Using Creativity to Disconnect

By: Heidi

How often do you take the time to disconnect? Like really disconnect away from your phone, computer, constant notifications, and email. In this day and age, we are constantly surrounded by technology as it is how we communicate, used for school, and work. Because of this, we are in constant connection with our friends, social networking notifications, and email. Although this is really beneficial, it can be detrimental to our health as we are always able to be reached nearly 24/7.

Using creativity to disconnect - sketchbook on desk with watercolors

Now that you’re thinking about how often you disconnect, ask yourself, how often do I take the time to slow down. Like really slow down as in the to-do list can wait, the kitchen doesn’t have to be spotless, you didn’t get home as early as you wanted because you stayed after class to catch up with a friend type of slow down.

I wanted to bring this to your attention because I often find myself being in a state of #1 constantly connected to my phone and #2 not always taking the time to slow down.

So you find yourself in the same boat struggling to disconnect and to slow down and enjoy the moment or day that we have.

I propose to you take to make the time in your day whether it be ten minutes or one hour to explore and pursue your creative outlet. Yup. That’s it. A creative outlet. Why? Because all humans, whether you believe it or not, were meant to create. Creating something can mean so many different things. This can consist of dancing, painting, photography, doodling cartoons, playing a musical instrument, baking, gardening, and more. Whatever it is that you choose, allow yourself to have fun with it, share it with others, and not place an expectation on it that it has to be this perfect thing. For example, have you seen the Netflix show ‘Nailed It?’ These people are on a baking competition show trying to recreate these really intricate cakes done by professionals and the people trying to recreate them bake out of a hobby. The thing is, these cakes turn out laughably bad but that’s the point. It doesn’t matter how bad the cakes turn out, they all had fun (or were stressed by the pressures of reality TV…who knows) during the process.

When you become so engaged in an activity you enter ‘flow mode.’ During this flow mode, you lose track of time and get lost in it allowing the pressures and anxiety of daily life to melt away.

It is unfair to deem ourselves as creative or uncreative. You owe it to yourself to make the time to explore a creative outlet as this will allow you to disconnect and be better for your overall wellbeing.

Of Possible Interest:

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Tim Arterbury

How to Rock at Being in the Minority (Emerging Majority)

By: PJay

I’m sure at some point in our life we have all dealt with the feeling of being a minority. I am not just talking about the color of our skin, but being a minority can simply exist in the lifestyle we personally choose to pursue. Some examples are choosing to be a vegetarian/vegan, our gender and sexual orientation, or even our political views. I’m sure you can stir up a whole list of all the different ways you can be considered a minority.

Now for some of us, we might feel good or special to be a part of the minority, or as one of my best friends would call it, “the emerging majority.” And for others, it can be just a little scary. Whichever feeling you are getting though, I am hoping you can make use out of the tips I have listed below. These are just based off of my personal experiences at school that I believe can help guide you to be the embracive individual you were meant to be at work, school, or even in your friend group.

How to rock at being in the minority

Reach out!
There is always more to learn about something than you would think you already knew about. Join a club or an organization that has the same beliefs, values, and experiences as you. Choose one that has welcoming members, and one you believe will teach and help you grow the most. Having a great support system is seriously one of the best tools that is going to assist you to surpass obstacles and people who degrade you.

Keep in mind: time will mend everything together.
I cannot emphasize this one enough! Time is really all we need to grow more mature and become more accepting. Whether that is accepting your own imperfections or the way others see you. Time plays a role in both! Because the more we are exposed to something over time, the more it changes our viewpoints.

Accept the fact that not everyone is going to agree with you.
This is one of the most challenging things to do, but honestly, it is fine to have disagreements. We are raised in different environments, thus creating different experiences for us to behave a certain way. And if you want someone to become more knowledgeable about your circumstances, you also have to keep an open mind towards them. Relationships are based on balance and respect.

Teach, tell, and not expect.
Humans are not robots or mind readers, so you can’t expect someone to know or be aware of something without a bit of guidance. You are now the teacher. Just simply tell what’s on your mind or in your heart. It will be frustrating at first, but like I said before, allow them to take the time they need to process where you stand as a minority. It is hard to tell someone the experiences you are going through, but it’s truly the effort they put in to get to know you that counts.

Believe in yourself.
This sounds so cliche, but it’s true! No one is willing to push you to work harder than yourself. In addition, when you accept yourself and portray confidence, you become a standing stone in the eye of others. They won’t even try to push you down anymore because they know they can’t. Do what makes you happy because it is your life.

Differences are truly the things that make us unique and give us the ability to teach others about ourselves. Don’t avoid the things that make you a minority. These features about you are truly what make you special, just like the things we want the most in life are the rarest. I hope you found some wisdom in these tips to use in your everyday life. Take care and good luck!

Read PJay’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

Apply Adaptability to Your Career

By: Kirsi

Adaptability is a trait employers seek in their candidates. How have you been able to successfully adjust your habits and expectations to unfamiliar situations? Could your adaptability propel you through uncontrollable forces like illness, rejection, or a natural disaster?

Apply adaptability to your career. Ocean waves from overhead.

The only thing standing between me and my Spring 2017 Co-Op tour in Houston, Texas was the record-smashing Hurricane Harvey. Bravely (or foolishly?) I traveled down I-35 into the storm, arrived in Houston the evening Harvey hit, and bunkered down with a week of supplies. Unscathed, unlike many, a week later the flood water subsided and I started my Co-Op. Suddenly my Co-Op became less about me, my projects, and refining technical skills. My Co-Op became more about the affected employees, returning to normality, and refining my empathy toward others. In the coming weeks I adjusted my deadlines if my team members had to navigate flood insurance logistics, I volunteered at a donation center to get employees’ families the essentials, and reprioritized what tasks really needed to be done.

Hurricane Harvey from NASA International Space Station

Hurricane Harvey from Space

I hope you will never have to adapt to such an extremely destructive situation. One of my greatest weaknesses is adapting to change that is neither initiated by me nor part of a job’s nature.

If I am met with the challenge of adaptability again these are some big-picture questions I would reflect on…

What actually matters?
Taking a massive step back in life when a large change has occurred is necessary to get the whole picture and also is an opportunity recalibrate your life’s trajectory. Asking yourself “What actually matters?” leads to smaller questions and simpler answers. Here are examples of college-focused decisions…

Smaller (but not by much) Questions:

  • Why am I going to college?
  • Is what I am investing my time into going to lead to financial stability and a fulfilling future?
  • Am I happy?
  • Are there other options I am not aware of for my future?
  • Am I making the best decisions and how can I become more skeptical of my decisions?

Simpler Answers

  • I’m going to college because engineering positions require an ABET accredited engineering degree.
  • I’m going to college because it’s the only place I can learn about my field and it’s worth the hundreds of thousands of hours / and tens of thousands of dollars.
  • My current career trajectory is leading me to a fulfilling field that innovates in ways that shape the present and future of humanity.
  • My current major, while challenging, makes me happy because the climb is rewarding.
  • There are always options I am unaware of and I must keep an open mind and open doors.
  • I am making the best decisions based on my current perspective, skepticism can be achieved by welcoming critique and new experiences.

empty store shelves

Empty shelves that used to be filled with water.

What do I need?
This question arises when starting a career experience, moving, or changing a major. The “I” in this question is literal. What do I need, personally, to adapt?

  • If you have moved this may be as simple as familiarizing yourself with your surroundings. Where is the closest grocery store, hospital, gas station, or Target? Where can I hang out on the weekends, work out, shop, or meet new people?
  • If you are changing a major this could include: Who are my new advisors? Who can I partner up with to tackle homework? When are office hours? Who is in my new “support network”?
  • If you are starting a new career, adapting requires communication with your peers and managers about what you (reasonably) need. “I would like to meet once every week to talk about my progress,” “I would like a mentor to refine my professional skills,” and “I would like to know routines your company has so I can adjust to them.”

What resources are needed to get the job done?
Once you have a big picture and you have taken care of your personal needs you can focus on thriving in a new environment. If your goal is to have a successful internship you may need…

  • A new knowledge base populated with skills in coding, communication, math, thermodynamics, management, or simply knowing when you need to ask for help.
  • A support group of experienced mentors you can run ideas by and foolproof your solutions.
  • Classes or workshops to get you up to speed with other employees.
  • Enough time to make a couple of drafts and mistakes.
  • Proper materials, protective equipment, training, and authority.

Adapting is becoming constructively uncomfortable to improve yourself and advance a greater objective. To avoid adapting is sheltering yourself from beautiful possibilities. Wipe the sweat from your brow, control the knot in your gut, and get out there.

Of Possible Interest:

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Photo Sources: Unsplash|Carlos Dominguez, NASA, & Kirsi

The Impact of Microaggressions

By: Tony

It’s just a fact of life that you are going to come into contact with people who are different than you. Whether it be at school or in the workplace, you will inevitably end up talking to someone whose background isn’t the same as yours. Naturally, you will want to get to know each other, which is great. However, you may run the risk of committing a microaggression.

The impact of microaggressions

What is a Microaggression?
A microaggression can be described as covert or unintentional discrimination. They are words and actions that marginalize certain groups of people, even if it is unintentional. The main issue with microaggressions is that even though they may be minor offenses, they can add up quickly and seriously damage one’s self-image and make them feel as though they do not belong. Often, microaggressions manifest themselves in seemingly innocent ways whose impacts are not apparent unless their underlying implications are thought about.

Examples of Microaggressions and Implications

  • “Where are you from?” “The Twin Cities” “No, where are you REALLY from?”
    • The implication is that the second person is being identified as a foreigner and not as the group they choose to be identified with. If you are wondering about someone’s ethnic or racial identity, there are better ways of going about that.
  • “Can I touch your hair?”
    • The implication is that the body of the person who’s being asked is exotic and a target of curiosity, which is degrading. I’m sure the awkwardness of the situation outweighs the satisfaction of your curiosity.
  • “Oh, you’re Latino?! Do you know (random person)?!”
    • Not all (Latinx/Black/Asian/Native American/Queer/Muslim/etc.) people know each other. Assuming that they do gives the implication that their group is small and lacks diversity.
  • (When speaking to a person of color) “Say something in (foreign language)”
    • This implies that all people of color know a second language, which is not true. Worse, it implies that POCs are trained animals that will respond to your whims.
  • (When speaking to a POC) “You are so articulate”.
    • This implies that POCs are uneducated and unable to make intelligent conversation.
  • Blatantly using the wrong pronoun
    • Yes, mistakes happen, but if you know someone’s preferred pronouns, please use them. Mis-pronouning someone implies that you do not accept them for who they are, or at best, you do not care to listen to them.
  • Catcalling
    • The implication is that you see women as sex objects that only exist more male enjoyment.
  • “That’s so gay!”
    • The implication is that being gay is a negative characteristic.

How to Avoid Microaggressions
In my opinion, the keys to avoiding microaggressions are recognition and reflection. You must recognize when your words or actions, intentional or not, have a negative effect on others. You must also reflect on how you can improve your behavior and become more inclusive. As a general rule, if you are curious about a certain aspect of someone’s life, such as their racial identity or any conditions they may have, get to know them. If they wish to tell you about themselves, they can do so on their own terms. It may also be helpful to ask yourself why you want to know about that aspect. Is it to get to know the person better? Or, is it based on sheer curiosity?

Ultimately, modifying behavior is a personal act that you must figure out yourself, but I think self-awareness is a good starting point. With this information, you can do your part to make your classroom or workspace more inclusive and welcoming to all people.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Michal Grosicki

Self-Care Follow-up

By: Alissa (Disability Specialist & Guest Blogger)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post continues the collaboration we are doing with the Disability Resources office on the UMD Campus.

Adding on to our last post on self-care, I would like to share this list (source) I stumbled upon called 10 self-care ideas to inspire your process:

Pause and listen. Set a timer if you need to, but pause every hour or so and listen to your mental body, physical body, and emotional body. At a minimum, pause and listen once a day. I consider the 3 level check in step number one in our self-care practice.

How can we know what we need if we aren’t cultivating a relationship with our mental, emotional, and physical bodies? They each have different needs and it’s vital that we know what they each need for daily nourishment. Listen up! Need a reminder about the 3 level check-in?

Self-Care Journal. Keep a “self-care journal” and record the steps you are taking each day to care for yourself. Record your 3 level check-ins in your journal and any steps you’ve taken each day to care for yourself. This can include movement, creativity, food choices, rest and meditation, using healthy boundaries, breath awareness, and your 3 level check-ins, plus anything else that you are using to intentionally and radically care for yourself. This journal can be that thread throughout your self-care practice of what’s working and not working for you.

What do you do a lot of? What are you neglecting? Here are some questions to consider:

How have I supported and cared for myself today? What actions expressed my commitment to self-care today? What steps am I committed to for my own well being this week? What boundaries are nourishing me or where might I need to re-commit to them? Where might I need to make some adjustments in my self-care practices? What am I learning?

Ten self-care ideas for your mental, physical, and emotional health

Nourish From the Inside Out. Eat simply, eat at regular mealtimes, and eat slowly in a quiet setting if possible. Nourish yourself from the inside out with delicious and wholesome meals.

Get Embodied. Move your body and get embodied. Whether it’s walking, running, a ride on your bike, or a stroll through the woods. Move your body. Dance, stretch and do yoga. Move around and stay energized

Beyond the Body. Caring for your physical body in terms of self-care is essential. Just remember that self-care goes beyond the physical body and also must include the emotional body and mental body as well. Are you tending to your emotional body needs and your mental body needs in your self-care regimen? Are you addressing healthy boundaries in your self-care practices? Have you been re-evaluating your mental body messages? Are you working directly with the emotional body and the felt senses? Make sure your approach to self-care is well rounded.

You may need help with these pieces so check in with a coach, therapist or counselor if you need extra support.

Healthy Boundaries. Pay close attention to your boundaries. Listen to how you feel when you are with others. What sensations arrive physically, mentally, and emotionally? What feelings and thoughts arrive? Be aware of how your relationships affect you. Do they nourish? Overstimulate? Exhaust or support you? What relationships are worthy of your time and energy- which ones should be restructured or let go?

Healthy boundaries are a basic step in getting your needs met and getting the nourishment you need in your life. Use them as a vital self-care tool.

Ask for Support and Express Your Needs. Are you piling your plate too high? Are you feeling burdened and heavy with responsibilities and general overwhelm? Remember to seek support, guidance, and ask for assistance.

Don’t self-isolate and don’t keep your needs to yourself. Who and what are the trustworthy support systems in your life? Call upon them, invite them in, anchor with them. Seek the abundance of support available to you and your life, but don’t go at things alone and martyr yourself. If you don’t feel like you have the support that you need, it may be time to call in a new team of resources. Find a trustworthy therapist, coach, counselor or mentor to get the process started. Seek answers and solutions.

Get Inspired and Go for the Joy! Do something new that inspires you. Try a new class, try a new cafe or recipe, or simply take a different hiking trail today. Be curious and explore while getting out of old ruts and patterns that might be less than fulfilling.

Remember that this can be simple and doesn’t have to be a move to a new state or an exotic vacation in paradise! Do activities that bring you joy, recharge your batteries and inspire you – but do it daily if possible. Walk in the woods, write poetry, dance, draw, journal, play with your animal companions, cook nourishing foods, do yoga.

Reflect and give gratitude. Openly express your gratitude to yourself and others. This can be an essential ritual for experiencing more nourishment in your life. What are you grateful for about yourself? What qualities are you proud of in yourself and in your life? What can you applaud yourself for accomplishing each day that serves your well being?

Celebrate yourself! And celebrate others! Expressing truthful gratitude to others can be a balm for their hearts as well as your own. Speak honestly and kindly to others and remind them why they are so special. I consider this an essential ingredient for life and love.

Work it like a job! Consider self-care to be your part-time job—or full-time job! Nourish yourself daily and always be moving towards greater nourishment for yourself and your life. Take baby steps or leaps, but remember that what you do today will provide sustainable nourishment and well being for your future days. Your steps really add up!

Above all, do what you love, and love what you do, your life depends on it!

As you continue your self-care journey, remember to pause periodically and ask yourself how your self-care practices are working for you and if there are any holes in how you are caring for yourself. Make the necessary adjustments along the way and remember this is a process. Enjoy!

Of Possible Interest: 

Read other posts Alissa has written

Photo Source: Unsplash | Billy Williams

How to Say NO.

By: Tori

I tend to say yes to a lot of things.

“Tori will you…?”
“Tori can you….?”
“Tori want to come…?”

And even when I know I should be saying no, I find myself saying yes. This happens every day, at school, at work, and even at home.

Throughout these past 3 years of independence and self-reliance, I’ve learned I don’t know my “limits” until it’s too late to say “no” and then I’m overwhelmed with the list of things I said “yes” to.

With the ‘end of semester stress’ suffocating many of us, I figured it would be useful to learn how to say no and understand the reasons behind why it is SO hard to do this sometimes.

Below are helpful tools you can use to say no.

Acknowledge that you can’t do everything.

  • This is a hard statement to take in, but it is true. You cannot do everything, I cannot do everything, No one can do everything. This means that sometimes you HAVE to say no. Understanding the limits of what you can and cannot do is important.
  • It is even more important to know when to say no because you don’t have time to always say yes. Time management is everything.

Understand you aren’t being selfish

  • Know you are not being selfish when you say no, you are allowed to say no to certain requests and situations if it is better for you.

Know you can’t please everyone

  • We are people pleasers at our core; we desire for everyone we meet to like us, but this is unrealistic.
  • We cannot do things because we want others to like us, or because we want the reputation of “being the best” coworker, student, daughter/son/child, or friend.
  • Saying yes just to gain recognition by others is putting value in something that will not satisfy and your work will not live up to your expectations.

Be direct; Say “No, I can’t” or “No, I don’t want to”

  • Remember that it is better to say no now than be resentful later.
  • Don’t say “I’ll think about it” if you don’t want to do it. This will just prolong the situation and make you feel even more stressed.

Give a brief explanation
You don’t have to lie or make up excuses to say no, just simply be honest. If you have a reason for not wanting or being able to do something, give them a brief explanation. Below are a few examples:

  • “I don’t think I can take on another project, as I am already working on…..”
  • “I can’t go out to eat because I need to save money.”
  • “I can’t go to the party because I need a night to relax by myself.”

Suggest alternatives
When it comes to wanting to say yes, but not being able to, suggest an alternative plan or action. This may look something like:

  • “I can’t go to the party because I need a night to relax. If you want, you can come watch movies with me.”
  • I don’t think I can take another project, but maybe Sarah would be good for this one, she has a lot of interest in this area.”

I hope this helps you reflect and have confidence in saying no the next time you feel yes at the tip of your tongue. As life gets busier, it is necessary to know your own limits!

Of Possible Interest: 

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Importance of Attending Conferences

By: Lexi

There are so many ways to learn and advance your skills, especially with all the online tools these days. You can read a blog post, take an online course, listen to a podcast, watch a webinar or YouTube videos, etc. So why would you want to attend a conference? Do not worry, this is exactly what I thought until I attended one.

In the fall of 2016, I attended the 26th annual MN GIS/LIS Consortium that was held in Duluth, MN (GIS = Geographic Information Science; LIS = Land Information System). It was a 3-day event with a variety of workshops, small and large group presentations, and an exhibitors hall. I was required to attend because of my job, and I was excited to attend my first conference, but I will admit that I was a little hesitant. To be honest, my mindset before the conference was pretty much that I have to wake up early to waste 3 days of my time sitting and listening to boring presentations. But it turned out to be an eye-opening event about all the different areas and companies within my area of study. Now, I am going to take advantage of all of the conferences I can and here’s why!

MN GIS Logo

At conferences, you get a chance to meet and network with professionals and peers you would never have if you did not attend! This could open up so many doors for you as a professional and a student. Face-to-face conversations are great for collaborating ideas or talking about possible jobs or internships. Do not be afraid to introduce yourself to someone, you are both at the same conference so you already have something in common.

Personally, at the MN GIS/LIS Consortium, I was so shy. This was my first conference, I was new to the atmosphere, and I did not know what I was doing. The main push for me to become comfortable introducing myself to others stemmed from having my supervisors, professors, and upper classmates introduce me to their colleagues or acquaintances. Having someone else first introduce you is a great way to meet someone because you then have a mutual acquaintance in common and it might be less uncomfortable than for you to go up to them yourself. So take advantage of this opportunity. It can also help you break out of your comfort zone! This was my favorite part of the conference, especially because I was involved in a mentor program which paired me with a professional who I was able to sit down with, chat, and ask questions.

IMG_0555

Myself and two other UMD students who are also GIS majors or minors at the conference.

Conferences open up opportunities, like I mentioned above briefly. These could be educational or career opportunities. First of all, you get the chance to learn in a new environment that is not the traditional classroom and everyone could use a break from the classroom every once in awhile. You will also take away new ideas and approaches that will help you succeed and be more efficient. You will even probably discover new tools or technology to help you in your studies.

Personally, I learned about so many new GIS tools, research studies, design approaches, and GIS databases at the conference I attended. These opened up many new ways for me to do my studies and research in class. The experience of learning these new ideas and tools will also help me in the future career. This conference also had a student research scholarship competition and a poster competition. I personally did not compete in either of these, but I know some students who did and it is a great way to show off your research and hard work! So attend these workshops or presentations and pick one that you have maybe never heard of before. When else will you get the chance? The opportunities at conferences are endless and hopefully, it will inspire you as well.

IMG_0548

The “Mobile Imagery – Capture the World Around You with Mobile Imaging” lightning round presentation I attended.

Of Possible Interest:

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