Peace of mind at Stanford is a rare commodity.

By Heidi Fogle (Stanford Peace of Mind)

Class shopping melts into midterms blends into dead week rushes into finals, and then after a short period of recovery, it all starts over again. Even the summers, ostensibly ideal time for some R&R, are a high-pressure, meticulously planned affair. The reality of the Stanford schedule isn’t going away. Nor should it; Stanford students are able to accomplish incredible things. The issue here is how many of those students place those accomplishments higher on their priority list than their own well-being. We’ve all seen lists of self-care tips, heard the admonitions to get more sleep, more exercise, and more down time. How many of us have then proceeded right into the next all-nighter or multi-day stint in the library? I’m not advocating drastic lifestyle or philosophy changes here; by all means, keep doing great things and keep pushing yourself to do them. Just keep in mind that really, truly, SOMEWHERE deep down in there, you are not your accomplishments, and that part of “you” doesn’t need fellowships or GPAs or honors theses to be happy. I don’t know what it does need; only you do. So my tip list is short and simple as well: close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, and find something in your life you can feel happy about. Right now. Not to harp on my motivating theme too much, but by the time you open your eyes again, you’ll have an instant dose of peace of mind.

Also, you really should try to get more sleep.

Everything You Need to Know About the Bridge

By Jack Cackler (Bridge Peer Counseling Center)

I've had the great fortune of being a live-in director at the Bridge Peer Counseling Center for two years now, and it has been an incredible home for me at Stanford. I'm going to try to give a little bit of insight into what life is like at the Bridge, some of the services we offer, and what the Bridge means to Stanford. The Bridge was founded in 1971 as a student run drug counseling center. To add a bit of context, the late sixties and early seventies saw a lot of unrest and tension between students and administrators mainly over the Vietnam War, but there were a lot of great things that came out of these conflicts. One of these boons was that several students and professors wanted a place for students to feel comfortable to turn to if they needed help, without fear of legal repercussions. And so the Bridge was born.

Over the course of the seventies, the Bridge became home to a growing number of support groups, for eating disorders, bereavement, and a wide host of challenges that students and members of the community face. The Bridge eventually evolved into it's current form as a general purpose student counseling center. It is the oldest student-run counseling center in the world, and we are frequently asked for help setting up counseling centers on other campuses.
The Bridge is open for counseling over the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and in person from 9 AM to midnight daily. In order to staff such long hours, I live at the center with three other amazing live-ins, and together we are on call each night of the week. We also have about 30 wonderful active staffers that take shifts throughout the week. We train new counselors each quarter through two classes, Education 193A and 193P. Working with the class is actually one of the most fun parts about working with the Bridge, as we have a constant influx of awesome, caring people. I'd highly recommend either class to anyone who's remotely interested, and they are offered every quarter.

The Bridge is located in Rogers House, between Tresidder and FloMo, and right next to the Bechtel International Center. We average 1 or 2 counsels a day, and we are always open to listen to anyone, whether problems are serious, or if they just want to talk to someone to sort things out. We share our beautiful house with several other amazing student groups, including Dance Marathon, FACE AIDS, Colleges Against Cancer, Stanford Peace of Mind, MIRROR, and Relay for Life. It's awesome being surrounded by people doing such amazing things day in and day out.

The Bridge has meant a tremendous amount to me personally. I took the class three years ago at the recommendation of a friend, and it was interesting to me, as a science major, getting exposed to something I wouldn't otherwise learn about in a classroom setting. Learning how to truly listen to people and try to help them has been transformational for me, and has been invaluable on a number of occasions. I am extremely grateful to have been able to use many of the skills I've learned at the Bridge just to be there for friends, not as a counselor but just as a friend, when they need someone to talk to.

To anyone who wants someone to talk to, whether you're having a sunny or a rainy day, our doors and phones are always open. To anyone wishing to learn more about counseling and caring for the people around you, we welcome you to our family. Warm happy wishes from the Bridge!


I'd Been Getting A Vibe of Discontent

By Robin Thomas

...from other students at Stanford, yet noticed that many people didn't seem to question why they felt that way, and so didn't talk about it. I have a hunch that the Silicon Valley-ness of Stanford contributes to an independent spirit that may keep students from being honest about their challenges, and so was interested to see what would arise if people were given the opportunity to talk about the untalked. So, I organized a simple meeting—a small group of people showed up in a room in Old Union and spent about an hour and a half talking about their personal lives. This is what we discovered:

We are not happy at Stanford. Maybe a more constructive way to phrase that is we don't feel fulfilled. In our discussion, it was repeatedly brought up that we worked so hard during high school to get to Stanford, and now that we're here, it's hard to find the same sense of motivation.

For some of us, it has been extremely difficult to develop sustainable, meaningful relationships with other students. Sharing in meaningful experiences, and sharing our feelings, often feels prohibitively uncomfortable. For some, it can feel as though one person has to make all the effort to develop and sustain a relationship.

For many of us, we try to find community through drinking, but any highs from alcohol are fleeting. Alcohol is an escape; it is far easier to pursue such a temporary escape than to deal with the thing from which you're escaping. It seems a great number of college students take the easy route.

For some others of us, we don't feel as though we're learning from our education. Rather, we're just passing tests and turning in assignments to earn a degree, to get a job, to make money, to retire, to finally do what we want to do sixty years from now when our knees are too bad to do it. It wouldn't be very motivational if college were "the best years of our lives," yet to feel so completely unmotivated is just as unfortunate. Our creative energies are being educated out of us, as classes teach us the "right ways" to enact change in the world, and funnel our inspiration into extremely specific specialties.

For some of us, we're pursued by feelings of guilt when we aren't embodying the hooray-Stanford-NSO-and-Admit-Weekend spirit. We worked hard to get the incredible opportunity to go to Stanford; it is difficult to be honest that it isn't everything it's cracked up to be to those who have placed so many expectations on us. It's hard to tell our families that life is hard, and we even find ourselves feeling guilty if we 'fess up to our friends on campus that we're having a bad day.

For some of us, we've been discouraged by how hard it is to find an organization to connect with on campus. The sheer magnitude of organizations can be overwhelming. The Silicon Valley inspires a sense that the independent start-up route is the way to go whenever a person has a feeling of initiative. As a result, we have infinite numbers of tutoring, environmental, and political action groups on campus, to name a few, all with more-or-less the same goal in mind, yet working separately. Imagine what could be accomplished with teamwork!

For me, these are the things that stood out. I would encourage you to add your own thoughts.

So how will we change the situation?

We will be honest with ourselves, and honest with each other. We'll talk about the things on our mind, and try to get the Stanford duck's legs out of the water. We will do things that are risky, scary, or outside of our comfort zones. I personally will hope to bring the myriad creative energies on campus together to synergistically bring about change in the world, teamworking together, and learning from each other.

Most of all, we'll care for ourselves and for each other, physically and mentally. When presented with the choice between something we "should" do and something that will make us happy, we'll go for the happiness. "Shoulds" are infinite, but happiness is beautiful because you have to be able to find it.

Take some time to smile and breathe.

The Duck Syndrome

By Jen Hawkins (ASSU Health Team)

We’ve all heard of the Stanford Duck Syndrome—on the surface we’re calm and composed, even on top of things. Just below it we are working our butts off and kicking as hard as we can just to stay afloat. Perhaps it’s because we tend to be overachievers who shy away from talking about our problems. Accomplishment is great, especially when pared with humility, but it isn’t so amazing when you can’t sit back and enjoy your success.

Sure, being happy isn’t always easy. Why should it be when we have so much on our plates and are constantly striving to reach the top? After all, we are at Stanford University and it costs a small fortune to be here—just the thought of paying off student loans is cringe-worthy.

Then again, college is supposed to be the best time of our lives. We finally get to escape the confines of our parents’ household rules and daily expectations. We can eat whatever we want, whenever we want, and we can go to bed at five in the morning after watching ten re-runs of House if we so choose. The particularly brave can even go to frat parties, hop around in fountains after having a drink, or live on a coed floor!

But when you combine newfound freedom with the pressure to do well and the delusion that everyone else is living in perfect bliss, confronting your own problems becomes nearly impossible. Sometimes the result is a vague sense of unhappiness, a restless tension. But, if it goes on for too long, depression, an anxiety disorder, or some other psychological problem can emerge. Generally, these issues are a combination of genetics and external factors, so why not control the latter to the best of our abilities?

Many Stanford students were the best at nearly everything, or one particular thing, in high school. They were the big fish in a little pond and had little trouble dominating the waters. But now, with all the big fish together in a small lake, most of them will become one of many little fish. They can undoubtedly thrive, but they have to relinquish the idea that they have to be the absolute best. Ambition is still key, but it must be paired with an ounce of realism. Perhaps that means accepting an occasional B+ or being happy to have made the team even if it takes a year join the starting line-up. Maybe it even means learning how to relax and talking about problems openly without being embarrassed or ashamed.

I believe the most valuable change to campus culture would be a decline in the Duck Syndrome. If people knew that their own problems and concerns united them with the student body, instead of separating them from it, that would bring some peace of mind. Knowing that you aren’t alone in your struggles, whether it be choosing a major or facing an eating disorder, is key to both personal growth and the healing process. And no problem is too small to address. Sometimes the fight you had with your roommate or not seeing your crush at Full Moon really is enough to set off a bad week. Talk about it so you can get over it and move on with your life—at the pace that’s right for you.

What Is the Wellness Room?

By Debanti Sengupta (Wellness Room)

The Wellness Room is a project that has been instituted by a number of Stanford faculty and students to provide a space of peace and calm to you, the Stanford student, as you move through the ups and downs of life here at Stanford. The Wellness Room aims to provide programming not just in the Wellness Room, but all throughout campus, to help students relieve stress and discover a healthier, more balanced way of living while remaining efficient and productive.

How do we aim to do this? Through innovative workshops that bring you the tools to live healthier, relax, take better care of your mind and body, and perhaps be a little silly. During fall quarter, we reached out to over 200 students on campus with workshops, including yoga, meditation, and community service. Our aim is to foster a proactive culture of wellbeing on campus where taking care of ourselves is an acceptable thing to do. We've partnered with the RAs, the PHEs, and the CAs on campus, and we're looking forward to expanding our programming even further this quarter.

There's one tip we'd like to share with the student body: taking a few minutes of to take care of yourself each day can do wonders for your productivity and efficiency. Maybe that means taking some time to meditate, consciously slowing down, going for a walk or run, doing an activity you enjoy, or spending time with people you love. Taking a little time to unwind every day allows us to get our work done more efficiently and leaves us with more time to do the things that we would really like to.

We're always happy to hear from you and are always open to suggestions on programming. In the meantime, come visit! Our website is http://assu.stanford.edu/wellnessroom/.