10 Steps to De-Stress

As a junior in college, the end of the semester is something like a cinematic apocalyptic meltdown. Papers, deadlines, edits, revisions, research. Pile all that on top of a job, issues with family or friends, internships or whatever you else have going on in your life and you’re ready to throw in the towel with higher education. I turn into a green eyed monster this time of year and it’s not becoming. But, with the help of one of my professors and some tricks of my own, I’ve come up with some handy tools to take the stress level down.

10. Make a List

One of the things that helps me to keep track of what I’m doing and what I’ve finished is making a list. Right beside my dresser is my door frame. I write down everything I need to do on separate post-it notes of different colors and stick them to door frame, from the first thing I need to do to the last. When I’ve finished one of the tasks, I take the post-it down. It’s kind of silly, but I see it everyday and it reminds me constantly of what needs to get done. It’s really liberating to be able to watch my list shrink. You don’t have to make a totem pole of post-its like I do, but it’s easy to keep yourself organized simply by writing out what needs to get done – because nothing is worse than someone in your class casually mentioning a paper that you completely forgot about …. and it’s due today.

9. Get Comfortable

There is nothing worse than trying to analyze something or search through a database when you’re in jeans and hunched over a desk. This might be my own personal preference but unless I’m in sweat and sitting in a comfy chair or on my bed, I can’t get anything done! I know for a lot of people, the more uncomfortable they are, the more likely they are to work to get their stuff done, but I can’t torture myself like that.

8. Take a Break

Every 15 minutes or so, I like to minimize my word document and peruse YouTube for a bit. Watch a video or two, get something to get, check out Facebook, walk around my house. Anything to get up and get my mind off my work for a little bit. After a while, the words all run together and soon, whatever you’re working on makes no sense. Now, don’t spend the rest of your night on the internet, feeling accomplish for writing a paragraph. But don’t punish yourself either. It breaks up the work time and gives you a mini reward.

7. Make a Playlist

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See! I'm not kidding!

It’s easy for me to get distracted by noise sometimes, but if I have it down low, it’s soothing and helps me to focus. It’s background noise. I like to make playlists for all sorts of things, and paper writing is no exception. One of my professors suggested classical music, so I like to put some Josh Groban on and let him do his thing. It’s gotten me through several papers this semester! Whatever helps you to concentrate – even if it’s Nicki Minaj – having some music helps you to stay focused.

6. Work on Projects in Increments

I always have tons of projects going on at once, and while I’d like to just focus on one at a time, I like to go back and forth. Now, that doesn’t mean that every 15 minutes you jump to one of six classes! That’s way too confusing. But every three or so hours, going to a different assignment breaks up the work time and it helps me feel like I’m actually getting somewhere. If you have something that requires multiple steps, this is great. For example, one of my classes requires that I put together a portfolio of all the work I’ve done this semester. So for a few hours, I might work on editing pieces for my portfolio and then switch over to my English paper. This way, I’ve gotten some of my portfolio finished and I can begin another project.

5. Send it to a Friend

After looking at your own work for a while – even if you walk away from it and come back – you can miss little things like typos, spelling errors and even mistakenly using the wrong word! Having someone else look over your work can really help the process. And if they’re a really good friend, they’ll tell you when you’re not making any sense!

4. Talk to Your Teacher

9 times out of 10, your teachers and professors are just as swamped as you and if you’re really struggling to get something done, just explain it to them. Most of the time, they’re happy to give you an extension or feedback. I email professors all the time asking questions about assignments and as much as I hate doing it, sometimes I’ve had to turn things in late. Most teachers are understanding, especially if you’ve contacted them the day before it’s due and explained that you were having a hard time. Don’t make it more stressful than it is – reach out to your professor when you need some help.

3. Take a Day Off

If you can afford to take a day off amidst the chaos, do it! Go see a movie with your friends, sleep in, get some things done around the house that you’d been putting off. It cleanse your mind and help to ‘detox’ yourself from the workload. Before jumping into load of work, I like to give myself a day to plan out what I have to do, and then watch some tv. That way I have some time to think about how I want to do things without stressing that it needs to be done NOW.

2. Keep Yourself Hydrated

This sounds a little weird, I guess, but I like to keep something to drink close at hand. Just to wet your whistle or to take a mini break in between paragraphs. Also, it helps to keep you from getting too tired. I usually drink water. Word of advice: DO NOT drink a Starbucks Coffee and then a Monster. If you’re in desperate need of sleep after you stay up until 2, you’ll never fall asleep!

1. Remember, It’s Only College

I first heard this from Noel Crane on Felicity, and I thought ‘yeah, right. This is a tv show, they make everything seem like it’s no big deal.’ But after being in college for three years, it’s the truth. In three years, you won’t even care about the all-nighter you had to pull. In fact, you’ll probably wish that you’d gotten some sleep. When you’re in the situation, it feels like a big deal, but I think that’s because we as humans like to make something small into something huge. So the next time you’re feeling stressed out and desperately wondering how you’re going to make it through four classes, work until 10 and finish your methodology, take a deep breath and remember, it’s only college.

Hope that helps!!

2012 or 1950?

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m in some kind of time warp.

At 21 years old, I’m a college junior working two jobs and trying to get an internship. Personally, I feel like this is where a good majority of my peers should be at this stage in our lives. That’s not to say that everyone should be in college, because let’s face it, higher education can be a big waste of time and money. Sometimes I feel like it would be better to get a regular 9-5 job then spend all of my time in classes, killing myself for a grade that really won’t matter in three years. But I digress.

Lately (and when I say lately, I mean within the last three years since I graduated high school in 2009), it seems like everyone around me – people I went to high school with, people I go to college with, people I work with, people in my age group that I don’t even know – is getting engaged, married, having kids or some combination. And I’m just sitting here like, “I’ve got some homework to do … so.”

Let me first start by saying that the getting married young is nothing to judge someone for. One of my best friends got married over the summer and she and her now-husband were together a few years before that. They had a year-long engagement which, by today’s standard, is pretty good. Just the same, I can’t judge her for that because I’m not young and in love. But at this stage of my life, marriage is a land far, far away.

Every time I log onto Facebook, someone else is engaged or having a baby. I guess it could be attributed to the Teen Mom epidemic, but I have to defend some of these young mothers. Not all of them are clueless and pushing their child off onto their parents. Quite the contrary. Some take care of their children, work to support their new family, do everything in their power to be the best parent they can be. I couldn’t imagine being responsible for another human life, so kudos to those who can do it flawlessly.

I keep seeing the phrase, “we’re the generation who tried to grow up to fast,” or something to that effect. And it’s true. I can remember being thirteen years old and so anxious to have a boyfriend, to be in high school, to go to college. And now that all of those things have happened, they really weren’t/aren’t that great. I’m finding more and more often how much I loved being young. Having no responsibility, my biggest worry was being home in time to see the Kids Choice Awards. Those were the days. And now that I appreciate that hindsight, I apply it daily.

Yesterday before I went to work, I was talking to my best friend and said, ‘why don’t we go out after I get off work? Let’s just go dancing or something.’ So we did. I can’t tell you how much I love being able to raise my glass and shout when the DJ asks where all the single ladies are. But that’s me. I’m sure if I found myself in the position of parenthood, I wouldn’t have any regrets. I think about my future children all the time and I love them so much already. Motherhood is something that can’t easily be explained.

What I find interesting is that most of my peers did their partying in high school. There were numerous times when I would walk down the hallways at my Alma Mater and hear girls say they “blacked out” over the weekend and guys said, “my liver hates me”. Maybe I was the oddball because my weekends in high school consisted of working and homework. Those wild and crazy nights out, in my mind, are reserved for my 20s, not my teens. But maybe I’m a minority.

My plan for my life has always been to enjoy my 20s and settle in my 30s. I’m sorry, but life is too fucking short to settle down at 20 years old. Granted, I’m a firm believer that it’s always the right time for the right person. But until the day he and I find each other, we both better be having the time of our lives. I’m never going to be 21 again and I want to savor each Malibu Bay Breeze, each live concert, each reduced door cover, each dance I have with my best friend. That’s just the way I feel about things.

Everyone has a different path for their life. Sometimes it takes us by surprise. No, I haven’t found love yet and let it take on a life of it’s own. I am genuinely envious of the people who are fortunate enough to have that in their life. However, I wouldn’t trade what I have now for the world, and I know they wouldn’t either.

Life is funny sometimes. I guess the only thing to do is ride it train by train.

Who needs instant gratification? Oh, that’s right, ‘kids today.’

The spring of 2001 is perhaps one of my most favorite memories. I was 10 years old and in the fourth grade. I had very few friends but it wasn’t because I was anti-social – something my teachers feared and as a result had me come to school early so that I could sit with other alleged anti-social kids. The bagels were good, though, so no harm, no foul. I spent most of my recesses reading Beverly Clearly and Chose-Your-Own-Adventure books and after I finishe my work in class, I would write. My mom passed away the summer before so that had a lot to do with it. But I wasn’t unhappy. I was content with my own little habits and happiness – behavior that I still maintain today.

I had to go to a babysitter after school which was where the majority of my friends were; at least 8 kids from scattered grades playing in one large house. If anything, it made our games much more interesting. But after the day was done I finally got home to my room, I would take a nice warm shower, maybe watch an episode of Even Stevens while I got dressed. And then, after I had gotten myself situated, I would pop in one of my favorite cds. Not Britney Spears, not NSYNC. No, no. Even though the power couple that was Britney and Justin (and their all too fabulous denim ensemble they wore to the American Music Awards) ruled their world and the boy band debate was at it’s peak, I wasn’t playing Jessica Simpson’s Irresistible or blasting the Backstreet Boy’s “Shape of My Heart.” I was singing my heart out to A*Teens Teen Spirit.

I knew all of the songs and made up dances. I even had the mini calendar that came with the cd hanging up in my room. In the days before downloads and youtube, I went to KMart and bought the records and waited patiently while The Box Music network played music videos. We didn’t have the handy little info guide on our remote control. We had TV Guide and had to watch until the little scrolly menu came around to my channels. And if I had to use the bathroom, well, then I would just have to wait the 10 minutes.

I can remember getting up early to watch ‘Miami 7′ featuring S Club 7 becaue there was no On Demand. During the summer at my baby sitter’s house, we had video games, but we still played outside. There was a giant lily tree in the front yard and for one reason or another, we decided that it was a brilliant idea to pick the buds off and peel them to the core. I don’t know why we thought this was entertaining, but we did. Things were simpler.

I look at my cousins and the world they have access to. I feel like when I was 11, I was much more protected. It could be argued that 2001 was when America’s ‘Age of Innocence’ died, but I don’t see it that way. As a child, regardless of the world around you, you’re innocent. I remember the Okalhoma City bombing of 1997. I was at home on the couch and I can remember the day time television news anchors saying that it was ‘a tragedy.’ All I knew was that I wasn’t going to be able to watch my Kidsongs because there was an ‘adult problem’ in the world. It was insensitive to think, but give me a break, I was 7. Granted, 9/11 was on a much larger scale than Okalahoma City, but it was still terrifying.

When I was a kid, I feel like the world was much more closed off. If I didn’t learn about it in school, hear it from my friends or parents, or hear a reference to it on Disney Channel, then I didn’t know about it. It wasn’t like I could plop down in front of the computer, Wikipedia it and three hours later find myself having learn about seven different topics. The world is at our fingertips now. This generation is limitless.

What I think is interesting about all this is that this is a cycle. When I eventually have children and they get to be my age, they’ll look back at their childhood and say “When I was a kid, things were much better.” My grandmother and aunts and uncles all claim that their childhood experiences were somehow more pure than my own. It’s something that will keep happening with every generation.

However, there is one thing that ties is all together; the feeling of simplisitic happiness. I would give anything if I could return to the point in time when missing Are You Afraid Of The Dark? (which is available on youtube if you’re like me and want to watch that awful comic book clown episode) was my biggest problem. I didn’t have to worry about working on the weekend, I had to concern myself with a birthday party. Forget about homework. My after school obligation was to change out of my school uniform and into something comfortable. Those were the golden days. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s something that technological advancements will never take away from ‘kids today.’

What is a Social Media Resume? And should I have one?

Let me first start by saying that I’m not even sure if the term ‘social media resume’ exists. And if it doesn’t, I’m okay with that.

For the past five or so years, social media has been It. Everywhere you turn, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, among dozens of others have made it increasingly easy to share your life with friends and strangers alike. Photos, thoughts, messages, goofy photos that beg you to tag someone as the Disney character they remind you of most. It’s everywhere and frankly, most of us can’t live without it because it’s become the new norm. Very, very rarely am I unable to ‘creep’ someone on Facebook or find their twitter and see exactly how they feel about whatever current sports game is airing. And when I do find these people who haven’t caved, I immediately wonder if they’re just trying to make some kind of statement or really just have no interest in the whole thing. Then I think something else; maybe they’re on to something.

When I was in high school, I heard over and over from every teacher that having a Facebook wasn’t a good idea because future employers would judge me by what I had on there. Granted, I was always more of a Brian Johnson in high school than Andrew Clark so there was no chance of seeing me tagged in pictures holding a  red solo cup. But it still freaked me out. So I made my Facebook private, I made all my tweets private, I made myself unsearchable, I only added people I knew (besides those three boys from Iowa that friended me at 16 who I still remain friends with to this day for unknown reasons). I tried to keep myself as private as possible because God forbid my future boss know I like Fountains of Wayne or watch 8 Mile more than any one person should.

Up until recently, it petrified me to have my thoughts out there for the world to see because it can come back to bite you in the ass – hard (I’m even hesitate to type words like ‘ass’ on the internet).

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my Communications Studies classes at Widener, it’s that social media is on the rise, and you have to keep up with it if you want to make it in the industry. Tim Furlong from NBC 10 is an adjunct professor at Widener and I had him for a class a few semesters ago. I keep up with his twitter on a near-daily basis. He’s a field reporter and it’s evident by how much he tweets, replies and gets feedback from viewers that it’s a giant part of what he does. Almost every news anchor and media outlet in the area has some sort of Facebook page that you can go to and give your input. That’s what social media is about (in my opinion): getting your thoughts out there. So why was I so afraid to let people follow me?

I think what it comes down to is I don’t like pissing people off. I don’t like saying something offensive or something disagreeable. That’s the true Libra in me. I like there to be a harmonious balance in everything. Well, that’s just not how the world works.

The more I think about it, the sillier I think I seem. Who cares what I tweet about? Or what I think about Bruno Mars’ performance at the Grammys? No one, that’s who.

I made a LinkedIn account about a year ago because at a Public Relations Student Society of America meeting I went to, a speaker told us that it was like an online resume and more and more employers were looking at them.

What I’m getting at is that despite having an ‘online resume’ with LinkedIn, despite trying to keep everything private, who you are on a social media site is either one of two things; a part of you that is very phoney and trying to impress, or a very real and raw part of you that holds back nothing.

I’d like to think that anyone I work for in the future would want to see what I really think as opposed to what I want them to think I think.

Will I list my urls and usernames on my resume? No, but I’m not going to hide behind protected tweets anymore, either. The way I see it, the best way to live is honestly. And honestly, @ashleynconnor is who I am.

Let the games begin.

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So for the past two years I’ve been so pissed at myself that I haven’t been reading and consistently wanting to do something about it (and consistently not doing anything about it).

About a year ago, two of my friends asked me if I’d ever read The Hunger Games. Which I hadn’t. They insisted that it was a good read and I said what everyone says in this situation: “Okay, I’ll definitely check it out.” And one year later I finally did.

Let me first say that it wasn’t the raves about the books being great that caused me to stop in my tracks at Target and spend the best $13.29 I’ve ever spent in my life. Some of you might know that this March, the film adaption of Suzanne Collins’ book comes out. It was the trailer for this book that got me interested. That and I maintain another blog on tumblr (yeah I said it, sue me) where my dashboard had turned into a .gif-a-thon after the trailer premiered at the MTV Movie Awards. So I thought, why not? What could it hurt?

Two weeks later I was finished with the entire series (3 books) and Holy. Shit.

Let me first start by saying that I couldn’t put the first one down. Maybe 30 hours total was how long it took me to finish it – and that’s with 18 credits and two jobs, mind you. I just couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. I think a lot of it can be attributed to Collins’ style – the end of each chapter was like a mini cliffhanger and it kept pulling me back in.

What I loved most about Harry Potter was that it had a love story, but that wasn’t the entire basis of the plot. It was secondary. The Hunger Games is very similar. The bigger picture it the fact that Katniss Everdeen lives in a world that sacrifices youth for entertainment and power. That’s that impressed me the most – imagine living in a world like that. And of course there’s Gale Hawthorne and the wonderful specismen of fictional man that is Peeta Mellark.

Of the three books – The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay – I’d have to say the final installment was my favorite.

I’m not a book spoiler, or a movie spoiler so I’m having a hard time to bring myself to reveal even the smallest most meaningless details, but I can say that Mockingjay made everything that lead up to it real. I’d love to give a play by play of each book but I feel like even revealing the book jacket of the second book gives you crucial answers as to what happens in the first.

I’m so cryptive, Jesus.

What I can say about the first book is this;

It kept me guessing. I never knew what was coming, and I’m usually pretty good about those kind of things. There was nothing predictable about it – every time I thought I knew where it was going, I was usually wrong, and I love when that happens because that means the writer knows exactly how her audience is thinking, and she knows how to trick them.

So have I enticed you to read this? I don’t know. I’ve probably just confused you. But watch the trailer, at least. And then make the decision whether or not to read the book.

It sucks that visuals are much more effective at grabbing our attention – that’s probably why so many books are made into movies. That’s what enticed me but I stayed for the story.

Should I even compare it to the ground breaker that was Harry Potter? Probably not, because they’re very different stories. But it has been a very, very long time since I’ve enjoyed a series quite like I did Harry.

Here’s something to think about.

Remember that beautiful, heartbreaking and romantic line that Snape utters? ‘”Always?”

Yeah well it makes a nice cameo in Mockingjay. Just saying.

I’m determined to read at least 50 books this year. So far I’ve got four. Four in one month is about 1 a week. Not too bad. I’ll try to review them as best I can but I’m not much of a critic (need proof? see above).

Check out the trailer right hurrr.

And may the odds be ever in your favor.

Holding Out For a Hero

Not so long ago when Victoria’s Secret was having their semi-annual sale (and I, of course, had just gotten paid), I was taking the liberty of their 75% fragrance display filling my palette with all sorts of smells that I would end up purchasing. Just as I was about to decided which PINK fragrance I wanted, a man walked up to me and asked me to help him pick out something for his girlfriend. It wasn’t an unusual request – I used to work in retail and helped people with this kind of thing on a daily basis. But it got me thinking about couples and relationships and what I might expect my future partner to do for Valentine’s Day, or birthdays … or whatever.

I was in my first and only relationship for four months. I’d like to consider it an ‘adult’ relationship, but to be perfectly honest, it was more like a high school romance where you’re too caught up in the fact that when people ask you if you have a boyfriend, you can say ‘yes!’ Anyway, it started after Valentine’s day and ended before my birthday. So he never bought me anything, and I didn’t expect him to. But after my experience at good ol’ Vicky’s Secret, I started to wonder what Alex (the name I give to whoever it is I’m supposed to be with because I can’t think of anything more dignified to call him) would do in this situation.

I’d like to think that our relationship would be open. That we would be able to say things to each other like, ‘you really need to shave,’ or ‘do you think you could look at this thing on my ass?’ I mean, isn’t that what makes a relationship great? Being able to tell that person all those weird, creepy, strange things and they don’t mind at all? Maybe that’s just my perspective. But maybe it’s also unrealistic.

I’m taking a business ethics class now and my professor pointed out the one thing I’ve been working for the past few years to change; every person has sub-personalities. There’s who you are with friends, family, your partner, at school, at work, here, there. You’re never the same person with everyone. 

This always made me angry. Why can’t you just have one self? Why can’t you just be exactly who you are regardless of who’s around? I think what it comes down to is that no matter what, there’s always that part of us that we’re not ready to show someone. There’s always something that holds us back from making that crude joke at work or telling our friends the dark part of our family history. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. 

I haven’t used this blog in almost two years. I’ve revamped it and it feels good to be back. 

Maybe the Alex that I’m looking for is fictitious and maybe I need to give up the hope that I’ll someday find someone that I can share absolutely everything with.

But for now, I’m holding out.

“Oh The Places You’ll Go!”

Almost any average second grader can tell you what March 2 is and why it is important. They can also tell you what the first week of March is and why it is significant.

Break out your books, folks, it’s Read Across America Week, a week dedicated to the talented children’s author, Dr. Seuss. Elementary schools across the country are participating. Schools in Philadelphia and the surrounding area are no exception. In the Ridley School District, an area just outside of the city of Philadelphia, for instance, in the past have held extensive reading periods to encourage reading among children.

The author, know for his distinct style of rhyme, was born Theodor Seuss Geisel and had written over 60 children’s book before his death in 1991. Some of the favorites include, The Cat in The Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish, Oh The Places You’ll Go!, The Lorax, How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, Hop On Pop and Fox in Socks.

Dr. Seuss with some of his more well known characters.

Several of his most loved stories have been transformed into feature films, such as The Grinch starring comedic actor, Jim Carrey. Carrey also served as the voice for Horton in the Fox adaptation of Horton Hears a Who! In 1966, MGM made an animated adaption of the film (which I myself happen to be partial to).

So this week, get in the spirit! Put on your tall swirly hat, curl up with a a good book and have a nice plate of green eggs and ham (and you can eat them wherever you like!)

And for reference, March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

leave your nightlight on you don't have far to go

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