Microaggressions in Academia
The effects of microaggressions on academic performance & mental health:
As a woman of color, I have experienced microaggressions many times in my life– especially in the classroom. In my pursuit of higher education, I was in an upper division course where I was randomly assigned to a group to work on a project for the whole quarter. The group was 3 white women and myself, a Latina. In this group, I was spoken over and not included in conversations about the research logistics. This made me not want to go to class and experience these feelings, even though our attendance was graded. I hated the feeling of being isolated and still forced to go to a class I didn’t feel good enough for.
My first thought was that I was experiencing Imposter Syndrome, something that isn’t too new to how I’ve felt at UCSB during my past 4 years. However, as I reflected on my experiences in this group, I recognized that I may be dealing with Imposter Syndrome, but it was now intersected with systemic bias, racism, and microaggressions. In fact, it might not have been the Imposter Syndrome at all and it was actually the feeling of exclusion that exacerbated my self-doubt and left me feeling like my identity was a barrier in succeeding in this class. I remember thinking that if I was white, I might have been part of the group’s dynamic and I would go to class and get a better grade.
Excessive stress and depression caused by microaggressions can have detrimental effects on academic performance. Even if it doesn’t feel like a big deal at the moment, there is a compounding effect to microaggressions which impacts you throughout your life. Research shows that discrimination and microaggressions are warning signs for distress and suicide for BIPOC individuals. To improve student success, retention, and mental health, it is essential to reduce microaggressions and other forms of discrimination in order to create an environment that is welcoming and inclusive. Professors and TAs can work to be more intentional about grouping students together and understand that uncomfortable dynamics may arise between students if all parties are not anti-racist or aware of their microaggressions.
If you are a student of color and ever feel like you are experiencing a microaggression in academia:
- Annika, Mental Health Peer
Dealing with Change & Transitions
Change can often be good or bad. Change can make you feel happy or sad. And change can happen fast or gradually. Life’s changes and transitions can affect people in many different ways and can arise from different personal, financial, and environmental factors. Whether you are graduating soon, moving away from family, or starting a new job, here are some helpful ways that you can cope with major transitions.
1. Take care of your health and wellbeing
When going through a transition in life, it is very important to take care of your health so that your body is mentally and physically ready to tackle this change. Try to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. And know that it’s okay to have some days in which you don’t feel your best.
2. Accept rather than resist change
Changes in life can oftentimes arise from things that are out of your control. So try not to blame yourself or resist change, but instead reflect and learn from this situation. This will ease your stress and anxiety while you gain insight about how you can overcome this and future challenges. Remember that in life, things come and go, people grow, and you can win and lose. This transition will become an important part of your life, so give yourself the time you need to take it all in.
3. Utilize your support system
Maintaining your social relationships will help you navigate change and transitions. Talk to your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Having someone there to listen to you will give you an emotional boost and you could potentially gain some useful tips.
4. Appreciate the benefits this change
It’s very easy to focus on the negative impacts associated with change. But spending too much time on this will increase your stress and anxiety. Try to appreciate the positives and how they can benefit you in the long-term. You’ll soon find things that you can look forward to and possibly be thankful for when looking back at this change.
5. Recognize your past accomplishments
If you’re having trouble overcoming a new hardship, use the knowledge you’ve gained in past experiences and apply it to the current circumstances. Look back at how you managed to cope with changes and focus on these strengths. Most importantly, remember that you have been through changes before and you have accomplished so much in life that has made you the person you are now. Be proud of your growth and know that you can overcome this too.
6. Plan ahead
Try to get things in order before planning a major transition so that you can ensure things will work out in the end. Try to think about what obstacles could arise and how you can overcome them. Make sure to create some time for yourself and others. Think about new routines and schedule some new or past hobbies that could help you cope with any stress. Having a solid plan made for the transition will ease the physical and psychological strain associated with it.
7. Try not to compare yourself with others
There will always be people who seem to be more successful than others or overcome challenges with ease. But everybody’s background and past is very different. Everyone is unique and there is no perfect way to deal with change. Try to connect with those close to you and express how you are feeling. You may be surprised that you are not alone. Remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Focus on your accomplishments and be proud of how far you have come.
8. Give it time
Lastly, this transition won’t be permanent. Things will get better and time will heal. Soon enough, you will be looking back at this as a time of growth and renewal.
I hope that these tips are helpful for you. It’s important not to be so hard on yourself and to take care of your wellbeing during life’s transitions. Time will heal and you may soon look back and thank yourself for focusing on the positives. Whatever change life may be throwing at you, know that it won’t be permanent and you will overcome it.
- Jose, Mental Health Peer
If you’re reading this newsletter (first off, thank you!), you more than likely noticed its advertisement post on the Mental Health Peers Instagram page. You also more than likely join the > 98% percent of college-aged students who use social media, according to consumer insight service Experian Simmons. This number has drastically increased in recent years and now it seems as though everyone has at least one social media app on their phone. These apps include, but are not limited to, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook. Since so many social media outlets are accessible to the majority of college students, it can cause students to repeatedly check these apps throughout the day, while in class, and/or at work. Time spent while checking these apps throughout the day can accumulate to a surprising number each week. An annual nationwide survey of college students by UCLA found that college students spent more than 16.8 hours on social media each week. This large amount of time spent on social media can have serious negative effects on one’s mental health.
Before I go into the negative effects that come with social media, it’s important to recognize the positive aspects of social media first. While virtual interaction on social media doesn’t have the same psychological benefits as face-to-face contact, there are still many positive ways in which it can help you stay connected and support your wellbeing. Some positive aspects include being able to:
- Jose, Mental Health Peer
1 Year of COVID with the MHP Team
Around a year ago, UCSB students received news that they must return back home for the remainder of the 2020 winter quarter and anticipate a transition into remote learning for the spring quarter. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the entire world and placed many personal, financial, and academic stressors on students. The pandemic has created many challenges on students, but has also allowed many to grow and learn ways to cope with these hardships. In this newsletter, the MHP team will discuss how they’ve overcome their hardest challenges and reflect on their biggest learning experiences during the pandemic.
Hardest Challenge & How You Overcame it/Improved
Biggest Learning Experience
Despite the difficult circumstances brought on by the pandemic, there may be some learning experiences that students have found to help them cope with their hardships. Hopefully, after reading the MHP team's thoughts on their biggest learning experiences and hardest challenges, you are also able to reflect on your own growth during the pandemic. We wish you all the best during this difficult time.
- Jose, Mental Health Peer
Staying Motivated During COVID-19
With the 1 year anniversary of online learning during the pandemic coming up soon, it’s about time we address the elephant in the room: the lack of motivation for students. Staring at computer screens all day isn’t fun, so it’s understandable that students are feeling burnout and a decrease in motivation. The pandemic has caused an increase in anxiety, potentially less structure in your life than usual, and less contact with others than you normally would have. Additionally, possible stress from personal/family concerns, social/political events, and financial issues make it even harder to stay motivated. It can feel like academics are the last thing that feels important when so much other stuff is going on.
It’s important to know that these stress and anxiety factors are very much real and valid. We’re all still adjusting to the pandemic and our work will not be perfect. Give yourself and others extra breathing room, take time to relax, and know that standards of excellence look different during a time like this, so it’s OK not to feel like you’re on top of everything. This pandemic has taken away the structure and motivation we were all accustomed to. But there are a few ways to help with that.
One way is to create your own structure customized to your own needs and hobbies. Try to get up and dressed at the same time every day, and schedule dedicated class time, study time, break time, and meal time. Make sure to include time for self care. Intentionally setting time aside for your favorite activities will help build your motivation and give you something to look forward to during your day.
In a remote environment, it’s even harder to avoid the trap of multitasking — as in listening to a lecture video and texting simultaneously, or participating in a class chat and checking email or being distracted by phone alerts. It turns out that multitasking actually decreases your productivity, so monotasking is more efficient to get work done. One way to effectively monotask is to chunk your studying. For example, spend 30 minutes working and then take a 10-minute break for stretching, taking a walk, chatting with a friend, grabbing a snack. You can also try the “pomodoro technique.”
It’s also much harder to avoid distractions while learning online. You can avoid distractions by putting your phone in another room while you’re working on your laptop or closing unnecessary tabs when watching lectures. You can also use distraction-blocking apps like “Freedom” to temporarily block certain websites and apps on your phone/laptop. Keeping a list of things to do will also keep you focused on your tasks for the day while also removing any stress you may have from trying to remember assignment deadlines.
Finally, it’s important that you feel engaged in the classes you are taking. You can ask yourself some reflective questions to better understand the benefits you are getting from your classes. Some questions you may ask yourself are:
What do I find engaging or interesting about the courses I am taking this quarter?
We’re all struggling to find motivation during the pandemic due to several stress factors. But we have the power to make online learning a little more tolerable than it is. That’s why it’s important to practice some new techniques, create your own structure, and recognize some of the positives that you can get from your classes. Good luck this quarter, Gauchos!
- Jose, Mental Health Peer
As the end of Fall quarter approaches, some of us may have already begun getting into the holiday spirit by hanging up lights, decorating our houses inside and out, or watching some holiday movie classics with family and friends. We all get excited for the festivities, but one thing always remains in the way of our holiday happiness. And that’s the dreaded finals week.
We all want to avoid our final exams and go straight to enjoying the holidays, but we first have to get over this last academic obstacle. But how can we get over the pressures and stress that comes with finals week? How can we best take care of our mental health during this stressful week? And what’s the best way to study for the exams that count towards nearly half of our grade? Well… there’s no BEST way to prepare for final exams or to take care of ourselves. It all depends on your own pace of learning and how you practice self-care. By no means are we saying that we’re experts, because we’re not. But there are some very helpful tips that have improved our own study habits and could help YOU get the most out of finals week. So, get your hot chocolate, tea, coffee, or whatever warm beverage you enjoy the most ready and let’s learn how to improve your approach to finals week.
It’s important to know that some of these tips may work for some and not for others. And that’s okay. Try them out and find what works best for you. As long as you see progress doing what’s most comfortable for you, that’s all that matters! Now, without further ado, here are some tips to help you tackle finals week.
Time Management & Procrastination
During finals week, it’s especially hard to manage your time when you’ve got so much course material to review and study for in such little time. Maybe you have two final exams on the same day and you just can’t seem to figure out how you will study for each. Or maybe you left your 10-page final essay for the last minute and you’re panicking trying to finish it on time. We’ve all been there. We’ve all procrastinated with deadlines and exam dates. But it shouldn’t have to be this way. We can overcome procrastination and there are ways to significantly improve your time management skills that will help you meet your academic goals.
One helpful way to improve your time management is to create a daily/weekly planner or Google Calendar. Having a weekly schedule can help you set realistic goals for studying, eating, and resting. By visually seeing how you spend your time, you can easily remember and make time to accomplish all of your deadlines and commitments. You can also calendar based on how much energy you have at a certain time in the day. If you tend to get most of your work done in the morning, try to make time for your more difficult assignments at that time. Similarly, if you’re a night owl and have the most energy to do your work at night, then set your easier tasks for earlier in the day and your harder tasks later. By organizing your tasks based on your energy levels in the day, you can prevent burnout and complete harder assignments when you feel most productive.
2) To-Do Lists
Similar to calendaring, writing down your to-do list or using online tools like Google Keep or the Notion app will help you manage your work throughout the week. Looking at a list of all of your assignments for the week can be intimidating. So, breaking up your responsibilities for specific days of the week can be a little more encouraging, relieve some pressure, and allow you to remain on track for your goals. Setting a routine is an effective way for you to keep up with your assignments and to balance your time.
3) Avoiding Procrastination
We’ve all procrastinated before. Sometimes we get away with it by submitting an assignment just minutes (or seconds) before it’s due. Sometimes we don’t get away with it and we regret submitting an assignment late. No matter the situation, we end up placing so much pressure and stress on ourselves by putting things off for the last minute. And some of us repeat this cycle of procrastination. But, we can get rid of these bad habits and avoid procrastination by following some of these tips.
Study Tips & Self Care
It’s important to acknowledge that you have final exams and essays, but also spend time taking care of your mental health. Here are some ways to improve how you study and how to practice self-care during finals week.
1) Avoid Cramming & Pulling All-Nighters
We all tend to cram the night before an exam, but this can actually add more stress and exhaust more of your energy than needed. Sometimes there could be class material that takes up more studying time than we had anticipated or practice questions we forgot to do. This extra stress will only add to the anxiety already built up before studying and will potentially cause burnout earlier. It’s best to plan ahead with your studying time and create a schedule that accommodates for all the work you may need to do.
2) Take Breaks
Making sure that you allow some time for breaks so you can refresh yourself and regain some energy you need to continue your work. A quick 15-20 minute power nap or guided meditation can help re-energize yourself to finish your assignments. Don’t feel that you need to earn breaks. Take them when you feel you need them.
3) Get Enough Rest
It’s best to get the amount of sleep we need to recharge our bodies for the next day. All-nighters will only make us feel exhausted the next day and limit our productivity. So, resting our bodies will give us the energy to be as productive as we can be. It can be helpful to set a time for you to stop studying so that you can take care of yourself and go to bed on time.
4) Practicing Self Care
We all have our own ways of practicing self-care, so it’s important to do what works best for you and at your own comfort. Make sure to reward yourself for your accomplishments and attend to your mental health by trying out these tips. And remember that self care shouldn’t be earned, but done whenever you feel you may need it.
I hope that these tips are helpful to you and are things you can try out to improve your approach to finals week. Remember to take care of your mental health and acknowledge your accomplishments during this stressful week. The Mental Health Peer team wishes the best of luck with finals and happy holidays to you all! You got this!
- Jose, Mental Health Peer
Transitions: Post Grad Blues
Post-graduation life can be both exciting and unsettling. After completing 2-5+ years at college, many graduates embark on new journeys. Some people might move back home with family, others may be starting grad school, and some might be kick-starting their careers. Everyone’s path is different, and it is completely normal to feel lost and uncertain at the end of your college experience.
Currently, in the midst of an important social movement and a pandemic, it can be hard to feel grounded and focused on usual life goals. There are huge changes happening not only directly in our personal lives, but in the bigger systems we are part of. Some of these may be impacting us directly and causing pressures in our lives that are hard to manage. The goal is not to ignore these external and internal events, but gradually learn to cope with them in a healthy way.
Graduating from college sparks a huge transition in our lives. Many graduates have been in school non-stop for the past 16+ years. This means years of classes, homework, exams, extracurriculars, and deadlines. Now that there is a change in routine and responsibilities, there may be a strange loss of purpose or direction. Some feelings that may be coming up are anxiety, hopelessness, stress, sadness, or feelings of numbness. Whether you’ve had to move back home, start a new job, or are entering a new living situation, it is important to take time to care for your mental health. While all of these circumstances can spur some sense of discomfort, working on personal well-being can help you be the best version of yourself alongside navigating your role in the world.
Here are some things that have been helping me, and might help you, too.
There are also some online resources that create a safe space to talk to someone if you are feeling distressed:
The MHP website also has some detailed resources on this transition: https://www.ucsbmhp.com/making-changes--navigating-transitions.html
I wish you so much luck on your post-grad journey. You’ve got this!
-Tashia, Mental Health Peer
Navigating Difficult Family Dynamics
I cannot believe I am saying this... but I miss the library. I miss having a place designated for studying, surrounded by like-minded college students living off of Yerba Mate and the desperate Subway sandwich meal that they’ve probably had 4 times that week. One of the challenges brought forth by COVID-19 is the displacement of several students into uncomfortable living situations, where it may be difficult to find a place to study or even relax.
If you are experiencing difficult family dynamics while living at home during this time, you are not alone. Some students may now experience an increase in responsibilities that they didn’t typically have during the school year, such as caretaking. This can be incredibly hard, especially while being a full-time college student and trying to complete other remote work from home. College also acts as a safe haven for many students, giving them physical distance between them and their family members. Now that they share the same physical space, many people feel like they have less independence and less control over their familial relationships. A few examples of some difficult situations that one might face while home are having a family member with a mental illness, difficult financial situations, lack of space, or just not feeling understood by your loved ones.
Also, underlying tensions can be magnified because of the stressful, unusual, frightening circumstances brought on by the pandemic. Family therapist Helen Park of Manhattan’s Ackerman Institute for the Family, a mental health clinic, says that “the climate for everybody is such an acute, pervasive level of anxiety. That kicks up the sympathetic nervous system; the fight-or-flight fear responses are very much always on. That's where you get problematic cycles of interactions, which are so difficult to interrupt if you're in a heightened state." Many people (myself included) have noticed that squabbles occur more frequently and often tend to escalate. This emotional distress coupled with a persistent feeling of anxiety can be overwhelming at times, so it’s important to pay close attention to your well-being.
Some things that may help us when we are in these situations is:
Self-care has always been hard to practice and maintain. I have a tendency to start the quarter by practicing and balancing self-care but once Week 3 (really Week 2) comes along, I drop most self-care routines. It begins to feel like I have no time or it is just another task I must complete. However, this time around, things have changed drastically. Self-care has become a part of my survival and necessary for my ability to cope through collective trauma, remote instruction, physical distance, and so much uncertainty. Just like I need food, water, and sleep; I need to make sure I am nourishing myself and intentionally taking care of my mental health.
For me, self-care looks like extending kindness and compassion to myself. It means that I am learning to accept there will be days where I am not productive and that I make sure I am connecting with my community and loved ones. It is Week 5 and everyday I practice self-care. This looks like:
I am learning to be more attuned to my body, mind, and soul. Self-care does not need to be extensive, it is about the intention to nourish and listen to what your body, mind, and soul are telling you. This can be a few hours of your day, an hour, or a few minutes. The time does not matter as much as the act of it. These difficult times have shown me how essential it is for me to pause and take care of me. Self-care is not another task, it does not mean I am selfish or lazy, it means I am attuned to my own needs and I am respecting and honoring my entire being. Today’s self-care for me looked like sharing with you all my journey and practice of self-care. What does self-care look like for you?
-Veronica, Mental Health Peer
Welcome to Week 5 at Zoom University - UCSB edition, of course. It’s another day of waking up later than usual, rolling out of bed ten minutes before that 11 AM lecture, scrambling to find your lecture notes from last week, all while trying to figure out what your *Zoom fit* of the day will be.
As we prepare to head into Week 5, infamously known for being one of the weeks that most students have midterms (You got this!) we begin to feel the increasing weight of our responsibilities fall onto our shoulders. For some of us, we returned to our hometowns, to the places we knew as home before coming to UCSB/IV, whereas some of us stayed in Isla Vista, a home away from home. Whether you’re back home or in Isla Vista, one thing is for sure - we aren’t just students, our roles are much greater than that. For some of us, we’re the third parent, the caretakers, the educator, the provider, the example.
*DING* my bad, just got called into another Zoom meeting at Zoom University. As I was saying… during quarantine, you may begin to feel your motivation decrease, but don’t be too alarmed! We here at the MHP Program, along with the help of other wellbeing services available, are here to help bring you ease during these hectic times.
Here are some tips that could help you stay positive and gain motivation while adapting to Zoom University and the COVID-19 Pandemic in general:
In conclusion, here are a few additional tips to help keep you positive during these hectic times:
1. You got this!
2. Believe in yourself and speak your goals into existence
3. Stay home for the safety and wellbeing of yourself, your loved ones, and for the health of others in general.
4. Take advantage of any extra time you may have on your hands - call your family, read that favorite YA book for the sixth time, watch a new television show, discover a new interest, research topics that interest you -- the list goes on, and so shall we :-)
-Vic, Mental Health Peer
Mental Health Peers
We are the mental Health Peers from UCSB Counseling and Psychological services.