It’s not to late to build healthy habits for this semester. In this week’s Not So Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer Christine Zhou, staff psychologist from University Health Services, talks about the importance of self-care and gives suggestions to help you create a healthy life-style and achieve achieve a better work/life balance. Take a look at our flyer to find out all of the services Christine provides and when she is available.
- To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 643-7850.
LAURA: Hi and welcome to The Not So Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer. My name is Laura Vogt and I’m the Communications and Events Manager for Engineering Student Services in the College of Engineering. This week I’m happy to introduce Christine Zhou you and discuss self care for college students with her. Self care is a topic that I know is important for all of our students and sometimes everyone can use a little reminder of what it means to take care of yourself and even what the benefits could be. Christine can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what support you provide for the community of students.
CHRISTINE: Sure. So my name means Christine Zhou and actually have a Chinese name, originally from China – it’s Shuangmei. I’m a counselor from counseling psychological services in the Tang Center. About five years ago we established the satellite office located at 241 Bechtel specifically serving engineering and CS students. And so we have urgent walk-in hours from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 10 to 12 noon on Wednesdays. If this is an urgent situation I want to know that you can – you should – use the same day walk-in services and counseling psychological services in the Tang Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
LAURA: So we’re hearing the term health care a lot thrown around. What exactly does that mean.
CHRISTINE: So in simple terms I would say self care just means taking good care of yourself physically and emotionally.
LAURA: And what is the number one thing you want college students to do when thinking about taking care of themselves.
CHRISTINE: Well a lot of the times when students come to me to ask for help and they struggle – everybody understands self care is essential but then they often tell me, you know, Christine I have so much stuff to do and the last thing I can think of is that spending time self care. But I usually tell students the analogy of a car maintenance if you want your car to run smoothly and without any problem you will have to take it to the mechanics and also put fuel in it. Taking good care of the engine instead of abusing it. So it is a very interesting concept a lot of students will feel like, I would not have the luxury to focus on self care. But on the other hand if you don’t take good care for yourself and you for sure will get burned out and you will not be able to function physically, emotionally.
LAURA: So what is a good way to make sure that you’re taking enough breaks from studying.
CHRISTINE: Yes I mean that’s a very good question. What I would say is that when you started to notice that you were checking your phones e-mails or being distracted and apparently you’re not really being quite productive, that probably will be a good time to get up and take a little break. And when I say that take a break a lot of the time the students say well I’m taking a break by watching the videos or movies or checking on my phone. But I would say it probably will be more efficient actually or more helpful if you can get up take a walk and maybe even get a snack just move your body around and I think it will be a lot more sort of help you to refresh. And it’s very common to feel guilty. A lot of students say that they feel they cannot take breaks because again they have so many unfinished tasks. However if you’re not as efficient and you might as well you know do something to help you to refresh rather than sitting there and just doing nothing.
LAURA: I know one of the tricks that I had heard once for studying was leave something across the room that you might need just to force you to get up and walk and get something to come back.
CHRISTINE: Yeah you know just move your body around or, switching between subjects or you know kind of between like studying by yourself or having a discussion with other people, the group study. But just mix it up and if you sit there like five hours straight and you’re zoning out then apparently you’re not really making good use of your time.
LAURA: That totally makes sense. Emotional support has to be important for students so what would you think is a good way for them to get that emotional support.
CHRISTINE: Yeah there’s actually a lot of resources on campus. You know I actually have students come to me sometimes right before graduation and they say wow I did not even know these resources exist. And so I will say one thing is to to know what kind of resources support is available on campus for example if you check out the website of the Tang Center there – the counseling center – there is a huge section on self-help. And so we have tons of online resources, for example articles, handouts, assessments, videos, and you can watch and help you understand a little bit of for example what is the symptoms, what are some of the common struggles, and when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. And also we offer groups. These groups are free and they are on campus. And for example we offer a managing stress, anxiety, and depression group, building social skills group, and a lot of support groups for different populations – students of color, Queer students, grad students. In addition we offer short-term individual therapy and that’s part of what I offer for students here at Bechtel. So anybody will qualify for up to five sessions for free for the whole year. And I can work with you to sort of tailor to your needs and figure out individual lives to plan how to focus on self care. And also Tang Center offers a broader sort of services for physical health like nutritional health counseling, sexual health, substance use, and eating disorder body image programs. And so there’s quite a lot of resources. I mean just even talking about the Tang Center alone and you don’t have to know everything – I think all you need to do is actually reach out. It could be me, a counselor, but it also could be your academic adviser. And that’s another thing. I think the pitfall of when I talk to students they say you know I have been struggling for the whole semester and I don’t know what to do, and I don’t know what’s available. But I would say when you’re struggling, don’t just struggle, don’t just be alone, and then talk to somebody and I would say maybe your adviser would be the first person you can reach out to and they would be able to connect you to all the resources on campus.
LAURA: And the advisers you can get a hold of them through engineering.berkeley.edu/ess to either make an appointment, or you can come in drop in we have drop in hours on Wednesday. And for the Tang Center email address, that’s uhs.berkeley.edu/counseling, and I’m going to have both of these links up on our website to make sure that you can find out about the resources and I know other resources that we should probably talk about that are available on campus for students that I’ll make sure that I list on the website that has to do with if you’re worried about getting food or if you want a place to be able to exercise and move your body around a little bit and have the safe space to do that in we’ve got information from RSF and the RSF is part of the students fees to come here. So if you’re a current student you get to go there for free.
CHRISTINE: And in terms of the food resources there is a UC Berkeley Food Pantry and it is a great resource for students who are low income or are struggling just to meet or buy a meal and it actually has quite a lot of variety of foods and I’ve had students come to me and actually say the food pantry saved their life. And again as Laura mentioned we’re going to list the information and how to access.
LAURA: The food pantry has fresh vegetables – you’re going and getting good food for you. And do you have any other creative ways that students can unplug and rewind make themselves a priority.
CHRISTINE: You know everybody’s different. I mean these are some of the things I’ve heard over the years from students. For example, it’s cold, it’s winter, it’s raining, and somebody told me that their favorite thing to do is to take a bubble bath and you take 45 minutes to an hour and put some scented oil on and just sort of pamper yourself instead of spending $200 to go to a spa. Light some candles and get a bubble bath and play some music. Another thing is when it comes to food, I understand students are very busy, but sometimes cooking can be really really relaxing. Plus you can make something that you really like, and sometimes you can get friends together and treat everybody and then it turns into not only just good food but also an opportunity to be social. Another thing I’ve heard students say is they really really have a hard time interacting with people but they really like animals. And so of course you know not everybody can have their own pets here on campus but you can maybe go to an animal shelter and volunteer there just to pet and to play with dogs and cats or you can even go to a pet store. I mean just to look around and see all the pets makes you happy. And also hiking obviously any kind of physical activities around, and even here on campus I’ve had students tell me that when they’re getting stressed, their favorite thing to do is go hike somewhere and to watch the sunset here on campus. Also another thing that’s interesting is art – any kind of art related creative sort of activity, for example playing musical instruments, painting, singing, and dancing and just using that different part of your brain. So that’s that’s really refreshing. I would say also go talk to somebody and don’t just suffer alone. Reach out to your friends and to your families. And I also understand some people will say I feel really lonely, I don’t really have somebody to talk to, but it’s just part of reason why we’re here for you. And so we get a chance to sort of help you to figure out how to build a social support system. The last thing I would say is that you know do something out of your routine. Try something new. Even something like going to check out a new restaurant or try a new hobby – something new and starting fresh sometimes will really help you to feel – it’s very unplugged and rewiring – and feeling like, “Oh maybe I’m doing something actually I enjoy doing rather than just fulfill all the obligations and responsibilities.” So the key is to know yourself everybody’s different. And so I would say experiment and try couple things and then at the back of your head you have a list – a couple of things – favorite spots, favorite food – and so when you’re actually stressed you don’t have to sort of struggle to come up with something on the spot. You already know what makes you happy and what makes you refresh.
LAURA: Is there anything else that you wanted to add? That list was awesome – I think I need to incorporate that in my life on a regular basis.
CHRISTINE: That’s it. I mean if you really want to talk a little bit more like I said, then feel feel free to stop by the 241 Bechtel. The walk-ins are free and also they’re very informal – you don’t have to fill out some paperwork and go through the hurdles and you don’t even have to walk all the way across campus to the Tang Center – that takes about 20 minutes. That’s really long. So just stop by, pop in, and we can have a chat and sort of see what we can do to help you.
LAURA: Well Christine thank you so much for stopping by today. We’re going to make sure that we have all the links up on the website – welcomengineer.berkeley.edu – so that you can easily click on these links and get the help and support that we can offer you. Thank you so much for coming today Christine.
CHRISTINE: You’re very very welcome.
LAURA: And we’ll talk to everyone later. Thank you