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Staying Healthy/Being Successful

Experienced mountain climbers have an important adage: The mountain is always going to be there.  If the weather is dicey, your knee is giving out, or you feel uncomfortable and not ready on open granite, come back and try it again, when you’re ready.

This attitude is instructive, especially for students: The University is always going to be here.  We know that getting your education is one of your top priorities, but sometimes it is hard to balance the demands of classes, assignments, work, family duties, and all those dozens of other things that CSULB students do.

Let’s continue with this mountain climbing metaphor: To get to the top, planning and organization are key.  Having a route and a plan, plus having all the gear you need to accomplish your goal, is essential; for climbers, these things can save your life.

There are many methods to help you balance all the demands of your life when you’re a student.

Organization

Get organized!  Seems easy, right?  Perhaps, but it takes determination.  Get a day planner, invest in a calendaring app, purchase a bulletin board, or just get a big piece of butcher paper and tape it to your wall.  Enter in all the particulars: Classes, work, study sessions, free time, assignment due dates. Be sure to prioritize your assignments.  If you use index cards for studying, think about downloading some of the e-versions, which can help you study more effectively.  Use outlining features, available in most word processing formats, to help organize your papers.  Set deadlines – hard deadlines, and stick to them!  Reward yourself when you meet your deadlines, but not before.  And be sure to schedule time for activities and things, like family, that are important to you.  Don’t neglect your work, your family, your faith, or other things and people that are part of who you are!  Just because you are at the university doesn’t mean you’ve become a hermit shut off from the larger world!

Procrastination

If you are prone to procrastination, learn ways to manage this behavior.  Most professionals recommend that anyone prone to procrastination keep a week-long log of how you spend your time – every minute of it!  Then decide how you can better manage your time, by setting difficult goals that you can still achieve, and by managing your time better.  From your weekly log, identify all that “dead time” you spend each week.  Might it be more productive to use some of that unscheduled time in scheduled activities?  Set daily goals every morning.  Use an electronic – or even a paper – list on which you can mark off each daily goal.  Remember, procrastination is an activity that tends to increase, not dampen, one’s anxiety!

Keep in contact

University isn’t like high school – most instructors don’t take roll daily, and your parents won’t get a robocall from the school letting them know that you skipped a class.  Freedom is a hallmark of university life.  With this freedom comes responsibility.  Be sure to let your instructors know if you need to miss a class and have an excused absence.  If you’re having academic trouble in a class, go to see the professor during office hours!  One of the duties of every professor is to help their students learn the material – so if you need help, please just ask!  The Learning Assistance Center provides a range of services to improve student success and to help you achieve your goals.  There are other centers to help certain students: athletes, first-generation college students, disabled students, veterans, and others.   Any student enrolled in a lower-division history course, and all history majors, are welcome to utilize the History Graduate Writing Tutors program.  We’ve invested in this program to help students become better writers, and thus, more successful students in the discipline.

Be aware of university academic policies

Stressed?  Thinking of recycling that paper you wrote for that other class last semester for a different one this semester?  One word: Don’t!  That’s academic dishonesty.  Don’t cheat.  Don’t plagiarize.  Don’t represent another’s work as your own.  These are all violations of the university’s academic honesty regulations. More than this, though, they are significant violations of the historian’s ethical code.  We expect our students to abide by professional standards, just as biology majors, for instance, are required to adhere to professional standards governing research and animal subjects.

And be aware of new university policies on limits on withdrawals, repetition of courses, and units.  Timely graduation rules state that all students should be able to graduate once they reach 120% of the units required for their primary major.  For History B.A. students, that’s 144 units.  You should be able to complete your primary major and any other major, minor or certificate within that 144 units.  If you cannot, you must speak with a departmental advisor.

Practices of Healthy Living

Do all the things your mother should have told you to do: Eat balanced meals and drink plenty of water.  Get enough regular sleep.  Limit your consumption of alcohol and don’t party too hard.

Limit your stress levels: Exercise every day!  CSULB has a brand new Health and Wellness Center where you can work out, take classes, lounge around the pool, or participate in intramural sports.  If you aren’t ready to don a set of running shorts yet, at least not in the company of your peers, then join Beach Striders, a community walking group.  Or take a Kinesiology activity class: the department offers 1 unit activity courses in sports as diverse as fencing, swimming, basketball, weighlifting, yoga, and ultimate Frisbee!  Or take a class in pickleball, backpacking, surfing, kung fu or kayaking.  And yes, the only football played at Long Beach State is in KIN classes and on intramural teams!

Get involved

College is a time when you learn – in the classroom and outside of it – about yourself.  Explore some of the many extracurricular student clubs and organizations at CSULB.  There are many reasons to join a student club or organization.  You might have a personal passion for activism, or photography, or peer-support.  You can learn more about your heritage, or participate in cross-cultural activities.  Join a dance group, or an a capella choir, or volunteer with children.  Psychologists have shown that being part of a community and giving back to others have positive emotional benefits and contribute to happiness and well-being.  Additionally, joining a student club or organization can help you develop your leadership and critical thinking skills, provide networking opportunities, redefine your interests, and establish career goals.  Being active with a student group can also help you learn time-management skills and lead to being a better student!

When to get help

If you are experiencing frequent illnesses, headaches, or pain, be sure to visit the Health Resource Center for help.  Besides physical exams, immunizations, and consultations, the HRC offers workshops on eating well on a budget, stress management, sexual health, smoking cessation, and other health topics of concern to students.

If you are simply overwhelmed and concerned about your mental and emotional well-being, visit CAPS for information.  CAPS has an online self-assessment tool that will help you determine what your needs might be.  The Mayo Clinic also offers a helpful depression self-assessment screening tool.  Depression is more than just feeling sad, it’s a serious illness that requires treatment.

Remember, it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to ask for help when you need it.

Finally, remember to be kind to yourself.  Reward yourself for jobs well done.  Abolish negative self-talk, which can lead to increased stress and feelings of worthlessness.  For example, instead of saying “I’ll never finish that History 301 research paper,” tell yourself, “Wow, this is a hard assignment in a hard class!  No wonder everyone calls this class ‘History Bootcamp.’  I will finish this paper, but I need to ask for help” from the librarian, the professor, fellow students.  Strategize about how you will meet your responsibilities and challenges.

Remember: The mountain will always be there.  You can make it to the top.  It just takes organization, planning, conditioning, staying healthy, and lots of effort.  Learning skills for student success will come in handy for the rest of your life.