Topic Tuesdays: Advice

The Scary Thing About Mental Health During The COVID-19 Quarantine.

Dear, guys – welcome back to Letters From Liz.

For many of us, we are weeks into the quarantine phase of this whole COVID-19 outbreak. Living in NYC, it’s been extra stressful for us to live in a state that has become the epicenter of the virus in the U.S. Living in a predominantly Asian neighborhood, nearly everything is closed, once a crowded area is now deserted, and it’s just an intense time to be living, in all honesty. It’s scary, but we’re all trying to get through this time as efficiently and safely as possible.

With that being said, it’s not only important to focus on our physical health, but our mental health is just as important! Being home without any other social interaction besides whoever lives in your household (which sadly some of us live alone) can take a major toll on your mental health. Like I mentioned in my letter about COVID-19, some of our home environments are not the most healthy spaces for us to be, and our jobs, schooling, or just routines out of the house are the things that keep us grounded and our mental health in a healthy state. When those things are taken away from us so abruptly like it was, it’s difficult to transition into the current new “normal”.

Personally, I find myself not only getting back into old behavioral patterns, but I’m also aware of just how depressed and “not myself” I’ve been lately. I’m aware that the last time I felt this way, I was unemployed and stuck in the house for most of my days for the majority of last year. I know this because a lot of my thinking feels the same as it did, and slowly but surely, I’m finding it hard to be productive, stay motivated, honestly to just get out of bed. It’s the uncertainty, it’s my surroundings, and it’s just my cycle coming back around, and this time I don’t have my routine to help control it.

Of course, I am probably not the only one. In fact, I believe many of us are in the same boat, whether or not they are diagnosed with any mental disorders. It’s a difficult time for everyone; it’s the anxiety of contracting the virus and harming those with compromised immune systems, it’s the anxiety of sheltering and living under this quarantine with very limited supplies left, and it’s the depression of all of this plus the fact you feel like you have no control of your life and what to do with it. Sure, we could watch all the TV, videos, and movies all we want, but we are social beings. Once our body needs that social interaction with other people other than the people in your household, we want it. 

Sadly, there are going to be people in situations where they are constantly triggered and to not have an escape to go to, things could get dangerous and serious.

That’s the scariest part.

Being in an environment that’s mentally draining and unhealthy for your mental health plus the anxiety and depression of COVID-19 could leave anyone feel like they have no control over their own lives. The fact that we have all this time now to overthink and sulk in our negative thoughts, it could be potentially dangerous for those with more severe mental illness. There’s no routine for those who rely upon it, there’s no actual “getting up out of your house to go to therapy” anymore, there’s not even a damn escape place you can go to because everything is closed. It’s that feeling that you have no control over anything that makes everything feel ten times more difficult.

This letter isn’t making you feel any better, I know, but I just wanted to voice out the concerns and the misunderstandings that people may have about this time; it’s more than just “getting the virus”. It’s the fear that comes behind it, it’s the day-by-day life and how that looks like for most of us, it’s not knowing what type of security we have financially; it’s a lot of things, and our mental health is the thing that takes the biggest toll in times like this.

So please, try to take care of your mental health throughout a time like this. It’s so easy to get sucked into all this madness, but make sure you check-in with yourself mentally: how am I doing? Do I feel happy/sad/angry/drained/okay today? What are some things that I could in the house that can help keep me focused on good energy? 

Stay safe, and take care of yourself!

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Topic Tuesdays: Advice

Let’s Talk About Empathy & Sympathy.

Dear, guys – welcome back to Letters From Liz!

New month, new beginnings, new adventures, new lessons, and new experiences to grow from. Every month for me is truly a journey, and for the 9 months of 2019 we went through, it’s been a long, hard journey.

I wanted to talk about this idea that I feel many of us misinterpret or misuse when talking about desires, personality traits, and resolving conflicts with people. We’ve all heard of sympathy; we can hear other people and their stories and understand where they are coming from, and because we understand, we can respect others for sharing their emotions and feelings to the public. Being sympathetic is a good trait to have; people trust other people who are willing to hear them out and understand their feelings and emotions about a specific situation. Those closest to you are trusting of you enough to allow them to express their feelings and emotions without any judgment, but it also allows the person receiving and listening to still keep their distance emotionally for their own personal sake.

So, why would people rather have someone to talk to who is empathetic than sympathetic?

Well, let’s define what empathy truly means. Empathy, in its most simple form, is when the person listening to the person who is expressing their feelings and emotions not only understands how that person feels, but they also feel how that person is feeling. In other words, someone who is empathetic knows how it feels to be in similar shoes of the person who is expressing their emotions and feelings. Sounds good, right? Wouldn’t it be great to have a friend or two in life who are willing to feel the way that you feel about something to the same degree? Wouldn’t it be right if the person you’re talking to also feels the way you feel in certain situations? Wouldn’t empathy be the great trait to have in friendships or relationships because as humans, all we want for the people we care for the most is to feel how we feel about certain scenarios and situations?

On paper, it sounds like a better trait. In practice, not so much.

For a while, I thought I was one of the special ones and thought I was empathetic more than sympathetic. I’m always taking what people tell me in confidence to heart, whether it’s a negative or positive situation. I thought I was the type of person that you could come to and talk about feelings and emotions because I knew how to respond to them and how to handle people in their most vulnerable state. Especially when it came to mental health, I thought I knew that because I go through mental health issues myself, it automatically enrolls me into the Empathy Club.

I believe I showcase empathy in certain situations, but I’m not an empathetic person.

Maybe I haven’t figured out the balance of being empathetic and still keeping my inner core strength, but in the years I’ve done experienced empathy-focused conversations and discussions, I do not have that power yet to separate myself from those said scenarios. In other words, every time I allowed myself to feel someone else’s emotions and feelings, it negatively impacted me and my mental health.

Empathy is truly a blessing and a curse; it’s great to be the person who can feel the emotions others are going through, but it also takes a toll on your own personal being, and from experience, it becomes this toxic cycle of needing empathy from other people when in hindsight, I believe no one can ever fully be empathetic.

Well, I can only speak for myself. 

It doesn’t mean that I’m this cold-hearted bitch that you can’t talk to without making you feel like shit; I do believe I’m a very sympathetic person. I’ve always been sympathetic and I’ve always understood (if not, then I tried to understand) where another person is coming from and where their headspace is at. I try my hardest not to judge people and allow them to come as they come because I know that’s how I want to be treated in return. I can be sympathetic and understanding of one’s feelings and emotions, but for my own personal mental health reasons, I can’t allow myself to feel, nor will I ever fully feel how someone else is feeling.

I mean, how can you possibly feel what another person is feeling? I’m not talking about intimate relationships either, but the everyday relationships you have with your family, friends, co-workers, strangers, etc? You don’t know how it feels to live in the life of those in your life. You don’t know the type of struggles they go through, what they have to deal with on a day-to-day- basis, nor why they act the way they act. You simply don’t know, all you can do is understand. 

If I learned anything within this year, it’s the fact that I won’t ever feel the same way a person feels. I may know how it feels, I may understand how it feels through experiences in life, but I will never feel what other people are feeling. People’s triggers, breaking points, breaking good/bad news will always be different for every individual, hence the way they act or feel about it is unique to them.

But maybe I’m just being too logical about this. 

Maybe there is a way where you can feel another person’s feelings and emotions without losing yourself in the process. Maybe you can understand what caused a person to feel the way they do, and experience it yourself internally or something. Maybe there are ways where you could be aware enough to the point whenever you approach someone with your own emotions and feelings, you ask in advance if they can handle you at this given moment.

Maybe empathy is something you have when you’re confident enough with yourself. Maybe being an empathetic person isn’t my alignment because I’m on this “good selfish” path where I’m finally prioritizing myself. Maybe being sympathetic is all I can offer to people at the moment, not because I’m self-centered, but because I still care about people and the way they feel; however, at the end of the day, the way I feel and my mental state of mind comes first.

Being sympathetic isn’t a bad thing, y’ know! Of course, there will be people disguising themselves as sympathetic people because it’s the right thing to try to understand where a person’s feelings and emotions are coming from. People vent to one another in hopes that the other person understands them and, if asked, suggest some advice to them!

Emotionally keeping your distance from people isn’t always a bad thing. Yeah, it sounds like it’s bad, but it doesn’t have to be. Keeping your distance when someone is expressing their feelings and emotions towards you allows you to see the situation through an unbiased lens. If you have a friend who’s telling you she slashed her ex-boyfriend’s tires after looking through his DMs, you gotta let her know that all that shit was unnecessary and now she has a bigger problem in her hands. You can understand why she did it, but it doesn’t mean that what she did was right. In another scenario, if you have a friend who opens up to you about domestic violence in their household, you still can have the distance away from the situation to be there for that friend. You can understand the pain she’s going through without allowing your feelings and emotions to get in the way of the situation.

So, whether you are an empathetic person or a sympathetic one, those are two good traits to have at least one of. You become a resource for the people in your life that might have no one else to discuss things with. You’re reliable, trustworthy, and kind enough to understand or feel what others are telling you in confidence. For years, I’ve been the person that my friends came to whenever they had hardships in their lives, and whether or not I’ve personally gone through similar situations (yeah, I’m talking about middle school Liz who gave out relationship advice with NO relationship experience), I’ve listened and helped out in the best way I could.

There isn’t no wrong or right way to be there for the people you care about, as long as you’re doing what’s right for you and for those who you care for. Empathy, sympathy, whatever works best for you, you are still being a helpful friend to others.

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Topic Tuesdays: Advice

Yes, SAD Happens in the Summer Too.

Way back when the blog was just starting up, I wrote an article about what the Winter Blues are and how it affects tons of people around the world experiencing the cold season. It makes sense; cold weather and limited sunlight make everything dim and gray. Nothing shines bright, the sun goes down way too early in the day, and there’s really nothing you can do besides stay in bed and stay warm. Commonly, people are more “alive” when the weather gets warmer. Students are off of school, families go on vacations, friends can hang out with each other, and the days are longer. While yes, all of that is great to have during the summer, the hot weather doesn’t give some of us the same feeling it gives to everyone else.

For me, I get the most depressed during the summer season and yes, it’s totally normal to feel this way.

Continue reading “Yes, SAD Happens in the Summer Too.”

Topic Tuesdays: Advice

What Grad School Taught Me.

I’m the first one within my immediate friends’ group and family to be attending grad school. Ultimately, I didn’t plan on going to grad school for my Master’s because I thought four years of college were enough to last me for a lifetime. I knew I wanted to expand my studies in Cinema because I wanted to become a scriptwriter for awhile, and I needed more studies in film and television if I wanted to pursue that as a career. I applied in Fall 2015 to attend a film school in Fall 2016. I got rejected due to limited spots within the program, and by that point, I felt extremely discouraged and told myself that grad school was officially out of the picture.

Until CSI granted me the opportunity to continue my studies in their MA program for English. I felt blessed to have this handed to me without having a backup plan after the film school rejected me, so I decided to stay at my college and study English (again) as a grad student.

I am currently wrapping up my first official year of grad school. I will be graduating this time next year.

Boy how time flies.

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If you were to ask “22-year-old college senior Liz” what grad school would be like, I would tell you that it was going to be tedious, but nothing that I can’t handle. I still remember my last famous words being “I did 5 classes for two semesters straight; how hard could two classes be?”

Dear “22-year-old college senior Liz”, you played yourself.

Prior to attending grad school, I planned to do a lot of things with the spare time I thought I was going to have. I wanted to be more involved with my school’s drama club, I wanted to write a lot more scripts and potentially make them into short films or scenes, and I definitely wanted to finally get a job. After realizing that I had a project already due the first day of grad school, I realized just how intense grad school was going to be.

Grad school is definitely a different type of commitment you make than regular college. Nowadays, it’s ideal to go to college after high-school; most careers and jobs require a Bachelor’s degree. Going to grad school and getting your Master’s isn’t as common, hence why it’s more a commitment. The reality of it all is that you don’t have to go to grad school; you could be perfectly fine with life with just your Bachelor’s degree. So when you decide to pursue grad school and it becomes too much to handle, the question of “do I really need to do this?” definitely comes up. I know it did for me.

Grad school, especially studying English, requires a lot of research. You’re writing 20-page final papers, you’re putting on presentations for 4 different projects, and your vacation days and breaks that you have are strictly for doing work.

Grad school has definitely taught me a lot about my work ethic and how to properly handle my time management. My undergrad years I did my work very last minute, especially in classes that I really didn’t like. I went through many semesters not reading any of the books for my literature course and still managed to pass all of them with A’s and such. Grad school… a completely different ball game. The readings are longer, dense, and require a lot more of your time in order to engage in class discussions and most of all, you’ve made it this far. People don’t understand that at when in a grad-level class, everyone made it just as far as you. People are a lot more intellectual, and the people who may appear like they don’t do much in class are the same people who are honestly just low-key geniuses.

The truth of it all is that you have to physically prepare yourself for grad school and even then you’re not fully ready. People assume that grad school is just going to be a little bit harder than undergrad (or even easier) when really, two classes feel like two full-time jobs. Grading is different, attendance is different, the work is different, and yes – even the stress is different.

In my bad habits turned to good ones’ post, I explain how I had to revamp my time management skills by pretty much using my calendar to write down even the days that I have to do work. Grad school work is nothing like undergrad; YOU CANNOT LEAVE IT FOR THE LAST MINUTE. It’s impossible, to say the least.

Last but certainly not least, you have to change your attitude towards school if you want to pass grad-level classes. Specifically, at my school, I have to keep at least a 3.0 GPA (in other words, a B) in order to graduate. My GPA right now is a 3.3, which honestly can change with just a simple bad grade in one course. The pressure that comes with exceeding in grad school literally wears you out, and if you don’t have tough skin to handle the ups and downs of grad school, then grad school isn’t the place for you.

It’s the honest truth.

Of course, grad school isn’t just this horrible place of negativity and anxiety. If anything, grad school has made me into a better writer and has been teaching me the reality of what it takes to be respected in academia. In the near future, I’ll be writing a post about the writing/rhetoric composition side of writing I learn in grad school that I never knew even existed; but that’s beside the point. As a grad student, you are granted this freedom that you don’t get as an undergrad. In grad school, you are allowed to have your own ideas and explore all these different things without having your professors tell you you’re off-topic or some shit (of course, some professors are just naturally one-sided). As a grad student, there is this certain respect you get from your peers that you don’t necessarily get from undergrad because the classes are just overly crowded on the undergrad level. You also get to connect with professors better when you’re on the grad-level (honestly, Professor Carlo has been such an inspiration for me while on this grad school journey, so thank you for making me a better writer).

All in all, grad school is a risk that you should take if you believe that you can do it. It’s okay if you know deep down inside you can’t handle it; it’s not for everyone. I didn’t know that it was essentially for me, and I’m still trying to cope with the new surroundings and identity being a grad student. Yes, at times I feel like the stress and anxiety do take over me, but personally, I feel like grad school has made me grow into myself and to perfect my craft as a writer.

So, if you’re thinking about grad school, I say go for it. There’s nothing wrong furthering your education. If you’re not thinking about grad school, don’t sweat it. Don’t do it because you have to, do it because you want to.

-Liz (:

Topic Tuesdays: Advice

College Survival Guide!

For some of us, classes begin in the next week. While most of us think we want to go back to school, some of us dread the stress that college brings into our everyday lives.

People deal with the stress of college in their own, unique ways. Some people wait to the end of the semester to get all of their papers and projects done, and other just stress 24/7 about the assignments. I’m definitely the latter.

With the stress of college, it’s hard to balance out the other aspects of your life such as your social, financial, personal, and love life. Just because you’re a full-time college student, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a life outside of it. I’ve known many people who ditched their social lives because of college, and as a young adult, doing that isn’t the ideal thing to do.

I survived four years of undergrad studies, and now I’m shooting to survive my grad studies. Here’s how I deal with the college stress that comes along every semester:

  • Time management is crucial. When you’re taking four to five classes a week, sometimes it’s hard to get everything done within that time-span. Professors love to think that a student is only taking their class and pile them with assignments to complete in a short period of time. When you’re juggling five classes, with five different types of assignments to complete in a week, you don’t know where to start or how to get everything done on time. To help you manage your time, get yourself a calendar where you can write down the things that are due and what days you want to do each assignment. During my first semester of grad school, I had two very demanding classes that required a lot of my hours, so I used my calendar to write what days I had certain assignments due as well as write what days I was going to work on those said assignments. While writing my 24-paged Master’s Thesis, I chose one day out of the week for a total of five weeks to write at least 5 pages of the paper. It made my thought process a lot more organized and it was clear what I wanted to write about. Waiting to do something last-minute doesn’t give you the time to truly indulge in your creativity and intelligence.
  • If you’re not good under pressure, don’t try to look for a part-time job.  During my second semester of my junior year, I decided to go for a part-time job at a theater production company during their show season. Due to my perfectionist qualities, I wanted to put my all in both school and my job, but it was simply impossible for me. After that, I decided to not look for a job while being in school; I wasn’t built to do both. I commend those who balance both responsibilities, but if you are a person who cannot handle the pressure of balancing both school and a job, don’t go for one. Yeah, having money is important, especially if your parents can’t help support you completely, but some things you honestly need to let go, and the luxury of having/making money is something I had to let go in order to complete school.
  • Know your limits. This coincides with my previous post above, but you should always know your limits with school and how much you can do. If you can’t do three classes a day for three days a week, go for two. If you can’t take late-night classes, look for morning/afternoon ones. If you can’t handle taking two literature classes at once (like me), then look into another concentration. Knowing your limit is extremely important to handle your stress; you already know beforehand what you can or cannot do, and you can plan ahead with those in mind. Keep in mind though that sometimes you have to test out the waters and see if you’re able to handle it or not. My last semester of undergrad, I took three different English classes, and I thought I was going to die because of it. At the end of the semester, I ended up passing all of them with straight A’s and landed a spot on the Dean’s List. Anything is possible, you just have to try it out first.
  • Spontaneity doesn’t exist in the college life. Plan, plan, plan!  Keeping up your social or love life while being a college student can be difficult sometimes; I sometimes feel guilty that I don’t see everyone that I want to see because of the way I plan out my work days. (It’s funny, Obie sent me on a guilt trip earlier on Monday on how I only see him once a week.) Luckily, I plan ahead in what I want to do with the people I want to see. If you have a day over the weekend that you have for yourself, make sure to plan ahead on what you want to do. If you have friends who are also college students, you sometimes can’t expect them to be available when you are and ask them that day to hang out. Ask in advance and plan something. My “day-off day” during the semester are usually Saturdays, and I typically spend those days with my S/O because ya girl needs some TLC after a long, hard-working week. When you plan your outings in advance, it allows you plan around that on the days you want to work on school assignments.
  • The beginning of a semester can be scary, but try to relax. The worst thing that can possibly happen is that Amazon doesn’t ship the textbook you need for your class fast enough to use it for the following lecture. Even in grad school, your first week is “syllabus week”, which is just the class you can relax and get a feel of your professor and your classmates. Although in grad school, you automatically start working after the class introduction, it still isn’t the end of the world. You will adapt to your surroundings and this class will feel like the many others that you took throughout your college career. Just relax and keep an open mind about things when starting a new semester.

Whether you’re entering your first semester of college or your last, the college jitters exist for everyone. It seems like the work will be intense once you get your class syllabus, but ask yourself just how many times you said that about a class and it ended up being easy or just fine? The most important thing about college is being able to take care of yourself while taking care of your business. If you have experience simultaneously doing both during the semester, then you will be just fine.

I hope everyone has a great and successful semester! Cheers to the Spring 2017 semester!

-Liz (: