
For more information about Women’s History events and happenings, visit:http://my.umbc.edu/groups/womenscenter/news/41639

Women’s History Month CWIT Spotlight: Kevin Johnson

March is Women’s History Month!
 
Last year’s Women’s History Month’s national theme was Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored last year’s theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields.
 
Since last year’s spotlights were so meaningful and successful in highlighting the important work of women in STEM fields, we’re back at it for year two. This year’s national theme is Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment. Though there is no specific mention of STEM, it is impossible to deny that acts of courage and commitment from women (and their allies… which we’re specifically featuring in this spotlight today!) in STEM occur everyday. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 2nd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women’s History Month.
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Kevin Johnson, mechanical engineering major
Men in CWIT group facilitator
Tell us about your experience in the CWIT community.
Joining the CWIT community has been one of the best decisions of my life. I have loved becoming so close with other success-driven students who share similar majors to mine. The CWIT community really is one big family who all support and look out for each other. It is a great feeling knowing that you have so many friends to help you with any problems you may have. The directors of CWIT have done a great job of making themselves extremely accessible and supportive as well. They are always willing to help scholars with any of their problems, whether they are academic or personal. It is also nice being around other students who share a similar mindset as me. We all support the inclusion of women in STEM fields and use the community as a way to support the women in our program and other women who are not in our scholars program. The CWIT community has helped me make some lifelong friends who I will always stay in touch with and never forget. Each new class of scholars is unique in their own way and when we all come together as a family, anything seems possible.
 
Based on your internship experience, what do you want other men to know about the gender gap in engineering and IT? 
I would say the most important thing men need to realize about the gender gap in engineering and IT would be that the inclusion of women is going to be necessary to keep moving forward in a constantly changing world. I have had 2 internships now and it is quite obvious in each one that I have been part of a male majority. Although both places I interned with are extremely successful, I would be remiss to not say that both places would benefit from more women involved in STEM fields. Right now, many engineering problems are being solved by males, which account for half the population of the world. Why are we solving problems that affect everyone with the brainpower of only half the population? It doesn’t make sense. Encouraging more women to get involved in STEM fields and giving them a real chance to succeed in the workplace will allow us to create and design more diverse and effective solutions to the difficult engineering problems that we face in today’s modern world.
 
How do you feel you are a role model for other men majoring in engineering and IT?
I feel like I can be a role model for other men majoring in engineering and IT in many different ways. I am comfortable talking to anyone about CWIT and our mission and I believe this is the most important aspect of our program. Spreading the word about our program and why it exists to other men could make a huge difference about how they view women in STEM fields. Sometimes it just takes someone informing another person of a dilemma for them to view it in a different light. I also feel comfortable standing up for women who are being discriminated against. I have no problem pulling a male teammate aside and suggesting they treat a woman in our group more fairly. This is only fair to the woman and will help the team in the long run. Sometimes the males are not even conscious of how they are discriminating against females. Other men in engineering and IT should learn to be accepting of women in STEM fields because this will lead to more robust solutions to advanced technological problems.
 
In your experience, how has being a man advocating for women in engineering or IT demanded character, courage or commitment?
Being a man advocating for women in engineering and IT comes with its challenges. A majority of males do not agree with my opinion, or if they do, they do not go out of their way to vocalize it like I do. There have been several occasions during group projects where I have had to talk to my male colleagues to encourage them to include the women’s opinions more because their opinions hold just as much weight as ours do. Some of my closest and smartest female friends are women in STEM fields at UMBC, but some males do not have the privilege of knowing them because they think they are on a higher level compared to the females. I have stayed committed to the CWIT mission even when many other students do not agree with it. Even in the workplace I have had to stick up for female interns so their voice will be heard among the masses of male voices. Advocating CWIT and their important mission has not always been easy, but it has been worth it. I know that every person deserves a fair chance in the engineering and IT fields and I will continue to support this mission throughout my lifetime.
 
 
The Center for Women In Technology (CWIT) is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the creation of technology in the engineering and information technology fields. CWIT efforts begin with nurturing a strong group of Scholars, grow to building community resources for other women in these majors, extend to fostering a healthy gender climate and ITE pedagogy in College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) departments, and finally expand into outreach efforts to increase interest in technical careers. A successful program for female-friendly engineering and information technology education at UMBC will help make UMBC a destination for women (and men) interested in technical careers and serve as a national model for other universities.
Learn more about the CWIT community at http://www.cwit.umbc.edu/
 
 
For more information about Women’s History events and happenings, visit:http://my.umbc.edu/groups/womenscenter/news/41639