Learning To Cope: 33 Ways We Find Comfort

Check out my newest article for Under The Labels!

Under The Labels

By: Ileana Paules-Bronet

When dealing with mental health problems, people find comfort in a variety of things. From eating specific foods to cuddling an old teddy bear to getting a hug from a certain person, we all get through our mental health issues in different ways. Below, people who struggle with their own mental health issues share what they find comfort in when they are struggling with their mental health.

  1. Hugging a pillow, stuffed animal, or other soft object.
  2. Yoga
  3. Holding ice in my hand
  4. I live near a river, it’s nothing particularly scenic but it’s usually pretty quiet. When I feel my depression take over and I feel numb, I lace up my running shoes and jog along the river when it’s dark. It makes me feel my breathing, feel my legs sting, feel the cold air on my face. It gets all the frustration out and I can…

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Musical Therapy: Amazing Songs To Help You Find Peace

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People suffering from mental illness and other mental health issues often turn to music for comfort. Many musical artists are able to relate to people on a visceral level, which can be very helpful for people struggling with their mental health. Musical therapy is a proven form of help for those who need it.

To read the rest of the article and see the list of songs, click here.

Anxiety Is Broader Than Just “Social Anxiety”

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Think about the word anxiety – what do you picture? Someone afraid to talk to others, too shy to speak up in public? When many people hear “anxiety,” they translate that to mean “social anxiety.” While social anxiety is a very prevalent form of anxiety, anxiety itself is is much broader. As people have begun attempting to destigmatize mental health issues, it has become clear to me that many individuals mistake general anxiety for social anxiety. As someone who suffers from anxiety that is actually eased by social interaction, I wanted to explore the definitions of different types of anxiety to amplify awareness.

To read the rest of the article, click here!

20 Life Lessons You Only Learn In College

I’ve been missing college recently, which is what prompted me to submit this article to Unwritten.

Now that I’ve settled into post-grad life (I mean, kind of…), I came up with a list of things I actually learned in college during my time there. This list isn’t entirely complete, and probably never will be, but college was one hell of a learning experience. The lessons I learned in those four years will carry on with my for the rest of my life, and here are 20 of them…

Not Drunk Enough: 25 Thoughts You’ve Definitely Had At The Bar

One more repost from Unwritten!

It’s Friday and you and your girls are planning on having a casual night out: happy hour drinks, dinner, and maybe a quick stop in a bar before going home to spend time with your bae, Netflix. But before you know it, you’re four drinks in and your friend is dragging you (willingly, let’s be honest) to some club with a name like “Infinity” or “Secrets” or “Chandelier.”

10 Myths About The Second Semester Of Senior Year Debunked

Check out another repost of mine on Unwritten!

You’ve worked your butt off for almost four years, joined countless groups, clubs and teams, made some amazing friends, and had some great experiences. But it was hard – really hard. So, you got to senior year and you buried yourself in your thesis, and then second semester came around and you finally thought you’d get a chance to relax and have a blast. Not so much. In order to fully enjoy your last college hoorah, you should know what you are actually in store for.

Busy

I miss Cape Town so much. Check out a friend, fellow ex-gymnast, and current Cape Town traveler’s experience living there now!

Nearly Normal

I cannot believe I’ve been in Cape Town almost two weeks! After a slow first few days, when, to be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I had gotten myself into or if I really wanted to be here, life in this new city has been pretty non-stop.

I finally started work last Wednesday, and so far I’m learning a ton and really enjoying it. The Cape Town Refugee Centre works with the most vulnerable refugees on a local level. Most of the work I did in school looked at these issues with a very wide lens and on a very global level. At the Centre, though, we work directly with vulnerable clients to assess their needs and see what, if anything, we can do to help. Even though I’m only a few days in, I know that I am going to come out of this experience with a great…

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An Open Letter To My Little Brother Before He Enters College

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If I told my brother the same things I was told before going into college, people would probably think I was giving him strange advice.

The first pre-college “gift” I received was a rape whistle (it was from my little brother). While it was a practical gift, I guess, it was also weird – it essentially told me that the first thing I should know about college was that it was a dangerous place for me to be. For the record, I never once used that rape whistle (or the variety of other anti-rape products I received during my years in college). I didn’t even take it out of the package. I went to a small liberal arts college and I never really felt unsafe. While I’m not by any means claiming that my college was perfectly safe (as the many sexual assault victims at my school could tell you), I myself never feared for my safety.

Thinking about it now, I may have never even opened the rape whistle, but I also didn’t get rid of it. Why? Because it seemed like something I could at some point need. It’s still sitting in my living room in my apartment in New York City, untouched, in one of the drawers of my coffee table. But if I had given my brother a rape whistle last Christmas, as I considered doing, it would probably also remain in the package – but it would probably also sit in his desk at home, or the back of some closet – he wouldn’t bring it with him to college and always know exactly where it was, despite not using it. He would probably forget about it. And that would be fine.

When my best friend, a guy, started college, his dad sent him a box of condoms. Again, a practical gift, but the message my friend received at the start of his college career was that college would be the time to have sex. We essentially received the exact opposite messages – I learned that I should be vigilant about unwanted sexual advances and he learned that society expected him to have sex. More basically put, men should seek sex, while women should fear it.

So I want to change the message. My brother, almost eighteen years old and a high school senior, is getting ready to embark on the “best four years of his life” (I would definitely say that description of college is up for debate). But as a feminist, a college graduate, and most importantly his sister, I have some advice of my own for my little bro.

Hey Buddy,

I can’t wait for you to go to college (hopefully on the east coast *cough cough* so we can be closer together). You’re going to have so much fun, learn so much, make so many friends, and become even more yourself. I truly can’t wait to see the person you become throughout your college years. But before you go, I want to give you some advice:

  1. Be yourself. When I got to college, I wanted to reinvent myself – I thought I could make myself into someone who was completely different than the person I was in high school (aka cooler, friends with more “popular” people, invited to the best parties, etc.) – that didn’t happen, and I’m so glad it didn’t. Just be you; don’t worry too much about what everyone else thinks.
  2. Be someone people can count on. Stick up for what you believe in, stand up for your friends, and stay strong.
  3. All that peer pressure stuff. Don’t give in to peer pressure and don’t pressure anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. Whether it’s drinking, drugs, or anything sexual, don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with (and don’t make anyone else feel uncomfortable).
  4. Listen to your friends. If your friends tell you something is wrong, listen to them. Don’t discount them. Especially your female friends – if they talk to you about being catcalled, or someone making them uncomfortable, or anyone taking advantage of them – listen. Believe them. Be there for them.
  5. Don’t rape. Not that I believe you ever would, but for the number of times I was told how to not get raped, I think it’s fair that I tell you once how not to rape: If someone says no (or does not say yes) to your sexual advances, stop.
  6. Don’t let your friends rape or be raped. If you see a friend taking advantage of someone else or being taken advantage of by someone else, step in. Don’t be a bystander. Do something – it’s always better to have a friend be mad at you for a day for “cock-blocking” than to have someone be traumatized for life by a sexual assault.
  7. Be the feminist I know you are. Don’t shy away from the term “feminist” because of the negative stigma that is still associated with it. Think about all the strong women you know – me, Mom, your teachers, your camp coworkers – and remember that we are only this strong because of other women and men who aren’t afraid to call themselves feminists.

Love you always,

Your big sister

Insta Art

My creative endeavors recently have taken a turn; I’ve been spending a lot of time drawing and doodling (and posting it all on Instagram). If you like what you see, check out my Instagram! @ipaulesbronet

I’ve drawn everything from bridal gowns to pumpkin pie, and I’m always looking for new ideas. Let me know if you have any brilliant ideas (or want me to make something just for you) and I’d be happy to doodle it.

What It’s Like To Find Your People

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In the summer of 2012, I fell blissfully in love. It was the first time I had ever been so overwhelmingly happy that I had to share it with the world. I felt like sunlight radiated from my pores. It was the only thing I could talk about, the only thing I could think about. 

It was my first (and only) year as a counselor at SEP. I wasn’t in love with an individual, I was in love with a feeling. I was in love with the group of people who gave me that feeling. And like any first love, I didn’t realize what I had until it was almost over. 

Standing on a porch that was drowning in early morning sunlight, I felt something new in the pit of my stomach (and not just the pancakes my friend had made). Like I was a character in a magical realism novel, I began to feel a fire within my body – in the space where my ribs meet, a few inches above my belly button, I felt a warmth that spread through my body to my fingertips and beyond. It was a feeling so fulfilling that I have searched for it everyday since. It has become my goal to find happiness that infects my body the way it did that August morning. 

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Six weeks earlier, I filled a suitcase with summer clothes, towels and toiletries, and other essentials. Just minutes from my house, I was ready to go on the adventure of a lifetime. I thought I knew what to expect – accepting people, a fun time, a learning experience – I had no idea I would find my people.

Up to that point, I thought I already found my people – friends who knew me and understood me, teammates who cheered me on, and family who always had my back. But you can’t know what it’s like to find your people until you’ve truly found them. So in addition to gaining the things I expected to at camp that summer, I finally found my people. And they were nothing like what I expected; they ranged from a frat bro with an extensive shoe collection to a heavily-pierced camp newbie to a pair of sisters who had lived all over the world. They were people who initially intimidated me, people who were interesting and cool and intensely intelligent. But the way I just described those few people doesn’t do them justice; they were so much more than one description. Because the frat bro? He is also an incredible artist, a fiercely loyal friend, and a ridiculously funny storyteller with a talent for funny faces. And the heavily-pierced newbie? She is one of the most adaptable, supportive people I have ever met, who gave us all sentimental necklaces after only a week of knowing us. And the sisters? They are reliable and dependable and always willing to stand up for a friend. They are amazingly independent and perfectly unique and they taught me that love for a sibling can be the strongest kind. These people I just described are only 4 of the 13 people I fell in love with that summer. Some of the others became irreplaceable pillars of confidence in my life. One gave me the strength to push for what is right, no matter the consequences. Another taught me to love my body in all of its uniqueness. One showed me that redheads always have the most fun. And they all taught me to believe in myself, to fight for myself, and to love myself. 

This may all seem overly-emotional and corny, it may feel repetitive, or it may seem out of the blue. But there is method to my madness. Two nights ago, I learned that this summer, SEP will not take place. And while this shouldn’t (and logistically doesn’t) affect me, my heart broke. I thought about all the campers, counselors, and other staff members who, with one email, just lost the chance to find their people. SEP fosters friendships, relationships, and people-finding.

But if I know the children of SEP, the passionate, talented, and caring young adults I’ve come to know over the years, this won’t be the end. Camp will come back, stronger than ever, with people who have a renewed zest for connection. The SEP legacy is forever and I have no doubt that this is not the end. And to all my SEP babies, my junior counselors who are now leaders and my campers who are college-bound superheroes: don’t worry, you’ll find your people. You already have.

Never forget, “someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me.”

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Looking Back: The Time I Was “The Other Girl”

As promised, here is a follow-up post about my thoughts now on my week with Chris.

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After our week together in Florida and our few weeks of chatting about how things were going with his girlfriend, Chris and I texted on an almost daily basis, and I grew way more emotionally attached than he probably realized. We Skyped each other and talked about our families and our life goals. After a year of this, I truly thought I knew his soul. I was basically waiting around for him to break up with his girlfriend, which is when we would finally be able to pick up where we left off. Which was where? A few thousand miles apart and a year after one night of kissing. We were nowhere. My pseudo-relationship with Chris made me completely uninterested in everyone else; in our one week together, I fell head over heels for a guy I had no chance with.

Eventually, I realized that I was getting the short end of the stick in our “relationship”: he and his girlfriend were still in a happy relationship, and I had fallen for someone who was emotionally and physically unavailable. I cried in my best friend’s car on a vacation to visit her in her new city, and I finally knew I was wasting my time. So I broke up with him. I know that seems ridiculous – how can you break up with someone you’re not dating? Well, I did. I told him I needed a break from him – from texting, from SnapChatting, from sharing our life stories and our daily nonsense.

A few months later, when I thought I was fully over him, I began talking to him again. But before I knew it, I was back in the same hole I had been in before – hoping that he’d realize how compatible we were, how we were supposed to be together, and every other thought hopeless romantics have. Once again, I ended things.

I’m not sure if that was the last time I talked to Chris, or if we talked again casually after that, but eventually it truly ended. I can’t remember the last time I spoke to him, but I’m glad I finally got myself out of it. I remember being brokenhearted over Chris more than once, but that was my own fault, not his. I had made our relationship out to be so much more than it was. In the end, we were just flirty friends who made out one time. 

Now, three years later, I still think about Chris once in a while, when he shows up on my Facebook feed or someone talks about Florida or spring break, but I’m happy to say I did eventually get over him. In the past year, I’ve considered reaching out to Chris a few times, but ultimately decided against it. Even though we had a truly wonderful friendship, it wasn’t worth the pain I caused myself crushing on him over and over again. Chris was a really flirty guy and for all I knew, he had the same relationship with me as he had with a million other girls. For a while, he meant the world to me, but I could have just been a blip on his radar.

Despite everything – the tears, the classes I didn’t pay attention in because I was texting Chris, and the missed chances I had with other guys – I still don’t regret any of it.