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  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Lifestyle, Mental Health, School, Tips

    Staying Motivated in School

    Lisda Kania Yuliani on Unsplash

    School can eventually begin to feel like a chore you don’t want to do. The days can blend together and you get tired of having to do homework or tests every day. While walking through the halls, you can often hear someone comment on how much they despise school or hate the subject in which they are learning. In reality, no one truly hates school. It can be exhausting, but it can also be a fun, learning experience. Not only to learn about what you’re passionate about but to discover yourself. School enlightens us about our strengths and weaknesses and shows us just how strong we are. We often think we’re much weaker than we are, and when we actually try it can be rewarding.

    People learn in different ways and different paces, so when they don’t understand something, they determine the reason is that they’re not smart enough. This is usually a common obstacle in every student’s life and can be hard to overcome. That’s why motivation is a big factor in staying successful in school. Motivation is the key that helps you when you don’t know how to unlock a door.

    The question everyone asks is how they continue to stay motivated throughout the school year. The first thing people’s mind goes to is studying. But this is not the most important thing, sleep is. In fact, according to Nationwide Children’s, teenagers need approximately nine to nine and a half hours of sleep every night. Those who do not get enough sleep are more likely to have behavior problems, such as noncompliance and hyperactivity. Inadequate sleep may result in problems with attention, memory, decision making, reaction time, and creativity, all of which are important in school. Setting up a sleep schedule and turning all electronics off can help prevent irregular sleep schedules. Getting enough sleep not only improves memory and health, but it also motivates you to try harder and not feel as groggy.

    In addition to sleep, reward and punishment is a good system to stay motivated. While studying for school is essential, having fun should be too. It is okay to let go every once in a while or simply take a break. Studying too much can be boring and lead to frustration, which in return, can affect your schoolwork. It’s mainly about balancing your homework and study time and your activities outside of school, whether that be clubs, sports, or hanging out with friends. The motivation to power through school overall depends on how determined you are. If you don’t put in the work, you don’t get the reward.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Goals, Mental Health, School, Stress, Tips

    Are You Managing Your Time? Or Is Your Time Managing You?

    Staying organized and keeping your schedule up to date is a tricky skill to master. It takes a lot of trial and error, in addition to finding what works for you personally. Without knowing how to properly manage your time, it becomes really easy to fall behind on your assignments and responsibilities. Thus, giving the potential for stress and anxiety. A big part of time management is the ability to prioritize and know when to ask for help. Prioritizing different aspects of your life that require your time is essential to be able to contribute your best effort in each area. Assigning priority can be difficult when it comes to things like personal life or hobbies.

    How do you really know how much time is appropriate to use on certain activities? Remember, trial and error is okay. In a larger sense, prioritizing is about assigning meaning and importance to the things that matter and that you need to accomplish in your life. When thinking about priority and time, you must consider things like deadlines and value. For example, say you have a 100 point final research paper due tomorrow that you’ve been working on for several weeks, that might take priority to finish first over something small like finishing up your BFF’s birthday gift. Finding out what is important to you as a person, and what’s worth your time, will help you make prioritizing an easier step. Keep reading for some extra tips and tricks to ensure you will stay on track and be organized! 

    Tip 1: A Killer Planner

    A good solid planner is critical. There are endless shapes, sizes, colors, and layouts to choose from. Find which works for you! Some people do better seeing their month to month planned out, and some people do better working week to week. Some planners even offer both, it’s up to you. When you think about size, think about how often you want to use it, and how many places you want to be able to take it. Do you have a large bag, where size wouldn’t matter? Or do you need a pocket-sized portable planner? Think about these things when you pick one out. Have fun with it! TJ Maxx and Marshalls are great spots to find discounted fun and effective planners! 

    Tip 2: Highlighters and Post-It Notes

    Using highlighters and Post-It Notes can help catch your eye for reminders, and allow for yourself to leave a visual cue. Similar to the planner, you will find endless colors shapes and sizes. Some people prefer bright neon colors, some respond better to more mellow colors. Sharpie has a great selection of colored highlighters! Post-It Notes have a wide size and color variety. Maybe Post-It tabs work better for you, to serve as a reminder to flip to a certain page or maybe full-sized ones to leave on the mirror to remember things in the morning! These few supplies can go far in your organizing world! 

    Tip 3: Making Errands Fun

    Errands can drag. Spending extended time getting small yet necessary tasks done can be unmotivating and difficult to bring yourself to do. There are a few things you can do to make the time pass and get a little enjoyment. Try bringing a friend along! A lot of times you can find a friend that needs to get some similar stuff done, and the company always makes time go by! Next, bring your headphones! Going grocery shopping? Plug in and focus on that list! Bringing a pair of headphones to the store can make the time go by and give you the choice of what you want to listen to! Finally, don’t feel guilty to reward yourself. If you’re driving around to a bunch of different stores, check out the clearance rack, find yourself a little trinket! Or if you’ve been doing chores and homework all day, make yourself a snack and turn on your favorite show. Taking small breaks is so important to maintaining a productive day. 

  • Articles, College, GirlSpring.com, Lifestyle, Portfolio, School

    Navigating the Road of Life

    road of life

    Everything happens for a reason. It’s cheesy, but it’s true. 

    My life has been like an old, country backroad– full of potholes, unexpected twists, and every once and awhile, a landscape so beautiful that you have to pause for a second to take it in. But every wrong turn and every roadblock that’s come across has led me to where I am now. 

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer; words were the only way I could express myself, remain close to my heart and fuel my passion. So that’s what I’d do: work hard in school, get good grades, and move somewhere beautiful. Somewhere to give my stories inspiration– Arizona or Colorado, preferably. 

    Staying true to my word, I finished high school with great grades, allowing me to have a broad selection of colleges. The University of Colorado at Boulder and Arizona State University were at the top of my list, and after persuading my parents to allow me to go out-of-state for college, we were on our way to multiple college visits. 

    Going Far Away from Home

    The University of Colorado was beautiful and everything I wanted in a school, but sadly, it was completely out of my price range– even with a scholarship. Arizona State University was an amazing journalism school and had the ideal college campus. But when it came down to it, I just didn’t feel like I fit in.

    With foiled plans and a heavy heart, I called off the college search for a while, that is, until my dad brought up the possibility of moving… to Alabama, of all places. He wanted me to visit a few southern schools, just in case, but I knew in my heart that I’d never end up in Alabama.

    Boy, was I wrong. 

    I stepped foot on The University of Alabama’s campus and I knew: this was where I wanted to be for the next four years. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know another soul on campus,  it didn’t matter that it wasn’t one of my previous top choices. This was my school.

    A year and a car full of moving boxes later, we were making the 10-hour trek to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. To the rest of my future. To the many problems (and eventual solutions) that awaited me.

    My Journey has had lots of Detours but I’m Getting There

    As I’m ending my junior year at The University of Alabama, I frequently look back on everything that has gone wrong over the years, realizing every twist and turn has led me to where I am now. 

    Even my three disagreeable roommates my freshman year. They caused me to branch out, meeting new people on a campus of strangers– strangers who ended up being my best friends in the world. 

    Even the dreaded computer science class I had to take as a general education requirement. Without that introductory course, I would never have found my passion (and current minor) in website and software design. 

    Even my less-than-ideal freshman year; in the midst of a long-distance breakup and moving out of my childhood home forever. I was coping with feeling alone and out-of-place. Without experiencing those emotions for the first time, with no one to confide in, I wouldn’t have developed the sense of independence and self-confidence I have now. 

    If those negative feelings had taken control, I would have transferred. But then I wouldn’t have met my best friends. I wouldn’t have branched out with my education. And I wouldn’t have learned as much about myself. My life would be completely different.

    And to think, I had never even considered coming to this school. 

    Life can be crazy and unexpected, and at certain points, there might be more bad times than good. Even when it seems like you’re working towards nothing, you’re still on the right road– potholes and all. 

    Everything happens for a reason, even if you can’t see it. Life is a long, winding road– one you can’t navigate with a GPS. 

    You’ll end up at your destination, nevertheless.

    Sometimes life leads you to unexpected places, or unexpected colleges,  Callie didn’t think she’d like Birmingham Southern but it changed her completely. Read her experience here.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Health, Healthy Eating, School

    School Lunch is Not Meeting its Goal

    food tray

    Are you a parent who constantly hears your child speak about hunger after school? Throughout America, students are complaining about not being provided enough food for lunch. The Federal Nutrition Standards of the USDA in school nutrition needs to change. The portion size of school meals needs to be increased.

    All throughout school we are told that cafeteria food is meant to be healthy and nutritious.Although that may be true, the portion size is simply not enough for students. In 2012, a radio interview was held with Jessica Donze Black, director of Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, Pew Charitable and she says “The United States Department of Agriculture updated the standards for school lunches. In fact most of the standards people are really supportive of. It’s more fruits, more vegetables, more whole grains, low-fat, no-fat dairy, the things we know kids need more of. The standards are intended to meet one-third of the needs of the average child”(Black). With this in mind, I understand that the USDA want students to be healthier, but students are constantly hungry after eating a school lunch after a few hours. Also if the standards are only intended to meet one-third of students,then the majority is not being affected.This defeats the purpose of the Standards. 

    In addition,parents are beginning to realize that their kids are not receiving enough food from school meals.Further on in the radio show, a parent argues back and she claims that her children have been commenting that they are very hungry and that they have noticed that they can’t eat as much at school.She’s had to actually supplement their food with a snack. She sends them a snack every morning so they can eat and not be starving when they get home.This reveals that health is no longer the issue with school food.The issue is the amount of food students are recieveing.As a student, I can see that the food is healthier,but on the downside it is lighter,and it no longer fills up the majority of students.

    Furthermore,the portion size of school lunches has been changed to reduce childhood obesity. This goal is being accomplished, but children are complaining more about being hungry. In Maury Thompson’s article: School Lunch Regulations Still Leaving Students Hungry. Thompson says “The new lunch standards are part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture effort to reduce obesity. In these new standards restrictions have been applied. One example for this situation would be that some cafeterias used to serve 1 and a half grilled cheese sandwiches with a total of two ounces of cheese. Now students receive one sandwich containing 4 ounces .showing an increase of protein but decrease of bread. Critics say these restrictions are too drastic and leave students hungry.

    The USDA is ignoring the problem of in-school hunger. They are addressing one problem, childhood obesity, and creating another, in school hunger. They are overly focused on obesity rather than creating standards to balance out obesity and in-school hunger.

    In addition, students whose stomachs are full or nearly full in class, improve in academic performance. In school when a student is hungry they tend to focus on thinking about food. Scientists have observed that food affects the brain’s function. If a child is hungry, it is harder for them to do their best work. If the USDA provide students with larger amounts of food,it would throw out the distraction of hunger in students. We have all been in class at a point in time trying to learn, but then our stomachs growl and we shift our thoughts to food, or simply become unconcerned about the lesson. The worst part about this is students are complaining that the hunger occurs after they have just eaten cafeteria  lunch.

    In the same way that academics are being lessened, so are athletics. The decrease of portion sizes are hurting our student athletes. Nearly 8 million high school students are athletes. At the beginning of the 21st century the public health community discovered and explained that being overweight and obese is a problem in the nation’s youth. In 2015, an article Are School Lunches Starving Student Athletes was published on beyondchron.org, a site that provides coverage of ignored activities happening in the country. In this article Donna Woldow speaks about the issue of student athletes not being provided with enough to eat. She says that “school lunches are failing to meet student athletes’ nutritional needs” (Woldow). With that being said we learn that student athletes are being ignored, and the players are beginning to realize that very few are concerned about their situation.

    Ultimately, the USDA must increase the portion sizes given in school meals. After eating lunch students should no longer have the complaint of hunger, but as stated the complaint has risen.The USDA has done a great job of lowering childhood obesity rates, but has created the issue of in-school hunger. Students need to eat a satisfying portion of food because it creates successful students. Teachers, and parents it is your turn now. Students all over America have attempted to be heard, but they are being ignored. Stand up for your students get the USDA to change the school meal standards.The positive result of this change will limit the complaints of students being hungry.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, School, Tips

    Learning a New Language

    learning a new language

    Learning a new language can be both fun and challenging. In my experience, it has been extremely rewarding to know how to speak more than one language, and these skills let me communicate with a wider range of individuals and have broadened my understanding of different cultures and ways of life. 

    I have been bilingual for most of my life, and I enjoyed learning a third language, Spanish, in middle school and high school. I am definitely not fluent yet, but over the years, I feel like I’ve gained a good grasp of the language. I love it when I hear people speaking Spanish in public and can understand their conversation, or when I’m listening to a Spanish song and can understand the lyrics. I’ve enjoyed my language classes in school, and being exposed to a different language and putting effort into learning it has been an exciting process.

    However, learning a language is not just book work like learning tends to be in many other classes. It requires a lot of interpersonal communication practice and exposure to the language in formats like cultural activities, podcasts, and music- not just your standard writing and grammar exercises.

    Here is a list of ways to gain a better grasp of the language you are trying to learn:

    Find People to Talk to Using the Language:

    The best way to improve your speaking skills is to practice speaking the language! If you are taking a class in a traditional school setting, you will have to communicate with your teacher and classmates using the language multiple times (if not daily) during the course. Take advantage of these opportunities!

    The beauty of being in a language class is that everyone is there to learn and no one is an expert. So don’t be afraid of making mistakes! Make the best of these opportunities, and always know that it is okay to mess up. Not only are you learning from your errors, but your classmates will be learning from them too.

    If you are not taking a course on the language, or it isn’t a traditional course in a classroom setting, find speaking opportunities for yourself so you can practice the language. I would recommend finding a friend who either knows the language or is learning it too. That way you can speak to them in the language on a regular basis to get better at these skills.

    If you aren’t able to find such a person or don’t feel comfortable practicing with someone you know, go to your local library or get in contact with local community centers so they can connect you with resources and opportunities where you can practice these skills. I know students who’ve volunteered in classrooms at local elementary schools with Spanish speaking students and have been able to immensely improve their speaking and communication skills.

    Attend Cultural Events and Take Advantage of Opportunities Nearby:

    Whether it’s visiting a traditional restaurant and speaking to your server in the language or attending festival celebrations, it’s always a good idea to get involved culturally. These opportunities will not only give you an outlet to practice speaking the language. They allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the language by expanding your cultural knowledge and perspectives. This will further motivate you to learn the language since you are able to place it in a cultural context. In addition, you will get to know more people and broaden your social network. This is can come in handy if you are looking to gain experience in the future.

    Finally, if you are given an opportunity to travel abroad and are able to do so, I highly encourage it! Being in a setting where you are able to experience a culture and practice a language at the same time is super nice, and is a very fun and helpful way to quickly pick up and get better at a language.

    Listen to Podcasts or TV/Radio Broadcasts:

    Listening to podcasts and TV/radio broadcasts gives you exposure to the conversational dialects of your selected language . Oftentimes, when languages are taught in a classroom setting, skills are taught in a traditional manner. However, this isn’t always the way the language is commonly spoken. Additionally, you will probably notice that people speak faster in podcasts and TV/radio broadcasts than you are used to when listening to audios in class.

    Do a simple Youtube search to find options or visit this website for potential resources that may help you.

    The great thing about podcasts and TV/radio broadcasts is that you can do other things while listening to them. That is, if you are still able to follow along with what the audio is saying. If you aren’t at this level yet, allocate time in your schedule to listen without distractions.

    Books/Music:

    If you are able to find picture books or chapter books and/or simple songs in the language you are trying to learn, I would highly recommend doing so! These are really good resources for helping you practice your reading and listening skills. In terms of books, I would recommend doing a Google search to find books that professionals who teach the language you are learning would recommend for different levels. Often times, these books will have readers’ resources, such as keywords defined in English or a simple summary of each chapter, so you are able to get a general idea of what is going on in the story even though you may not be able to understand every single word and sentence.

    As for music, Youtube and Spotify will help you. Start off with slower songs and move to faster ones as your listening skills improve and you are able to better comprehend what is being sung.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, School

    How to Balance Work, School, and a Social Life

    Sometimes things happen, and you’re left with an extra burden or two. Maybe that means you have to pick up an extracurricular activity to boost your scholarship resume, or maybe you need money now and have to get a job. Either way, adding more things to your schedule is never easy.

    You’re young and have your whole life ahead of you, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have things to worry about right now.

    Being young gives you the extra energy to take care of business, but it also brings along puberty, peer pressures, and the impending doom of what you want to be when you grow up.

    I know first hand how stressful life can be. In high school, I was a part of my school’s theater program, I participated in our school’s show choir and  regular choir, and I had two jobs. I also didn’t want to have to say no to my friends when they invited me out.

    I had to learn to delegate my circumstances ahead of time so that I was never left making hard choices too late.

    My week looked something like:

    • Monday- School 7:30am-3:15pm; Spend time with friends 3:45pm-6pm; work 6:30pm-9pm; sleep 9:30pm-6am
    • Tuesday- School 7:30am-3:15pm; Show Choir Practice 3:30pm-5:30pm; Homework/Study 6pm-7:30pm; Free time 7:30pm-9:30pm; sleep 9:30pm-6am
    • Wednesday- School 7:30am-3:15pm; Spend time with friends 3:45pm-5pm; work 5:30pm-9pm; Sleep 9:30pm-6am
    • Thursday- School 7:30am-3:15pm; Show Choir practice 3:30pm-5:30pm; work 6:30pm-9pm; Homework/Study 9:30pm-11pm; Sleep 11pm-6am
    • Friday- School 7:30am-3:15; Play practice 3:30pm-5:30pm; Spend time with friends 6:30pm-12am; sleep 12:30am-6am
    • Saturday- Work 8am-9pm; sleep 10pm-8am
    • Sunday- Church 10am-12pm; lunch with friends 12:30pm-2pm; Homework/study 2:30pm-5pm; free time 5pm-9:30pm; sleep 9:30pm-6am

    The best advice I can give if you are a very busy bee

    Give yourself time to breathe.

    You need fifteen minutes for relaxation every now and then, if not more time. I get that projects and exams are due at certain times, but try to take breaks between studying. I like to watch fifteen minutes of TV or get a snack in-between homework assignments. It helps me mellow out and focus better on my work.

    Try planning your week out in advance.

    There may be some curve balls in there, but the more time you allot for specific tasks, the more time you will have for yourself and for your social life. If you feel like you are saying no to almost all your friends’ invitations, try allotting time for them every other week if you can’t afford more time.

    The connections you make will aid in shaping you as a person. Find friends that take things as seriously as you do. They are more likely to understand your circumstances. Do not let other kids bully you into thinking that you are boring or overworking yourself. Do things at your own pace and how you want to do them. Different study techniques work for different people.

    Here’s another article with tips on how to use your time wisely during the school year, or to just manage your time better in general.

  • Health, School

    Sleep and Your Body

    girl sleeping

    Everyone likes to joke about and compare how little they sleep. To some, it’s a matter of pride. 

    I sleep 3-4 hours a night just so I can manage my workload. ”

    However, what people don’t realize is that preventing your body from getting the rest it needs has severe long-term effects and hampers your performance on a day-to-day basis. Not sleeping enough can result in memory loss, lack of alertness, and mood swings, affecting your work and personal relationships.

    Teenagers require 8-10 hours of sleep. Speaking from personal experience, I’m lucky if I even get half that amount. On average, we tend to get 7-8 hours of sleep. This is due to a multitude of reasons. After puberty begins, your biological clock shifts about two hours. For example, an individual who would go to sleep at 9:00 PM will now have trouble sleeping until 11:00. Though this is true and does affect younger teenagers in middle school, growing academic pressures involving grades, extracurriculars, obligations, and relationships also take a chunk out of your rest.

    What many teenagers and adults don’t realize is that the less they sleep, the more their sleep debt grows. Your body can very much feel that it’s not getting enough sleep. Your body summons sleep in two ways: by sending more adenosine (a neurotransmitter) around your body, and by sending signals from your circadian clock.

     Adenosine  can be considered a cellular  by-product and is produced and released into the bloodstream when [cells] use energy. It’s taken up to the receptors that govern wakefulness in the basal forebrain, acting as a slow buffer, minimizing your ability to be attentive and remember things. When there’s a lot of adenosine, you start to feel drowsy. (The way caffeine works is by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain, essentially numbing you to its effects.) 

    The circadian clock regulates all of your bodily functions. When it comes to sleep, it causes the human body to feel very sleepy between 12:00-6:00 AM, and a little extra sleepy between 2:00-4:00 PM.

    A study at the University of Chicago found that after having volunteers sleep four hours a night for six nights, volunteers developed higher blood pressure and larger amounts of the hormone cortisol. They also produced less antibodies and signs of insulin resistance, a precursor to type-2 diabetes. After sleeping the amount they needed to, they reversed all of these effects. Another study from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Medical School found that after having volunteers sleep for either 8, 6, or 4 hours a night for two weeks, and a fourth group of volunteers who didn’t sleep for three days, the groups that had slept 4-6 hours a night didn’t perform much better than the one that hadn’t slept for 72 hours. 

    The hours add up. Speaking from personal experience, during the spring semester, I averaged 2-5 hours of sleep. Every night. The moment summer began, I began sleeping inordinate amounts. Before this year, my circadian clock wouldn’t let me sleep past 7:30. Now, if I don’t use an alarm to wake up, my body won’t let me wake up until 10:00-11:00. The first week of summer? I slept 8-14 hours a night. I physically can’t sleep the way I used to. My body needs its sleep. Likewise, your body will react to you not sleeping well and you’ll have more difficulty performing daily tasks. Guard your sleep.