Coursera

I’ve completed my Social Epidemiology course on Coursera, and moved into “Case Based Introduction to Biostatistics”. I’ll probably write more about my adventures in Social EPI (I was really inspired by it) but now I’ll try and jot a couple notes down from the Biostats course as well.

Third Wave

 

The phrase “having it all” means different things for different people. From the article in The Atlantic about how women can’t have it all anymore, to my personal favorite article on The Hoopla called “WTF is Having It All Anyway?” everyone is weighing in on this 3rd wave feminist topic. Now that women have been given the ability to do even more with their lives than previously in history, do they really need to be doing all of those things? Can they have those things? I think that the most important thing to do is to keep the conversation going. I talked with friends who managed to balance their school, work and personal lives successfully, even though it was at times tough. My friends are Amanda A., Amanda R., and Therese G.. I learned a lot about them (even though I already know a lot about them haha) through this interview I did for iwooloo.

a little background info: Amanda A. is an Accounting and Accounting information Systems major at Central Michigan University and took 16-18 credits per semester all while working at a Credit Union. Therese’s major is in Communications with an interdisciplinary minor in Public Relations at Michigan State University. She worked as an intern doing PR for the residential halls on campus. She also worked at Kirabo, a fair trade store, as a cashier and running the store’s social media sites. Amanda R.’s major  is Early childhood education and she’s averaging about 16 credits or about 5 classes per semester. She worked at the college bookstore and two different libraries, and Kohls.. She didn’t work at all of those places all at once but she had at least two jobs at any given time.

So what keeps you organized when things get crazy?

Amanda A.: Alarms on my phone and post it notes *everywhere*

Therese: My iPhone and a planner. Mostly my own head though, because it’s hard to organize 100% of the time when I get really busy.

Amanda R.: I have no idea, I’m the least organized person ever. But my Vera Bradley planner and post it notes are like crack for me.

The biggest thing that happens to people when they are trying to cover everything is that they procrastinate and/or lose sleep. How did you do in those areas?

Amanda A.: Sleep is very important to me and I function best with about 7.5 hours per night and stuck with that throughout the week. It would vary on weekends though. I try not to procrastinate because I did that a lot in my freshman year and my grades suffered for it.

Therese: I love my sleep! I always made sure to get about 7 hours a night. I never had an all-nighter which I am very proud of. Unfortunately I tend to procrastinate because it’s always worked out fine for me, I always get things done.

Amanda R.: I procrastinated daily, more and more often the more experienced I became with putting everything off til the last possible second. And I lost more hours of sleep than I can count, but I never actually pulled a legit all nighter.

What keeps you motivated when things get hectic?

Amanda: I’ve always used gaming or hanging out with friends as motivation… like, if I finish this assignment, I can play Skyrim for two hours. Something like that. Or, if I study for this test tonight, I won’t have to when I get home from work so I can do something fun. Me: I can definitely relate, I’m always putting off something that I want to do for something I feel I *should* do.

Therese: Once I commit to something I commit to it 100%. The fact that I have said that I want to take on a particular project gives me motivation- I want to honor my word. It’s hard because sometimes I stick with things even though they are not making me the happiest, but it’s just my personality.

Me: Well I really admire that, because sometimes I have a hard time sticking things out.

Therese: Well between you and me we’re the perfect balance then!

Amanda R.: My friends keep me grounded when I get stressed and so does chocolate.

What projects/activities consume the most time?

Amanda: When I was doing music at KCC (community college) , it was the performances, especially my recital. Not only do you have classes and work, but you have rehearsals outside of work too. I did choir at CMU too

Therese: At times it felt like everything was too time consuming because I didn’t prioritize one thing over another- everything was important. But if I had to choose I would say school and APO (volunteer fraternity) were tied.

Amanda R.: I think work takes up most of my time and writing massive lesson plans take more time than I care to admit.

Do you enjoy being really busy or is it something that just happens?

Amanda: Yes and no. I definitely don’t like having a lot of downtime, but at the same time when you’re busy for work and school and lot of the time you don’t get the option of choosing what you’re busy *with*. But I would generally say yes, I would rather be busier than not.

Therese: I think I like to say I don’t like being busy, but honestly if I’m not busy for too long I don’t know what to do with myself.

Overall I think that the goal of” having-it-all”success is really difficult for women in their 20s and 30s because it involves so much pressure and multitasking. But I think that if you want it all as a young adult woman then you should be able to have it all! I am woman hear me roar and all that. Keep in mind that having it all for some people may mean a roof over their heads and food for their children. Or the ability to stay at home and take care of the ones they love, be they aging parents or young ones. Our (my friends’ and I) stories of having it all are just one of many women’s stories out there. The more we talk about it, the more that there will be an impact of some kind, whether it’s through better legislation for student loan debt or the improvement of policies for maternity leave.

RE: The New Domesticity

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I recently read an interview of Emily Matchar who wrote a book on how more and more middle class and upper middle class women and families are taking up old fashioned domesticity. That is, they are participating in hobbies and activities that normally would be done by someone with very low income to stretch that income- growing their own food, making soaps from scratch, canning, sewing their own clothes, knitting,etc. There is a large market now for mass produced things that look homemade and Etsy’s popularity has been on the rise for a few years now. People will now drop a ton of money on things that are handmade and look homemade.

She argues that this is actually a somewhat dangerous trend, at least for the women in these demographics. She believes that when women are pushed out the workforce, either because of the economy or our notoriously horrible policies for child rearing, they now tend to stay out of the workforce and start participating in this fad by opening an Etsy shop or spending a ton of money making homemade things for their kids. The danger,she says, is that people may start taking up the attitudes that used to go along with this domesticity and stay at home moms- “women should stay at home, it’s their natural place” and “it’s ‘easy’ to keep them out of the workforce if they’re given enough crafts to do.”

I am inclined to agree with her. Hell, I’ve even participated in some of the new domesticity myself (although I am not a stay at home mom) by making pins and magnets as a craft, and contemplating selling them online. At some point I thought to myself “hey maybe if this gets popular and everyone likes my shit, I won’t actually have to go through with all this grad school and career bullshit” and then reality hit me- that was never going to happen. Inspirational stories of DIY mavens who have started their own business doing something that is not often done by college educated upper middle class women do not help either. Megan has done amazingly for herself, but she is the exception, not the rule.

I think this Portlandia clip describes the situation best. In it, Carrie’s sister has decided to make jewelry on Etsy that she sells for quite a bit of money, and does pretty well at it. But it’s seen as funny because it’s such a stereotypical thing to do, and “everyone” is making something to sell on Etsy now. And then Fred tries to make jewelry cause he thinks it’s an easy way out, fails miserably, and decides making jewelry is a waste of time for all of the hassle it is. Granted at the end of the video it concedes that having a successful business on the internet is much harder than it looks, but it still doesn’t make online craft selling very prestigious. Also Fred decides to head back to grad school at the end, the implication being that it will lead to a more prestigious career with less of a headache. Perhaps this is not what the Portlandia writers intended, but it does serve as a (funny) conversation starter.

At the end of the day, if you love what you’re doing and it’s making you a lot of money, then awesome. Craft the shit out of stuff, and make people happy. Make your own baby food, plant a garden and love your baby- A+. But I am saddened by the idea that perhaps some women are pushed out of the labor force to do things they didn’t necessarily intend on doing. That they lost a job or took a baby break, and couldn’t get back what they had, and they see this as their only option. I think that some real economic and legislative change needs to happen so that those who want to be happy 9-5 slaves can do so.

I want to live in a world where we (college educated women) do not have to compromise and end up selling crafts on Etsy if we originally wanted to be selling our Fortune 500 company’s stocks.

tl;dr Economically advantaged women shouldn’t start perpetuating 1950s susie homemaker ideals and morals (that women’s place is at home and they naturally gravitate to it) because they chose to stay home and spend a shitton of money on canning peaches and making their own comforters. it puts the feminist movement back exactly 70 years. Also making this into a problem that everyone faces is ridiculous because the other 90% of minorities that could benefit from feminism do not share your woes.

Education and Career To Do list

My VISTA service will be finished in 3 months and 27 days, so it’s time to start the career/education to do list back up again.

  1. study for the math portion and then retake the GRE
  2. JOB SEARCH! My current city, my current organization, as well as jobs in other cities in Michigan, lab jobs, non profit jobs, office jobs, and if I have to, another AmeriCorps VISTA position.
  3. Application for the Masters in Evaluation- which means getting letters of recommendation, writing 2-4 pages about the degree, and getting all my transcripts sent in.
  4. get all of my letters of rec off of interfolio
  5. keep up with coursera ( I finished Intro to Social Epidemiology and am now starting on Case Based Introduction to Biostatistics) and practicing my Spanish on duolingo and Rosetta stone
  6. Keep reading public health related books
  7. keep writing on this blog! (:

That’s all I can think of for now. At any rate, this has been an update.

The Science of Mindfulness

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Mindfulness and Mindfulness meditation are  terms that are being thrown around in pop culture quite a bit and I think should be explained. I researched these ideas last year in my Health Psychology class for a paper about health psychology study design. I am also interested in Buddhist practice and I have been for a long time.  These two things have more in common than you might think. Mindfulness is also referred to as “living in the moment” and it is generally pursued as a form of relaxation and “active” meditation. It is also a central concept of Buddhist practice.

[Quick refresher- Buddhism is an Eastern religion that is practiced 300 million people around the world. Most believers see it as a way of life or philosophy rather than a religion, because they don’t worship a particular entity  or God. Their beliefs are: ” (1) to lead a moral life, (2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and (3) to develop wisdom and understanding” They believe that the best way to achieve these things is by meditation within a community and the guidance of a teacher, although that is not mandatory for practice.]

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment. Blocking out worries and your constantly running inner dialogue is the focus because the  goal is to calm your mind so that you can be at peace in the moment. Focusing on breath and relaxing your body are the most important physical aspects of meditation. I am not an authority to talk about how to go about this practice, but here is a link to someone who is.  If you want an idea of mindfulness meditation that is not based in Buddhism, check out this link here.

In a few different scientific studies I have come across, it’s been found that mindfulness meditation is extremely helpful in alleviating mental and physical pain, as well as improving your immune system and overall affect (attitude and outlook).

Many people suffer from chronic pain, typically in their backs, digestive systems, and overall body aches. These patients are great candidates for mindfulness meditation. Meditation’s ability to help decrease pain is caused by the increase in distanced proprioception. What that means is that someone who is in chronic pain, but participates in mindfulness on a regular basis, will be able to mentally remove themselves from the pain occurring in their body as well as their automatic negative responses to that pain, which usually include anxiety and sadness.  By freeing them from these automatic emotions they can generate their own positive emotions and have a more normal daily life.

Mindfulness meditation appears to increase activity in the front left part of our brains, which is associated with a positive outlook which leads to a lot less stress.  A study done on cancer patients with various stages and types of cancer showed “Overall reduction in Total Mood Disturbance was 65%, with a 31% reduction in Symptoms of Stress.”

Meditation not only works on cancer patients who undergo high stress as part of their condition, but also on people whose only mental condition is an anxiety disorder. A study found that subjects who participated in therapy based in mindfulness meditation had a significant decrease in number and severity of panic attacks, as well as improvement on the depression and anxiety scales. Those who made progress in decreasing their anxiety were more likely to continue to maintain that progress (which means that their conditions didn’t worsen over an extended period of time).

Stress reduction occurs in patients who have a normal mental state as well. In a study done for 8 weeks on those practicing mindfulness meditation, it was found that subjects had three new and distinct thought patterns. Overall they had a decrease in stress symptoms. They had  an increased sense of mental control, that is control of the contents of their mind. Another new trait was a greater use of acceptance or yielding as a form of control in their lives. All of these new found mental traits seem to contribute to the person’s total positive outlook.

Mindfulness meditation can even help psoriasis patients’ skin clear. [Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes rashes all over the body.]  In patients who were about to undergo UV light therapy to clear their psoriasis skin lesions, those who participated in mindfulness meditation’s skin cleared faster than those who did not.

The conclusion of the stress reduction article sums up mindfulness meditation best when it says  “The techniques of mindfulness meditation, with their emphasis on developing detached observation and awareness of the contents of consciousness, may represent a powerful cognitive behavioral coping strategy for transforming the ways in which we respond to life events.”