The relationship we have with ourselves is the longest and most important relationship we will ever be a part of. It is important to express our love for the people in our lives, but we often forget to show appreciation and love for ourselves. Self-love and self-acceptance is something everyone can do and it can start right on campus.
Being able to handle stress is important when considering the number of people reported to be affected by it. According to a 2013 study conducted by the American Psychological Association, nearly half of all Americans report that stress has a negative impact on their personal and professional life.
To fight the inevitable stress that comes with being a college student, consciousness coach and Hakomi practitioner Pernilla Lillarose facilitates a “Meditation and Mindfulness” class offered quarterly by the Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports (OPERS).
Not only does meditation lower stress, but it lowers blood pressure and helps combat depression. Letting go of negativity produced by stress is an important part of being present and brings focus to positive thinking.
“By learning the art of allowing, you start freeing up an energy — an energy used to focus on all the parts we don’t like about ourselves,” Lillarose said. “If you learn to allow versus resist, you have a lot of energy left. You liberate the energy and put it toward what you love.”
“Meditation and Mindfulness” focuses on the development of self-discovery by teaching students how to identify their thoughts and feelings through practices like meditation and self-inquiry.
“The class is for anyone who is under stress and discovering themselves. They can drop into their body and their being, and learn how to be present in their thoughts,” Lillarose said. “They find a deeper trust and deeper peace in themselves and walk away with tools to better handle stress.”
In addition to classes like Lillarose’s, a variety of counseling groups are available through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). “Understanding Myself and Others” is one of the many counseling groups offered each quarter.
The group focuses on setting personal, career and academic goals while developing better communication skills. It also serves as a supportive space where students can discuss significant events and experiences in their life, even if nothing is specifically wrong, said group leader of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Amy Mandell.
“The group helps students understand what they need in relationships and what others need,” Mandell said. “I think the basis of a relationship that would be happy and fulfilling includes first understanding how you function. Having this understanding helps you dodge pitfalls in a relationship.”
Love the Body, Not Just the Soul
With all the outward pressures being put on society to look a certain way, it is no wonder more and more people are placing importance on outward appearances. This self-consciousness is prevalent in younger people and can develop at an early age. According to DoSomething.org, 95 percent of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. Additionally, 58 percent of college-aged women feel pressured to be a certain weight.
For UCSC students who struggle with body image issues, help and support can be found among peers.
Oakes College runs a Body Positive group that meets every Friday to positively encourage those struggling with body image. Through conversation and engaging in activities such as art, its members learn about the uniqueness of each individual body.
“It’s about accepting that our bodies — no matter what size, no matter what they look like or what color of skin — are completely amazing, and appreciating what they do for us,” said Oakes College residential education coordinator and Body Positive leader Mandie Caroll.
During group meetings, students learn about values they can put into practice, and Caroll has seen the profound effect it can have on people. She recounted working with a student who experienced the anxieties she had around her own self-image.
“She was like, ‘I’m going to the beach in a bikini’ and it was just beautiful,” Caroll said. “It was really hard for her. She said, ‘I cried before I even left the house. I was worried about people hating my body, or people judging my body. But I’m going to do this because this is something I can do and be proud of.’”
The group also aims to combat unrealistic ideals of physical beauty and challenge unrealistic expectations.
“One of the biggest tools we have been able to do is take the moral expectation that you are supposed to exercise, or eat right, or wear makeup if you are a woman or be buff if you are a man, and break it all down,” Caroll said. “There is no moral requirement to be that way.”