Category: Student Article

Finding Balance in an Unbalanced World

By Dante Williams, M. A.

Sometimes it is so easy to become distracted or lose sight of what our goals are as graduate students. In today’s world we are thrown into a whirlwind of uncertainties not knowing when COVID-19 will be ending or when our society will open up and return to “normal”. In the midst of this, we as therapists and local psychological scientists are forced to put on a face of calmness, balance, and optimism. However, many of us are not okay, in fact we are concerned just like our clients but we can’t express to them how scared we might be or embrace the uncertainties of the world we are living. On top of this, we have school work and papers due for our classes and deadlines too which might further increase our anxiety and stress. I am not a perfect person, but I do have some ways to mitigate stress and have a feeling of accomplishment during these trying times. 

Do not be afraid to ask for assistance

This was a huge one for me to start doing. I have a challenge with being vulnerable and asking for help when I need it, so for me to tell someone that I need their assistance is a pretty big deal. There is no shame in asking for assistance or telling someone that we need them. The strongest thing we can do is practice humility and proactively seek out help when needed. 

Take breaks when needed 

The race is not given to the swift or the strong to he/ she that endures till the end. This is a motto that I go by when I feel the need to rush or overextend myself. It is so important that we pace ourselves, most of us reading this article are overachievers and we want to strive to be the best, but we need to be sure that we stop and breathe every once and a while.  

Communicate to your professors if you are having difficulties staying up with course work

Again, this was a hard concept for me to grasp and be ok with. I am not a person who likes to give excuses, but at the same time realize that there is only so much we can do, and certain things are out of our control. No one wants COVID- 19 to be around but it is here and it is causing serious issues in our lives. So if you are getting behind, advocate for yourself and most professors will be flexible and not be too harsh with you in terms of deadlines. 

Stay connected to your peers and support system as much as possible 

This is so important since it can be difficult to physically see our peers and friends. Utilize zoom conference call, google meetups, or other video conferencing systems to stay connected. Believe me if you do this you will feel better and mitigate the feeling of isolation. 

Find an outlet that brings you joy 

Lastly, do something that makes you happy and you feel give you hope for a better tomorrow. If you have hobbies that can be done at home do them and do them frequently. As terrible the situation, we find ourselves in there is some positivity that we can be excited about. We now have time to think and be mindful of what we are doing and the direction we are going in our lives. 

Dante has well over a decade of successful experiences as a Manager and Human Resources professional. He has a passion to help people strive to obtain their goals. Dante received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Metro State University and later earned his Master’s degree from Saint Mary’s University. He is currently is in pursuit of his doctorate degree in Psychology at the University of St. Thomas. With his training and vision, he desires to help people become the best version of themselves. He also has recently started a podcast called “Better You Today!” where he discusses topics in mental health and tips to help people live happy and productive lives.

Don’t Panic

By David Van Engen

…or if it’s too late, read this.

It’s funny. Whenever someone tell you to not panic, it’s probably already too late. As college students, it’s safe to say that we live in a near-constant state of anxiety. Often, we like to tell others that we thrive in this environment, and sometimes we do. Much of the time, our brains are filled with a colorful marching band of stress that loves to parade around in our heads at 2 am. Student loans? Check. Procrastination? Massive check. An international COVID-19 pandemic?


Deep breath. Whew.

Okay. This sucks. A lot. All online classes? Depending on your school’s format, this can be a dramatic adjustment. Seeing everyone’s pets is pretty cool but Zoom fatigue is real. Once the joy of being able to wear sweatpants wears off, it’s easy to let a lot of things slide. Like showers. You didn’t think it was possible, but you can bring procrastination to a whole new level.

Undergrad students have found themselves moving back home after student housing closed abruptly. A lot of graduate students are either in practicum or getting ready to apply for next year. Doctoral students are scrambling to figure out how the heck this pandemic will affect their prospects at scoring or holding onto their internship or postdoc site.

This is a lot of adjustment, a lot of stress. Why sugar coat it?

It would be easy to write a fluff piece on practicing mindfulness or self care and those things are definitely helpful. But you know what? This is hard. You have a dozen unanswered questions. Things seem pretty damned uncertain and everyone is regrouping. It’s easy to turn inward and do everything imaginable to not think about it. But you are all future therapists. We know in our bones that avoidance can only take us so far.

So here’s your chance to let some of that out. Tell us about your experiences. Your anxiety. Your questions. Tell us what’s working for you as you try to cope. Tell us what doesn’t. This blog is for all of us. Share your experiences, read about your fellow classmates, and maybe things will seem a little more manageable. The MPA Student Division will also feature guest writers to talk about topical issues like financial aid, ethical dilemmas, or how to make your life easier. But ultimately, we want to hear from you.

Click here for details on how to contribute an article.

Being a Student of Color (SOC) in the age of COVID-19

By David Van Engen

Dirty looks from strangers while out in public. Muttered, derogatory comments in passing. Being followed around stores by managers and staff. As a Korean American, I’ve lived with this kind of behavior from others for my entire life. Overt, covert microaggressions. Outright, racist b*******, if we’re being totally honest. This is during the best of times. The outbreak of COVID-19 has seen a significant increase in harassment and hate crimes directed against Asian Americans and immigrants. Discrimination directed against minorities in the U.S. during times of crisis is nothing new; in fact, it’s an American tradition.

In addition to the regular stressors faced by college students, being a person of color in the U.S. brings additional challenges. Whether that comes from feeling out of place in a largely heterogeneous campus or awkwardly painful classroom discussions on diversity, it’s a lot to hold. When COVID-19 was brought to the world’s attention in late 2019, I distinctly remember thinking to myself that if the virus came to America, it would be Asian’s turn to be the focus of misguided discrimination. As time passed and the contagion spread around the globe, I experienced a growing unease that my initial thought was coming true. This feeling stayed with me, in the pit of my stomach as the number of cases began to rise in Europe, on cruise ships, and eventually the U.S. After that I couldn’t stay off the news. I was continually scanning for stories of racial discrimination, hate crimes, and targeting by politicians. This took a hefty toll on my overall sense of well-being. I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling like this but I certainly felt isolated.

In March, I was on a walk with my wife and we encountered an older woman lying on the sidewalk who had fallen and [to my medically-trained eye] had clearly broken her collarbone. I offered assistance to help stabilize her for transport to the hospital but was flatly rejected by her partner. I told her I had emergency medical training. Her partner told me to leave them alone. She wouldn’t say why, she just glared at me. Eventually, the woman on the sidewalk who was in pain said “oh let him help me already.” So I did (despite being irate). We stabilized the shoulder in an improvised sling and sent her off to get medical treatment. As we walked away, my wife said “so that’s what you’ve been talking about, isn’t it?” This incident stayed with me, doing little to help my growing frustration. Later that week, I was at the grocery and received racist comments from people in the aisles.

So I decided to stay inside as much as possible. Screw it.

But that didn’t make things better. In fact, it got worse. My consumption of the news increased as did my preoccupation. This cycle continued for a couple of weeks. My wife noticed, as did my friends. Trying to break my funk, I attended an online meeting of my graduate program’s Student’s of Color, Multiracial and Indigenous peoples group (SOCMI). There, students talked about their COVID-19-related experiences, fears, and uncertainties. It was wonderful and for the first time in months, I didn’t feel alone as a SOC. I felt like myself again. Upon reflection it struck me how quickly one can turn inward and allow anxiety to influence behaviors.

So if you’re a SOC, this blog entry is for you. You are not alone. If you’re not an SOC, this is also for you. Be supportive. Advocate for yourself and for your fellows. Be mindful of safety. Talk to each other. Form support groups, attend digital happy hours and game nights. But most importantly, be cheerfully defiant. Otherwise the bigots win.

Screw them. We aren’t going anywhere.

The APA offers some insight into the psychology of bias-motivated actions and hate crimes as well as tips on fighting them here.

If you’ve been the victim of a hate crime or discriminatory acts, go here.