Content Warning: This piece includes themes of body image that may be triggering to some readers.


you’ve been staring into the mirror

reflections reducing you into a silhouette

every refractive surface threatens 

to consume

your thoughts with images

you don’t recognize


you’ve been waiting

for them to disappear

tried to drown them out with work

talk them down with friends

waiting for the old you to 

swoop back in 

when the mirror gets loud

who knew your likeness in glass

could shatter too

blind you like the moon

sometimes you forget 

mirrors lie like people do

don’t hold you like friends could

won’t wait for you to turn around

to love yourself with you

By: Christine Chen

Artwork by: Wilson Li


A “Fire” Sonnet I Wrote Over FaceTime With You

If I could gaze at stars from me to you,

The ones in your eyes would still shine brightest.

You quench my throbbing heart like none can do;

My tempests do not affect you in the slightest.

If I could rub two stones together like

A child, turning friction to combustion,

I would burn a hole through my screen and strike

Love’s raging fun’ral pyre; eruption.

Yet all is deep-seeded within my soul,

For masks and screens smother my expressions.

Twenty-six miles between us took its toll,

And I’m scrambling to make right impressions.

All I can do is press lip-to-cold screen,

Hoping that someday, my efforts will be seen.


All About Love Languages

How do you show love? Are you more physical and direct, or do you appreciate indirect love like random acts of kindness here and there? What do you need or think you will need from a partner? These ideas can be categorized through love languages, which are different ways of expressing and receiving love. Even if you do not have a significant other, it can also be applied to the way you interact with your friends and family members. The five main categories include words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Many of us will be able to relate to multiple love languages, but studies have shown that every person has one out of the five types of love language that they resonate with the most.

1. Words of affirmation: People who deeply value verbal acknowledgments, such as compliments, encouragement, I love you’s, and uplifting comments. These can be written out, like through text, or said out loud. They are deeply moved by long paragraphs and letters that show how much the other person cares. In these relationships, a lot of encouragement should be given and the other person might want to send an unexpected card or text once in a while.

2. Quality time: These people enjoy spending time with their partner and feel loved when they want to constantly hang out and actively make an effort to involve themselves with eye contact and active listening. This love language is primarily about face-to-face interaction rather than through the phone. One-on-one time is critical, with focused and uninterrupted conversations.

3. Acts of service: If this is your love language, you value the kind of things your partner does, whether it be big or small. This could be something like bringing your groceries in when you are busy, surprising you with pizza when you had a bad day, or even driving you to your doctor’s appointment. This language is generally for people who value actions more than words and they want to be shown that they are appreciated rather than just being told, “I love you.” People with this love language should use action phrases such as “I will help you,” and consider doing things like chores together.

4. Gifts: People who enjoy getting gifts tend to appreciate it less for the physical gift itself, but rather for the meaning behind the gift. They care for the symbolic thought process that goes along with choosing one ––maybe it represents the first time you met, your favorite color, your favorite song, the list goes on! They enjoy the personalization that can go along with gift-giving and they may even appreciate something that is hand-made and more meaningful rather than something extremely expensive but less personal. People with this love language also tend to be great gift-givers and use the value and importance of gifts as a representation of the relationship.

5. Physical touch: These people feel extremely loved and cherished with physical signs of affection, such as holding hands, hugging, cuddling, and kisses. Physical intimacy is served as a powerful emotional connector for people with this love language. These people mainly value the feeling of warmth, comfort, and sense of safety that comes along with physical touch which makes them feel cherished. People should use body language and touch to express love.

After getting an idea of the different types of love languages there are, what do you think YOU resonate with the most? If you are still unsure, you can take a quiz I have linked below:


(Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/the-5-love-languages-explained)


Self-Love? Let’s talk about it!

Everything started from these apps that help create new habits. It was formed as a challenge that you could do daily to develop a good mentality. It was fun and easy to use, so I decided to take up multiple challenges!

One day, with Confident as the theme, I click on them. I simply wanted to know what I should do for the day. I was stunned for a whole minute. Looking at my screen in shock, my phone blared the task for that day: “List 10 Things You Love About Yourself”. As if I were talking to myself, I was startled and confused. Looking at my phone once again, my mind wandered with thoughts of what I was going to write. I came to the simple conclusion, then and there, that it was much easier to write about the things that I hated about myself. I stopped right there.

I pondered the thought –– questioned why I hated myself instead of loving myself..

Curious about this, I went around and asked some people these questions (try and answer them yourself too!)

1. Tell me three things you love about yourself

2. Did you find the question hard or easy for you to answer?

  • If you find it difficult, can you tell me what makes you think so? (if the answer is too personal, you can skip this)
  • If you find it easy, have you always been someone who loves themselves?

3. What’s the turning point that made you slowly love yourself?

4. What should you do to help yourself develop the habit of self-love?

There are many answers, however, each one is personal to each individual. I will only provide the results for each answer instead.

TW: Mention of bullying and abuse

  1. For this question, I noticed that not many people mentioned or talked about their physical appearance (which is not a bad thing! This is just something that I can’t help but notice, as I did this too). They focus on the quality inside them, their personality, the way they approach problems, etc. Some also took their time to answer but some also answered quickly.
  2. I’d say their answers varied from “not that hard” to “quite hard”. The reason will be explained more in the next point.

Difficult to answer because:

  • This topic is way too deep for a casual conversation that it might never be brought with the possibility of making things awkward.
  • They find it difficult because it is rare for them to talk about themselves in general. To boast about the quality that they have might seem strange and arrogant.
  • How people look at them affect how they look at themselves. For example, being bullied because of how different you look, because of what you wear, your family, even maybe for your success. The continuous negative words are deeply rooted in their head that it is hard to remove them.
  • Related to the previous point, verbal abuse from those who are dear to them. The never ended cycle of abuse is harmful for our mental health.
  • How media portrayed what so called ‘perfection’. Its almost felt like no matter where your eyes land, you won’t feel good about yourself.
  • Some also mentioned that the culture or stigma around gender can cut the value of self-love in anyone.

Quite easy to answer because:

  • They have this exact goal about their life. Please keep in mind, this person never once told me about their dream job or what kind of life they wanted to be. They simply state, “I wanna thrive as a great person”
  • The other said that: “I know some might not be confident about this, so I want to be the first person to do it”
  • “I learn that I am actually beautiful, no matter what they say”
  • “I believe that I need to express myself more and be proud of it”
  • “I dwell in a place where no one sees me as something precious, now I know my value, it’s easier to love myself”

3. For this question the answers are like this:

  • “When I realized that I’ve been surrounded by toxic people and I need to get out”
  • “When I finally find people that love me as who I am”
  • “When I finally learn to let go of the past that hurt me, well, it’s not like I completely forgot but I am learning”
  • “When I realize that I need to trust people around me and most importantly, myself”

4. Last one! Here are some tips from them:

  • Do not compare yourself to others.
  • Learn to accept yourself, every good and every flaw.
  • Be confident in what you are doing, maybe your hobby, how unique you see the world and etc.
  • Do not be afraid to live. Challenge yourself. The more you go out and experience, the more you find something about yourself.
  • Tune it down. Those words that aren’t necessary for you to remember, tune them down.
  • Surround yourself with people that will help you grow.

From these talks, I learned that self-love is something that you need to learn by yourself. It is not easy, however, the journey to loving yourself is worth the hurdles. You are not alone in this; let’s learn together! Let’s grow together! We got this alright? And in case no one has told you, I believe in you, I love you, and I’m proud of you.

“Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve.”

Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., President & CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

in Self-Love and What It Means (2020)

Paula T. Nd



Alright, alright, before I start the poem, I know you’re expecting a love poem for Valentine’s Day, which has just passed. But this is not your typical love poem, not in the traditional sense. You’ll see what I mean.


I dreamed of a wedding I called my own—

I got married

Not to anyone else, but to myself, really

Dragged my gown across the aisle by myself

Just me

And I wonder if everyone’s disappointed

Expecting more than an asymmetrical skirt

I called a gown

Waiting for the coat and tie

Waiting for someone there

But you see

I’m always too much or not enough

To everyone else

But myself?

She’s just learning to love me for me

As cheesy as it may sound, this Valentine’s Day, and this year, in general, I hope you can all join me in learning to love ourselves first. At the end of the day, that’s the person who will be there for you. So go ahead, love and love boldly. You deserve it.


How To Positively Reframe Your Mind

New Year’s Resolutions can sometimes be corny, but they can also be a great way for a fresh start. Changing your mindset about life will not happen in an instant, but you have to start somewhere! You can positively reframe your mind this year in a few simple ways.

1. Write a personal vision statement and find someone who will hold you accountable for it. This way, they can serve as a guide if you are slacking off. Also, don’t forget to plan out your year in a way that you have things to look forward to instead of always creating long, unachievable to-do lists that make you want to cry just by looking at it. When you make a vision board or write down goals for yourself, set realistic expectations and try not to be vague. Have a set game-plan with detailed steps.

2. Repeat an affirmation to yourself every morning. It can be something as simple as “I am enough” or “I am going to make sure that today is a good day.” Even doing something minimal like talking to yourself in the mirror can switch your mindset in an instant.

3. Spend more time with the people you love, whether it be family or friends. If you can’t see them, stay in touch through the internet—host a Virtual Game Night, Netflix Party, or something of that sort. We are lacking human connection right now so it is vital that we don’t drift from the people we cherish in our lives. Ultimately, the moments we remember most in our future are the connections we make with people!

4. On the other end of the spectrum: cut out all the negativity from your life. If you had ever noticed that there were constant sources of unhappiness coming your way, always remember that YOU hold the power to get rid of it. It is so important to communicate! If you feel like someone has done you wrong, then don’t be afraid to speak about your emotions instead of holding it in and having messy arguments later.

5. Exercise more—Go outside in the fresh air, it really boosts your mood. Biking, hiking, running, yoga, and so many more endless possibilities! Personally, I find that taking walks is extremely therapeutic. It gives you a chance to get away from the “real world” and connect with nature. Try listening to music or a podcast when you’re out if you get bored easily.

6. Document your memories so you have something to look back on, whether it be writing about it, recording videos, or making photo collages. Your life is what you make of it 🙂 I recommend using apps like “1 Second Every Day,” where you can record a 1-second snippet every day of the year and in the end, you have a cute little video of all your favorite moments to look back at! Sometimes we don’t even realize how good life was until we look back and reminisce on the past.

So, there you go! These are just a few simple ways that you can motivate yourself to be a better person and change your negative train of thought. Just remember to stop waiting around for the future and start living in the moment. I know this is easier said than done, but this means to not take the small things for granted because deep down, you know you are going to miss the moment after it is gone. Especially in these unpredictable times, we really have to learn to value every little thing in life. Make this year YOURS!


Beauty is Terror

When I was five years old, I believed that America was a beautiful place. Freedom and belief permeated the outdoors while the sun always shined, seemingly to bless us with its very presence. When I was younger, I had believed that America, with its very righteous and democratic thoughts, was the living definition of beauty.

As I slowly grew up, America showed that, while it could still be beautiful, it could also be frightening. While I may have once been shielded away from the dark side, I was now thrust right in the midst of it, tearing youthful images of the once-brilliant masterpiece that was in my mind:

Discrimination against Asian-Americans is spiking up due to COVID-19.

Black Man Shot and Killed While Jogging.

66-year Old Asian Wounded While on Subway.

An Ugly Tornado of Islamophobia Has Reared its Ugly Head.

They kept coming. These ugly parts of America were exposing themselves little by little, breaking down the once beautiful images I had of the country. Those parts became demons—hungry for the hate, hungry for the negativity, hungry for the violence, hungry for the brutality.

The demons waged a war against us. We fought hard, but they fought back harder. The sun shone above, while a beautiful blue sky reared its alluring head as if it wanted to drive those demons—those hungers—out of the country. But to no avail. The demons continued to pollute the country, pollute our minds, pollute our thoughts; until finally, we weren’t even able to remember the foundations on which this country was built.

A little girl once dreamed that America was beautiful. Yet when she grew up, she quickly realized that the beautiful parts of America were overshadowed by the ugly parts.

The ideas that we fought for; were beautiful.

The freedoms that we won; were beautiful.

But the ugly demons that reared their ugly heads overshadowed them.

The racist comments.

The screams for violence.

The constant need to remind people that minorities do not have the same privileges as others, because of their beliefs, their skin.

Though her dream has crumbled piece by piece every day, she still carries the same hope inside of her:

That one day, America will be beautiful.

That one day, minorities will not be oppressed, will not be discriminated against, will not be brutalized, will not be waged against, will not be shot for no reason, and will be accepted.

And though this hope is still there, and though she has come to terms with the truth of the situation, she hopes everyone will see the truth too:

America is beautiful. But the beauty is terrifying.


Lessons from 2020

1. Don’t compromise yourself for other people.

Not even your friends. In fact, if you have to force yourself to like something to make them like you, then they’re probably not your friend to start with. I remember, in middle school, I had a K-pop phase. But did I really like K-pop? Hard to say. I did it mostly because I wanted to stay friends with that cool popular girl I went to elementary school with. It’s fine to samp

le things other people like, but if you listen to alternative and indie, don’t forsake your Halsey and Maggie Rogers for some mainstream rap you know you won’t like just to make conversation with him. It’s not worth rewriting yourself for someone else. Remember, you write your narrative on your own terms. Always.

2. Rely on yourself.

If I learned anything this past year, it’s that, in the end, you can only rely on yourself. As cynical as this may sound, no one is obligated to help you. There’s always some interest at play, be it money, power, love, what have you. When I was alone in quarantine in a country where I don’t belong, who did I have? Me, myself, and I. So don’t expect people to come to your aid, even if you asked. Friends and family help you because they love and care about you, not because they have to. With that said, be grateful when they do, but don’t assume that they always would.

3. Trust your instincts.

Even when reason tells you otherwise. Sometimes your gut/heart knows better than you think you do and, of course, over-rationalizing and over-analyzing can do more harm than good. I’m not saying completely forgo reason, but you gut/heart sees signs your mind doesn’t necessarily recognize or remember and that’s when your subconscious is on your side. So if someone’s vibe is just slightly off, or if you haven’t wanted to go to a certain club’s meetings in a while, maybe they’re just not for you. And vice versa. If, for reasons you can’t explain, you feel a certain connection with someone, or a school, a field, a hobby, maybe you should just go for it. It’s how I made some of my closest friends; it’s how I’m got to study in this high school I do not want to ever leave; it’s how I found writing. Sometimes just a feeling is enough, especially in terms of people.

4. Read read read.

The proverbs are right—there are hidden treasures in books. And if years of (serious) writing have taught me anything, it’s that you have to read to get better at writing. Read and read broadly. Read classics. Read New York Times Bestsellers. Read magazines you pick up for free at salons and read the self-published short stories and blogs. Just pick up a book and keep reading. It’s how you collect inspiration for your own stories. It’s how you grow as a writer, scholar, and person.

5. Self-care is not selfish.

I’m not saying that this past year is when I finally learned to love myself, but I will say 2020 has taught me, or rather, forced me, to take care of myself; with everything going on, I had to do something to keep myself together, or at the very least feel a semblance of togetherness. There were some trial and error, for sure—I experimented with a range of activities from watercolor, making smoothies, making rosewater and flower dye, to reading in the back yard, hula-hooping to Norwegian indie music, journaling, and following eye-makeup tutorials. I found a few things that work and I’m glad I tried the others that don’t quite help me. At least now I know. And while it took me some time to realize, I know now that, as much as I feel like I don’t deserve the luxury of self-care, especially when others have it much worse than me, I actually do. We deserve to take care of our mental health. We owe that much to ourselves. Sometimes, it might just be 5 minutes in the sun or a short walk, but that could be enough to boost your mood for a day. It’s a start.

6. True friends are there.

Remember how when all the flights got canceled, your best friend opened her home to you. How when everything seemed uncertain, your friend texted if you had a place to stay. How every week your roommate spammed the group chat to remind everyone of your Zoom function; instead of pizza parties, movies, and poker, now you play Cards Against Humanity and Pictionary, laughing still. How you Facetimed your friends for hours, sometimes past midnight, played games with them over Discord, ran to them when you first got back to campus, six feet apart still. Remember how they cheered for you when you walked up to the outdoor stage on the Garth to finally perform a spoken word poem in person, cheered so loudly you could barely hear yourself for a second before you could grab the mic and laugh behind your mask and thank them. While you must learn to rely on yourself, know that true friends are there, always.

7. Be kind.

To yourself and others. If you could be anything in this world, then be kind. We’ve all gone through enough this past year, and we deserve some kindness, from ourselves and from others. So to make that happen, we have to lead with example. Start with small acts of kindness. Give yourself a pep talk in the mirror in the morning. Write people notes and texts to remind them they’re loved. Even strangers. Call up a friend, your family, classmates, co-workers… Spend some extra time with your pet. This world can be a lovely place if we all try to love each other. You just have to start showing your love, somewhere.


Positive Things That Happened in 2020

I think we can all agree that 2020 was undoubtedly a chaotic year, and we all just want to forget about it. This is especially because we are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes it difficult to think of anything good that happened last year. However, though it may not seem like it, 2020 was worth remembering. Here is a short list of reasons why:

1. The Black Lives Matter Movement

Though we like to pretend that racism is in the past, it really isn’t. According to Nature, “Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police during their lifetime.” When it comes to police brutality, there has been a pattern: the number of non-white people killed by police is always equal to or higher than the number of white people killed by police,according to data collected from the years of 2013 to 2019. Moreover, these police officers are rarely convicted and sent to jail.

In May 2020, the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer spurred worldwide protests against police brutality and racism—protests that are continuing to this day. And though they may not eliminate racism once and for all, they are bringing us one step closer to achieving equality.

2. The Environment

While the lockdown may seem like a curse, some good news came out of it for Mother Earth. Our planet has had to deal with one consequence after another: steadily increasing carbon emission rates, rising ocean temperatures, global warming… the list just goes on and on. At least with the lockdown, fewer people have to commute to work. For however long that lasts, it’s a blessing.

3. More Dogs Being Adopted

Alessia Cara (my favorite singer) got a dog named Cleo in July. Then, in late October, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello got a dog named Tarzan. Celebrities getting dogs seems to have been a trend in 2020 (and I sure hope that trend continues!).

But as it turns out, it wasn’t just celebrities: Thousands of families brought home furry friends to get them through what was a tough year. According to USA Today, “for the 24 weeks ending Aug. 15,” sales of dog diapers went “up 202% from the same period [in 2019].” It’s no surprise that dog adoption rates soared; who better than man’s best friend to accompany you when you’re stuck at home during a global pandemic?

4. Baking, Baking, Baking.

The baking craze was probably the sweetest thing that happened last year (haha, get it?). I remember baking pumpkin pies, chocolate chip muffins, and macadamia nut cookies—and, of course, taking pictures of them so I could show all my friends. The sugar definitely helped us get through the Zoom fatigues, headaches, and loneliness that 2020 brought us.

5. Some YNA Statistics

It’s incredible how YNA started out as just a personal blog, but by March last year, we had opened our organization to teens all around the world so their voices could be heard. Now, we have members all over the USA as well as in 3 other countries. Additionally, we’ve gained over 400 followers on Instagram, 700 followers on TikTok, and in March, we reached a thousand views on our website every day for an entire week!

Thank you to all our followers because it is your time that has brought YNA to where it is today!








50 New Year’s Resolution Ideas for 2021

  1. Keep a Mental Health Journal.
  2. Volunteer.
  3. Start eating breakfast.
  4. Shut off your screen 30 mins before you sleep and read a book.
  5. Set a regular exercise routine.
  6. Keep your workspace tidy.
  7. Maintain a healthy diet.
  8. Find a new hobby.
  9. Promise yourself an incentive to finish work so you won’t procrastinate.
  10. Combat your stress with quick de-stressing methods.
  11. Shut off your phone or hide it in a closet when you’re working.
  12. Get 8 hours of sleep every night.
  13. STOP degrading yourself-
  14. -Engage in positive self-talk instead.
  15. Learn a new hobby every week.
  16. Carry a water bottle wherever you go and have a sip of water every 30 minutes.
  17. Try something you’ve always wanted to try but never had the guts to. that interests you.
  18. Take at least a 15-minute walk every day.
  19. Do those chores you’ve been avoiding.
  20. Declutter…
  21. …and donate the clutter.
  22. Make a work schedule.
  23. Make a to-do list.
  24. Cook one meal every week.
  25. Keep in touch with friends and family.
  26. Do one thing on your bucket list each week.
  27. Recognize your feelings.
  28. Talk about your feelings.
  29. Compost.
  30. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
  31. Start a garden.
  32. Cultivate your passion.
  33. Do one kind thing a day.
  34. Wake up at the right time—not at noon.
  35. Spend time with your family.
  36. Follow the news.
  37. Meditate for 15 minutes every day.
  38. Do at least 10 minutes of yoga every day.
  39. Have a “me” day every once in a while.
  40. Make your bed every morning.
  41. Start a blog.
  42. Restrict the amount of time you use social media every day.
  43. Write down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.
  44. Quit labeling yourself and others.
  45. Improve your grades.
  46. Every so often, have a technology-free day.
  47. Conquer a fear.
  48. Slow down… Avoid hustle culture.
  49. Strive to be the person you want to be.
  50. Join YNA!








New Year, New You: How to Be the Best Version of Yourself in 2021

2020 has undoubtedly been a chaotic year for all of us. To be the best version of yourself in 2021, You’re Not Alone will initiate its “New Year, New Me” campaign from December 31 to January 4. These resources are to help you reach the best and most productive year yet.

First, allow me to clarify what productivity means. To me, productivity does not mean cramming your schedule with tasks and work. Productivity is more about taking responsibility for yourself so you could become your best, most authentic self. Then, you can start to help and serve others.

Now, I would like to introduce the term “mindset habits.” Mindset habits are crucial because your external world is a reflection of your internal world; you can’t change yourself without changing your mindset first. So, here are a few mindset habits you could incorporate into your own life for the new year.

1. Assess your “default.”

We all have a default, also known as our “comfort zone.” When we face difficulty, we tend to fall back into our defaults, whether it be distracting ourselves with work, retreating to unhealthy habits, or scrolling through social media. It’s comfortable and comforting—hence, “default.”

You’re Not Alone started as a personal blog in December 2019. When other teens reached out to me, wondering if they could contribute and share their own stories, I expanded YNA’s mission to incorporate teens from anywhere in the world. However, I soon realized that managing an organization required a lot more effort than I thought. While I looked at other youth organizations with bigger audiences for inspiration to achieve more, I often grew envious of their progress. Self-deprecating thoughts ran through my head: they’ve only been established for three months; why can’t I make any progress? Why am I stuck? I didn’t know where to draw the line between being assertive and micromanaging, and I was constantly doubting myself and wondered if the organization would accomplish anything at all. That’s when I fell into my own default bubble, where I pushed YNA to the back of my mind for a few months and watched other organizations grow tremendously, wishing it could be mine.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned to seek help from the youth leaders I admire. I am pouring in as much effort as possible into my own organization because I realized that the amount of effort you put into something is the quality of the result you get out of it. Growth lies in discomfort, and if you continue to remain in your default bubble, you will remain as you are.

2. Focus on the journey, not the destination.

It was clear that I was focused on the destination as I eyed the youth-led organizations amassing thousands of followers and creating massive impacts on the community. By nitpicking at all the things I should have done and all the ways things could be better, I only sought results. In 2021, I will take a step back to focus on the journey. And to really put that into action, here are three things I am grateful for:

1) YNA as a platform to express my unfiltered thoughts and feelings! It gives me so much joy to know that I’m spreading positive energy.

2) My passion for writing! I love to write and journal; I am so grateful that I can articulate my thoughts and emotions on paper.

3) My friends and family! They are my strongest supporters, and they’re the ones who encourage me to step out of my comfort zone and continue doing the things I love.

Many of us are rushing from one task to another so often that we can forget to be grateful for how much progress we’ve made. There is so much beauty in this world and in your life, so lighten up and enjoy the ride!

3. Take ownership of your life.

Though you can’t control our circumstances and environment, there are plenty of things that are still in your control. It’s up to you to choose between being proactive and reactive when things don’t go your way. It’s up to you to decide whether you will allow your circumstances to define you. It’s up to you to decide whether to see the positives or focus on the negatives.

In 2021, I will choose to be resilient and not fall back into my default mode when I am faced with an obstacle. What will you choose?


Mr. Too Much and Miss Not Enough

Once upon a time, there was a ship shared by two friends. Well, they live together and they tolerate each other most of the time. To protect their privacy, let’s call them Mr. Too Much and Miss Not Enough. The ship’s name is Tini.

Mr. Too Much lives in the galley of the ship; he guards the fridge and the cabinets so that when he can’t sleep at night, he can get up and get a snack right across from his bed. He eats more anyway, and Miss Not Enough doesn’t mind that he’s down there a lot when he’s not steering. It gives her space in the bridge during her shift.

Miss Not Enough, on the other hand, lives right in the bridge, where she’d watch Mr. Too Much steer sometimes even when she’s off duty. The height gives her a perfect view of everything in front of Tini, so she can keep them all safe in case Mr. Too Much messes up, which can be often. She spends a lot of time on the deck, too, especially at the front in the forecastle. On a good day, there’s a lot of breeze, and the rain doesn’t bother her when the weather doesn’t cooperate. It’s only when the sea retaliates, or when they need to dock Tini, which is a two-person endeavor, that she returns to the bridge to help Mr. Too Much, or as she likes to say, “keep him in check.”

It’s not that she doesn’t want to help, or doesn’t like Mr. Too Much. He doesn’t always want her help; he’d feel insulted if she offers too often, or pitied when she says it a certain way. Like siblings and any two old roommate, they don’t always get along. Sometimes, he’d lock her out, force her to roam the underbelly of the ship so her presence wouldn’t offend. In exile, alone, out of his line of sight.

But when Miss Not Enough stopped coming above the deck to check on him, Mr. Too Much started to worry, as he does. Even when he needed assistance carrying out the basic functions of the ship, she wasn’t there. He couldn’t sense her; it was as if she disappeared off the face of Tini, gone without a trace. Left to his own devices, everything spiraled into a mess. He barely ate, but when he did, he stuffed his face with any edible thing he could find in the galley. Not that he felt hungry. Most of the time, his stomach rumbled in protest, bloated and in pain. But he didn’t care. He wanted to fill a void inside him he couldn’t explain.

It turns out, as much as he hated her high-heeled strut and patronizing tone, Mr. Too Much needed Miss Not Enough. He missed her check-ins during his shifts, the cheese and crackers she’d bring on a little tray from her private stash in the galley, the crackers already a little stale but at least they weren’t soggy like he expected. He missed her stern look watching over his shoulder, her knotted brown eyebrows thinning in the middle where she’d pull at them when she’s thinking. Her rare smile when he mistook a dolphin as another ship, shouting “incoming” as she chuckled, almost mocking him but not. Tini isn’t the same without her. It won’t ever be.

Where did she go?

He worked and waited and wept and waited and worried and waited and wandered the bridge watching the deck wondering when she’d walk right back to him. She did not come. He waited some more. Still no Miss Not Enough. He began to think it was all his fault, that he complained too often or whined too much or pushed her away when she just wanted to help. He desperately wanted to go find her, but he couldn’t leave the ship unattended in the open water where Lovecraftian monsters could attack at any moment.

So he started praying. Mr. Too Much has been as atheist as atheists can get but he started praying. To God, to the sea, to Tini… To anyone, anything. Sometimes, he didn’t even have the words for it; he just closed his eyes and imagined her—her hair smelling like the sea wrestling the wind, her eyes in the sunlight clear as mirrors, her sharp words cutting through the air like a knife, her pride, her.

She did not come.

He almost stopped waiting. But he didn’t.

Maybe his prayers finally worked, maybe she heard his apologies, or maybe, simply maybe, she finally got bored of all this hiding and wanted some human interaction. Who knows? In any case, 33 days after her exile, Miss Not Enough marched into the bridge and, for the first time in forever, gave him a hug.

For a moment, he thought he was in heaven.

“Great, you didn’t sink us while I was gone” was all she said. But it was enough. “Oh come on, don’t cry you doofus! I wasn’t gone for that long.”

Too late. Mr. Too Much was clinging onto her like a koala and she had to tap out to breathe and calm him down till he could form a sentence.

“So we’re cool?”


“We’re still crewmates?”



“Partners. From now on, we run Tini together. Always. Deal?”

And Mr. Too Much yelled “deal” so loudly he could have drawn out the sirens.

So that’s how they’ve come to work together. They still fight sometimes, as partners do, and choppy waters still rock the boat. But at least they’re trying to keep Tini in the best condition they can, and that’s all that matters.


The Symptoms and Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD Part 2

Finals are coming up. People are getting sick. It’s freezing cold outside and you have no motivation to get out of bed. It gets dark at 5 pm, for god’s sake! The only thing keeping you going is the holiday season- oh wait, never mind, all your winter plans might be canceled because of COVID-19.

Seasonal depression, aka the “winter blues,” is very real and can affect all of us in different ways. You may encounter fatigue and social withdrawal throughout these months, especially now that we are all cooped up in our houses.

Here are a few things you can do to lift your mood and make your days more enjoyable.

1. Participate in fun, festive activities. No, you don’t have to leave your house to be festive! Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, you sure can have a good time if you try. Decorate your room with colorful lights. Blast holiday music. Drink hot chocolate in your pajamas. Buy a new fuzzy sweater. Start a bonfire. Make goodie bags for the next time you see your friends. Watch Christmas movies. The possibilities are endless 🙂

2. Try not to take naps. Yes, I said it. I know naps seem like the best thing ever right now, but they can leave you feeling even more groggy and unproductive than you did before. Have you ever taken an afternoon nap and woken up when it’s dark outside and then realized you have 8 hours of homework left? Me too. I highly recommend doing homework when there’s still daylight because after it gets dark, your brain will automatically be like, “it’s time to relax!” and a task that should’ve taken 30 minutes ends up taking 3 hours. Trust me, you will thank yourself later.

3. Get some sunlight. I understand that not everyone lives in areas where it’s sunny right now, but if you do, take advantage of it! I know a lot of us in California still are able to go outside without freezing to death. Even if you live in a cold area, it’s probably a good idea to at least get some fresh air once in a while. It really does help get rid of that headache and eye strain.

4. Appreciate online school. You’re probably like, um, what is she even saying at this point? Online school sucks! I totally get that, but there are some things that I have been trying to appreciate lately. You can literally lounge around in pajamas all day and cuddle up in a bunch of blankets whenever you feel like it. You don’t have to put on 5 layers of clothing at 6 am when you’re half asleep just to come home cold and wet from the rain at the end of the school day. As odd as it sounds, you may miss being online juuust a little bit when you actually have to go back to school again.

5. Change up your food routine. Sometimes it may feel as if you are eating the same thing every. Single. Day. Eating healthier will make your body feel better, but at the same time don’t feel pressured to eat healthy ALL the time. Try to create a balanced, weekly meal plan for yourself where you map out what you will eat each day and stick to it. This way, you won’t be up at 2 am trying to figure out if Doritos and pumpkin pie will be sufficient for dinner because you have no other options. I recommend using apps like Tasty for new recipes! Cooking and baking can also turn into a fun hobby.

So, there you have it. If you are going through phases with your moods, you are not alone! Just remember that it is normal for a lot of us to feel this way and I hope you are able to incorporate some of these tips into your daily routine.


The Symptoms and Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD Part 1

Updated: Jan 1

Cold, dark, gloomy… If you’re like me, these are words you would use to describe winter. But no matter how much you hate the season, it probably doesn’t affect your mood significantly—that is, unless you have Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a disorder that affects one’s moods according to the season. Symptoms of SAD usually kick in during autumn and last throughout winter (which is known as winter-pattern SAD). However, some people experience symptoms during spring and summer (AKA summer-pattern SAD).

What are these symptoms? According to NIMH, symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in activities that one usually enjoys
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Changes in sleep patterns (having trouble sleeping, oversleeping, etc.)
  • Feeling sluggish or unenergetic
  • Suicidal thoughts

Did you know that SAD can be influenced by your geographic location? Studies show that the closer one is to the equator, the less likely they are to get this disorder. This is most likely because seasons are less extreme and do not differ much near the equator. In contrast, places like New York have extremely hot summers and freezing, snowy winters. Also, places closer to the poles have shorter days during winter and longer days during summer.

According to NIMH, there are four main treatments for SAD:

  1. Light therapy- The patient sits in a room with a bright light for just under an hour every day (usually in the morning). This is done to make up for the sun that they are missing in the winter.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- Patients attend group sessions where they “[focus] on replacing negative thoughts related to the winter season (e.g., about the darkness of winter) with more positive thoughts” (National Institute of Mental Health).
  3. SAD is often accompanied by a Vitamin D deficiency; however, scientists are unsure if the latter can be a reason for the former. Regardless, SAD patients may take Vitamin D supplements to try to reduce their symptoms.
  4. One of the main symptoms of SAD is depression, so patients may take antidepressants to prevent future depressive episodes or mitigate their depression/bad moods.

Since it is now December (SAD Awareness Month), here is a link to a website that provides a myriad of great resources for people with SAD (or any depression-related mental illness). If you want more information on SAD or you want to spread awareness about the disorder, visit the links below.

And remember, no matter how much it feels like it sometimes, you are never alone.







Stop Zooming: Preventing Online Burnout

Updated: Jan 1

My after school routine usually looks something like this: 1) Inhale my lunch. 2) Take a nap until I’m ready to 3) get to work. 4) Feel unmotivated; time to take another break. 5) It’s past dinner and I still haven’t done any work, it’s about time I get started. 6) Stay up until 1 a.m., scramble to finish up my assignments. Oops, it turns out I didn’t finish my work, but I’ll 7) go to bed, hoping I’ll find the energy at 6:30 a.m. to finish my work without wallowing in my unproductivity.

In the virtual school setting that requires six hours of constant screen engagement, an added load of homework, and other extracurricular activities (many of which have transferred online), technology places a great strain on our mental health. To understand the causes of online burnout, however, we must first understand the toxicity of hustle culture:the striving for perfection. If there is anything the “rise and grind” culture has taught us, it’s that we are never efficient and need to squeeze in as much working time as possible. Hustle culture is defined as “devoting as much of your day as possible to working — hustling. There is no time out or time in at work. Work is done in the office, outside the office, at home, at coffee shops — anywhere.” However, this term does not strictly apply to the workforce. Hustle culture in our generation, especially in high schools, has been on the rise as college applications loom over our heads like a storm cloud.

When we are surrounded by people who are continually working hard, or “grinding,” we feel like we have to reach a certain level of productivity. If someone takes five advanced placement classes in a year as opposed to someone who doesn’t take any, the student with a more challenging course load works harder. People look up to those who are hardworking. But what does “hardworking” even mean? Hustle culture manifests in different ways, depending on the individual’s circumstances. A student working a job outside of school to provide for their family while balancing their classwork is just as hardworking as someone who studies every day to maintain straight A’s. As we transition our lives over to the online world, it has become ever-so-important to address the issue of high school burnout. How can we get as much work done as possible without zooming through our days? After much reflection and seeking advice from others, here are a few tips to prevent online burnout.

1. Stop rushing; change your mindset.

Hustle culture is all about striving to squeeze in productivity at every given moment, then feeling like a failure when you can’t seem to get anything done. Avoid multitasking, give yourself a break, and take the time to refocus yourself. Rushing to accomplish as much as you can in a day is only a recipe for burnout.

It all starts with a change in mindset. Is food better when you shove it down your throat or when you savor every bite? This can be applied to all aspects of your life: is the day better if you absentmindedly get through it or when you immerse yourself in everything that you do? “We are always getting ready to live but never living,” Ralph Waldo Emerson once said. Find a balance between being productive yet still prioritizing your mental health.

2. Be realistic about your goals.

It’s good to have set goals in mind, but if you’re an overachiever like I am, you may have very high expectations of yourself. Instead of listing everything you could get done only by spending every second productively, be kind to yourself. There are days where you might find yourself exhausted after a long day at school. There are days that you feel so overwhelmed you can’t get anything done. Rather than setting unrealistic goals and feeling like a failure when you can’t check off all of the things on your To-Do list, acknowledge your flaws as a human being. We can’t stay on top of our game at all times, so forgive yourself!

3. Get some form of exercise daily.

Even if it’s just a ten-minute walk outside, it will help boost your serotonin levels. As an all-virtual student jumping from online class to class, I find it difficult to stay focused without moving around for a few minutes during my breaks. To help prevent online burnout, step away from your screen and let fresh oxygen circulate through your brain. When you spend time with nature, endorphins are released and your mood will also improve. 

4. Talk to someone you trust.

There are lots of students who don’t want to share their struggles with others due to the fear of burdening them. Talking out your feelings to someone you trust will help you process your emotions. Thanks to technology, there are also many digital platforms and community groups that you can use to vent. 7cups.com is a great resource for when you need a listener. You can anonymously share your feelings in a one-on-one conversation with a trained teen or adult who is willing to listen to you. You’re Not Alone also has a Discord server for teens across the world to gather and rant, share personal stories, and give advice—we encourage you to join! There are plenty of other online resources, so use technology to your advantage! Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; mental health is just as important as physical health.

Let’s release our obsession with rushing through our days. We should appreciate how much time virtual schooling has given us—time to reflect and pick up new hobbies. We should be mindful of how we are spending our day-to-day lives. At the end of the day, zooming through your day is simply not worth it. 


The Symptoms and Treatment for ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

“Living with ADHD is like being locked in a room with 100 Televisions and 100 Radios all playing. None of them have power buttons so you can turn them off, and the door is locked from the outside.”

Sarah Young


Contrary to popular belief, ADHD is a real mental disorder, and it is especially common in kids and teenagers. According to The A.D.D Resource Center, “the average age of ADHD diagnosis is 7 years old.” That’s seriously young!

So today, in honor of ADHD Awareness Month, I’m going to talk about the symptoms of ADHD and the methods used to treat it.

First, what is ADHD? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD is a “neurodevelopmental disorder.” This means that it is a disorder that affects the way the nervous system works. The brain, spinal cord, sense organs, and the nerves connecting them are all part of the nervous system. The nervous system impacts how a person makes decisions and assesses information, so a neurodevelopmental disorder can change a person’s ability to do so.

Symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Having difficulty focusing
  • Being talkative
  • Daydreaming
  • Fidgeting
  • Forgetfulness

For more symptoms of ADHD, visit the CDC page of information on ADHD.

How is ADHD Treated?

1. Behavior Therapy: This type of therapy is not conventional; according to Understood, “it focuses on a person’s actions, not on thoughts and emotions.” This therapy is given not only to children/teenagers with ADHD, but also to their parents. This is because sometimes parents can get into behavior that only exacerbates the situation.

Parents use incentives to encourage positive behavior in the child.

Behavior therapy uses a system of incentives and praise to encourage the child to display positive behavior. However, the child’s negative behavior isn’t punished; as stated in the article from Understood, “The point is to reward positive behavior and ignore negative behavior.”

2. Medications: There are two types of ADHD medications: stimulants and non-stimulants. Stimulants are more commonly used, and they take effect quicker, while non-stimulants take a long time to kick in. Both medications are used to reduce the symptoms of the disorder.


The official term for the disorder is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, there are many different types of ADHD, and each type has different symptoms. The type that is commonly referred to as Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) does not involve fidgeting or hyperactivity. Instead, it largely consists of daydreaming and having “trouble paying attention,” as stated in the article from Web MD.

In other words, ADHD is an umbrella term for all types of the disorder, while ADD is one of the types. However, they are still used interchangeably sometimes.

I hope you were able to learn something new from this article, and that you will spread the word about ADHD Awareness Month. But most importantly, I hope you realize that people with ADHD are just like people without ADHD, so there is no reason to discriminate against them. You can only call yourself “aware” once you understand that people who have mental disorders are just as capable of achieving success as anyone else, so you should treat them as you would anyone else.

Lastly, if you want more information on ADHD, visit the websites listed below.









Finding your Inner Self Through Detachment

It is human nature to thrive off of human connection, it is one of the only ways to maintain an enjoyable life. Yet, you may have noticed that a person who made you so happy at a given point in your life no longer speaks to you. The people you thought could not live without in the past are now gone, and even you are not the same person you were before.

We have to come to the realization that everything in this world is temporary and nobody will be there for you forever. Now, hearing this might make us feel alone and isolated. This doesn’t have to be the case, however.

Change is inevitable. The hard part is accepting that change and moving forward with life. The first step to this is to not get completely attached to someone in the first place. For example, people tend to get overly attached to their significant other or their best friends. We heavily rely on these figures, and our moods change based on them and their actions. Sometimes, taking a step back from people is beneficial. Now, I am not saying to cut yourself off from everyone you care about. Rather, think about who you are outside of the company of the other person. It is really easy to have someone in your life who influences all your thoughts and decisions. You may lose yourself if you are always so concerned about what others are doing. The people around you should be there to inspire you, not guide your every move.

Here are some ways you can stray away from attachment:

1. Don’t be afraid to do things yourself. For a lot of us, it can be very hard to step out of our comfort zones unless our friends are also doing it. However, the most inner growth will come when you leave your little bubble and explore on your own. Who knows what you may learn! Go to the park, go to that new cafe you always wanted to go, go join a club on your own!

2. Don’t check your phone for unnecessary periods of time. In this day and age, we all get so caught up in social media, the who-said-what’s, and a lot of pointless drama. Take a break so you don’t keep checking up on people and getting upset when you see them hanging out without you. You could be having a great day at home, but seeing someone’s Snapchat story that looks they’re having so much fun can just ruin it for you. Turn your phone on silent instead!

3. Don’t constantly look to see what others are doing. You are NOT the other person. You have a much different journey than theirs, so why would you want to copy them? In the past, I even used to catch myself agreeing with random things that people said that I didn’t actually agree with. Now that I look back, I realize how pointless that was. I was scared of confrontation, scared of being judged. Once you start doing your own thing and speaking your mind without being influenced by others, it feels so freeing.

These small tips can save you a lot of heartbreak later. When we detach ourselves from these things, we start to develop our own identities. Many people in your life are seasonal in a sense, they will come and go as they please. So if you avoid getting attached in the first place, it will be much easier to let go.

Quarantine is a great place to start doing these things. You don’t have to talk to anyone unless you make the effort to! As constricted as you may feel to be stuck in your house, use this time to work on yourself and come out as a strong, independent human being 🙂 Good luck!


If I Die Young

*This poem is dedicated to Suicide Prevention Month (which is September). If you’re struggling, please don’t be afraid to seek help. Remember that you’re not alone and we love you!*

If I Die Young

You would have found me like this:

gently laid on my side under my purple floral covers

in my best pajamas—pink and soft like the swaddle

I had as a baby or the one velvet headband

still kept in a white box in one of the dozen

white drawers I used to bruise my knee on

The room would smell of lavender

sweet, floral, woody, herbal all at the same time

like you tried to mix all the best qualities

in a purple petal for me, easy for you as frying noodles

till they sizzle, golden and crisp like a bite of the sun

And still I’d be smiling with

the left corner of my mouth half upturned

a crooked new moon winking;

my left arm crossed over my right the way yours do

my back arched, my legs about to leap into motion

though no more

At least not cut down from the ceiling fan like her

breaking you



Or falling limp in my arms clutching a prescription

I fought to tear out of your wrinkled hands

your clear eyes greying like your silver mane

teaching me one last lesson

before blazing white hospital lights blind me

sirens piercing my ears before I realize it’s my own

wailing, tears flooding my eyes before I could

open them, pink now and throbbing

my chest burning with yearning for air and fear

of losing you again

So if I die young…

No, I won’t

I hope that you can take this opportunity to check on your friends and family, especially those who may be struggling, and let them know that you’re here for them. A little can go a long way. Let’s all help raise awareness and prevent suicides this September!


Yoga and Its Effects on Mental Health

Recently, I watched a video on the effects of an ancient Indian practice: yoga. The video talked about the physical health benefits of yoga, such as improved flexibility and muscle strength. Yoga is widely known for its positive effects on physical health, but did you know that it also has an incredible impact on mental well-being?

The History of Yoga

The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word root for “unite” or “union”, and it was first written in the Vedas. The Vedas are ancient Indian scripts that cover topics anywhere from religion to science to math, and they are over 1,000 years old. According to the Vedas, yoga unites the mind and the body, hence the name.

Yoga is around 5,000 years old, and it originated in the Indus-Saraswati region (Northwest India). Many seals of people performing yoga were discovered in that area, proving the existence of yoga in ancient times.

You might have heard of the sage Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutras, a religious text, in 2 C.E. In this text, the sage explained one type of yoga, which I will talk about in more detail later in this article. Sage Patanjali is known for his work in the field of yoga and is often referred to as the father of yoga.

The Types of Yoga

You might think that yoga is just doing different poses, but it isn’t. Yoga is often described as “self-discipline” because yoga is not only physical exercise; there are four types of yogas, each focusing on a different aspect of life.

The four main types of yoga are as follows:

1. Bhakti yoga-

Bhakti yoga is the yoga of worshipping and establishing a “personal relationship with God” (Yoga Journal). While yoga originated as a Hindu practice, nowadays people who perform Bhakti yoga focus on getting closer to their God. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a “God”; it could even be their “Self” that they are trying to connect with.

One of the reasons why yoga is so ubiquitous is that many yogic practices align with other religions’ beliefs. For example, according to Yoga International, one of the stages of Bhakti yoga is accepting every part of yourself, rather than avoiding your negative emotions. To emphasize their point, Yoga International quotes Jesus in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

2. Karma yoga-

Karma yoga also relates to unity; it is becoming one with your community and the world through selfless service. This service doesn’t have to be something big; it could be watering your neighbor’s plants, helping a friend study for a test, or simply doing chores for your parents.

3. Jnana yoga-

“Jnana” is Sanskrit for “knowledge”. Jnana yoga concentrates on understanding that the body and the soul are separate and being able to differentiate permanent from temporary. This comes from the Hindu belief that the body is temporary while the soul is the one that is reincarnated.

4. Raja yoga-

In his Yoga Sutras, the sage Patanjali explained Raja yoga using steps known as the eight limbs. The first four of these steps involve exercises like postures and controlled breathing.

The third step is called “asana”, meaning posture. There are primarily two types: sitting postures (meditation) and physical postures—the ones that most people associate with yoga.

Yoga’s Effects on Mental Health

Studies have shown that yoga reduces stress, relaxes the mind, and improves your mood, among many other things. It is also good for anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.

Yoga increases the level of Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your body. GABA is an acid that keeps nerve activity in check. Some people have low levels of GABA, so their nerve activity is higher, resulting in more stress and anxiety. Therefore, yoga keeps your mind relaxed and stress-free.

An important part of yoga is meditation, which is a huge stress-reliever. Meditation requires a person to relieve themselves of stressful thoughts or events and focus on something that is their idea of relaxing. This improves one’s ability to concentrate and cope with stress.

If you are someone who finds meditation hard, no need to worry! As stated by psychologist Belisa Vranich, “[Breathing is] meditation for people who can’t meditate” (The New York Times). Studies have affirmed that the controlled breathing involved in yoga reduces symptoms of many mental illnesses/disorders, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Now you know what to do if you are stressed, anxious, have trouble concentrating, or have pretty much any other mental health issue. Wow, yoga sure has a ton of benefits! I’ll be sure to try it out myself.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and remember: You are never alone.












On Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity. The phrase seems contradictory at first. How can positivity be toxic? Isn’t “positivity” just being cheerful, smiling no matter what, and looking at the silver lining in every situation?

As a matter of fact, it isn’t. The word “positive” is defined as “full of hope and confidence, or giving cause for hope and confidence” by the Cambridge Dictionary. So rather than always being happy, being positive means having faith that eventually, you will heal.

Toxic positivity is the idea that being happy no matter what is correct, and having negative emotions is wrong. It promotes the belief that even when you are feeling down, you should be “positive” instead of accepting and dealing with your negative emotions.

It is also referred to as toxic positivity when one responds to others’ negative emotions with phrases such as “just be positive” or “it could be much worse”. Phrases like these may not hurt a sad person, but they don’t help either.

Now that I think about it, I have seen the phrase “never give up”, which is considered positive in a toxic manner, almost everywhere. It is a universal belief that giving up is wrong, when, in fact, giving up is human nature. When things get hard, people do get frustrated. Moreover, sometimes when you are frustrated that something is not working, the best idea is to stop trying to do that thing. In my opinion, instead of seeing that as giving up, we should think of it as taking a break, relaxing, and trying again whenever we feel ready. Distancing yourself from something or someone can help you deal with your emotions, so you are not constantly tired or stressed.

Another such phrase people have said to me before (and I have said to others before) is “it could be much worse”. When someone says this to me, I feel guilty for voicing my problems when there are bigger issues in this world, like poverty and racism. However, nobody should ever have to feel guilty about their emotions—it is natural to feel down about what you are going through, even when others are faced with greater difficulties.

Though I don’t believe in toxic positivity, I find myself resorting to it to console my friends more than half the time, without even realizing it. Toxic positivity is everywhere in the world, so it is not your fault if you use it—it has been built into most of us.

If you are having trouble with avoiding toxic positivity, you can look at the picture below (from The Minds Journal).

One last thing: Sharing your problems is an excellent way to deal with your emotions. So if you’re feeling down, talk to someone. Remember, you are never alone.






Body Shaming: Should We Be Defining Beauty?

Artwork By: Andrea Orozco

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

1. My Cousin

My cousin, a sweet, innocent little angel, is ill.

“She often looks at celebrities in magazines. They are thin and beautiful, and she just wants to be that kind of star,” my uncle told my mother on the phone.

“She started not eating, and was recently diagnosed with mild anorexia.”

I thought to myself, “Isn’t anorexia a rare disease or something? After all, who would want to lose weight by eating nothing at all? And my cousin, of all people?” However, a study from Heather Gallivan illustrates the astonishing severity and frequency of situations like my cousin’s: more than 50% of Americans are dissatisfied with their current weight. Over 80% of 10-year-olds fear gaining weight. 53% of 13-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies, which rises to 78% by the age of 17. In secondary schools, 40-70% of girls are dissatisfied with two or more body parts.

Striving for the thinnest possible figure is dangerous when health is placed below body image. Some people will use unhealthy methods of weight control, such as over-fasting or inducing vomiting. And this could lead to severe eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia.

Anorexia is a terrible disease. The disease caused my cousin to suddenly lose massive amounts of weight and kept her life on a knife-edge. It kept my cousin in the hospital for nearly half a year, during which time she had to be injected with drugs for nourishment. I hope she can accept herself and overcome her illness.

2. The “Beauty To-Do List”

Somewhere along the way, society got caught up in the craze of defining beauty by creating a series of beauty standards- a “to-do list,” if you will. Some infamous criteria for beauty are: the face should be as small as the hand, the legs should be as thin as chopsticks, and the waistline should be the width of a piece of vertical A4 paper. Anything else instantly gets a big, fat, red label with the word ‘UGLY’ on it. Where does this “beauty to-do list” come from? Why do people get so caught up in it?

People are told: you’re not good here, you shouldn’t eat this, you need to fix this. You have to become like many of the stars on the magazines, and you eventually convince yourself that those changes will result in a “better” life. There is also a group of people who haven’t been directly told but who absorb beauty standards from their surroundings. They feel even more sad and self-abased and are anxious about their body. They will tell themselves that they are not beautiful and should get rid of all “not beautiful” things.

Body shame is inextricably linked to consumerism. Many brands are now focusing on products aimed at skinny girls. Brandy Melville is a fashion brand known for selling S size clothes. As a result, a large number of people can not find clothes suitable for their body shape. Brandy Melville instils a sense of superiority in consumers by insinuating that it is a fashion brand that only skinny girls can buy. It creates a false narrative that skinny girls are superior to fat girls. Brandy Melville increases their sales by making its customer base feel exclusive. From an economic perspective, this may be a successful marketing tool. But for our society, is the body shame, sizeism, and stereotypes really worth the economic benefits?

In his book “The Crowd: a Study of The Popular Mind,” author Gustave Le Bon argues that one of the most striking features of the modern age is the replacement of conscious behaviour by unconscious behaviour in groups. He says that individual rational people in a group do not necessarily change the overall behaviour of the group. This can explain why people can unconsciously believe in sizeism and fatphobia and rudely judge others’ bodies.

3. Our Society and “Bad” Bodies

Heavy Craving, a movie recently released in China, directed by Pei-Ju Hsieh, tells the story of a fat girl who constantly receives exclusionary and discriminatory comments. On her birthday, her mother buys a weight-loss class as a gift for her. In my opinion, this is no more than the typical excuse for sizeism: saying it’s “for your own good.” You need to lose weight for your own good so you can wear beautiful clothes like the other girls. You need to build muscle for your own good because that is what a man usually does unless you are a sissy. You need to cover up your acne for your own good, so people would not laugh at you. These arguments are deeply steeped in condescending fatphobia and rarely spoken out of true medical concern. After all, weight is not necessarily a reliable predictor of health.

Later, the heroine in Heavy Craving discovers a boy who enjoys cross-dressing and is afraid of his secret being exposed. In this film, the reason that “fat” girls fear social discrimination against their bodies and little boys fear being exposed for “feminine” behaviours is that they fear people judging them. They fear their families trying to change them “for their own good” rather than accepting who they are.

Self-confidence is by no means unwarranted narcissism, and what we call anti-body shame is not a call to abandon self-care. What we should glean from the cultural trend of body shaming is that judging and shaming is an absence of human care. We should be more accepting of ourselves and more respectful of others. We need to respect our bodies, respect our differences, appreciate all skin tones, all body shapes, and all self-expressions. Choose what you want to choose, accept what you have, and live for yourself. Authentic identity should come from what we feel within ourselves, not from the judging mouths and eyes of others.


ready, smile

I parade around behind my filter

put a smile on my foreign face

handpick my perceived personality

add a touch of constant confidence

to cover the lurking self-consciousness

lengthen my success like model legs

slim down my mistakes like tiny waists

lift my past that’s been holding me back

smooth anxiety like premature wrinkles

erase the depression like dark circles

dealing out fake oxytocin in my brain

fishing for validation in casual comments

knowing that no one would like to see

the real me without the filters

in the selfie mode of the default camera

eyes puffy with perpetual pressure

skin sagged from sleep deprivation

body heavy with self-blame and regret

for the thousands of things that

no one, least of all I, can ever correct

each acme a mood swing, explosive,

contagious, contaminating my image

and Instagram-ready perfect face.


Food & Your Mood

Have you ever had the sudden urge to eat a huge slice of cake at three in the morning? Trust me, I am guilty of this too. A lot of the time, we just consume whatever is in front of us out of impulse. However, the types of food you eat and your mental health are more connected than you think. Putting the needs of your body first will take you a long way in the future.

While eating out of impulse is on one extreme, on the other many people have the tendency to skip meals. At the moment, you may think that you are helping yourself lose weight. Yet, if you look at the big picture, it is not a very effective way of doing so. Not eating will only cause your blood sugar to drop, resulting in feelings of mental and physical tiredness, as well as irritation. Eventually, you will be so deprived of food that you will begin to binge eat, leaving you feeling even worse than before. To avoid falling into the trap, try eating in small portions if you don’t think you can handle a lot at once. Your body will thank you later.:)

Now for some science behind food and mental health. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep, appetite, moods, and pain reactions. Most of that serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, which is why your digestive system also plays a huge role in guiding your emotions. The good bacteria that digest food are influenced by what it digests and absorbs, in return affecting the level of inflammation throughout the body as well as your mood and energy levels.

Your brain needs a constant supply of “fuel.” Not just any kind of fuel, but the very best kind of fuel. This means eating a good supply of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to keep your brain at its highest energy level. Well, you may say, I drink caffeine to fuel myself every morning. Though caffeine is okay if consumed in healthy amounts, most people are easily addicted to it. Being addicted to practically anything will hurt you in the long run. It may cause insomnia, nervousness, and restlessness in many people. It over activates the central nervous system, giving that initial feeling of being on top of the world but then making you crash later on. I am not saying take caffeine out of your diet, but be mindful as to how it could be negatively altering your emotions.

Other types of things that may be affecting you in a similar way are sugary drinks, processed snacks, desserts, and fried food – the foods we know are obviously unhealthy but refuse to give up. There are so many healthy food options out there, you just have to do a little digging and find creative ways to put it together! I recommend looking up healthy recipes that make you excited to eat. This will not only be better for your body, but it will make your mood go up significantly. Sometimes we succumb to bad habits because the temptation just overtakes our mind when we see an unhealthy snack in front of us. However, we can go step by step to slowly replace bad dietary habits.

1. Fruits – There are so many different fruits out there that you are sure to find at least one you really like. Some fruits I really like are bananas, strawberries, mangoes, and oranges. One of my favorite ways of eating fruits is putting them together into an acai bowl. For an evening snack, I try to eat a lot of fruit so I don’t have the temptation to binge on chips later.

2. Vegetables – I personally think vegetables are a really fun way to experiment. From adding some broccoli to your pasta to making tomato soup, to making eggplant parmesan, to tofu scramble; you can basically add veggies to anything. Also, salads can be intimidating but if they are made the right way they taste amazing!

3. Nuts and Seeds – I never realized how many different options there were – walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds – you name it! They are loaded with many types of nutrients and don’t require any preparation to make. You can try keeping a jar near you to snack on every now and then.

4. Grains – Many people have started to stay away from certain grains, but some can be very healthy for you. You can play around with oats (make cookies out of them or eat oatmeal for breakfast!), try different styles of quinoa, or use brown rice instead of white. Another thing I have been liking recently is farro which is a really nutritious grain.

I recommend trying to pay attention to how different types of foods make you feel. Some people have certain reactions to specific foods, but everyone’s body is different. You can even try cutting out processed foods from your diet altogether to see how your mental health improves. For the most part, there is not a clear right or wrong, you just have to figure out what feels right for you. Overall, the food you consume truly affects your mental health and wellness – whether it be positively or negatively!





What Is Peer Pressure?

We’ve all been in that situation where everyone else we know is doing something, so we want to do it, too. Everyone else has an iPhone, so we ask our parents for one. Everyone else is wearing ripped jeans, so that’s what we buy, even though we don’t like how they look. Sometimes, we even get peer pressured into doing things we know are wrong. So, what is peer pressure? Is it always dangerous? How do you avoid peer pressure?

When one’s behavior is influenced by their peers, it is known as peer pressure. Peer pressure drives you to do things you never would’ve done before, and while that may seem like a bad thing, it isn’t always. For example, if all your friends are into a certain sport, peer pressure can push you to try that sport. Maybe you’ll end up liking that sport.

So when does peer pressure become negative? Negative peer pressure is when you are pressured into doing things that are harmful to you. According to the American Addiction Centers, “surveyed teens who saw them [pictures of their peers partying] were more than three times as likely to try alcohol.”

How do you identify negative peer pressure? According to the Accredited Online Schools, you can identify peer pressure by asking yourself 3 questions: 1, is this going to lead to healthy or unhealthy habits? Drug consumption can lead to unhealthy habits, while trying out a new sport (because all your friends are) might lead to a healthier lifestyle for you. 2, does this lead to good or bad outcomes for others? Drinking and driving may lead to an accident, which is a bad outcome for everyone. On the other hand, positive peer pressure can drive you away from doing dangerous things, which would be a good outcome for you and everyone else. Last but not least, 3, does this make me feel good or bad inside? Whether you’re doing it because of peer pressure or not, if what you’re doing makes you feel guilty or scared, keep from doing that thing.

Sometimes it can be scary when all your friends think you’re uncool because you don’t do what they do. Just know that for every person who thinks dangerous habits (like drinking and smoking) are cool, there’s at least one other person who doesn’t. So if you ever feel uncomfortable hanging out with certain people, try hanging out with someone else for a change.

Another way to overcome negative peer pressure is to tell someone if your peers are doing something harmful for them. They might be angry at you at first, but it will benefit them in the long run.

Finally, 90% of teenagers have experienced peer pressure, according to Study.com. So if you are going through peer pressure, remember: you are not alone.







Everything You Need To Know About Insecurities

Especially in our teenage years, we all have something to feel insecure about. Looks and grades are just the tips of the iceberg. So, why is it that we are insecure? Are insecurities always a sign of low self-worth?

First, what are insecurities, and where do they start? In simple words, insecurity is a lack of self-confidence in a certain aspect. Insecurities always start with the thought that we aren’t good enough to be accepted into society because of our flaws. For example, some people think that since they don’t look a certain way, they’ll be made fun of. In fact, according to The Heart of Leadership, 92% of teenage girls want to change something about their appearance to fit in.

Why are most of us insecure about something? There are three main causes of insecurity: failure, social anxiety, and perfectionism.

Failure is the most obvious cause of reduced self-esteem. When people fail, they often chalk it up to not being capable of doing that thing. Sometimes, it may seem like everyone around you is capable of doing that thing, and when it seems like you’re the only one who failed, you blame it on yourself. However, as Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” And while it may seem like failure defines you, it is important to remember it does not.

According to The Child Mind Institute, 32% of people develop social anxiety, the second most common cause of low self-confidence, by the age of 18. People with social anxiety fear social interactions, often because they are afraid of not fitting in. Being pressured to be successful at a young age can sometimes cause this disorder. Social anxiety causes people to be shy and nervous in public, which leads to the belief that something is wrong with them. If this is you, remember that nothing is wrong with you and that you aren’t the only one going through this—there are around fifteen million adults with social anxiety and more than 200,000 cases of this disorder in the U.S. per year, as stated in the article by Mental Health America.

Perfectionism is wanting all your work to be absolutely perfect. It leads to insecurity, and sometimes, depression, when one rejects anything less than perfect. Nothing and nobody is perfect, and people make mistakes. So criticizing oneself for every slip-up only leads to insecurities.

Are insecurities always a sign of low self-esteem? Are they always a bad thing? Contrary to popular belief, the answer is no. Studies have shown that insecurities can actually have positive effects on a person. One such effect is being more realistic in situations where you have to be. A person who is insecure thinks about possible problems before they dive into a situation. They look before they leap, which can be helpful. Another lesser-known effect of insecurity is a determination to improve. When you are insecure, you know you aren’t perfect in certain aspects, so you work to change that.

Insecurities do have positive effects—however, like everything else, balance is key. Too much of anything is never beneficial. If you think your self-esteem is lower than it should be, talk to someone.

Remember: you are never alone.










Being an Anxious Introvert

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

The Google definition of an extrovert is “outgoing and socially confident.” I mean, who doesn’t want to be one?

On the other hand, many of us have been taught from a young age that being quiet and reserved are negative personality traits. Even if people don’t directly say it, they say things like “Why is that girl so quiet?” or “Get out of your shell more!” making us feel like we aren’t good enough already. Although our extroverted friends tend to get the spotlight more, we introverts have so much more to offer than people think.

First, let me start off with my experiences. For the longest time, I refused to accept that I was naturally more introverted. I wanted to be like the rest of my friends, extremely talkative, and constantly thriving in social situations. Yet most of the time, I would much rather be in the presence of myself than to put on a facade and talk to other people. Being alone helped me re-energize. I thought there was something wrong with me.

On top of that, I was extremely self-conscious and anxious. I would notice myself sharing my thoughts less and less because I felt as if nobody around me cared. Every time someone asked me about myself, I would suddenly feel like my personality wasn’t good enough to be expressed. I was used to listening to other people, so being put into positions where I had to talk about my own self was extremely difficult. I enjoyed sitting back and observing.

Here are a few things I’ve learned as an introvert.

1. Step out of your comfort zone once in a while – This may feel like the scariest thing on Earth, but it is so important to do. Take baby steps. Getting out of your bubble may be going to a school event, trying out for that leadership position, or even something like FaceTiming a friend! It may seem terrifying, but sometimes you have to put those “what if’s” to the side and turn them in to “oh-well” if it doesn’t go as planned.

2. Don’t feel guilty – We’ve all done it. Ignored a FaceTime call, found an excuse not to hang out with someone, the list goes on. Don’t beat yourself up for not wanting to be social 24/7. Though I recommend not shutting yourself out completely, it’s sometimes okay to take a step back from reality and just be honest with yourself. I’m still working on this, but it can actually be better to tell people when you don’t feel like socializing rather than making up an excuse. They may turn out to be more understanding than you think!

3. Remember that you are heard – Being on the quieter side may mean that you feel invisible at times. We tend to let our emotions bottle up and hide them from others because we want to be self-reliant. Know that it is okay to reach out and ask for help – you don’t have to share yourself with the world, but having one or two people you can openly talk to really helps. Also, don’t let people take advantage of you and stand up for yourself more often 🙂

4. Embrace your personality – So what if I like being alone more than constantly being surrounded by people? There is nothing wrong with that. Actually, we are much more in touch with our feelings due to our introspective personalities. Introverts are also much more likely to develop lasting friendships and relationships since we pick and choose people more wisely. Not to mention we are great listeners and compassionate leaders!

Being an introvert may feel daunting at times. People create an image of you in their heads, expecting you to have a certain persona. However, once you stop limiting yourself based on what others think, you will see your inner beauty and realize how much you truly have to offer. You are unique and so much more than the stereotype!


Learning to Learn: An Interview With a Dyslexic

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects reading. It’s very difficult to read and write with dyslexia because you’re more of a visual learner. It’s harder to take your thoughts and put them into words and sentences and vise-versa: taking those sentences, reading them, and putting them together is difficult, too.

What were your early experiences with dyslexia?

In 3rd grade, we were assigned a reading level from ‘A’ to ‘Z’. I was always in the ‘F’ range because reading was so difficult for me and while everyone else was going down the levels and getting closer to ‘Z’, I just felt very stuck in the middle of the alphabet. It was very challenging for me to get through the books [that were easy for my peers].

At around 4th grade, my dyslexia started to catch up to my math because we were starting to do more word problems. I was put into a [group] that was for people who weren’t really good at math. It was more frustrating for me because I knew how to do the math, I just couldn’t solve the word problems; I couldn’t read the word problems and put them into equations.

How did dyslexia affect you when you entered high school?

Really this year [in high school,] studying became more independent. There were more textbook readings with longer pages, bigger words, and this was a huge step-up from middle school. It was difficult because I want everything to be fair to everybody. Having a standard is very important but there’s a difference between having a standard that’s fair for everyone versus being able to accommodate other people’s needs. If you accommodate and help other people the best they can in their weak subjects, then it will be fair because everyone will be at the same point. 

That was frustrating to me because people were catching onto the concepts very quickly because they were able to really understand the material in the textbook or what the teacher was saying. For me, it just took me more time. I ended up falling behind in a couple of my classes because of that.

And school doesn’t really accommodate for everyone; it gives an advantage to a specific group of people. That’s how the majority gets so ahead but the people who don’t learn in the same way fall behind.

Exactly, it really only accommodates the majority. So the school system is unfair to the minority of the student body. They really want to focus on the majority and how the majority is the best they could be, but they don’t focus much on the minority. It doesn’t matter to the school because the minority is only a handful of kids out of the entire grade, anyways.

It was very difficult for me to understand and wrap my head around because this was happening to me on a daily basis. I had to really fight for fairness, pretty much. But I actually wasn’t fighting for anything, I was just trying to catch up to everybody.

How has it affected your sense of self?

I lost a lot of self-worth and self-confidence this year. It’s actually quite usual in kids with dyslexia because it’s very hard for us to see that it’s not our intelligence, it’s just the way we learn. So for a lot of people with dyslexia, it’s like a scale. Our IQ is much higher than our performance level. For people without dyslexia, their IQ and their performance usually match up so it’s even. A lot of my grades were lower than what I expected them to be, and I got very discouraged.

I was at a point where I was kind of fed up with my teachers and how they were teaching because they weren’t really doing their job. I mean, they were teaching the majority of the class, but they weren’t really accommodating for the kids that were falling behind. Some kids in our class are in ELL (English Language Learners) or they came from different countries this year. They were falling behind and were at a disadvantage. It’s not their fault; they’re actually quite brilliant seeing how they’re in all these honors classes and they’re obviously able to complete the material. They just needed more time.

Now, my mom and I have been talking about getting retested for dyslexia just so that I could bring it up to the teachers and tell them that I need more time to complete tests. But the thing that really got me is this one time where we were talking to a teacher. They said, “Well, you better do it quickly because if you do it next year or in junior year, they’re just going to think that you’re doing it to get extra time and that you’re not actually dyslexic. [The administration will believe that] you don’t actually have a learning disorder and that you’re just faking it.

This just blew my mind. I was so disgusted by that because first of all, some people aren’t even diagnosed [with a learning disorder] until high school. People faking it and taking advantage of people who actually do have a learning disorder and putting them lower on the scale was just very hard for me to understand.

I don’t tell a lot of my friends that I have dyslexia because I’m worried it’s going to affect how they think of me. I don’t want them to look at me differently and “kick me out” because that’s happened before.

I also don’t know whether I should tell my teachers about my dyslexia. A teacher hears the word “autistic” or “learning disorder” and a red light flashes immediately. Many of them think, “Oh, this kid is different so I have to treat them differently.” In our society, we see all these movies and TV shows about kids that have really bad mental disorders. It’s not because they’re bad kids, but it’s because of how their brain is wired. It’s sad to think about how they get treated worse than others because they’re different. 

So I don’t tell a lot of my teachers or classmates. I just don’t want to be treated differently. I just want to be treated like everybody else.


Black Mental Health Matters

In this time of tragedy and turmoil across the nation, we members of “You’re Not Alone” are reaching out to express our support and solidarity for the movement that is taking place in the United States and around the world right now.

While many of us do not experience the same level of struggle that Black Americans feel across the country, we recognize the tragic effects of a continually perpetuated cycle of intolerance and racial prejudice. As we try our best to raise awareness and to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health for teens, we also acknowledge that, unfortunately, systemic racism exists within this field as well.

According to Mental Health America, “historical adversity, which includes slavery, sharecropping, and race-based exclusion from health, educational, social, and economic resources, translates into socioeconomic disparities experienced by African Americans today.” What this translates to is this: People who are impoverished, homeless, incarcerated, or have substance abuse problems are at higher risk for poor mental health, on top of a lack of resources and access.

This is systemic racism at play. For this article, the term “systemic racism” is defined as a form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. It is reflected in disparities regarding wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power, and education, among other factors. All these factors contribute to the fact that adult Black/African Americans are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites, despite making up only 13.4% of the total population of the United States. In general, adult Black/African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than the nation’s white adults. And while Black/African Americans are less likely to die from suicide as teenagers, they are more likely to attempt suicide than are white teenagers (8.3% v. 6.2%).

Yes, these numbers are shocking, and it can be quite difficult to believe that a difference in wages can lead to a significant gap in the percentage of having mental health issues. So let’s look again at the statistics. For every $1 a similarly qualified white man earns in the same job, a black man would only make $0.87, despite decades of effort to achieve wage equity. Considering black/African Americans living below poverty are three times more likely to report serious psychological distress than those living above poverty. This means that, compared to white Americans, more black/African Americans are likely to suffer from the psychological consequences of poverty.

Compounding this problem is mass incarceration; Black/African Americans today are over-represented in our jails and prisons. People of color account for 60% of the prison population. Black/African Americans also account for 37% of drug arrests, but only 14% of regular drug users, (which is frequently associated with self-medication among people with mental illnesses). While whether these people are falsely convicted is a different question, one thing is clear: a criminal record makes it more challenging to seek rewarding employment, leading to a higher risk of poverty and, by extension, mental health issues. Moreover, Black/African Americans of all ages are more likely to be victims of serious violent crime than are non-Hispanic whites, making them more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to Mental Health America.

The sad truth is, despite a higher risk of psychological distress and the expanding field of counseling and therapy, black Americans seem to shy away from the help they often need. The irony is that the professional help they need is often a part of systemic racism. Because less than 2% of American Psychological Association members are Black/African American, some may worry that mental health care practitioners are not culturally competent enough to treat their specific issues. This is compounded by the fact that some Black/African American patients have reported experiencing racism and microaggression from therapists. In addition, stigma and judgment from non-professionals prevent Black/African Americans from seeking treatment for their mental illnesses. Research indicates that Black/African Americans believe that mild depression or anxiety would be considered “crazy” in their social circles. Furthermore, many believe that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family. This creates a toxic environment in which black people who require treatment are unable to ask for help, creating a cycle of racial injustice within the field of mental health.

While not all of us will ever experience race-related mental health stigma or a lack of resources, we need to acknowledge and confront this existing problem. Since You’re Not Alone is dedicated to raising awareness about teenage mental health, it is naturally our duty to also address and educate ourselves on an equally, if not more important aspect of the mental health experience in America. We will continue to stay informed, have difficult conversations, and reach out to help in any way possible.

To our friends in the black community, we know there is more work to do. We stand in solidarity with you. We are here for you. If you need anything or any support at all, please reach out to us.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”-Martin Luther King Jr.


“Black & African American Communities and Mental Health.” Mental Health America, http://www.mhanational.org/issues/black-african-american-communities-and-mental-health.

Williams, Monnica. “Why African Americans Avoid Psychotherapy.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2 Nov. 2011, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/culturally-speaking/201111/why-african-americans-avoid-psychotherapy.

American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/racism-stress.

The Costs and Consequences of Disparities in Behavioral Health Care, http://www.ncsl.org/Portals/1/HTML_LargeReports/DisparitiesBehHealth_Final.htm.


10 Things I Love About My Mind/Brain

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

1. I can always count on it to be there for me.

Except for that time I forgot that I left my passport with my counselor, who kept it in the safe, and walked out of camp without my passport. I was on my way to Canada for vacation with my family, my grandparents included. My brain decided to turn itself back on when we were more than halfway to Boston; the camp was in Poughkeepsie, New York. Then, it decided it was a good idea to make Dad drive all the way back to Poughkeepsie, to look for the passport when everyone had long left camp, and when I couldn’t find it (because everyone had left), make my grandparents wait in Boston while we take a road trip to Connecticut to the program headquarters and back the Monday after.

2. I am capable of critical thinking.

Not when I’m taking a math test, or doing anything remotely math-related. Consider this function and prove the chain rule. Well, I’ve considered the function. Proof? What proof? I have none. Nada.

3. I am self-aware.

And somehow my mind traps me in existential crises. Am I Chinese? Yes, but why do I feel out of place in my country? Am I American? But if I don’t have a US citizenship, can I be American? Maybe culturally. Or am I Chinese-American? I wasn’t born in the US. Nor do I really live there. So who am I? What am I? Who is this voice talking in my head? Is it me? Is it my ego? Do I really have a personal identity? Does it persist through time? Am I the same person as the one who first started this sentence? *Screams into my pillow then stares off into space.*

4. I can comprehend and speak languages.

Yes, three of them, all at once. Four if you count Shanghainese. Somehow all the words keep mixing together and I’m losing vocabulary in the two languages I can fluently speak. Bilingual who? More like bye-lingual. And don’t get me started on grammar. I can’t even speak human sentences. Who remembers what order words are supposed to go in anyway? And any word can be a verb at this point. Look at me verbing all over the place.

5. I can dream.

Good lord they have recurring themes. Why am I always chased in a mall so I have to jump from the fifth floor to the third and from one escalator to another? Why am I always persecuted? Why am I always running? Why do I wake up in a cold sweat thinking what the hell just happened every other night? When was the last time I laughed in a dream? When was the last time I didn’t have dreams and actually slept for more than eight hours?

6. It’s always working.

I mean, it’s literally always working. When is it not working? Even at 3 a.m., it’s filling my head with random thoughts that I will probably never need, like reasons why vampires cannot sunbathe, but on a biological level, or what would happen once you achieve nirvana, or any type of enlightenment-type superhuman state that I doubt I will ever achieve, or, I don’t know, if I would survive on canned beans—which I absolutely abhor—and stale chips in an apocalypse. My brain is always working even when I sleep, filling my head with dreams that I get half an hour of deep sleep even out of the ten hours I get during winter break. Every minute, I hear voices screaming that I’m a failure, that I’m a mistake, that I will never live up to what I could be anyway, that I should just give up.

7. I can make plans.

I have my entire life planned out till I’m seventy—an elite college education, an MFA in creative writing, a stable, well-paid job for three years before I go off to live in a lake-side cottage in southern Switzerland as a full-time writer all before I turn thirty. I live my life in retrospect, expecting success and glory and a published memoir by the time most peers have a family. I see myself taking every wrong step, failing each day as I open another rejection letter, each an evidence of my failure.

8. I have an active imagination.

I imagine being dragged into the back of a van and sold into a brothel. I imagine strangers entering my home in my sleep and harvesting my organs for the black market. I imagine my parents dying gruesome deaths in car crashes when I’m waiting for them, knowing they’re only late from work or caught in traffic. I imagine my grandparents calling from the ER, or Grandpa calling about Grandma walking out after missing her meds. I imagine everyone that has ever loved me leaving until I’m all alone, crying. I imagine being wiped out of existence, my consciousness fading as my body disintegrates into dust in the fire. I imagine the world ending.

9. I am creative.

A pen, a paper. That’s all it takes for me to unload and create a magical new world in the dull one we inhabit. I record all seven of my trains of thought that share four sets of tracks. I bleed onto the page and it’s almost therapy. I fill the space with sentences so I don’t feel as empty. I process the ugliness in letters, to grasp at answers when nothing makes sense. Words flow out like water in a stream, nurturing, guiding me into the unknown so I can dance. I write, splash ink over the page, and make Jackson Pollock jealous with rage.

10. I am conscious.

I’m alive. I have my own thoughts, albeit dark sometimes. I can think, feel, reach deep within me and reflect, and leave a mark for others to read. I am here and these words are here to stay.


Darkness is All-Consuming


Today, I felt as if my emotions were swirling around inside of me, wreaking havoc around my insides. I couldn’t control them, and they destroyed everything. Even my happiness. 

I’m not sure where these feelings came from. Perhaps it is the constant pressures of society that continue to plague my dreams. Perhaps it is the unreachable goals that are set by my parents. Perhaps it is the mental abuse that I have suffered by the hands of my brother. 

Even so, I feel as if I cannot control these feelings, and am constantly spiraling towards the darkness within. As if there were no light, no hope, that I am able to reach. 

I feel as if these past couple of years have completely and utterly destroyed who I am now. Now, I believe I am just a hollow and empty person – a fragment of who I was before. Where I was once confident and happy, I am now depressed and slowly being consumed by the inner darkness inside of me. 

I am afraid to talk to someone. I am afraid that they wouldn’t understand what I am, and the darkness. 

I am afraid that they will leave once they discover it. 

And yet, even with all of these fears, I crave the feel of someone holding me, whispering that it will be alright and okay, while I tell them all about the darkness inside. 

And yet, they still search for the light within. 


My anxiety is always there – no matter what I feel, or what I do, it is always there, watching me, carefully observing when I will break. And that is when it attacks. Sometimes, I feel free. Free from my anxiety, free from my worries, free from everything. 

And yet, that freedom never lasts – as it always comes back no matter what. 

The darkness inside me always comes back. 

And yet, the flames of others still burn bright, trying to bring me towards them. 


No one noticed. No one ever notices. My mask is impenetrable, and no one is able to see what’s underneath. 

I wish someone cared enough to see. 

I wish I could conquer the darkness. 


Once upon a time there was a girl. When she was younger, she was afraid of everything. And because this little girl was afraid, she hid. She hid behind a mask. And as she grew up, that mask stayed with her. 

On the outside, the mask made her seem like a happy girl. A girl who always laughed, who always teased. And yet, on the inside, a little girl sat there in the darkness, with tears streaming down her face. 

She was still afraid. 

Her fears warped around her, spinning her around and around like a tornado. Around and around she spun, the tornado never losing strength as she spun and spun and spun. 

On the outside, her facade was slowly cracking, revealing bits of herself to others, just teeny tiny glimpses of who she truly was. They reached out to her, like little flames of hope, but she blew their flames out. 

She was already in too deep. She didn’t need them. 

And yet, they kept coming. Until one, brighter than them all, shone above and demanded for her to reach for help. She wanted to resist, she wanted to blow it out. 

But the flame kept flickering, kept burning brighter and brighter, until at last, she accepted and was welcomed into the flame’s embrace. 

The flame didn’t let go until the tendrils of darkness disappeared. 


peer counseling

peer counseling

who am I to tell a depressed girl that it gets better?

to spin stories of recovery and pat her on the shoulder

to squeeze a smile on my cheeks when I don’t remember

how to smile like a survivor, like a human person

to reassure her mother that it happens

to artistic people like us and that the sun

still rises even for someone who thinks they are broken

to tell her that she is not broken

who am I to give tips to them like I survived?

to tell her to just lie in bed and close her eyes

even knowing sleep will evade her that night

to tell her to vent and not bottle up

when I myself barely open up

to ask her not to be ashamed

when I hide any scar that still remains

to hug her and say the darkness doesn’t last

like I didn’t want to answer the call of the void and make it fast

so who am I to tell a depressed girl that it gets better?

because for me, it didn’t.

but who am I to scare her with the reality?

who am I to reveal that truthful cruelty?

someone has to give her hope.

someone has to do something.

Note: This is a poem meant to illustrate just how common mental health issues are among teenagers now, regardless of the location. It is modeled from personal experience, although I’ve taken some artistic liberties, none of which serve to undermine the truth here. The truth is a lot of us are hurting, and a lot of us are trying to help those who are, maybe at the same time. You’re not the only one.


Letting Go of Toxic Friends

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

At first, it was the little things: “Hey, where’s my Christmas present?” or “Send answers please!” And for so long, as they piled up, I thought that I was obligated to fulfill their requests simply because we were friends. But then it got harder for me to laugh with them because I sometimes felt like they were laughing at me. My friendship with them became more of a chore– even almost a burden. When “Let’s hang out!” turned into “You’re always busy, so what’s the point?”, and “What’s wrong with her?” suddenly became the equivalent of “Are you okay?”, it dawned on me that the people I was surrounding myself with were not who I wanted them to be. While it might’ve been easy to see that I was in an unhealthy friendship from an outsider’s point-of-view, it can be difficult to know that, especially if you’re the victim suffering from one.

Relationships can differ for everyone, but something that should never be compromised is your self-worth. It’s obviously impossible for everyone to always be happy and satisfied with their friends, but take the time to remember that your self-worth isn’t just determined by insults or mean comments. A good friend should also learn to respect your boundaries, and on the contrary, shouldn’t limit you from doing things either. Everyone is different in terms of what they like and feel comfortable with, so if you say no to something, a friend shouldn’t force you to do it. Conversely, a common example of a limitation placed on a friend is not allowing them to become close friends with other people. Unless you feel that it would seriously weaken your friendship or put someone in danger, it’s equally as important to trust your friend. Trust is applicable in many situations, so if you feel that you cannot trust someone to keep a secret or stick to their moral values, it would be wise to discuss it with them. Another relevant topic is effort. You and your friend should put in the same amount of effort so that both of you can feel validated and hold the same amount of control over your friendship. If only one person initiated all the hang-outs or bought gifts, it wouldn’t be fair to them, since the other person isn’t trying to improve the friendship. Being in a one-sided friendship can make the friend feel replaceable or that the things that they are doing are pointless since their efforts aren’t being reciprocated. A one-sided friendship isn’t confined to just physical displays of kindness, and most of the time takes place because one person has more power over the friendship than the other. It’s easy to fall into a pattern where the friendship revolves around one person’s needs and wants, which quite frankly, isn’t a friendship at all.

Friends should make you feel happy, safe, and supported, so if you feel that your needs aren’t being met, it’s a good idea to let go of them. If you feel that closure is important, you may want to think about confrontation. It’s a good way to let out your feelings without feeling confined to any of the consequences that could result from it. However, you should keep in mind that confronting someone should never be done in a threatening matter. And if you feel unsafe with it, a better alternative would be just to let your friendship end itself. If both people stop trying, it’s only natural for you to drift apart from them. Leaving any kind of unhealthy relationship is not only liberating but makes room for self-growth. While the friendship might not have been satisfying at the moment, in retrospect, it proves to be an experience for everyone to learn from.


screw society

I never really had many insecurities when I was younger, but honestly, that would probably be expected. High School and Middle School was when teens would become more self-conscious and degrading towards one another and themselves. When social cliques formed, and you would have to scramble to find “your people.” When there were suddenly “mean girls” to avoid in the hallways and bathrooms. When dress and appearance started to matter, and no one wore sketchers sneakers anymore. But, when you’re younger, you’re naive and ignorant, and you’re in this bubble of bliss where your life revolves around your family, and all you believe is what your mother has to say. And you believe that you’re beautiful, and talented, and intelligent. Because that’s all you’ve heard.

I don’t think I’ve ever been at a point where I’ve been more insecure than right now. And it’s gone from insecurities to self-deprecation and self-hatred. And I couldn’t tell you why, because even I don’t understand. It just seemed like a switch went off, and now I can finally see how… wrong I am. How wrong I’ve been. That the girl I’ve been was all just a facade. A desperate, awkward, ingenuine face for the person I am. And maybe the “person I am” is even worse. Or maybe I’m just pulling apart this girl who doesn’t need to be restructured or redefined, and yet there’s something terribly wrong with her.

I don’t understand who this “facade” is. Or maybe even, that IS me. That this sorry, joke of an excuse of a girl is really me. It’s hard to tell who I am, sometimes. What I like. What I do. Because these all just seem to be mirrored glimpses of other people who are “better.” Maybe I’ll pick up a hobby just because that other girl did it first. Or modify my dress because it looked better on someone else. Maybe I’ll pick up a new catch phrase or way of speech just because whatever I was before wasn’t enough. So then, who is this girl of scavenged assembly of personas and habits? Because it definitely wasn’t the one I started with. The happy-go-lucky, ambitious girl I’d once been.

I think a lot of it has been social media and our changing times. Yes, everyone’s put in the effort to make everyone feel special and loved. “Your differences are what make you unique and special,” “you have your own beauties and specialties.” But after a while, it gets extremely tiring, because you know it isn’t the truth. You know that there’s pity behind the “supportive” comments on a “less attractive” girl, who definitely doesn’t have what society’s already ingrained as the “perfect body.” And there’s still malice behind the comments of the girl who seems “perfect.” There is no perfect standard of “equal.” There never will be, because our society can’t be as kind and supportive as it strives to be. Otherwise, we’d all just be ignorant and naive.


Love Yourself First

While a lot of my friends know me for my humor, behind every one of my laughs is a person of endless insecurities. I’ve always struggled with self-love because I’ve come to despise almost every aspect of myself. And even though many people praise me for my confidence, it seems to be the very thing I lack. For a time, I used social media to seek validation, and when that wasn’t enough, I turned to some of my friends. Scrolling down my Instagram ‘Explore Page’ or Tiktok ‘For You Page’, it was almost impossible for me to not compare myself to all the people on it. Whether that be with their physical appearance, academic merits, or even when they were just sharing their talents, I would constantly pick on myself. You’re not pretty, or you don’t study hard enough, or you can never be them; I felt lost in my own mind.

Eager to get better, I studied hard for school and tried to change my appearance. When I got the grades I studied for, I felt proud of myself. After all, I was proving to myself that I was just as smart as the people I saw online, right? But when that ‘high’ started to wear off, I was back to feeling just as unworthy as before. What I failed to realize was that I couldn’t rely on temporary happiness to feel better about myself. Because for every 99 I got, there would always be someone with the 100. And under every new layer of makeup or money spent on clothes, I would still be me.

Depending on something or someone in order to love yourself is always more harm than help. It led me to an unhealthy cycle of constant mental ups and downs, and they soon became something I couldn’t control. Through my experiences, I’ve learned that the only person you can depend on is yourself. You are in charge of how you perceive things, so try to make things seem better, not worse. Learning to love yourself is definitely not an overnight task. It takes time, effort, and love. While I still struggle with my insecurities, I can say that I am grateful for who I am and what I am able to do today. You can never really know what goes on behind someone’s laughter, so be kind to others, and most importantly, be kind to yourself.


Why Do I Feel Like I Never Measure Up?

Have you ever received praise you don’t think you deserved? I have always felt this way about my writing. Though I receive compliments about my work, I can never seem to accept them. In fact, when compliments wear off, they make me feel even worse than I already am. I feel like I’m held to a certain standard, always anxious that someone is going to see me for who I truly am, and discover how poorly I write. Since I’m constantly thinking about whether my writing is good enough for the public’s eyes, I have a hard time getting started. I’m afraid to start writing because I feel like people are out to weed out the frauds, including me.

Also known as the imposter syndrome, this mindset hinders me from truly expressing myself through my writing. The first time I was introduced to this term was by a college graduate who struggled with it. I was drawn into this concept because I thought it was just a phase of not feeling adequate, and I didn’t know there was a term for it. To see whether I really suffered from it or not, I decided to take an online test myself. I had to rate how strongly I felt about various statements: “Even if people praise my skills, I still don’t think I am as accomplished as they think I am”. Strongly agree. I may get rewards for my hard work, but I don’t feel I have earned them”. Strongly agree. In the end, I was shocked to see that I got a 97 out of 100. “You … fear that eventually — especially if you make a mistake or fail — people will discover that you are actually incompetent,” is what my results said. I couldn’t relate more.

Career counselor Dr. Valerie Young spoke about overcoming this phenomenon in a TedTalk. She says, “the only difference between [people without imposter syndrome] and us is: they think different thoughts. That’s it. Which is really good news, because it means all we have to do is learn to think like a non-imposter.” And she’s right. In fact, your body can’t recognize the difference between fear and excitement.

The limbic system, the section of our brain that deals with emotions, is composed of the hippocampus and amygdala. These lead to the hypothalamus, which essentially controls our stress response. The hypothalamus is what causes our palms to get sweaty or increases our heart rate when we have to speak in front of a large audience. Remarkably, excitement triggers this exact response. So if you’re afraid of speaking in front of a crowd, it’s very easy to shift that fear into excitement. You don’t have to feel confident to act confident. Though everyone fears failing to some degree, people without imposter syndrome are completely fine with doing just that. They acknowledge the fact that they won’t be the best at everything. To stop feeling like an imposter, you must first stop thinking like one.

Imposter syndrome is not something that disappears once you get into your dream college or land your dream job. In fact, while I was researching this topic, most studies that showed up were related to undergraduates and people already working jobs. I have tried to attain a level of satisfaction with my writing that I will never be able to achieve. If you deal with imposter syndrome, don’t be afraid to reach out to people you trust. You are not alone.


Mindful Journaling

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

I find that whenever I’m sad or confused or even bored, it helps to write. According to The Huffington Post, there are many benefits of mindful journaling.

It helps boost IQ: Writing often correlates with intelligence. According to the Facile Things blog, writing every day can help you understand your emotions better. Oftentimes, people who have emotional control are smarter. Writing things in your own words also helps you remember things that you would have otherwise forgotten.

It helps you achieve your goals: Write down your goals. Make plans. For example, if I wanted to write an article such as this one, I would plan it out like so:

Step 1: Find a topic — write about possible topics that I could try.

Step 2: Research the chosen topic — I chose mindful journaling, so I spent ten-fifteen minutes researching what it is and the benefits it can provide.

Step 3: Writing a draft — I try to first write a rough draft, where I try to envision what components my article would have.

Step 4: Writing my final piece: Soon, this article will be a final piece.

You see, writing about what I’m doing not only helps me be organized, but it prevents me from doing too much or too little to help me support my project. This article may be a small project, but this method can be used to support bigger goals too.

Improve emotional intelligence: Writing about what I’m feeling always helps me stay calm. Journaling is a very great outlet for expressing emotions. It increases self-awareness. Being able to understand what you’re feeling and more importantly–why you’re feeling this way– allows you to be more in control of yourself. Being emotionally intelligent also means that you can find good ways to control your feelings when needed.

Here are just a few mindful journaling prompts that you can use:

“If I could talk to myself five years ago, what would I say?” – Write about something that you say to yourself. Talk about something you wouldn’t do. Maybe a chance that you should have taken. Maybe something you should have done. If I could talk to myself 5 years ago, I would tell myself: “Stay a little kid, you’ll have plenty of time to grow up”

“The words I live by are:” – Write about a quote that you might like. Write about what it means to you and why it is important. One of my favorites is “Change your thoughts and you change your world” by Norman Vincent Peale. To me, it means that when you change the way you see things, the things you see will change. For example, this pandemic can be seen as a deadly virus that’s causing thousands of deaths, or as a lesson that nature is teaching us to not take our life for granted. Neither is more true than the other, yet one makes you wanna sulk in a corner and the other brings out a ray of hope.

Simply writing about one thing a day can have amazing effects on your mind. Here are some great resources where you can find more writing prompts:





5 Ways to Be Productive During The Quarantine

Updated: Apr 12, 2020

Lately, I’ve been trying to find new things to do every day. I tried reading, writing, baking, cooking and even studying. I spent hours on the internet trying to find a suitable project for me to do. This blog actually became one of them.

After days of endless boredom and hours of surfing on Pinterest, I realized that this would be the perfect time to pursue my hobbies. During school days, I’m always whining about the things that I never get to do. Things like writing for fun. Usually, the only time I write something other than notes is for English projects.

I concluded that if I was going to stuck inside a house for the rest of the school year, I might as well make the best out of it.

MAKE A LIST: I always like to be organized. I made a list of all the books that I want to read. That list is comprised of classic English literature; recommendations from my English teacher; books that my friends had really liked; books by authors that I loved. If you’re book-obsessed like me or just want to try reading, I found this great app called Libby. Libby accesses your library card (or you can make one) and helps you find books. You can borrow books and read them either on the app itself or on a Kindle.

START A PASSION PROJECT: A passion project is a project about something that you love. Something like a blog would be great for times like these. Maybe you could start writing a book. Or maybe you could start making a collection of paintings. I incorporated my two favorite subjects Science and English and started a blog of my own. I even asked some of my friends to join, to make it more interesting. I now write for four blogs in total.

SELF-CARE: During normal days, I never have time to indulge in ‘me-time.’ Now that I have more time, my mom and I have started making DIY face masks. We both put on those masks in the morning and then go about our day. You can try it too: https://www.momjunction.com/articles/homemade-face-mask-for-teenagers_00327249/

Us teenagers are notorious for having bad skin. So while we’re a home we can make sure that we back to school looking better than ever!

LEARN SOMETHING NEW: I’ve always been a fan of learning languages. Before I moved to California, I took Spanish at my school for three years. After I moved, I started French at my new school, because I didn’t want to go back to Level 1 of Spanish. This is my second year of French. During quarantine, I got inspired by my friend and started learning Italian through Duolingo. I also used it to get better at French.

SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY: And last but not least, spend time with your family. Most of us are so busy in school, extracurriculars and sports that we forget how important “family time” is. Recently, I decided that I would spend at least two hours a day with my family. We watch movies together. Long live Netflix! We play card games, or we just talk.

If we’re going to be stuck in our homes for a long time, why not make the best of it?


Maintaining Mental Health While Quarantined

This coronavirus pandemic is stressful for many of us. We are living in a time that is chaotic and dangerous, whether we are affected directly or indirectly. In this time of distress, we often forget what really matters to us. This is a situation that is impacting not only every person on the planet but also our politics and economy. Maybe your SATs were canceled or you lost your chance to boost your GPA in this final semester of school. There’s a lot of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety that lies ahead of us — when will this end? When will things become normal again?

The quarantine can hold different meanings for each of us. No matter what circumstance you are in, it is important to maintain your mental health. Here are five tips to help you manage your mental health during this pandemic.

1. It’s alright to just exist right now.

You may feel like you have to be doing something, whether it be studying for an AP test or catching up on schoolwork. Yet you can’t find the motivation to start working. I even put off this article for several days because I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. Don’t blame yourself for not checking off all the tasks on your To-Do list, because practically every student feels the same way. 

One of the best ways to combat this slump is to call a friend and work on your own, individual tasks. They will keep you company as you study or work on personal projects. Even if you get sidetracked in a conversation, it’s better than avoiding the task altogether.

2. Maintain your normal routine.

It’s important to maintain some structure of your days before the quarantine. Instead of working from bed in your pajamas, dress in clothes you would wear to school and sit at a desk. If putting on makeup or wearing contacts is a part of your morning routine, continue those habits as well. It will create a sense of normalcy, and will hopefully allow you to be more productive.

3. Focus on what you can control.

There’s a lot of things you can’t control during this pandemic; you can’t control the future or the school system. However, the things you are able to control are just as plenty. You can control how you respond to events, whether it’s negative or positive. You can choose to do an action, whether it’s good or bad. You have the power to control your feelings and regulate your emotions. Anything outside of the “right now” is something you cannot control, so don’t waste time focusing on it.

4. Slow down and reflect.

Controlling your emotions takes practice, just like working a muscle. Start meditating. People that meditate establish the practice of centering and grounding themselves in any situation. In addition, express your emotions in a healthy way; don’t take them out on others. Recognize that these emotions don’t define you. If you understand that you are feeling bored or anxious, you will realize that your emotions are only what you’re feeling on the surface. You must control them without letting them control you. Instead of feeling trapped at home, use this time to focus on yourself.

5. Lastly, be kind.

You may feel impatient with your family because you’re indefinitely stuck with them. Choose kindness over resentment. On a larger scale, the number of hate crimes against Asian Americans has been surging due to the coronavirus. Asian Americans have experienced racial taunts on school grounds and are accused of triggering this chaos. Blaming people isn’t helping anyone right now. Taking out your bitterness against your family is not doing anything to make you feel more at ease, either. This post by Lavendaire, a personal growth influencer, depicts what love and fear look like. Reflect: do your actions have intentions of love or fear?

This time is all about living in the present. Try your best to avoid thinking about the future. As Lavendaire discusses in her video “Mental Health in the Coronavirus Pandemic,” she says that we all play a role in this interconnected global community. Whether it be communicating ideas across through a platform (like this blog), or just simply staying home, we can collectively combat this virus. Stay safe!


The Art of Balance

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.”

– Jana Kingsford

Sometimes we feel as if everything is coming at us all at once. The math test, the birthday party, the English exam, the fro-yo date. It can be overwhelming and quite uncomfortable. Between schoolwork, extracurriculars and maintaining an active social life, we oftentimes get stuck choosing one over the other.

Everyone is different. For some, maintaining good grades may not be as important as attending a party, while others might think the complete opposite. Whether you are a social butterfly or a stay-at-home-and-read kind of person, it is important to find a good balance.

Here are a few tips that can keep you on track:

1. Keep an updated schedule.

Keep track of your activities and your grades. Focus on the classes you have trouble catching up to. Try to mark dates on calendars where you have important events, so you don’t have to be two places at once. For example, knowing that you have a test on Tuesday can save you from attending a party on Monday night and then regretting it the next day.

2. Work Ahead

And…..I have to say it…… don’t procrastinate. Working ahead of your peers sometimes can help you do better in class. It can help you understand things better since you are previewing the material. Make plans two days in advance, instead of the day of. For example, if you want to plan a study date, do it two days before so that you have time to prepare. So that you can make sure that you have nothing else to do that night. You can use the extra time to cancel if you need to, without making it difficult for the other person.

3. Get a good night’s sleep

Sleeping well can help you feel relaxed. More importantly, it makes you feel more ready to tackle a busy day. “Lack of sleep costs the United States over $411 Billion Annually, reported Fortune Magazine.” Save money for the government and sleep! “3-5% of obesity in adults could be caused by lack of sleep.” Healthy habits as a teenager can often ensure healthy habits as an adult. Find more statistics here.

Make time for yourself: No matter how busy your schedule is, always find time to be alone. At least once a week, just sit down, relax, maybe listen to some music if you’re not comfortable with complete silence. Forget about your phone for 5 minutes. Don’t check your email, don’t scroll through social media. Just think.

All of these tricks and more can help you find just the right balance between everything daily activity.


The Science Behind OCD

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

Most people have heard of OCD, but what is the science behind the cause of this mental disorder? Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known as OCD, is a mental health illness that causes unwanted thoughts or feelings that lead to compulsive, repetitive actions; it affects approximately 1 in 100 children in the United States. These actions usually interfere with a person’s daily activities and can cause different levels of stress. An example of obsessive thought is the fear of germs or of contamination, which leads to compulsive behavior, in this case involving repeated hand washing. People who have this disorder try to rid themselves of these urges through the completion of a ritual.

Typically, people who have OCD fall into one of the following categories: checkers, washers, counters/arrangers, and intrusive thinkers. People who are checkers repeatedly check locks, switches, or even examine themselves for medical conditions. Washers fear contamination and usually have compulsions relating to hand washing or cleaning. Counters/arrangers must have objects lined up in a certain way, often having superstitions relating to the colors or numbers of different things. People with intrusive thoughts obsess over a certain line of thinking and these can be disturbing or violent.

What makes OCD such a fascinating topic in the field of neuroscience is that the cause of the disorder is not entirely known to scientists; however, there are many theories. Some research suggests that OCD is a result of problems in communication within the brain, specifically between the frontal lobe and the deeper parts. A neurotransmitter (a chemical substance used to transmit signals) called serotonin is thought to play a role in the cause of OCD. Medication to control serotonin levels have been shown to make parts of the brain that affect OCD more normal in some people, but more evidence is needed to make a definite conclusion.

Another interesting thought on the cause of this disorder is through genetics. This has been found to run in families and can play a role in the development of OCD. Genes are not 100% the reason why people develop OCD, but they offer insight into the nature of this mental health issue. The stress of normal life or other psychological factors could weigh in more heavily than compared to a family member who has OCD.

Infections, believe it or not, can cause a form of OCD known as Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections or PANDAS for short. This rare disease is believed to affect 1 in 200 children and is a fairly new condition that may lead to discoveries on the exact cause of OCD. This example is an extreme version of OCD where signs of obsessive-compulsive behavior appear suddenly contrary to the normal kind. The way this infection attacks the brain can potentially be studied to find out why OCD occurs.

As of now, however, there remains to be a true cure for this disease. There are ways to manage the symptoms of OCD like through psychotherapy which can see people find relief from symptoms, but scientists continue to search for the root cause.


5 Ways to Study Hard Without Burning Out

Studying is hard. It’s not very fun and takes up a lot of time and effort. You might be studying for hours only to realize that you’re receiving the same test scores as your friends who didn’t put in much effort. So how? How do you study more efficiently, use less time, and achieve more? How do you stand out without burning out 🔥? Here are 5 ways to do just that.

1. Pseudo-work vs Deep Work 📲

Pseudo-work is a method of studying that I used to follow before realizing how ineffective it was. The term “Pseudo-work” defines work done with many distractions. Here, I will use my friends Bob and Bill to explain.

Let’s look at Bill. He says he studies for long hours, but how? Bill here is a Pseudo-worker. He studies with the TV droning on in the background, social media tabs open on his laptop, his phone right next to him which is blowing up with messages. He thinks he is focused, but unfortunately, that’s not how the brain works. Studies show that it is almost impossible for the brain to stay focused when there are other things going on. The brain uses concentration to register the noise itself, let alone trying to resist the temptation of checking your messages.

Bob, on the other hand, is a Deep Worker. He studies with his full focus on his task at hand. He is in an environment where there is nothing but his study material, and therefore, he understands the material and retains it. Which type of worker are you?

2. Where? When? How long?

In order for your studying to bear fruit, you need to know where you’ll study, when, and for how long. You are lucky because the answer is right here. 😃

Where? Study in isolation, away from distractions. Keep your phone on airplane mode. Your one and only focus should be on your study material. If you feel distracted by social media, set a time limit for your homework; that way, you will be motivated to finish instead of piling your homework up for a “later date” that might never come.

When? Early. The later it is in the day, the more tired you’ll be. There is less of a chance that you will study efficiently.

How long? You should study for 50 minutes, with a 10-minute break. The break is just as important as studying. And no, the break is not for texting or surfing the Internet. Walk around a bit, stretch, and do your business before sitting down again for another round of work.

3. Schedule it.📅

The worst time to study is when you “get time”, because you most likely won’t spend it productively. In the end, you’ll probably study the day before your exam. So, write a schedule! If you know you have a biology quiz every Wednesday, mark your calendars. If your teacher tells you to expect a quiz next week, write it down! You don’t want to be in the “Just found out about the test tomorrow” category 😬. First, you need to know what you are doing and when. Then, you can take action.

4. Quiz and Recall 📝

You need to study like you will teach it. No, I’m not kidding. Instead of reading your notes thousands of times quietly to yourself, here is what you should do. Go over your notes once or twice. Then, put them under a large book so you can’t access them easily. Now, explain them to your imaginary “students”. The first time I did this, my mom came up to my room and asked me if I was okay. I said I had a magnificent tutor who was teaching me the material. A week later, I got my quiz results and when my mom saw, she told me my “tutor” had done an excellent job 💖. Remember the golden rule. Don’t memorize, Understand. When you “teach” the material, do it in your own words, not from the words of your teachers. Teaching someone or lecturing out loud is a great way to understand your test material.

5. Start Early

Assignments. They are monotonous and it’s hard to get a good grade. Only, what if they actually aren’t so hard? The only way to stop bombing assignments is to start your assignments/projects early and work on them often. You should start early, preferably the day you get them, so you don’t keep pushing them for a later date. Start when the information is fresh in your mind and so you clearly remember the teacher’s explanation of the project. Do small chunks of the assignment daily, and in full detail. Lastly, set an arbitrary deadline and use those small deadlines to finish before that deadline. In the end, you don’t want to present your teacher with a bad assignment, though it is finished. It has to be done, and well done 👏.

Hopefully, this article has shed some light on your study habits, and pushed you in the right direction.

***If you have reached the end of this article by skimming through, here are the 5 tips in summary***

->Study hard and with full focus instead of reading your notes absentmindedly with a side of distractions.

->Study in isolation, early, and in 50 minute periods with a 10-minute break.

->Schedule your tests, quizzes, and assignments so as the date nears you can approach the deadline confidently.

->Learn information as if you were going to teach it, and don’t memorize, understand.

Start assignments early and complete them in small chunks.

Comment if you follow any of these tips already. How are they working for you?

∞💖 ~nikita


Why You Are Not a Failure

In today’s day and age, it may feel almost impossible to stop comparing yourself to others. As we’re constantly surrounded by picture-perfect ideals and expectations that are almost burdening, it seems like being a failure is inevitable. But before we discuss anything else, we must define failure. A quick google search has taken me to the definition, “a lack of success,” but then, what is success? If you haven’t found the pattern yet, failure and success are two of the most relative words in the English language. They are what make comparing so easy, yet so difficult, because everyone’s definition of those two words can vary to an incredible degree..

You are you, and I am me. As two totally different people, we can have two totally different outlooks on life. While I might think that a B is an acceptable grade to earn on an exam, you might say otherwise and feel upset if you don’t receive anything higher than an A. While I might think that running the 400 meter sprint is easy, the 50 meter sprint might be difficult for you. And this is why comparing ourselves to others never works, because at the end of the day, there is no one else in the world exactly like us. Sure, there might be someone that has played the violin for exactly 6 years and 4 months, or takes the exact same math class as you, but they might have a much stricter self-discipline or come from a different country.

Disappointment is natural, but don’t let it bring you down. In whatever circumstance you’re in right now, there will always be more chances. While life is unfair, it fortunately is not a simple one-step task. If you flunked a test, you still have other tests, marking periods, and years of schooling. It won’t affect you for the next 30 years of your life. If you didn’t get the job, there are millions of other jobs you can apply for. Just because you didn’t achieve what you wanted, or didn’t meet the expectations you set, it does not make you a failure. So the next time *insert name here* (or even yourself) tells you that you did horrible on a test, at a swim meet, or a music competition, just know that if you tried your best, it is nothing but success.


The Story You Need to Hear

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

Why am I not good enough?

This was a question I used to mull over constantly in middle school. I told myself I wasn’t good at anything, that I had no special talents or skills. It’s not that I was lazy. I worked very hard. Yet, even when I studied days before an exam, I’d obtain the same results as some of my naturally brighter friends. Somehow, this actually felt worse. Whenever it was time to take an exam, I would walk into the classroom, sit in my seat, and think: I’m not going to do as well as I should.

I was insecure over just about everything — my intellect, my looks, my body, my personality. I felt surrounded by a sea of people, friends and strangers, who were all smarter, prettier, and funnier than I was. Whenever someone paid me a compliment, I would secretly reject it, because I had convinced myself that they were merely doing so out of pity.

I’ve always been a writer, journaling in my sparkly pink notebook since elementary school, well before my teenage insecurities set in. In the depths of my depression, writing became my first and most reliable outlet: I journaled daily, pouring my frustrations out onto the page. It felt safe. It wasn’t like social media; I could say anything I wanted. The change for the better began when an opportunity finally presented itself — and at school of all places! — in the form of an English assignment.

We were to write a persuasive speech on a topic that affected us personally, and the goal was to change the thinking and behavior of our peers. This was the perfect opportunity for me to share my thoughts on insecurity with my classmates. However, I hesitated for a bit. On the one hand, I felt prepared, because I’d been writing about this stuff for weeks already. On the other hand, it was the very last thing I wanted to do because it meant opening up and getting vulnerable.

Sitting in front of my computer late at night, spiral notebook open on my lap, I tried to type out my first few words… and failed miserably. Twenty minutes in, and I was still staring at a blank screen. Frustrated, I turned to the beginning of the notebook, and began to flip through it for inspiration. As I looked back over it all, I began to develop a much keener sense of my own emotional life, as well as insight into my own patterns. Wanting to get this new perspective down, I treated it like any other night at the diary. I ignored the assignment, and pretended like the public-speaking component didn’t exist. This, I told myself, was a private speech I was going to deliver to my fragile, insecure self — to the girl that I caught staring back at me, helpless in the mirror, on a really bad day. Soon enough, my fingers were flying across the keyboard, faster than my brain could keep up. Before I knew it, I was looking at a ten-minute speech that needed to be reduced to five.

This was a better problem to have than an empty screen, but still a problem nonetheless. As the nature of the project came back into focus, I started to ask the obvious. What do I feel comfortable with my friends hearing? What would be too embarrassing to share? How vulnerable is too vulnerable? Then, something interesting happened. The thought seemed to turn on its head, and I began to think less about my image, and more about my friends and their insecurities. Did they have insecurities like mine? What sorts of things would they most benefit from hearing? Was I in a privileged position to speak on this matter? After all, I wasn’t trying to convince them that I was insecure. They probably knew that already. Moreover, the point of the speech wasn’t simply to change their thoughts, but their behaviors as well. I wanted them to feel less insecure too.

This was the first time I truly thought about insecurity as a social and cultural issue. The assignment forced me to connect my specific experiences with a stance on adolescent insecurity in general.

Indeed, I was only able to generalize about our modern culture of insecurity — the dangers of social media, the ubiquity of cliques and bullying, the demands placed on teens to succeed academically — by first revealing the conditions behind my own poor self-esteem. For example, in order for my listeners to take me seriously, and connect with me on a deeper level, I needed to open up about the physical and emotional abuse I went through at an early age. I needed to talk about how my parents disciplined me when I misbehaved; how they repeatedly reminded me that I wasn’t as good as my genius younger brother; how my mother sent me to elementary school without a packed lunch some days because “I didn’t deserve her food”. I needed to lay my soul bare. Once they saw me as an authority on insecurity, then maybe they’d listen to what I had to say about the problem at large, and how to address it.

Sitting in class, half-listening to what the students before me were sharing, I felt plagued by insecurity even then. It’s not like I had discovered the key to happiness. The speech didn’t go that deeply into any secret tips or life-hacks. It was more of a communication of the problem than any well thought-out call to action. For this reason, I was worried it might fail — that it, like me, just wasn’t good enough.

Standing in front of twenty students, a teacher, and a camera, pages rattling in my hand, I began in a trembling voice:

“Envision yourself standing in front of a mirror…”

After several minutes ticked past, I was finished. There was a brief pause, my last words suspended in the air. Suddenly, the class erupted in applause. Moreover, I saw my teacher, sitting in the back of the room next to the camera, wiping tears from the corners of her eyes. Except it wasn’t shameful crying: it was born out of emotional connection, and I felt a small victory in being able to finally communicate some of the feelings that had led me to isolate. My teacher looked up at me and nodded, giving me approval, and acknowledging my bravery. Some of the students were misty-eyed too. I was stunned as one of my friends proceeded to grab a box of Kleenex and distribute tissues to the rest of the class, even if it was intended as a joke.

Though I was relieved the speech was finally over, I felt even more startled by this big reaction. Other students in the grade wanted to read my speech, and I happily accepted. It’s not as if I delivered the speech and then everything was sunshine, puppies, and rainbows. However, I couldn’t help but recognize the fact that it had touched my teacher and classmates. Moreover, I had to admit, delivering it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was an empowering moment in which I took a chance and allowed myself to be vulnerable. The chance paid off.

This experience made me stronger. It also made me more interested in mental health. I am especially interested in coming up with self-care techniques, and new perspectives, to help teens like myself deal with the low self-esteem that can plague them simply by being subjected to the pressures of modern life. Recently, I’ve decided to take the dynamic a step further. I am in the process of writing a self-help book, for teens by a teen. Perhaps the negative experiences I went through will become more meaningful if I share them with others, so they can better deal with their own issues. If I’m able to help even one struggling teenager out there, I will be beyond honored, and will consider this project a huge success. Still, even if I only end up helping myself — that will be more than enough.


The Battle With Anxiety

Often times, being a teenager can feel like you’re fighting everybody, when what you are really fighting is yourself. It’s exhausting!

Anxiety disorders are a serious matter. 60% of children with anxiety disorders and clinical depression go undiagnosed. Perhaps it’s because we’re scared to talk to people, or that people are too scared to listen.

Now, I’m not trying to scare you. As teenagers, we go through phases. Rebellious phases, goth phases or just plain phases of anxiety or depression. These phases are usually harmless; it’s just your body trying to figure out who you are.

How do we tell the difference between a phase of anxiety and an anxiety disorder?

It’s like watching a scary movie with a little kid. After watching the movie, maybe the kid would be scared and refuse to sleep. Maybe they would be nervous to go to their room. After the phase of anxiety, the child would forget the movie and continue to be their happy, lively self. If it were an anxiety disorder, the kid would have repetitive nightmares, they would have a constant fear of everything around them. They would always be noticeably nervous.

How can you help yourself?

Note: these methods will only help, so long as your anxiety is mild. These remedies will soothe you, but not necessarily cure you. If you feel troubled constantly, please, go see a doctor.

Stay active: If you’re an outdoorsy person, go on a hike, hit the gym! Take up a sport! Take your mind off of everything for a while. Stop overthinking!

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee: No more of that! Try to reduce your caffeine intake. Drink caffeine-free tea, water, fresh fruit juice. Switch to healthier options!

Meditate: Try to sit in one place, close your eyes and think about nothing. Think about calmness and peace. Don’t bother about your school, or relationships, or school relationships. Let it go.

Read a little, take a walk, a relaxing bath. BREATHE. Whatever you need to do.


– XOXO Sarah


What to Do When You’re Lost

No, not physically lost, mentally lost. How do we get back on the railroad track that takes us away from the bumpy past?

Here is the thing. In order to be lost, you need to recognize it. Don’t lie to yourself. You won’t be able to fix something unless you realize it is broken. Once you have acknowledged the issue, we now face a fork in the road.

Teens can get lost for many reasons. The pressure from overcoming family problems to insecurities and high expectations, we often feel like we can’t get around it. However, there is a way of getting past the problem instead of going into it. Naturally, the human brain looks for ways to get around obstacles, but they are not always the most reliable. For example, people look to drugs, alcohol, or even self-harm as a way of “distraction” from their issues, but they don’t realize that they are just making more problems for themselves. So let’s say we have already gone down this road, we have gotten ourselves into a deep mess, so how do we get out?

1. Ask Smart Questions

People often make the mistake of thinking they have everything figured out. The more certain you are about reality, the vague your understanding really is. This is almost always true.

If your life isn’t where you want it to be, it should be evident that you don’t have access to the right information. Search for it. Ask questions. They won’t just come to you, so think. Thinking gives you answers, and if you want answers, look for them.

2. Take Some Form of Action

Of course, you can’t just think your way to success, you need to act upon it.

I always tell people the same thing through writing. I can’t make you do anything. No one can. Though it is a cliche, at some point, you will have to dig yourself out of what you went into. Here’s as close as I can get you. You just have to find a way to get all riled up in your mind. Just tell yourself, “Screw it. I’m doing this”. It’s not enough to know you can do it, you actually have to do it. Pump up your emotional state and get it to the point where you will finally initiate change.

“Brainwashing” yourself with positive quotes and encouragement is enough to get you inches in front of the door. You still have to open it, though.

Once you become a do-er instead of a motivated watcher, your momentum will carry you through life. You won’t have to “get motivated” anymore, you’ll be motivated by default.

Of course, you’ll never get there until you start. So start! It doesn’t even matter what you do at first, but you need to slowly step back and understand the painting you are creating. Is this the direction you want your life to take?

Learn where you stand now, and where you wish to be in the future. With effort, life will carry you there. Ask questions and work to answer them. Get started and create momentum.


Learning to Love Yourself: 4 Ways to Discover Self-Worth

Let’s face it. So many teenagers are struggling with self-acceptance: 78% of girls in America are unhappy about their bodies by the time they reach 17, according to the Park Nicollet Melrose Center. That’s an incredible number. When we’re caught up in comparing our bodies to others, our worth to others, it’s hard to find the things we love about us. Self-love is something that many teenagers lack, though it’s arguably the most important type of love. You need to be able to love yourself before you can love others. Self-love results in self-worth and self-confidence, all of which will lead you to live a more fulfilling life.

1. Write a list of qualities you love about yourself.

Write out your strengths; write out what makes you, you. Maybe you’re a good leader, a diligent student, or an empathetic friend. If you find yourself struggling with self-worth, it may be difficult to produce a list of things that you truly love about yourself. Or maybe you haven’t given it much thought. Either way, ask your friends or family members to tell you the traits that they love about you. You might be surprised to hear some of the things they have to say.

2. Write a list of qualities you don’t like about yourself.

Loving yourself means to fully embrace every aspect of yourself. Though celebrating your strengths is very important, recognizing your weaknesses is just as meaningful. We need to recognize that we aren’t perfect. Learning to love our flaws and imperfections is the only way we can become whole.

3. Use positive affirmations.

I like to tell myself in the mirror every morning, “you are beautiful. You are strong.” I often have a hard time finding beauty in myself and I used to hide from challenges because I didn’t think I could face them. I heard this piece of advice from an “older sister” I look up to. After repeating these affirmations for about a month, I started to notice positive changes in myself. I started to reach out to more people, I had the confidence to start my blog. I felt accepted.

Lavendaire, a self-care and personal growth YouTube channel, has a link to some really great affirmations you can download: https://lavendaire.lpages.co/affirmations/

Although doing so may seem a bit weird at first, the affirmations will eventually be ingrained into your mind, causing you to unconsciously believe in them. You can also write out the positive affirmations and repeat them to yourself daily. You’ll feel your confidence growing until you’ve finally reached the point where your self-worth is solid.

Find a mirror and try it right now. I am confident. I am loved. I am protected. I am beautiful. I am enough.

4. Write a list of 5 things you’re grateful for everyday.

At the end of each day, I try to write down five things I am grateful for. It challenges me to think about and appreciate the little things I take for granted. Just try it for a week, then maybe try doing it for a month. The more things you can find gratitude in, the more fulfilling your life will feel. The more you focus on the positive, the happier you will feel.

In order to feel at peace and ease your mind, it’s important to know that you are worthy. Learning to love yourself is basically building a relationship with yourself, and all relationships take time to grow. So, be patient with yourself because the end result is going to be so worth it.

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try loving yourself.”

– Louise L. Hay –


How to Fight Against Insecurity

We’ve all had moments where we felt like we weren’t good enough. Especially as teenagers growing up in a modern world, resisting the urge to compare ourselves to others has become a major challenge. When people around us are sharing all about their latest achievements and posting pictures with their perfectly content family, is it even possible to resist comparing?

Comparison makes us feel like we’re not worthy enough. I’ve scrolled through social media countless times only to find others living much better lives than mine. I look at how much of a loser I must be to not be at the party everyone else is enjoying or not receiving a desirable test score. However, my journey to recover from constant comparison began when I realized just how much I was destroying my self esteem.

I started to seek validation from the number of likes I got on an Instagram post or the comments my followers wrote. However, most of us trapped in our own bubble fail to realize one major problem: social media only showcases the best aspects of someone’s life. It’s easy to slap on filters and show people “Look at me, my life is amazing!”, though that is hardly ever the case in reality.

Insecurity is accompanied by an inner voice, which is what makes it so dangerous. If we receive an unwanted grade in a class, the inner voice tells us that we aren’t smart enough. In this way, insecurity can impact our physical behaviors when left unchecked. It holds us back from trying new things and we become stagnant.

In addition to social media, perfectionism can be a cause of insecurity for many. Our senses and emotions are especially heightened at this age and a simple mistake can be greatly magnified by our perception. If we can’t complete a task without the end result being “perfect”, we feel limited in our abilities; we feel incapable of the skills needed to complete the task. So, here are some action steps I found particularly useful in my journey to recognize insecurity and how to fight it.

1. No one’s perfect.

Let’s face the bad news. There will always be someone out of the 1.2 billion teenagers in this world who is better than you at a particular aspect in life, whether it be academics, music, or video games. You will always be able to tell yourself that someone is more talented or better looking than you are. When you measure your self-worth in relation to others, your self esteem will quickly spiral downwards. We often feel insecure because we start to judge without much information. That talented pianist with a stack of trophies may seem like he has a perfect life, but that’s only because you don’t know about his past failures. What you have to recognize is that you are probably more skilled in other areas than they are. There’s good news: out of the 1.2 billion teens in this world, no one is perfect.

2. Follow those who empower you on social media.

It is often hard to decipher a user’s entire life story by only looking at a picture. If a particular person constantly makes you look down on yourself, consider unfollowing them or hiding their content. My mom often tells me that if people try to portray their lives online as better than the lives of others, they probably harbor their own set of insecurities. They feel the need to prove that they are somehow worthy, and “showing off” online seems to be the most convenient option. However, instead of focusing on what other people are doing, try to focus on how you can improve yourself. As Post Malone tweeted: “I’m too busy watering my own grass to check if yours is greener.” Use social media to boost your self-esteem by following accounts that life you up, not bring you down.

3. Set lower goals for yourself.

Relating back to perfectionism–you might feel like you can’t accomplish a certain task because everything has to go the way you want it to. Give yourself some space to breathe and recognize that it’s okay to make mistakes. Though you’ve probably heard it many times, failure is truly a part of success, and should be taken as a learning experience. Lowering your standards can allow you to achieve your goals faster. Don’t feel bad about doing so because as long as you are moving forward, you will be able to reach your final destination.

We can never fully get rid of insecurities, but only learn to reject the feeling of shame that comes with it. Learning to do so is also a journey that takes time. Rejecting insecurity takes practice and resilience. Stand in front of a mirror and look at your eyes, your lips, your cheekbones. Look at your scars and imperfections, and tell yourself, “I’m good enough” because, indeed, you are.


Self-Improvement for Beginners

When you think of the word ‘self-improvement’, the first images that may pop up in your head are deep breathing exercises, bullet journals, and yoga. Maybe it makes you think of a perfect morning routine with a cold glass of water and a 15 minute jog outside at 5:30. However, this does not work for all of us. Though these forms of self-improvement are highly effective when relieving stress, it is not the only way to handle our anxieties. 

Then, what is self-improvement?

Self improvement can be defined as “the process of making yourself a more knowledgeable person.” It involves activities that help us improve ourselves. We’ve heard of the basics: meditation, exercising, eating healthy meals, but there are many other forms of self-improvement that many of us overlook.

1) Write about your negative feelings

If you’ve ever ranted or vented about your problems to someone else, you are probably familiar with the satisfying feeling of your problems lifting off your shoulders. You may feel more refreshed, and ultimately, less stressed. Writing about your negative feelings—on paper or online—can bring the same feeling of fulfilment. You don’t always have to rely on a friend to hear out your problems, and you don’t have to feel like your problems are much too large to handle, either. For me personally, having my negative thoughts and emotions there on a sheet of paper before me seems to make my anxieties and worries more manageable. They aren’t gruesome monsters anymore, hiding in the dark corners of my mind—I could see them outside of me and acknowledge their existence.

2) Using art as an outlet

Almost all artists nowadays use a form of art to express their thoughts and emotions. Some may even use music to inspire themselves and others who may be going through a similar situation as them. Artwork, in a similar sense, has the same effect. If you are ever feeling stuck in a situation, expressing yourself through art can really take your mind off of things.

3) Write a letter to your future self

You may have been forced to do this as a school assignment in previous years, but doing so every year is a way to keep track of change. In letters like these, try asking questions to your future self. Here are some questions for inspiration:

– Have you reached [specific goal] yet?

– How are your friends doing? Are they well?

– Have you resolved [conflict]?

– How are your grades?

Make it enjoyable for yourself, because the only eyes that will see the letter is you and you-in-the-future.

Remember: everyone is capable of self-improvement.


5 Simple Ways to Change Your Life for 2020

As the year of 2019 comes to an end and you begin to prepare for the next year, you may be looking forward to implementing new goals and resolutions. Here are five simple ways you can change your lifestyle for the better.

1. Prioritize exercise & implement healthier food choices

Instead of turning to fast foods which may seem like the more convenient option, look into consuming plant-based and organic products. Knowing nutritional foods are going into your body, you will feel much better about yourself. This also goes for exercise: staying fit and active is empowering and will help you feel more self-confident.

2. Start meditating

This practice may be difficult to start, but remember: consistency is key. Before going to bed or right when you wake up, sit upright and close your eyes for just two minutes. Focus on your breathing and clear your mind. There are no negative consequences that follow meditation, so just try it!

3. Start journaling

Seriously. I’ve been journaling for years now and it’s something I would highly recommend to everyone. Journaling is just ranting about your problem on a sheet of paper, scribbling your negative emotions away. Why keep the emotions cooped up inside of you? Think of it as sharing your secrets with your closest friend, with the added bonus of knowing that what is said in the journal, stays in the journal. If you’re someone who wakes up early in the mornings, try setting goals you want to accomplish by the end of the day. If you’re like me and would rather catch more sleep, try writing at night before bed and reflect on your day. Ask yourself: how can I be a better person tomorrow?

4. Make the effort to read daily (and commit to it!)

Let’s face it: reading is often overlooked by teenagers and it’s something many of us want to avoid. We make excuses to avoid reading; we might have too much homework that night or we might be too tired. However, the point is not to read as much as possible, but rather, to be consistent about it. Even ten pages a night will accumulate and will bring benefits in the long run. And if that doesn’t seem doable, try 5 minutes.

Reading opens our minds to new ideas and perspectives. If you really think about it, a book is a compilation of someone’s best research, wisdom, and knowledge. Years of their efforts are put into that book, and it’s available for you in an accessible format. Due to these reasons, books are arguably the cheapest and most efficient ways to learn.

5. Go on a social media cleanse at least once this year

A social media cleanse is exactly what it sounds like: deleting social media apps for a set amount of time. Yes, the idea may sound frightening. But trust me, it will be worth it. From all my friends who have went on these cleanses before (myself included), I have yet to hear negative feedback about their experiences.

A cleanse can be just two weeks without Instagram or any other app you spend too much time on. You will find yourself being more engaged in actual relationships with others and the time that would normally be spent on social media would go towards an activity that is more productive and beneficial. It’s a good way to refocus your goals and your priorities. You have a life to live; not everything is behind that smartphone screen.

5 Productivity Tips from an Obsessive Planner

If there’s one thing I’m proud of, it’s my ability to stay organized. I need a plan for everything: I plan out my day, my week, my month, my quarter-year, my half-year, and my full year. Over the summer of 2020, I would pull up a weekly spreadsheet and indicate how many hours I would dedicate to studying, exercising, and even eating. It might sound excessive, but this method actually works. I wasn’t setting myself up for burnout and I could see where my hours were being spent overall.

(Spreadsheet organizing how many hours per day I spent on my activities, 2020.)

Okay, fine, maybe this is a little too much. I never revisited this method again… in fact, I moved onto Google Calendar to overfill my schedule with activities. Below, you can see a snapshot of what my schedule looked like in 2021. I now use three different planners (Notion, Motemote 10 minutes planner, regular school planner), two calendars (one online, one offline), and a bullet journal—all to keep my productivity in check.

Looking back at my previous calendars, I don’t know how I managed to handle all my workload properly. But maintaining a work-life balance is a conversation to be held at another time. Here are some of my tips for getting started on productivity and making the most out of your time.

(This is NOT a sustainable schedule.)

If you’re overwhelmed, BRAIN DUMP

We all have to begin somewhere. When I feel like my anxieties are swirling around in my brain, I have trouble getting started. So I dump my tasks on a planner or my computer to externalize my overwhelmed thoughts.

Once you have your tasks down, split your larger tasks, like “write an essay,” into smaller chunks like “write an outline,” “write a draft,” and “revise.” You will feel so much better just seeing everything written out and your tasks will feel much more manageable. Then, estimate the amount of time a certain activity will take; for example, writing my outline could take 30 minutes, then drafting could take 45, and revising would take another 15. See? That monster of a task no longer feels as daunting. When I begin my work, I set a timer and try my best to adhere to my set time goals. That way, I can focus all of my energy on a single task rather than getting distracted—scrolling through Instagram for a few minutes could expand into hours before I realize I’ve completely forgotten that outline sitting open on my computer. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

Write three of your most important tasks on a Post-It

Another tip for managing your looming stressors: choose your top three priorities and write them on a Post-It to stick on your wall, your laptop, or your desk so you’re constantly reminded of your tasks. Maybe you’re looking at the list you brain-dumped, and you think, “How in the world am I going to get all of this done? There aren’t enough hours in a day for me to do all this.”

Instead of telling yourself, “I have to do this many tasks,” rewire your thinking to “I’ll do as much as I can in half an hour.” Don’t stress over how much you’re getting done because getting a little bit of work done is better than none at all. By knocking out your three most important tasks—preferably ones you’ve been procrastinating for a while—you can physically feel that heavy weight lifting off your shoulders.

Pomodoro Technique for time blocking

If setting time blocks for each of your tasks seems too restrictive, or if you have to cover a large task like studying for a test, you can set a general time limit through the Pomodoro Technique. “The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they have—rather than against it,” Kat Boogaard from The Muse wrote. “Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. These intervals are referred to as pomodoros.” Similar to timing your tasks, the Pomodoro Technique instills a sense of urgency because you know that your days are not endless stretches of time.

It’s also common to vary your pomodoros: I like to do 50 minutes of work and 10 minutes of break time if I don’t want to break off the flow of my work too early. Payscale wrote that it could take up to 30 minutes for you to enter your flow state, also known as getting “in your zone.” But if you have trouble focusing for extended periods, you can set 30 minutes for work and 30 minutes for a break. Remember to pace yourself!

If it takes less than 10 minutes, do it immediately

It could be reorganizing your cluttered desk. It could be sending an email. It could be filling out a form. How many times have you put off menial tasks because you trusted that you would get back to them at a later time? Not only do we procrastinate on big tasks as I mentioned earlier, but we also put off the tiniest of tasks. Smaller tasks usually don’t have a set deadline, so it’s easier to avoid them. To overcome this, simply just do it. Do it before the thought of an unfinished task festers in the deep depths of your mind.  

We especially put off tasks when there’s an emotional trigger associated with them. For example, maybe you’re dreading a teacher’s response to your email, so you push aside writing it. “We put off a lot of little things and they become big in our minds because we experience the amygdala hijack,” Timothy Pychyl, a psychology professor and author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, said. He refers to the emotional response that is inconsistent with the actual trigger. “We have a negative reaction the moment we think of the task, and that has a tendency to feed on itself.” Thus, you might get stuck in an endless loop of hopelessness (which we don’t want).

Lastly, an excerpt from my book (Chapter 5: Social Media): Eliminate distractions

“‘Forest: Stay Focused’ is the best app I would recommend for productivity. I downloaded it in middle school after viewing several YouTube sponsor advertisements about the app. The app is very simple: you set a timer and start working on your task. Once you sow a seed in the Forest, it will grow into a full plant once the time is up. When you exit out of Forest to check your messages or reply to a notification, a banner will appear, warning you that your tree will die if you don’t return to the app immediately. When you do leave the app for longer, the growing plant will wither.

There is even a group feature where you and your friends can plant a tree together. If one person leaves the app, the tree withers for everyone. This serves as even more of a deterrent to procrastination because you wouldn’t want to be the one to kill the trees. The Forest app basically forces you to stay on task as it makes you forget about your notifications. You can’t check them, anyways. The app comes with a huge bonus: as you accumulate more coins, the app even allows you to plant real trees.”

At the end of the day, productivity is all relative to your situation. Always remember that every hour does not have to be filled with something “productive” because, then, you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. Far too many times, I set an endless task list for myself, just to spend the entire day getting distracted and accomplishing nothing. Rather than berating yourself for not accomplishing what you wanted, practice speaking kind words to yourself. Productivity is all about routine and discipline: splitting up large projects so you’re not staying up until 3 a.m. to finish them, focusing for longer periods of time without getting distracted, planning your days—they all take time to set in

Written by: Gia Shin

Illustration by: Valerie Kuek Weng Yi


TW: Eating Disorders and self-harm ideation 

I want to preface this piece first by saying that I am okay. I am on a path to healing, and while it may not be linear, I am working on fostering a healthier relationship with food and my body. Reflecting back, quarantine has severely impacted the way I see food and my body, and this short creative non-fiction seeks to provide some insight into what I was going through at the time. For anyone who has struggled or is struggling with body issues and disordered eating, I want you to know that I hear you, I see you, and you are definitely not alone. I wish you the best on your journey to recovery. I know how hard it can be and I’m proud of you! If you are fortunate to have never experienced anything similar to what I talk about in this piece, I hope that you can at least enjoy my honest reflection and be more conscientious about the way you talk about food during this holiday season to look out for those of us who are still working on our relationship with food.


I don’t have an eating disorder. Or at least I don’t think I can call it that. I’m not diagnosed; I’m not sticking fingers into my throat to make myself vomit in the bathroom. I’m not bone-skinny thinking I need to lose just a bit more weight to be of value.

I’ve never even seriously lost weight. Every time I try, I end up quitting halfway before the results show because I love food too much to give it up for beauty. I love the flavors exploding in my mouth like tiny fireworks sending happy chemicals to my brain. When I feel empty inside, it keeps my stomach full, and that’s close enough to the heart to make it hurt less.

But I know what 1200 calories look like. I know where to look up the exact calorie content of each of the ingredients in my meals and snacks—even the fruit—and I know it’s better to drink cold water to help metabolize faster. I know how to quickly add up the numbers in my head without saying them out loud like I do in math class, how to shove smaller heaps of food into my mouth and count to at least twenty while I chew, ritually. I know how to excuse myself from the table, to drink the extra 25 calories worth of Yakult to get rid of the 500 worth of my lunch sitting in my intestines. I know the bedtime rumble of my stomach far too well I’ve learned to mistake the hurt as fullness.

I didn’t think anything of it, at least not until I blacked out for half a minute getting up from what was probably a knee push-up. I had been working out then, thirty minutes a day at first, and then forty-five, and then an hour or more. I racked up my calorie expenditure as much as possible, tackling HIIT circuits I wouldn’t have dared to try otherwise just to burn an extra hundred. I stood up and the room disappeared from before my eyes. Next thing I knew, I was on the floor; my head missed the table by a quarter of an inch.

I was eating around 1200 calories a day and burning 300 from work-outs in the office. I was constantly cold. Incessantly anxious. Restless but tired. I craved pizza and bubble tea and all the high-calorie foods I convinced myself I couldn’t have. I didn’t eat after 7:30 pm—I tried intermittent fasting too. My body was protesting hard but I refused to see the signs. I needed that calorie deficit, more than anything in life.

I don’t have an eating disorder. That’s what I keep telling myself. But I binge eat and feel disgusted by myself and try to eat only 1200 calories the following day, ignore the emptiness in my stomach that became pain, work out till I have to will myself into not passing out. I look in the mirror and hate what I see. I’ve tried diets, thought about eating bananas—a single bite of which would give me hours of gut-wrenching pain, literally—to induce diarrhea, imagined taking a pair of scissors and cutting out the flabby tissue I didn’t want to see on me.

I know 1200 calories are not enough, but how I want that model body fit for bikinis on the beach.

*1200 calories is the calorie requirement of a typical toddler. An average healthy adult who exercises moderately needs around 2000 calories daily to maintain weight.

**I lost 7 pounds over two and a half months during quarantine in 2020, after which I stopped counting calories.

Misconceptions About Mental health: Myths vs Facts

The mental health community has long been plagued with false and harmful labels simply due to a lack of awareness and empathy; uneducated “truths” about mental health that were commonly believed as recently as the twentieth century don’t hold up as well today, and likely contributed to the overwhelmingly negative stigma around mental illnesses. Unfortunately, the rapid spread of misinformation over social media has only worsened these unjust preconceptions. To combat this dangerous spread of ignorance, America recently began educating its younger generation on mental health. In 2018, a bill was put into place, requiring all schools in New York to implement mental health awareness into their curriculum from K-12, making it one of the few states in America so far to have enforced mandatory mental health education (Lubell and Snow, “More states requiring mental health education by law”). This post will go over many of the common misconceptions that people may have about mental health, its causes, its effects, and solutions in the hopes of building a more positive and educated view towards the community. 

Myth: Mental health issues are uncommon

Mental health issues are extremely common. The World Health Organization reported in 2001 that approximately “one in four people” are affected by mental disorders “at some point in their lives” and that currently “450 million people” suffer from those disorders (“The World Health Report 2001: Mental Disorders affect one in four people”). The most common of these in America include depression and anxiety, which each affect “16.1 million” and “40 million” adults in the United States (“Anxiety & Depression Association of America”). 

Given these alarmingly large numbers, it may be that one of your close friends or family may be suffering from these disorders, so take the steps to reach out and regularly check up on them. You can seek out advice on how to provide support here.

Myth: People with mental health issues cannot function in a work or school environment

Though mental health issues can act as a barrier between a person and productivity, one’s mental condition does not immediately define their capability to complete work. We should not be so quick to shut someone down simply for something out of their control. This myth is especially harmful considering that American society tends to base someone’s value off of their contribution to their community and cause people to deem the mentally ill as unimportant. This often results in people being reluctant to get the help they need and the exclusion of the mentally ill from the workplace. The World Health Organization addressed and countered this workplace discrimination by proclaiming that “The cost to society of excluding people with [mental disorders] from taking an active part in community life is high. This exclusion often leads to diminished productivity and losses in human potential,” (“Nations for Mental Health report on mental health and work in 2000”). 

As a solution, school and work environments could take bigger steps to ensure their people are provided with the resources and support that will help their mental health thrive. The proper treatment can result in “increased productivity [and] lower absenteeism” (“Mental Health Myths and Facts”). Rather than excluding people due to false stereotypes, we should work towards supportive environments that support everyone’s mental health.  

Myth: People choose to be mentally ill

Oftentimes, in response to hearing about someone with a mental disorder, people respond with negative comments to discredit their struggle. Phrases such as “eating disorders are a choice” and “addiction proves you are weak” not only are false, but also invalidate someone’s suffering. 

Many external factors contribute to someone’s development of a mental health issue, such as “biological factors,” “injury,” “life experiences” and “family history of mental health problems,” (“Mental Health Myths and Facts”). A mental illness is not simply a result of a lack of proper willpower, but can be a result of factors completely out of our control.

Myth: People with mental illnesses are dangerous

The US National Library of Medicine National says, “Compared to other sociodemographic and historical factors, the contribution of mental illness to the overall risk of violence in society as a whole is relatively small,” (Rueve and Welton, “Violence and Mental Illness”). This suggests that mental illness and violence do not go hand in hand as often as people think. 

Although there is sometimes a correlation between violence and mental illnesses, it is not as common as advertised, and the link has been exaggerated thanks to the dramaticized coverage of the media. News outlets frequently amplify any occasion of violence because they are aware of the attention it garners, which holds no exception to mentally beings, potentially leading to the widespread belief that mental illness comes with violence. Steven Pinker argues in his article “The Media Exaggerates Negative News. This Distortion Has Consequences” that people’s views are ruled by the tone of the media they consume, such as gory news headlines. He points out that “because tornadoes make for better television,” people rank tornadoes higher than asthma in cause of death. This phenomenon can be explained by the idea that “whenever a memory [appears often in the] mind […] for reasons other than frequency—because it is recent, vivid, gory, distinctive, or upsetting—people will overestimate how likely it is in the world.”


“Anxiety & Depression Association of America”

“Mental Health Myths and Facts”

“More states requiring mental health education by law”

“Nations for Mental Health report on mental health and work in 2000”

“Violence and Mental Illness”

The Media Exaggerates Negative News. This Distortion Has Consequences