Monthly Archives: January 2017

CROSS-POST: 4 Strategies for Success for the Low-Income Grad Student

PhD degree theme with textbooks and piggy bank with glasses

This is a cross-post from our fellow APA blog, gradPSYCH blog, and is targeted toward graduate students from low-income backgrounds who may struggle with a sense of belonging at their institutions. Please share this post with the graduate students in your life.

By Kala J. Melchiori, PhD (Asst. Professor of Psychology, James Madison University)

Dear low-income graduate students,

If you come from a less privileged background, graduate school can present unique social and cultural challenges. Perhaps the biggest hurdle for low-income grad students after financial worry is belonging. Students of lower socioeconomic backgrounds report lower feelings of belonging during graduate school and beyond[i]. Students who feel they do not belong are more likely to drop out of their programs and steer away from high-prestige academic positions (like R1 or R2[1] tenure-track jobs) after they graduate. Below I offer some advice I wish I had heard before starting graduate school.

  1. Tackle your uncertainty about belonging head-on

You can help cement the knowledge that you belong by making friends with your lab mates and cohort members. Your family and non-grad-school friends may not fully grasp the pressure you will be under, so your grad school friends are the key to navigating your first few years of grad school. Build friendships both in your cohort[2] and with more senior graduate students to help you learn the unspoken rules and expectations of graduate school and academia. Ask questions, listen to others’ experiences, and consult others outside of your department to learn unspoken expectations.

Learning unspoken rules and expectations can be unbalancing. The sense that others know the ropes of grad school while you are struggling may lead you to question whether you belong. However, no one has their academic life completely together. We are all figuring it out as we go along, but you may only see your own struggle. Remind yourself that you have worked to get here and you deserve to be here. Help your new grad school friends overcome feelings of inadequacy by affirming them when they made a good argument in class or gave an impressive presentation. You’re not an imposter, you’re an apprentice and it takes time to gain confidence and expertise.

  1. Seek out mentors

Uncertainty about belonging is related to privilege and cultural capital. Having role models who share your socioeconomic background can increase retention and academic performance[ii]. Connect with senior grad students or faculty who share some of your social identities for mentorship. If you are looking for a mentor who has a similar background to your own, find and email the diversity committee of a professional organization and ask about their mentorship initiatives.

Read the rest of the post here.


Filed under: GradPsych Blog, Poverty and Socioeconomic Status Tagged: gradPSYCH, graduate student, low-income

How Mindfulness Can Lower Your Stress and Anxiety in 2017

Sharing their spirituality

By Tiffany Chiu (APA Minority Fellowship Program Office Intern and Undergraduate Student at University of California, Irvine)

It’s a new year and we know that 2016 was a stressful year for many of us. Thinking of a way to manage your stress and anxiety in the year ahead? Practicing mindfulness may be the answer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010 about 9 percent of Americans reported feelings of hopelessness or despondency associated with depression (CDC, 2010). How can we overcome such negative emotions? Prescription medications help many to alleviate depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. However, practicing mindfulness and relaxation exercises (e.g., meditation, yoga), may be equally as effective, if not more so, to alleviate stress and anxiety.

In a psychology study, cancer patients reported lower ratings of pain intensity and attributed pain relief and emotional positivity to praying and framing positive thoughts (Dezutter, Wachholtz, & Corvelyn, 2016). This study shows that we can all use mindfulness to build a therapeutic outcome in stressful situations.

 

There are three subjective themes to Mindful Meditation and Centering Prayer:

  1. Community: Participating in prayer groups can be an opportune time to show vulnerability without the fear of judgment. Having a safe forum allows us to build close friendships and share a sense of connectedness and purpose (Jones, Bodie, & Hughes, 2016).
  2. Peace: Practicing mindful meditation can also lower cortisol levels, the stress hormone (Turakitwanakan, Mekseepralard, & Busarakumtragul, 2013). Practicing mindfulness can give us strong clarity in our thoughts and peace during stressful and uncertain times.
  3. Moral Purpose: Mindful meditation and prayer can allow you to connect with your moral compass. Having a confirmation of your purpose and identity may lessen anxiety and stress in your daily life (Fear, Kenney, Loucks, McPherson, & VanOverbeke, 2005).

As a college student who struggles with anxiety, I became interested in practicing mindfulness after experiencing stigma for seeking professional help from within my community. The discrimination I experienced further fueled my passion for public awareness as a means for reducing the stigma of mental illness. To learn more about mindfulness, I conducted an independent research project on the effects of prayer practices on college students by interviewing and learning about students’ experiences with stress management.

Throughout my research, I discovered the prominent roles that mindfulness may play on the mental health of young adults. I am also interested in pursuing research that demonstrates how mindfulness may be implemented in wellness programs at institutions, such as federal prisons and schools. I would love to learn more about:

  • How we can use mindfulness to lower recidivism rates and increase social support in federal prisons.
  • How we can utilize mindfulness to make learning more effective for so many students in schools.

I hope that I can contribute to the answers of these questions as a researcher and school psychologist in the future.

More than adding to my professional capacity in research, mindfulness has improved my personal self-care. Practicing mindfulness in my everyday life has allowed me to create a balance between spending time with myself and connecting with others. Whether it’s praying in solitude or practicing yoga, these practices regulate my emotions and avoid burnout.

 

Here are 3 ways to implement mindfulness and relaxation exercises in your daily life

1. Mindfulness:

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Find quiet time to sink into deep thought about the blessings in your life. Remind yourself of the people and things that you are most grateful for. Positively framing your thoughts can remove distractions of distressed thoughts and focus your mind on positive emotions.

2. Yoga:

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This relaxing exercise allows you to practice your deep breathing techniques and simultaneously find clarity in your thoughts and emotions. By aligning and disciplining your mind to focus, you may also engage in reflective learning.

3. Reflective Journaling:

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Writing in a journal is not only a way to document your thoughts, feelings, and values, but it allows you to know more about yourself by critically thinking, evaluating, and making sense of the events in your life.

 

Other Resources: 

Check out this handy infographic for how to do a 5-minute mini meditation:

blog-prayer-meditation4

Or watch this TED Talk video by psychologist, Dr. Kasim Al-Mashat, on how mindfulness meditation can redefine pain, happiness and satisfaction.

 

Overall, practicing mindfulness is positive for your emotional and physical health!

How do you practice mindfulness in your daily life? Please share your experiences in the comments!

 

References: 

Chiu, T. (2016). Prayer and biblical meditation for college students. (In Progress).

Dezutter, J., Wachholtz, A., & Corveleyn, J. (2011). Prayer and pain: The mediating role of positive re-appraisal. Journal of Behavioral Science, 6, 542-549. doi:10.1007/s10865-011-9348-2

Fear, F., Kenney, P., Loucks, R., McPherson, K. & VanOverbeke, J. (2005) Mindfulness and moral purpose: Exploring connections. Journal of College and Character, 6, 1-9.

Jones, S., Bodie, G., &Hughes, S. (2016). The impact of mindfulness on empathy, active listening, and perceived provisions of emotional support. Communication Research, 3, 1-14.

Turakitwanakan, W., Mekseepralard, C. & Busarakumtragul, P. (2013). Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, 3, 222-249.

 

Biography:

Tiffany Chiu is currently a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. She is currently participating in the UCDC Internship Program, with placement in the APA Minority Fellowship Program Office. She is interested in pursuing a graduate degree in School Psychology and ultimately becoming a School Psychologist. If you have any questions regarding her research interests, please contact her at [email protected].

Image sources: #1 (iStockPhoto.com), #2, #3, #4 (Flickr via Creative Commons) and #5 (GuardYourHealth.com)  

 


Filed under: Health and Wellness, Stress and Health Tagged: anxiety, depression, meditation, mindfulness, mindfulness meditation, mindfulness strategy, prayer, stress, yoga