ENHANCING YOUR PHYSICAL WELLNESS PRACTICES WITH CANNABINOIDS

No, it is not breaking news. Wellness culture continues to rise. Talking about health no longer just means talking about our physical bodies. Today, when we talk about health what we are really discussing is ‘wellness’ which provides a more holistic view of body, mind, and spirit. It is an intersection of our physical, emotional, social, intellectual, environmental and spiritual health.
We see the wellness revolution everywhere; whether it is cosmetic companies rebranding products to be more ethically-sourced, athletic and athleisure brands promoting not just a product but rather a lifestyle, or the growing popularity of cannabinoids and plant-based wellness benefits. Wellness Culture has crept into our social media, our daily routines, the social interactions we have, and the political positions we take. It is everywhere.
With the recent legalization of Cannabis in Canada, we are beginning to see a ton of wellness practitioners, health, lifestyle bloggers and athletes opening up about their experiences including cannabinoids into their physical activity.

First, what are CBD and THC?

CBD and THC are two compounds found in the cannabis plant. CBD is not psychoactive, while THC is (which is responsible for the ‘high’ that cannabis can produce). Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are associated with the public cannabis industry and as a result, have often had stigmas attached to them. However, as more information comes to the surface about cannabis use (as well as the recent Canadian legalization), public opinion is changing and the women-lead Cannabis industry is truly shedding light on the profound relationships between cannabis and human wellness.

So you may be asking, “What benefits can they offer to my physical wellness routine?

According to numerous research studies, CBD and THC have been found to have a number of benefits for your body and your mind. In terms of physical activity, cannabinoids can aid in recovery from an injury or a difficult workout, and they can help you to continue to improve your performance within your wellness practices.

According to http://www.vesselbrand.com, CBD and THC may help your athletic performance in the following ways:

  • Lessen Pain: Pain can be the biggest obstacle to achieving your athletic and wellness goals. CBD and THC have been shown to lessen your body’s aches and pains, allowing for better performance.
  • Increased Focus: Many athletes note that CBD heightens their awareness of their body and helps them to focus on the goals in which they are trying to accomplish.
  • Expanded lung capacity: This doesn’t work as a quick fix right before you compete, but studies indicate that depending on your means of use, continual use over time can actually increase lung capacity, which helps with endurance.
  • Reduce anxiety + depression. Many wellness practitioners fall short of their goals due to stress and anxiety. CBD and THC help relax you so you can get the most out of your body.
  • Brain repair: NFL athletes especially are prone to head injuries. Many are turning to CBD and THC because these two compounds actually aid the brain’s healing. Not only that, but studies have shown that prior use of CBD and THC may help to prevent some brain injuries in the first place.
  • Pain management Whether from an injury or just repeated stress on the body, pain can kill your motivation to meet your goals. CBD and THC can be helpful to get you over this hurdle.
  • Sleep aid. Adequate sleep is one of the most important parts of any training program and any journey to wellness. Sometimes the pain gets in the way, sometimes stress does. CBD and THC can aid in the quality of your sleep.
  • Immune system. An illness can put you off your training routine, but recent studies suggest that CBD acts to strengthen your immune system and to keep you healthy throughout your day to day practices!
  • Stimulate appetite. Athletes burn through calories, and recovering from injuries requires lots of protein. THC stimulates your appetite to help you ingest all the nutrients you need to maintain your form as well as heal from injuries.
  • Promote bone growth. CBD studies also suggest it helps to strengthen your bones, to prevent breaks. It also may speed up the healing process if you do break a bone.

 

How I specifically incorporate cannabinoids into my everyday physical activity

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Let me introduce you to my #1 wellness practice: yoga + meditation. 

Yoga is an ancient form of therapy that has been INCREASINGLY backed up by scientific research. And better yet, the benefits that have been studied are not just for seasoned yogis – as I am far from! The benefits of yoga inclusive to those who are new to the practice, suffering from existing conditions, or who have been practicing for years and years!

As listed by http://www.wellnessinstitute.ca, the following is a list of some of the health benefits from yoga that have gained some serious scientific backing.

  1. Increased Fitness: Improved flexibility is one of the most obvious benefits of yoga, but it is also one that can lead to multiple benefits such as the reduction in aches, pain, and inflammation of the body. Many yoga sequences (asanas) build muscle strength as well, which allows you to grow stronger and maintain muscle mass by simple using the weight of your own body (and some props here and there).
  2. Pain Relief: Yoga has shown significant promise as a treatment for relieving some kinds of chronic pain; which can also have a positive impact on moods and need for certain forms of medication.
  3. Reduced Depression: In a 2007 study, UCLA researchers examined how Iyengar yoga affected people who were clinically depressed and for whom antidepressants provided only partial relief (like me!) After eight weeks of practicing three times a week, the patients reported significant decreases in both anxiety and depression. Other studies also show a significant increase in serotonin levels and a decrease in both the levels of an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters and cortisol.
  4. Emotional Health: Alright, this is a big one for me guys! Long-term meditation practitioners have demonstrated significant changes in brain structure. Scientists have shown that meditation increases activity in the area of the brain associated with positive moods and emotional resilience. A yoga practice that includes spiritual elements of practice, not just asana, guide you to explore concepts of gratitude, empathy, forgiveness, and self-love.
  5. Mental Sharpness & Protection Against Cognitive Decline: Various aspects of yoga are known to train your attention and mindfulness, which helps your brain work better! One study even found that following a hatha yoga session participants completed a set of mental challenges both faster and more accurately than they did after a brisk walk or jog. Its also said that meditation may help ward off age-related cognitive decline.
  6. Better sleep: A Duke University analysis of studies on yoga for psychiatric conditions found evidence that yoga can be helpful for treating sleep disorders. Both the combination of breathing (pranayama) and asana (sequence), and meditation relaxes your muscles, slows your heart rate and helps you to control the everyday stresses in your brain, allowing you to prepare your mind and body for sleep.
  7. Reduced Inflammation & Stress Responses:  Researchers at Ohio State University found that regular yoga practitioners had much lower blood levels of an inflammation-promoting immune cell called IL-6 than a group of people new to yoga.
  8. Slowed Cellular Aging: According to the wellness institute, cells include structures called telomeres, which get shorter over time. When they become too short and cells can no longer divide, they die. An enzyme called telomerase helps preserve their length, and a program which included an hour a day of yoga showed a 30% increase in the activity of telomerase.
  9. Better Immune Activity: One of the very first studies to ever look at how yoga affects genes indicates that practice can alter the expression of immune-related genes in our blood cells. This would actually suggest that yoga may have the potential to influence how strongly the genes you’re born with will affect your health! Meditation has had the most scientific backing on the functioning of the immune system as it appears to both boost response when needed to fight infection and lower it in cases of some autoimmune diseases.
  10. Reduce Medication Use: Studies of people with asthma, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes have shown that yoga helped them reduce or eliminate their need for medications. This not only saves money but reduces side effects and the risk of dangerous drug interactions.

 

SO HOW DOES CANNABIS IMPROVE MY PRACTICE?

 

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  1. I get into it way quicker: Getting into the mindset to do yoga can at times be difficult. If you’ve ever been to a yoga session with 30 other people, or even after a day of having 237182631 stresses on your mind, then you probably know how hard it is to get into a ‘zen’ vibe to benefit best from your practice. Similar to a pre-workout, I use a Sativa dominant THC strain via a Vape Pen that imparts those motivational and ‘mellow’ vibes that I’m looking for to begin my practice!
  2. Your senses become heightened:  Great, now that you’re in those zen vibes it’s pretty important for you to STAY in those vibes. Part of doing that is allowing your space around you, like the sounds of the birds or the sun spilling through a nearby window, to become APART of your flow. Usually, in the practice, you’re told to tune out noise and distractions, but sometimes focusing too hard on tuning EVERYTHING out puts way too much stress on your mind- breaking your zen. Rather, I like to listen to the sounds around me, feel the way the air hits my skin, and move with the spiritual rhythms I am feeling at the time.
  3. My movements are synced and euphoric: I am a beginner to the practice of yoga and meditation so I am unable to say that my movements are graceful, or will even look half as good as those seasoned yogis. However, paired with cannabis, my movements felt more natural and more comfortable. I am able to step outside of my insecurities and thoughts within my practice, and actually PRACTICE. It is rather refreshing – especially for someone who likes to give up on things they aren’t great at (my bad).
  4. I truly feel more connected to my body, mind, and soul: every sensation is exaggerated. You feel every movement, every pull, and every stretch. My thinking mind is quiet when I incorporate cannabis into my practice, which allows me to rely on the movements of my body, my breathing, and the amazing things my body has the capability of doing. This, hands down is the most beneficial perk to my spiritual practice.
  5. I’m motivated by what feels ‘right’ rather than mental goals: This comes with great thanks to the youtube account Yoga with Adriene, as she always reminds us within our practices to “find what feels right”.  Beginning your practice with finding what feels right, rather than focusing on all the mental goals you’ve set up for yourself, helps ease your mind of stress and allows you to move through your practice in a way that is actually targetting and benefiting YOUR unique wellness needs.
  6. Truly feeling the power of my own energy: I am sure my fellow yogis agree, sometimes the most rewarding part of your practice is truly feeling the effects of your practice (whether it was heavily strength based or meditation based) vibrate throughout your body. Most often, you can feel your energy through Savasana which is the (corpse pose). Laying down flat on your back seems easy enough, but yogis will often say that Savasana can be the most difficult pose to practice. When you first start practicing Savasana it can be a struggle to relax in the pose. In fact, you may lie there feeling tense, bored, and staring at the ceiling. However, the essence of Savasana is to relax with attention, that is, to remain conscious and alert while being at ease to help you become more self-aware and to release the long-held tensions within your body and mind. Cannabis, whether an indica or hybrid, truly heightens this enlightening experience and opens your mind to more peace within your practice.

 

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My vape of choice is Vessel Brand.  For American consumers, you can purchase your Vessal Vape Pen at http://www.vesselbrand.com and for Canadian consumers, you can purchase your vessel with a $20 off coupon using my code EMMY at http://www.birchandfog.com

For more information on CBD and THC products, tinctures and topicals to help your athletic practice visit http://www.birchandfog.com and check out their inventory!

Don’t forget code ‘EMMY’ for 20 dollars off your purchase!

NAMASTE friends.

SAVE YOUR WALLET, YOUR SKIN AND YOUR COFFEE GROUNDS

 

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Prices continue to rise on organic beauty products, and as an independent graduate student my wallet cannot keep up! So I took it upon myself to do research on simple DIY beauty products that can help both save the planet and my bank account.

I was blown away at all the tips and tricks for organic DIY products, but what blew me away the most is how easy some of them are to make and to incorporate into your daily routines! For example, the simple act of making coffee can give you both your morning energy boost, and the boost your skin needs to be radiant and healthy. Which is why I’ve started saving my coffee grounds and making my very own CBD Coffee Scrub, which is both safe to be applied to my face and body.

So before we get started on how you can make your own simple coffee scrub as well, lets first review some of the amazing benefits to applying coffee to your skin.

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  1. ECO FRIENDLY + SUSTAINABLE OPTION: Not only is it an incredibly cheap and sustainable option if you are a regular brewed coffee drinker, but it also limits plastic container waste (and contains no damaging micro-beads that are found in many skin products and exfoliants).
  2. HELPS WITH CELLULITE REDUCTION: It is believed that the caffeine content in coffee is one of the keys to cellulite reduction as it dilates blood vessels beneath the skin and improves overall blood flow, in turn decreasing the appearance of cellulite.
  3. IS PACKED WITH ANTIOXIDANTS FOR CALMING EFFECTS: Even though we usually ingest coffee for its stimulating effects, it appears that it may provide the opposite effect when applied topically due to all the antioxidants!
  4. ANTI-AGING BENEFITS: Its not news that numerous studies have been conducted on the correlation between drinking coffee and decreasing photoaging effects. But did you know that applying coffee topically can also decrease signs of aging such as the appearance if sun spots, redness and fine lines.
  5. PACKED WITH B-3 FOR PREVENTING SKIN CANCER: Coffee is known for being a rich source of vitamin B3 due to the breakdown of a key compound called trigonelline. According to Health Line and the Skin Cancer Foundation, trigonelline breaks down into niacin (B-3) after coffee beans have been roasted which may be helpful in preventing nonmelanoma skin cancers and can possibly prevent other skin growths as well.
  6. SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCES INFLAMMATION: Coffee contains chlorogenic acid and melanoidins, which has been linked to reducing hyperpigmentation that may be connected to inflammation (Health Line)
  7. TREATMENT FOR ACNE: The regular use of topical coffee could help combat numerous harmful bacterias on the skin as the clorogenic acids carry both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Combined with the additional exfoliation of coffee grounds, these benefits collectively work together to fight stubborn acne!
  8. TREATS STUBBORN DARK CIRCLES AND EYE PUFFINESS: According to Beverly Hills MD Cosmeceuticals, coffee grounds also can treat stubborn dark circles under the eyes due to the caffeine content in coffee dilating blood vessels that contribute to dark circles.
  9. OFFERS AFTER SUN CARE: Its believed that the same anti-aging benefits from coffee can also be used for post-sun after care! Gently apply coffee grinds (without rubbing in) or diluted coffee to the burnt area can give you both pain relief, faster healing time, and much less peeling!

 

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THE STEPS TO MAKING YOUR OWN COFFEE SCRUB AND FACE MASK ARE SIMPLE!

  1. First, start by brewing coffee! I use a French Press, which makes collecting the grounds afterwards as easy as 1-2-3
  2. After the grounds cool down, empty them into a glass container that can be properly closed.
  3. This step is where you can play around a bit. It is recommended that you also dilute the coffee grounds with Coconut Oil. For added benefits, I’ve mixed pure Coconut Oil that contains non-psychoative CBD Cannabidiol for the added benefits. I purchase my organic CBD Coconut Oil (which is safe for topical and internal use) from www.birchandfog.com ( use my code EMMY for $20 dollars off your first Canadian order!! ) If only being applied to body, its good to also add brown sugar for additional exfoliating effects!
  4. mix mix mix mix
  5. apply to face or body, let sit for 10+ minutes, then wash off!
  6. Repeat as much as you’d like!
  • also, if you have specific wants out of this homemade product research all of the different ways you can mix up this recipe and make your own version of a coffee scrub!

 

LOVE YOUR SKIN

 

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@omnibotanicals @birchandfogcanada         promo: EMMY at checkout for $20 off

5 MUST HAVE CRYSTALS FOR A HAPPY AND PRODUCTIVE LIVING SPACE

whether you’ve been interested in the healing powers of crystals for awhile or are new to the world of holistic healing – welcome to this post!

Crystals and gem stones have been used for thousands of years for decoration, physical adornment, magic, healing, protection and religious ceremonies

“crystals have a remarkable capacity to absorb, store, reflect and radiate light in the form of intelligent fields of stable energy that increases the flow of vital life-force within the human body, chakras, aura, and other subtle energy systems” – Sacred Crystals (2017)

 

so no matter your interest, reasoning, or spiritual practice if you’d like to build your collection of crystals these are my top 5 must-haves to encourage and nourish your happy and productive lifestyle (not to mention- they make pretty cute decor pieces)

 

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Clear Quartz is known as a master healing stone, as it inspires balance and harmony for each of the seven chakras. It also usually becomes one of the first pieces of any beginner collection, as it is known to amplify the energies of other stones.

Regardless of whether you are looking for chakra healing, purifying the home of any negative energy, or as a simple décor piece to brighten up any room, these are some reasons why you should pick up some clear quartz to add to your collection:

  • Purifies space and mind
  • Nourishes your intuition
  • Enhances confidence
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Improves emotional, mental and physical awareness
  • Enhances physical and emotional healing
  • Draws off negative energies

 

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Known as the ultimate crystal of love for centuries, Rose Quartz isn’t JUST a crystal for love junkies and hopeless romantics. Rose Quartz is said to restore trust and harmony in relationships as it encourages unconditional love and intimate passion, but it also purifies and opens the heart to all levels of love; including self-love, friendship, inner healing and peace with the self. So here are some more reasons every house should have rose quartz:

  • Calming and reassuring
  • Helps comfort in times of grief, loss and heartbreak
  • Dispels negative energy and environmental pollution, replacing it with loving and compassionate vibes
  • Encourages self-forgiveness
  • Encourages self-acceptance
  • Invokes self-trust and self-worth
  • A crystal of motherhood and protection

 

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As you can guess from its beautifully sunny colour, citrine energizes every level of life! Citrine cleanses the chakras, attracts wealth, prosperity and success, while also imparting joy, enthusiasm and wonder within every corner of your space! Citrine is also a personal favourite for my study + creative space, as it is known to stimulate the brain, strengthen intellect, promote motivation and activates creativity! I don’t understand how you need more convincing, but if you do I offer you another breakdown of just SOME of the reasons YOU need to add citrine to your crystal collection:

  • Energizes
  • Cleanses chakras
  • Opens intuition
  • Promotes self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Stimulates the brain
  • Strengthens intellect
  • Brings joy and brightness
  • Relieves negative energy such as depression, anxiety and fear
  • Promotes motivation
  • Activates creativity and self-expression
  • Emotionally balancing

 

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Amethyst is known as being an incredibly powerful and protective stone, which is why this stone is usually one of the first added to most people’s collections! Because of its extensive healing properties, amethyst is an effective healer of most conditions. Not only is Amethyst a stone known to activate spiritual awareness, open intuition and enhance psychic abilities, it also is a crystal known to be incredibly emotionally soothing. Amethyst encourages positive transformation of the body, mind and soul; creating a huge list of reasons every home should have amethyst :

  • Known for its meditative properties
  • Remembering and understanding dreams
  • Relieves insomnia and encourages peaceful sleep
  • Helps with healing from addiction [i.e. drugs and alcohol]
  • Encourages spiritual wisdom
  • Protects from electromagnetic energy
  • Balances mood swings, depression and anxiety
  • Dispels anger, rage and fear
  • Transmits energy, love and protection

 

 

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I chose Rainbow Fluorite as one of the must-have crystals for a happy and healthy home [and YOU], because it exhibits a combination of colours and properties inherent in individual Fluorite crystals such as purple, blue, green, clear and yellow. Fluorite crystals are highly protective and stabilizing and is known for harmonizing energies within yourself and your living space. Rainbow Fluorite is known to not only increase intuition and bring you closer to human/universal consciousness, Fluorite is also a great addition to any work space because it heightens mental abilities, helps with processing information, and can bring mental clarity and stability in otherwise chaotic circumstances.

  • Encourages innovation, organization and understanding
  • Spiritual awareness
  • Increases intuition
  • Brings mental clarity and stability
  • Brings inner peace
  • Stimulates Third Eye Chakra
  • Brings common sense to psychic intuitions
  • Known as a stone for communication
  • Grounding and harmonizing
  • Absorbs negative energy

 

quiet the mind, and the soul will speak – Buddha

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10 WAYS HAVING A DOG IMPROVES YOUR CONFIDENCE

Since moving in with one of my roommates in 2017, I have been fortunate enough to be known as “Aunty Em” by our ‘family’ dog Diesel. Over the last couple of years, Diesel and I have become the best of friends. We’ve created many memories together, we’ve built an unbreakable bond, and [somehow] he brought me little sparks of confidence within my every day life. So far, these are just some of the main ways Diesel has helped me feel like a much more confident, liked, and well-rounded person:

10 WAYS HAVING A DOG IMPROVES YOUR CONFIDENCE  

Dogs are always happy to see you, no matter how long you’ve been gone

Dogs still want to excessively lick your skin after days of not showering

Dogs always look at you like you are a gift from god

Everybody wants to be your friend when you have a dog

Because you walk your dog, you get to tell people you are “moderately active” which sounds better than “not active at all”

They are always down to hang out with you when everyone else thinks you’re annoying

They always love your cooking, even when it is questionable

Strangers kindly stop to talk to your dog, which makes it look like you have a lot of friends

You can usually always blame a fart on them

You go from avoiding social interaction to asking a total stranger if you can pet their dog while simultaneously dropping to your knees in premature anticipation

HOW 4 FEDERALLY INCARCERATED MEN TAUGHT ME ABOUT VULNERABILITY

Note: This is a reflection piece based off of my undergraduate thesis research “The Man I am Today”: Exploring Narratives of Masculinity and Hardship in the Lives of Long Term Inmates in a Federal Correctional Facility (2006) in which transformative research was conducted in a federal prison with life sentenced male offenders. Therefore, this piece includes description of research methodologies, data, and discussion of sensitive topics such as trauma, gender, sexual assault, childhood abuse, and incarceration.

This article contains the following chapters:

– Background Information Brief

– A description of the research methods, and program used

– Information on the program participants and structure

– Detailed findings, and writing submissions

– Personal account of how 4 incarcerated men taught me about vulnerability

 

How 4 federally Incarcerated Men Taught me About Vulnerability: a personal tale of arts-based research, trauma, abuse, and transformative healing

I’ll set the scene: I was an eager fourth year university student pursuing an Honours degree in Sociology. On top of balancing a full university course load I had to balance a number of part-time jobs including on campus work as a teacher’s assistant, having time for school work, writing a thesis, and, unfortunately coping through an abusive relationship with my live-in partner. To some, this would seem like an overwhelming amount of responsibilities for a university student to have. Yet, I actually became significantly better in school my final two undergraduate years. My *not talked about* abusive relationship was at its worst, and my coping mechanism was to become SO productive in my academics and employment that I’d never have to be home.

As you can probably guess by now, my personal relationship with my mental health and trauma were incredibly messy. On one hand, I was miserable, I was resentful, fearful, and struggling deeply- and on the other hand, for the first time in my life, I was a high achieving student who my educators and peers respected. For the first time, I was able to become the student I was always so envious of. In a lot of ways, I opposed my guilt for “not leaving”, by constantly reaching for deeper success- I was not receiving the validation I wanted in my personal life, so I was overcompensating in my professional life. My work cycle basically functioned as so: high productivity, over-work yourself, burn out, self-pity, find motivation, and ignore traumas, all the way back to high productivity, and the cycle continues. So yes, my “coping mechanism” was actually not a coping mechanism in the slightest. However- it did lead me to one of the most profound experiences I’ve had to date.

THE RESEARCH BRIEF:

As part of my requirements to graduate with an honours degree, I had to write and defend a thesis before the end of the academic year. Because my passions lie within the field of critical criminology and gender, with the help of my thesis supervisor, I was able to focus my research lens on prison and masculinity. While there has been countless research done within the walls of correctional institutions, very little consideration is given to the ways in which manhood, trauma, and hegemonic masculinity influenced why they ended up in prison, their relationships with their peers, and how they negotiate their vulnerability and healing processes. This topic held particular importance for me, as I held my own experiences within adverse childhood experiences, crime, trauma, and toxic masculinity.

Therefore, to better understand these relationships both theoretically, and in my own personal world, I decided to conduct research that allowed me to answer the primary question of “how hegemonic masculinity in a men’s correctional institution shapes the ways in which long-term offenders heal from their past traumatic experiences”. In order to adequately answer that question, the research looked at everyday life and internal narratives of incarcerated men in a federal correctional institution. This data was to be collected through triangulation methods of collecting research such as; participant observation, field research, and literature/discourse analysis in the fields of sociology, criminology, and psychology were conducted. The information gathered was on trauma, adverse childhood experiences, masculinity, administration of gender, and arts-based and theoretically based research methods.

To break things down, narratives within the literature and discourse analysis consisted of, developing a thorough understanding of trauma, and experienced childhood adversity, the construction of gender, cultural theory, and of looking at how correctional institutions;

  1. promote and maintain hegemonic masculinity
  2. how hegemonic masculinity functions socially between and among inmates and frontline staff
  3. how the men’s ‘internal’ narratives about their ‘manhood’ comes to shape their own views.

THE PARTICIPANTS AND DATA COLLECTION:

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct my research along-side the highly esteemed professor, criminological researcher, artist and activist Dr. Ardath Whynacht; as I was invited to co-coordinate, and conduct research, through a transformative creative writing program alongside her in a federal men’s prison. The participants included 4 federally incarcerated men housed within the institution, all of whom were volunteers and consented to their participation in the program (so yes, the research setting was ecologically valid, meaning that all participants were observed in a setting that was natural to them, and part of their everyday routine within the institution).

The creative writing / poetry program was held weekly in the minimum-security unit of the prison. While there, I was a participant observer in the program (meaning, all assignments given to the men, were also self-given to Ardath and I). Additionally, while participating in the program myself, I was able to take notes discretely as to not disrupt the general flow of sharing, as quiet writing and reflective journaling was part of the groups ritual. This aided my analysis immensely as I was able to draw on numerous discussions, key themes, emotions, and truly navigate through the vulnerability in the mens writing. However, this ritual meant more to me than just “data”, I was building a genuine connection with the human beings I was sitting beside.

SOME RESEARCH FINDINGS:

One thing that I very quickly became aware of through spending time in a Federal Correctional Facility is the overwhelming reality that not one, but all of the men I had the pleasure of spending time with were victims of childhood abuse. Some were victims of emotional abuse, some physical, and some sexual; some were victims of all three- and each of them received no support growing up, and no tools to deal with these hardships. These moments of abuse, these very real moments of vulnerability, have immense impact on how these men shaped their internal narratives of ‘manhood’ and identity.

Many of the incarcerated men wrote about suffering from emotional abuse, haunted by memories of being told that they were worthless, and being told to ‘man up’ when they showed moments of vulnerability. The men wrote about having been both physically and emotionally bullied in school for having incarcerated parents, or for being ‘different’ from the rest of the boys on the playground. In fact, some of the very people who bullied them as children show share space with them within the confines of the prison. Additionally, some of the men wrote about memories of domestic abuse in which their fathers would severely abuse their mothers, and/or them. These reoccurring moments of violence often stemmed from one, or both parents’ suffering from substance abuse and addiction- creating even more barriers for the children growing up within these households.

Starting out with the research process was difficult, there were numerous concerns surrounding whether the men would feel comfortable speaking with me and choosing to share intimate details of their lives. Due to pre-existing expectations surrounding masculinity and vulnerability within the prison environment, I worried that they would feel incapable of communicating some of their emotions, especially in the presence of their peers. However, by the third week of visiting the prison, the [at times] closed off atmosphere of the poetry classroom seemed to drift away. The ‘homework’ both myself, Ardath, and the men were assigned for this week’s poetry class was to write a childhood memory from the perspectives of themselves as young children. Then, we instructed the men to re-write the assignment from their current adult perspective. There were no specifications on what the men had to write about other than a childhood memory- therefore, I was not emotionally prepared for the stories that would follow.

As one example, a man who was generally closed off to speaking about his experiences as a child came to ‘class’ that evening with several handwritten pages in his note book. He patiently waited for all his fellow peers, myself included, to share the work they had written. When it was his turn to read, he claimed that he had written about childhood moments where he felt like his life was the most out of control. He started his piece off by talking about how he had absent parents, as his father was often gone to sea for work, and his mother had a severe dependency on alcoholic substances. Because of these dynamics, he often experienced fighting and situations of domestic abuse between his parents. At times, he also became the victim of severe physical abuse- creating conflicting emotions for his father; as he was consistently struggling with the deep terror he felt for his father, and the admiration.

The memories he had of his father quickly ended when his father became lost at sea- leaving himself and his mother to care for themselves. With the despair brought on by the loss of his father, his mother became less and less present in his childhood- as alcohol consumed much of her time. So much so, that she would ignore his cries for help, while he was continuously sexually abused by his babysitter. His grandmother was the only adult in his life that made him feel safe and loved- however she later was placed in an asylum (adding to the large list of people he had lost in his life). He mentions that not long after this had occurred, his mother passed away in a house fire. He goes on to describe his life as a “living hell”, a life, and a past, that he has been unable to escape from.

The writing, and story that this man shared in the poetry class, as well as the rest of the mens stories, incorporated so many components of experienced childhood trauma, and neglect, and it was incredibly apparent based on collective discussion that the lack of support and trauma informed practices, he ended up acting in violent ways to compensate for the truly vulnerable emotions he was feeling and unable to express. Additionally, he was unable to begin a process of healing from his trauma, as his traumatic passed was never discussed in neither a personal, or institutional setting.

The weeks following the ‘childhood memory’ assignment, there were a lot of discussions surrounding the idea of healing from traumas. Collectively, the men discussed that by communicating past experiences of hardships at their own pace, allowed them to self-reflect and began a much-needed healing process.

Although the previous example was an experience written by a single member of the class, all of his peers felt that they had similar experiences of trauma in their own lives.  This conversation lead to a very empowering conversation around the idea of ‘choice’, and the way ‘choice’ becomes constructed. The men felt that through their socialization processes, and through their experienced traumas, they had lost their humanistic ability to think trauma free. They argue that had they not lost their ability to think within these transformative frameworks, they would not have committed the nature of the crimes in which they were convicted. They often became so blinded by the social, emotional, and economically barriers placed on them as children, that their own constructions of identity and choice became incredibly skewed.

Based on discussions we had about vulnerability, and healing, gender became a frequent topic. We often ended up discussing the ways each man viewed femininity, and masculinity, and the ways they had experienced each of those constructs. Even throughout different stories, levels of understanding and experiences, the concept of masculinity within the institution itself was something all the men agreed on. It seemed that incarcerated individuals believed that it was necessary to present a hyper masculine public facade within the institution. The men often referred to wearing a metaphorical ‘mask’ as something that is done by men to avoid revealing vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and other qualities that may undermine their hyper-masculine identities within the confines of the prison.

The concept of shame was also discussed frequently among the men in the poetry classroom. One of the participants often talked about how he wanted to share many traumatic experiences that have impacted the way he negotiated his identity. However, due to overbearing shame around his experiences and crimes, including the stigma around masculinity and vulnerability, he has continuously been unable to write or communicate about it. Additionally, another participant frequently stated he has shame around what he calls ‘sexual scars’. He often stated that unlike the institution itself, the writing program has allowed space for him to begin a process of healing and working to rid himself of the shame he has carried with him for so long. The shame, or ‘traumatic scars’ that he speaks so vividly of derives from numerous sources, he describes as;

  • feeling shame for being sexually assaulted [which derives from understandings of masculinity, dominance, and power]
  • feeling shame in his relationship with intimacy- as he often feels disassociated with intimacy due to his traumatic past.

The last thing I want to mention in terms of this program, is the importance of peer support, and finding support within homosocial environments. Male correctional facilities are often understood as a setting in which survival is dependent on adhering to incredibly strict masculine norms. Peer relations are often oriented around behaviours of hyper-masculine traits such as violence and aggression- and creates further complicates and reservations around institutional healing. However, the amount of support, positivity, and encouragement I felt within the poetry classroom was overwhelming, to say the least.

HOW 4 INCARCERATED MEN TAUGHT ME ABOUT VULNERABILITY: A FINAL REFLECTION

As I entered this academic experience, I knew that I would be learning information concerning trauma, masculinity, and prisons. What I could not prepare myself for, was how much I was going to learn about myself, my traumas, and my own processes of healing.

The whole process of conducting research in a correctional facility, and in partnership with vulnerable populations, MUST be a self-reflective one. The whole process of being a woman, being an outsider to the institution, the privileges I have experienced such as my education, all creates ethical considerations that I must acknowledge in order to ensure my research is anti-oppressive. As I previously stated, one of the primary ways that I could ensure that I was constantly practicing self-reflection throughout my research processes was to equally participate in the program in which I was expecting the men to participate.

When I say that, I am referring to the fact that I also wrote every writing assignment assigned to the men. I engaged in all reflective projects, every freestyle writing opportunity, every moment of sharing. How could I possibly urge vulnerability, and not practice it myself?

Becoming a participant in the program required me to dive into some pretty tricky emotions and experiences I was going through in my personal life outside of my ‘productive academic’ façade. For the first homework assignment, we had to write a poetic response the following poetry piece by the incredibly brilliant poet, Nayyirah Waheed:

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I took Nayyirah’s piece home. I reflected, I re-read, I felt. I felt all of the abuse I had bottled up over the past 7 years of my life.

I began to write my response. I was vague, I was metaphorical, and I was just careful enough so that I wasn’t disclosing that the poem was related to my personal story. After all, I was reading this piece out-loud in a prison, with people who have experienced more trauma than I could ever imagine. This program was for THEM, it was not about me.

The following week when I went to the prison, I sat in a circle of ‘convicted felons’, and nervously read them my piece of writing from the week before. When I finished reading my piece, the man across from me quietly asked if I could re-read it one more time.

As I read, the group sat in silence, and listened. After finishing my very shaky first attempt at EVER reading personal poetry out loud, I waited anxiously for comments. The man in front of me was the first to speak, and he said to me “Emily, you feel real pain”. How is it possible that the people in my own life very rarely picked up on the severity of the situation I was in, and a man who I met for the first time a week ago picked up on that immediately. For part of the evening, we continued to talk about abuse, relationships, and moving on.  At the end of the program, I was told kindly by the men who listened so genuinely throughout my story, that I had to leave the relationship. This was the moment that I realized I was going to gain so much more from this program than I could have even imagined.

After this eye-opening session, I began to reflect the changes I would start to make within my own life. So when an assignment came up that required us to remember a childhood memory, I recalled a vivid traumatic experience I had as a child. The memory was of my father, and I recalled it like it had happened yesterday. I wrote of fear, and confusion, and resentment- with the innocence of a young child. I then re-wrote the piece a second time, except this time I reflected on the meaning of trauma, the experiences he had that has shaped his life, and the lessons and growth that I could take away from the experience. While seemingly meaningless to most, this was a profound moment for me. For first time, I used my vulnerability, my traumas, in a productive way. After years, I started a journey of healing.

While sparing all of the details, I was able to gather enough strength to leave my abusive relationship. I was accepted to grad school and was planning a move by myself to a new city. I graduated from my undergrad, I pushed myself to experience new things. I began a complicated, at times traumatizing, but incredibly liberating journey of self-discovery.

I had to start over. I had to learn to love myself. I had to be strong. I had to be resilient. I had to vulnerable.

“So, what exactly did 4 federally incarcerated men teach me about vulnerability?”

During my time working with the men, I not only had to come face to face with many of the harsh realities of the Canadian Prison System, but I had to come face to face with myself.

In an environment in which I am supposed to associate with fear, I now had to associate with vulnerability. The critical nature of the study urged me to constantly be self-reflective, to be vulnerable, to open myself up to collective healing (because guess what, healing doesn’t have to be a lonely journey), to make room for forgiveness; especially self-forgiveness. With the help of my peers in the creative writing program, I was able to take back my life. I learned to use my anger as resilience, my doubts as motivation, and my vulnerabilities as strengths.

I have learned that male offenders serving life have incredibly high rates of adverse childhood experiences. I learned that traumatic scars, and perpetuations of gender, especially hegemonic masculinity, has become part of how many incarcerated men view their manhood, and identity. I learned that the prison is an institution that reinforces hegemonic masculinity through dehumanization and punishment of vulnerability. That programs that allow for peer-support and vulnerability work to dismantle the harmful barriers of the gender binary. I learned that healing is not linear, that your experiences matter, that there is power in your voice. I learned how to start over.

Lastly, I’m always asked what it was like talking to convicted life-sentenced offenders, and that is always a messy question. So, in our true program spirit, I will finish off this reflective piece with a self-written spoken word that highlights the lessons I took away from hanging out with 4 federally incarcerated men.

“speak words that water flowers”
I learned that we each have a story,
of love opposing the loveless
of light opposing the darkness
that art can be made out of all the broken pieces
that we push under our beds
shoved into drawers
that our worth is not shaped
by the scars on our skin,
or the cracks in our heart
by the war zone erupting
in the darkness of my mind;
it’s me
against him
against the world
that each word we cry out
deserves to be heard
not shaken in guilt,
or riddled in their words-
like the times you used to scream that
I was the problem
that healing comes in waves,
sometimes hurricanes,
that no one gets to choose
whether we sink
or swim
or come out screaming;
IT
      WASN’T
                       MY
                                 FAULT
That poetry is proof
That the most powerful words
Can come from
The senseless imperfections of a scribble
You
are
Art
Creating
Art
your experiences
your thoughts
your vulnerabilities
have the ability to
grow gardens,
roots
intertwined
with
roots
and that’s when I learned;
To speak words that water flowers

10 SIMPLE WAYS THAT YOU CAN HELP SAVE THE PLANET WITH YOUR ON-THE-GO LIFESTYLE

At the end of the day, we are all human just like everyone else, and all we can do is simply try our best to preserve the planet. I certainly am far from perfect in my efforts, but I am constantly pushing myself to believe in a better self, and a healthier world. So, in no particular order of importance, these are just some of the little, and simple, everyday  ways to living a more sustainable, waste-free lifestyle that won’t crack the bank.

 

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The majority of widespread disposable menstrual products contain plastics that cannot be recycled or reused- adding to a ton of waste and pollution both in our oceans and on land. Not to mention, if you are a person who has ever had to buy menstrual products then you probably have a pretty good idea of how expensive it is, how much packaging is used, and how much waste they can cause. So here are some tips on how we can have a healthier, waste-free, and radical period!

Reusable Cotton Pads:

Many people still believe that using reusable cloth pads are gross, and admittedly until I started researching the idea of plastic free periods, I was also one of those people. Once I had a better idea of all the chemicals inside disposable pads and tampons, which interfere with how our body works naturally, and pollutes the earth, and how much money is spent on purchasing these products mere to throw them away in a few hours; I changed my mind.

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To buy cute reusable cotton pads, head over to http://www.hannahpad.ca

 

 

Reusable menstrual cups:

Reusable menstrual cups are meant to replace regular tampons, but rather than absorbing your flow, they actually collect it in the cup. They are healthy, as most cups are made from body-safe medical grade silicone or bio-plastics. They are Earth-Friendly because they are reusable, which prevents the accumulation of persistent waste from disposable menstrual products. They are long lasting, as the produce can last you up to ten or more years! And they are way more cost-effective because of how long one cup lasts.

             Organicup-reuseable-sanitary-cup_grande.jpghead over to http://www.organicup.com

 

Reusable tampon applicator:

DAME just created the first ever reusable tampon applicator! This company uses antimicrobial technology found in nature to keep it hygienic, leak free, and built for the body. Additionally, the semi-gloss matt finish and ergonomic design makes this reusable tampon the most comfortable applicator you’ll apparently ever use.

004f1fb0de2e50682d8ee1f0ef5cca63_original.png  http://www.wearedame.co

 

 

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I absolutely love grabbing a cup of coffee on the go, and there are few things more enjoyable to me than getting to sit down with a hot or cold beverage (depending on the season), and work on my academic and creative “to-do list”.  I always knew that single-use cups definitely contributed to a ton of waste and pollution, but I figured that if I just made sure to toss out the cup that I’d be doing my job as a humanitarian (don’t we all like to ignore the bad, and focus on the good?) However, once I did some more research, I realized that throwing out my single-use cups is just NOT good enough, because;

  1. styrofoam and paper cups are just the worst! Seriously, the EPA estimates that about 25 billion styrofoam cups are thrown away in the United States alone each year, AND they require 500 years to fully break down! And while paper cups are a better choice than styrofoam , the glue used in these cups can start to break down which *potentially* could release melamine, which is incredibly harmful if consumed.
  2. Most single-use cups are not recyclable, or recycled. Realistically, these cups most often end up in landfills, or as pollution and litter. Another unfortunate note, while the cardboard sleeves are fully recyclable, they don’t tend to be recycled at all as they are just tossed away with the cup.
  3. Plastic lids are hella harmful. According to tentree.com, the lids for coffee cups are made from a type of plastic called plastic #6. This plastic is polystyrene, which, like styrofoam, leaks styrene into your coffee (which is a carcinogen). So, at the very least, find a safer lid, or just refuse a lid all together if you’re enjoying a lovely afternoon at your fav cafe.
  4. Coffee cups are estimated to be the second-largest contributor to litter waste after plastic bottles.
  5. half of the world’s plastic goes into products that are only used one
  6. And if you don’t care about the impact it has on your body, or our planet because you just love easy on-the-go coffee, then here’s an additional coffee tip for you: the taste of coffee is quite literally better out of a ceramic or stainless steel reusable mug. So if nothing else, DO IT FOR THE TASTE.
  7. Most coffee shops will give you a discount if you bring in your own reusable cup or mug.

AND LET’S TALK ABOUT PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES FOR A QUICK MINUTE. Many people don’t even realize the impact plastic water bottles have on both the environment, and our health. I’ve decided to stop purchasing one-use plastic water bottles, and carry around re-usable water bottles both in the house, and outside of the house because;

  1. Just like coffee cups, the bottles actually rarely get recycled.
  2. When using a disposable water bottle, you’ve probably been told a bunch of rules like “don’t drink it if its been sitting out in the sun” – mom was right, this is for good reason folk! The chemicals from the plastic seep into the water, which then ends up in your body. These chemicals have been known to cause birth defects, several types of cancer, and much more.
  3. why are you even paying for a bottle of water, when you could just carry around your own? I legitimately cannot afford that.
  4. Tap water is better than bottled water. And yes I know, that is a pretty bold statement to make. but depending on your geographical location, this statement is true. Tap water gets filtered more often than bottled water, and contains less chemicals than plastic bottled water.
  5. You’ll be more hydrated, and thus healthier. Seriously. If you constantly have a reusable bottle around you, you’re way more likely to drink more water.
  6. You’re saving the earth and beautiful animals because you aren’t contributing to the broken down plastic in the water, or on land, that animals often confuse for food.

Let’s explore some alternative cup/bottle options:

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head over to http://www.drasticplastic.net to get your eco-friendly reusable coffee cup, made of biodegradable wheat straw. MINES IN THE MAIL RIGHT NOW! This is a student necessity.

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Now, don’t get ahead of yourself. This bottle is not initially nice to your wallet. S’well is a high end reusable water bottle brand, that does come at a hefty price (for a water bottle), but does good, keeps your beverages at the temperature you like them best at, and eliminates the need for disposable water bottles. (and not to mention, you can choose from so many designs that compliment your style and personality. http://www.well.com/S’well

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Finding @potteryfortheplanet on instagram was a godsend! Go take a look at all the absolutely stunning handmade ceramic reusable mugs on http://www.potteryfortheplanet.com – or check out similar businesses locally or on Etsy!

 

 

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First, you’re probably thinking “why bamboo, Emily?” So take a look at some of the top ways bamboo actually saves the planet!

 

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Now, let’s talk about toothbrushes. Saying goodbye to your old plastic toothbrush, and switching over to a bamboo one, is one of the most popular “trends” in switching over to a more eco-friendly, sustainable living lifestyle.

Bamboo is a natural plant based material which, at the end of its life, is totally biodegradable and can even be composted. With 4.7 billion toothbrushes being made annually, which are advised to change every 3 months, it seems pretty important to switch over to a more sustainable option ASAP.

We need to give a shit about plastic pollution. As we speak, there are over 8 million pieces of plastic that are being dumped into our oceans from around the world. Due to this, “over 100,000 marine mammals and a million sea birds are killed off annually” (givingbrush.com)

Here are some quick reasons why we should all begin ditching our plastic toothbrushes:

  1. First of all, plastic toothbrushes are made from a large mix of plastic materials that combine elements of rubber, crude oil, as well as some extra plastic and cardboard that goes into their packaging.
  2. Electric tooth brushes actually leak out toxins, not to mention the batteries that power these suckers can potentially cause harm to the environment if not disposed of properly. Overtime, these batteries leak out acid that cause harm to oceans, wildlife, and the environment.
  3. North America alone wastes over 1 billion toothbrushes (givingbrush.com)
  4. they pollute our oceans. Plastic toothbrushes end up getting washed away into the ocean, and effectively endangering marine life. This also presents a danger for people who consume seafood; as the plastic contaminates both the ocean, and our food.
  5. bamboo toothbrushes are way, way cuter than plastic toothbrushes.

So, where can you get them?

For right now, I recommend heading over to http://www.givingbrush.com (@thegivingbrush) because they are giving away FREE bamboo toothbrushes!

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One thing that is hard to change, is that we all want to have nice things. But having nice things doesn’t always mean having the most popular brands, or gadgets; I like to think that the items that you own that get the most notice are the ones that not everybody else has! So why not be fashionable, noticeable and unique, while also saving the planet!

There are so many different things you could find eco-friendly alternatives to. But I’m going to start by discussing a common, “luxury” plastic item that pretty much *everyone* owns: a cell phone case!

If you are anything like me, you’ve probably gone through your fair share of phone cases over the years. The majority of cell phone cases are made of plastic, and other materials that are not biodegradable and that emit harmful toxins into the earth and oceans. It seems like a small change- but when you add up all of the cases you and your friends and family have gone through, were leaving a pretty big ecological footprint.

So, a few months back when I needed a new phone case, I decided to switch over to a case that looks unique, isn’t chunky, and is environmentally friendly!

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Pela recognizes that building an eco-friendly company is no easy task, but they’ve made their goals pretty clear and simple:

  • Reduce the amount of plastic waste created by consumer products
  • Alleviate our dependency on non-renewable fossil fuels and oil-based plastics
  • Educate people about plant-based, sustainable alternatives that are both functional and beautiful

Their cellphone cases are made with a starch-based biopolymer, recycled materials, and flax straw “waste” for added strength. The cases are family, pet, and child-safe, and are free from BPA, Lead, Cadmium, & phthalates. They also intentionally have a unique look that helps corporations and consumers separate sustainable bioplastics from traditional plastics.  The delivery of the pela case is also plastic-free, with minimal packaging.

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Photos taken by @snairjessiephotography                 to purchase: http://www.pelacase.com

 

 

 

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This is sustainable lifestyle tip I’ve recently been working hard to adhere to! As I’m sure you’ve noticed, many shopping centres are ditching their plastic bags (and rightfully so!). While this can be annoying (and surprising) if you go to a grocery store unaware, and unprepared, it opens us up to great alternative opportunities!

The first zero-waste way to go bagless, is to start bringing mason jars, cloth bag, glass snapware, ect. with you for foods such as grains, seasoning, loose teas, snacks, ect. The bulk barn is a great way to do this, and I’m literally obsessed (I’ve been blessed with a Bulk Barn 2 seconds from my house). Bringing your own jars to the Bulk Barn eliminates the plastic waste caused by the small plastic baggies and twist-ties used to collect your goodies. It also helps keep your food storage organized, fresh, and looking cute.

Note: You will definitely want to weigh your container either at home, or at your local store. It is important that you do this so that you are fully aware of the amounts you put into it, as many bulk stores and grocery stores will determine the price by weight. 

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Not only is buying and storing bulk goods in eco-friendly containers important,  it is also so easy to ditch your plastic produce bags too! Whether you want to bring a backpack, basket, or a reusable grocery or produce bag, DO IT. Not only does it keep your produce shopping waste and plastic free, it also encourages you to head over to your local farmers market or produce stand instead of the Superstore!

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Check out the amazing and visually appealing @zero.waste.collective on instagram for more awesome plastic/waste-free tips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There’s always been a ton of debate over which is greener; buying local, or buying fair trade- but at the end of the day, doing both is so important!

73% of money spent on local goods is reinvested into the community, while only 10% of money spent at major chain stores make it back into the local economy. So, there is reason enough to support your local businesses! Not convinced yet?

  • Locally supported/purchased food and goods creates important economic/social opportunities, provides health benefits, while also helping to reduce environmental impact. Whether you are buying a product from a farmer’s market or using a local service, you are not only supporting local economy, but you are supporting your neighbours, your community, and creating wonderful social networks.
  • fresher food is available when you buy local. A lot of the time, the food bought and used locally comes directly from a local farmer, and packed within a week! Talk about fresh!
  • There is way less packaging involved! According to scientists in 2010, around eight million tons of plastic trash ended up in the ocean; which can easily be combatted by choosing reusable over plastic.
  • Not only does buying local reduce waste from packaging, it also reduces the use of fossil fuels! Food miles not only consume energy, but they contribute to air pollution, AND your food takes much longer to get to you (which means potential affects on your health).
  • The experience is way more fun! When you go to the farmer’s market for example, you often get to plenty of familiar faces, hear live music, eat delicious food, and meet other members of your community! There are also so many “pick-your-own” farms around, where you actually get to pick your own food, enjoy the outdoors, and some laughs with friends and family!

Now, let’s talk about fair trade: 

  • The fair trade label means an organization such as Fair Trade USA has certified that farmers and other producers adhere to fair trade standards.
  • When you buy products that are certified as fair trade, your purchase ensures equitable trade practices at every level of the supply chain!
  • Additionally, the fair trade license fees generate funds, which are given to the fair trade communities, which is then designated for social, economic, and environmental development projects.
  • Workers on fair trade farms are supposed to be guaranteed freedom of association, safe working conditions, and sustainable wages; with forced child and slave labour being strictly prohibited.
  • Lastly, fair trade certified products are free from genetically engineered ingredients, and must be produced with limited amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, and have proper management of waste, water and energy.

If you’re not able to support local businesses or fair trade, at least educate yourself on where your food is coming from! Do research, see who benefits from your purchase, who doesn’t, and always be critical of the food and shopping industries.

Source: http://www.ecowatch.com

 

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I don’t know about you, but I definitely have a pretty plentiful “beauty routine”. From a number of different face products (cleansers, exfoliators, moisturizers, day/night serums, ect), hair products, way too many hygiene products (literally our shower is way too full), and not to mention perfumes, and makeups, (woo long list)- I definitely leave a large ecological footprint when it comes to my everyday beauty routines.

However, over the years, I’ve started switching over slowly to natural, green, eco-friendly products. Mostly every hygiene product I use on my skin, or hair, is eco-friendly, not tested on animals, and made with all natural ingredients. Not only do I find they actually work BETTER than products containing chemicals, they often smell incredibly and help your hair grow longer! But- I’m definitely no ecological warrior when it comes to makeup. Only recently, after running into financial constraints, have I even switched over to buying drug store brand makeup (yes- I used to be a Sephora snob). That’s not to say that I don’t completely avoid brands that still do animal testing- but very rarely do I care about the ingredients in my makeup.

So, I’ve been researching some ways that I can slowly make changes in my own beauty routine! Here are some simple green swaps:

  • reach for a stainless-steel razor instead of disposable plastic ones. According to my research, these razors actually tend to give a cleaner shave that lasts longer AND leads to less ingrown hairs. Stainless steel blades also last longer and can be recycled, so you will save money, be hair free, and you’ll make some environmental impact!
  • Use facecloths to remove your makeup, instead of cotton balls- and just toss the towels in the wash when you’re done!
  • Use eco-friendly, organic perfumes or essential oils instead of conventional perfumes. Now, if you’re anything like me, this could be a really difficult thing for you. I absolutely love perfume, body sprays, and anything that smells good. So, this of course, will be a slow adjustment for me as well (and I’ll probably never be perfect at it). BUT to combat all the chemicals in conventional perfumes, you can make your own perfume by adding a few drops of your favourite essential oil to a roller bottle and combining it with your favourite carrier oil (fractionated coconut oil, grape seed oil, ect.) You can find plenty of blends and recipes online & it has a number of health benefits as well! Just make sure you do your research on the essential oils that are safe to put on your skin!
  • Head over to your local Lush, or The Body Shop to check out the eco-friendly, organic makeup, hair, and skin products that they sell! I highly recommend purchasing your products from lush as they are AMAZING, and the staff are always so wonderful and knowledgable. And ALL the products made are made by Lush staff in their “factory”.
  • Even better than Lush or the Body Shop, buy local eco-friendly beauty products! Usually you can find some at the local Farmer’s Market, roadside shops, or online!

http://www.lush.ca http://www.thebodyshop.com

 

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Cleaning products are everywhere in our homes: on our dishes, countertops, furniture, clothes, floors, windows, and floating around in the air we breathe! I have four roommates and a wild amount of pets (including a dog and cat)- so as you can imagine, our house often becomes a constant war on dirt! Unfortunately- the majority of the conventional cleaning products we have in our home are petroleum-based and have numerous health and environmental implications (oops). So instead of opting for cleaning products that ruin everything in their path, there are so many natural products and methods we can start to use that will keep our house looking clean and fresh- and smelling delicious.

Besides employing green cleaning products, there are so many other things we can do to keep our how green and dirt free;

  • avoid poor indoor air quality! According to http://www.treehugger.com, it is not uncommon for the air inside our homes to be more toxic than the air outside! This is because of the presence of all the toxic materials and substances we use in our home, AND the fact that homes are better insulated now than ever before! So, keeping windows open as often as possible allows all the fresh air to come in, and keeps toxins flowing out. This is ESPECIALLY important when you’re using cleaning products!
  • Use baking soda to keep your home smelling fresh! Baking soda not only removes the gross smells from your fridge, it is also a great odor-eliminator for floors, carpets,  furniture and anything that your animal may (god forbid) pee on. Just sprinkle on a little baking soda to soak up some of the odors and then vaccuum it up!
  • If you are able to, try to avoid store bought air fresheners! If you or a family member enjoy baking, the you know that cooking a nice batch of cookies can make your house smell delicious! Also, picking up an essential oil diffuser and diffusing safe essential oils to clean the air, lift your mood, and make your home smell clean and fresh! It’s always better to have natural products that eliminate smells, rather than cover them up! Some of my favourite oils to diffuse are DoTerra’s citrus oils, peppermint and lavender!
  • Plants, plants, and more plants! Not ALL plants will make your house smell different, but holy moly are they ever good for filtering interior air! Plant tip: Peace Lilies are a favourite choice, and are great for rooms where your animals spend a lot of time in, or you house small caged critters!
  • Try to toss your toxic cleaners out carefully! When replacing your cleaning products, don’t just throw them in the trash! If they’re too toxic for your home, they wont be good for the drain or the landfill either. Check to see if your community holds toxics & electronics recycling days where they take all of these dangerous items off your hands!
  • Vinegar is a god-sent cleaning item! It kills bacteria naturally, effectively! Cleaning tip: It also helps get scratches out of leather furniture!

You may still be saying “those things take time, and effort- I don’t want to switch up my cleaning routine”. While that is fair, let’s look at some numbers to change your mind:

  • 17,000: the number of petrochemicals available for home use, only 30% of which have been tested for exposure to human health and the environment.
  • 100: the number of times higher that indoor air pollution levels can be above outdoor air pollution levels, according to the US EPA estimates.
  • 63: The number of synthetic chemical products found in the average home, translating to roughly 10 gallons of harmful chemicals.
  • 275: the number of active ingredients in antimicrobials that the EPA classifies as pesticides because they are designed to to kill microbes.
  • 5 billion: the number of pounds of chemicals that the institutional cleaning industry uses each year.
  • 23: the average gallons of chemicals (thats 87L) that a janitor uses each year, 25 percent of which are hazardous.

AND IF THATS NOT ENOUGH, CLEANING PRODUCTS CAN KILL YOUR PETS OR BABIES.

I also highly recommend looking on http://www.pinterest.com for some fun homemade cleaning supply recipes!

source: http://www.treehugger.com

 

 

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Tip #1: save water, and shower with other people 😉

According to Boston University, the average American uses 25,300 gallons of water a year (69.3 gallons daily). On average, approximately 11,600 gallons of water a year are used per university student (unreal!). But, we can help reduce waste of this resource by making simple changes to our daily routines!

An average shower uses about 5 gallons of water per minute- which means (now I’m not good at math), if you shorten your shower by even 2 minutes, you can cut your water use by 10 gallons! So imagine what you could do by cutting 5 minutes off, or even further reducing your water consumption by turning the water off while lathering yourself with soap (even if it means you have to be a little chilly for a second)!

Tip #2: just don’t leave the tap running, please.

 

 

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This one is so easy! When you go through your spring cleaning routine, and decide with clothes you are going to keep, donate, or throw out (if they are in bad condition)- keep that throw out pile!

If your clothes are not in a condition to pass on to someone else, a great thing you can do is cut them up into cleaning towels, recycled fabrics, or in our house, bedding for your pet rats. This is a great way to avoid using large amounts of paper towel, or buying cleaning cloth.

Another tip: If you’re handy with a needle, try making reusable grocery bags out of old clothing! Then you’re checking off #10, and #5 of this list!

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Thanks for reading! I’d love for you to leave in the comments some ways that you practice sustainable, waste-free living in your everyday life! As someone who is attempting to start living a sustainable, waste-free lifestyle, I’ve got to say that green living is a gradual process. Instead of trying to make all these big changes overnight, focus on slowly introducing new things into your routine so that it becomes a stress-free hobby! That way, you’ll be able to create a sustainable routine!

Emily Arsenault (@arsenault.emmy)

10 MUST-DO’S IN HALIFAX THIS FALL

If you are anything like me, fall can become a very hectic time for you. From Back to School, working, catching up on everything you ‘gave yourself a break’ from during the summer, to numerous Holiday’s, it can be a really difficult process mapping out time to just have fun and NOT feel guilty about it. However, one of the kindest things you can do is FORGIVE your damn self for not ALWAYS being on the ball, and carve out time to enjoy the little things (or in other words- stop to smell the pumpkin spiced lattes). I definitely do not take enough time to stop and “smell the roses” as they say- so I decided to create a ‘to-do’ list for myself to make sure I’m putting down the books and getting my butt out of the house (the struggle).

Here are 10 things to add to your bucket list this fall (in no particular order because they are all awesome):

 

1.

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Ciders are a personal favourite of mine, and theres nothing like that crisp apple taste on a cool evening (or afternoon- let’s be honest). Since moving to Halifax in 2016, I’ve been dying to check out Chain Yard Cider on Agricola St and get one one of their flights (folks, I’m talking 4x 4oz ciders for 10.50).

Also- Chain Yard Cidery is “Halifax’s first and only cidery dedicated to making awesome, approachable, unique and traditional ciders made from 100% Nova Scotia Apples- we never, ever, ever use concentrate” (www.chainyardcider.com) YOU HEARD IT, THEY ARE AWESOME AND UNIQUE #saynotoconcentrate

From my fall ‘bucket-list’ to yours, check out Chain Yard Cider (and if you go before me- tell your girl how it was!)

 

2.

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PSA: Halifax has the OLDEST GHOST WALK IN NORTH AMERICA (founded in 1990 –  wait, I was born in ’94 how old are we thinking this is??)

So in hopes of seeing some spooky haligonian ghosts, and learning all about the historic streets of Halifax, I am making it a point to hear some spooky ghost stories this fall.

http://www.thehalifaxghostwalk.com

 

3.

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If you haven’t already, please make a point of getting up some Saturday morning, grabbing a cuppa joe, and taking a stroll through the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market. Check out all the local vendors, grab some lunch at any of the amazing food venders, and enjoy the view from upstairs!

My Farmers Market to buy list:

  • Noggins Corner Farm Market for a massive bottle of spiced apple cider to enjoy hot everyday (literally- fav fall/winter hot beverage)
  • SOME DAMN NICE FLOWERS FOR MYSELF, because I deserve it.

https://www.halifaxfarmersmarket.com/

 

4.

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Okay, admittedly this may take you a little out of Halifax. But if you are a lover of wine, wine drunks, feeling fancy, and have an instagram account, then you know that the ‘it’ thing to do in the early fall is go get classily piss drunk with your best friends at one of beautiful wine tours Annapolis Valley has to offer.

I personally have never been on a wine tour (shame on me), so you can be sure the girls are all taking a little road trip down to the valley this fall!

 

5.

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This one’s a given. Go apple picking. Take too many home. Make all the things with the apples. Yes, I love apples.

And heres a little tip: If you buy way too many apples, make a pie and share it with your friends because everyone loves pie so everyone will love you.

 

6.

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No word of a lie, when it comes to halloween tours I’m a baby. But I’m setting the goal to go to the haunted tours and let terrifying clowns scare the crap out of me- but no promises I’ll actually go through with it at the risk of my heart completely stopping.

Home

 

7.

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GUESS WHAT YOU DESERVE A FUN NIGHT OUT WITH FRIENDS, and if you’re a lover of music (you better be) then be a little wild, go out on a Wednesday or Thursday,  and check out Pop Explosion music festival- you’ll be very happy you did #noragrets

head on over to https://www.halifaxpopexplosion.com/  to take a look at all their amazing artists, tickets prices, venues and get all the info you need so you can have a seriously dope night.

 

8.

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Grab your best friends, your partner, your family, or yo damn self and enjoy a scenic fall picnic in the Halifax Public Gardens or Point Pleasant Park. Nothing is more peaceful than observing the changing colours of the leaves, wrapping up in a cozy blanket, enjoying a warm beverage while catching up with a loved one (or reading an amazing book in solitude).

  • Pleasant Tip: picnics become less enjoyable (for me at least) as the weather gets colder so maybe make a point of doing this earlier on in the fall. Or don’t. You do you.

 

9.

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Before it gets too cold, start a fun evening at the Halifax waterfront, wrapped up in a red blanket from The Bicycle Thief, and enjoying the crisp fall air with your favourite beverage in hand (and hopefully your favourite people!)

I don’t know about you, but I’ll definitely be walking the boardwalk to take in the beautiful waterfront views and spend way too much time looking for fishies in the harbour.

https://my-waterfront.ca/waterfront/halifax/

 

10.

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ALRIGHT- this one is important. Do yourself a favour, and take a break from your hectic life and try to dedicate a day to taking care of yourself! Allow yourself to relax, slow your mind, let your body rest. Fill your time with the things that calm you, whether it’s curling up in bed with a good book, going to your favourite coffee shop to write, or watching your favourite movie with a tub of ice cream.

slow down. breathe. and carve out time to love yourself. because you deserve it.

 

 

 

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THE HEALTHY TRAVELLERS GUIDE TO MASTERING FLYING

TRAVELLING CAN CAUSE ALL KINDS OF DISHARMONIES IN YOUR BODY. SO I’VE COMPILED A NUMBER OF REMEDIES TO GET YOU THROUGH THAT LONG FLIGHT AND AIRPORT WAITS

THIS IS YOUR HEALTHY TRAVELLERS GUIDE TO JET LEG, TRAVELLING SUPERFOODS, PACKING MUST HAVES, AND ENTERTAINMENT, AND REGAINING BALANCE OF THE BODY, MIND, AND SOUL

 

 

The healthy travellers guide

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7 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE STARTING GRAD SCHOOL

  1. GRAD SCHOOL CAN BE REALLY LONELY 

From grade Primary, to Grad School, educational institutions will always feel like a wild jungle. From predators, prey, learning, growing, failing, and trying to keep up with a constant changing environment, the majority of our understandings of how to navigate our social worlds developed within a classroom. And if you are anything like me, you may have felt like you were *constantly* surrounded by other students, and actually trying to avoid group work in later years or realizing that you’ve known some of your classmates longer than your own siblings. For many of us, graduating high school and going off to university seemed like not only a rite of passage to adulthood, but also an open door to get as far away from any annoying people in your life (let’s be honest).

And then… you enter University. You are an adult. You are invincible. You are free. You are failing classes for the first time. But at least you have 30 awesome new friends who are also failing classes (“Mom, literally everyone else is struggling with the class too!”). Your first couple years are often the most experimental, as you are now on your own navigating your new-found adulthood. Realistically, besides the profound learning experience you (hopefully) have in your undergrad, everything else is quite literally a messy, fun, adventurous, and difficult to remember, social experiment, at best (and sometimes so is the profound learning experiences). But, one thing is for sure, in your undergrad you are constantly getting human interaction; whether you want it or not.

Grad school is definitely in a very different ball park when it comes to your social life- and rightfully so. The expectations are higher, the work is harder, and you’re overall held at a much higher academic standard. These were all things I knew when starting my journey through graduate studies. But at a point in my life where literally *everything* was changing, I was not emotionally prepared for how lonely grad school could be.

Unlike many undergraduate university courses, your master’s classes are small. Very small. In fact, some of my graduate classes only had one other student in them. While you do often get close to your cohorts, it is important to keep in mind that you are ALL doing totally different work. It’s not as easy to get your peer’s opinions on a difficult assignment, or an academic challenge you are facing, when each student is working on different topics/areas of research. Additionally, many grad programs that are thesis/research based are set up in a way that allows you to have a year of class work, with a following year of independent writing and research. During this independent year, you are now not only gaining social interaction from classes, but you’re having to *make* the time to be social- which, as I’ll cover later, is not easy.

  1. YOU MAY FEEL NO CONNECTION TO YOUR NEW UNIVERSITY (And that’s okay)

 

For most, there will always be a special place in your heart for your alma mater. For me, my alma mater, Mount Allison University, was home. Literally, and figuratively. My mother was an employee at the university, and so from the time I was 8 and onward Mount Allison was part of my everyday life, and community. So, as you can imagine, graduating from Mount Allison University and moving to a larger city in a different province for my graduate studies was an intimidating process. I had had such a profound connection with Mount Allison, the students, and my professors, that right away it felt ‘wrong’ being a part of a different University.

In grad school, you hold a different place in the student body. For example, in your undergrad you often get bombarded with emails of university events and services. You participate in student elections, extra-curricular programs and sports, and have a say in all of the events that are coordinated at your school. When you are a master’s student, you become uninvolved in the ‘undergraduate’ aspects of university; such as events, extra-curriculars, and even sports (as most university athletics have age restrictions). You get substantially less emails from administration (which is nice- you feel me?), but that also means that you have essentially NO idea what is going on within your university community.

Because I had such a connection with my undergraduate university, I was very frustrated that I wasn’t able to feel like I was a ‘part’ of the student body at my new University; especially since I had moved to an entirely new city. It took me a long time to realize that not feeling that connection was okay. While I miss my old professors, classes, friends, and campus, Mount Allison was not able to provide me with a master’s Degree- but it provided me with everything else. Now it’s time to get the master’s degree, and find security in the friends and family I’m surrounded by, and make my own ‘home’ here in Halifax.

3. TIME MANAGEMENT IS HARD (LIKE REALLY HARD)

 Grad School. Classes. Thesis. Research Assistant. Teachers Assistant. Part-time job. Food. Sleep. To put it simply: “enough said”.

Time management is something that will always being a learning process for some, but creating a sustainable schedule is one of the most important things you can do to make your grad school experience a little easier.

4.THE IMPOSTER SYNDROME IS REAL 

Many high achievers share a similar secret: deep down, we feel like complete frauds, with our accomplishments simply being the result of some damn good luck. This phenomenon becomes hyper performed in Grad School, as you already are entering with higher expectations than usual placed upon you. This psychological phenomenon known as “imposter syndrome” reflects a belief that you are an inadequate and incompetent failure, despite evidence that indicates that you are skilled and actually quite successful.

Imposter syndrome is incredibly harmful, difficult to control, and can take various forms depending on a person’s background, personality, and circumstances.

Valerie Young (2018), an expert on the subject, has categorized Imposter Syndrome into 5 subgroups:

  • The Perfectionist: Perfectionism and imposter syndrome often go hand-in-hand as perfectionists set excessively high goals for themselves, and experience major self-doubt and worry when they fail to reach their goal.
  • The Superwoman/Man/Person: Often, the people who experience this phenomenon are convinced they are phonies among “real-deal” colleagues and peers. They often push themselves to work harder and harder to measure up, which works as a FALSE cover-up for their insecurities, and end up overloading on work. Like perfectionism, this can severely harm not only your mental health, but also your relationships with others.
  • The Natural Genius: Individuals who struggle with this often judge their success based on their abilities, as opposed to their efforts. In other words, if they have to work hard at something, they assume they must be bad at it. Their internal bar is set impossibly high, like perfectionists.
  • The Rugged Individualist: Suffers who feel as though asking for help reveals their phoniness are what Young calls “rugged individualists”. Obviously, it is okay to be independent, but not to the extent that you refuse assistance so that you can “prove” your worth.
  • The Expert: People who fall into this competence type may feel like they somehow ‘tricked’ their employer into hiring them, or ‘tricked’ a university into accepting them. No matter how much of an ‘expert’ you’ve become in your respected field, you are CONSTANTLY seeking ways to improve your skills to prove your worth.

 

I encourage you to self-reflect on this list and acknowledge the ways in which you may be causing serious mental harm to yourself, so that you can develop healthier coping mechanisms to your everyday stresses and expectations.

Disclaimer: I am most definitely “The Superwoman” & “The Expert”. I would love to hear from any others who may also suffer from imposter syndrome, and where you think you fall based on Young’s list.

5. CLASSES ARE RARELY INTERESTING 

When I applied to graduate studies, I was childishly excited for all the ‘amazing’ university classes I would be able to take. I was excited to be challenged, and to explore new concepts and theoretical frameworks.

Unfortunately, the way the majority of my program was set up, did not provide me with the exciting and challenging learning that I thought I would receive. The majority of classes were research methods classes, and theory classes; and while those are definitely important AND interesting- much of the information was repetitive from my undergrad material. The other classes we’re often mandatory thesis writing courses to guide us through our Grad School journey. Do not get me wrong: my professors and peers were kind, and absolutely brilliant, but we were unable to explore all of the criminological avenues we wanted to explore given the time restraints and nature of the program.

6. GRAD SCHOOL = BETTER IF SINGLE 

I wish I could tell you that dating gets easier in grad school, than it is in your undergrad- but that has not been my experience.

While I’m sure the ‘partner pool’ involves a higher level of maturity and commitment than we’ve experienced in college; it only works if you have time to do it! Between trying to balance school, jobs, family & friends, and having a social life, finding the time to date can be incredibly difficult. Not only can it be difficult to meet people depending on how your program is structured, it also is difficult to rationalize going on a date with someone you hardly know on your one night off. If only love was easy; am I right?

Word of advice: If you are in grad school while in a committed relationship, make sure your partner respects your education as much as you do!

7. YOU’LL LEARN MORE ABOUT YOURSELF THAN YOU THOUGHT POSSIBLE

As discussed within the other 6 points, graduate school really is a life-altering experience. It is a journey that will change the way you see the world, and the way you see yourself. It should open your mind, and your heart, and help you in using your knowledge for the greater good.

While Grad School does have its cons, it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Not only have I grown a stronger writer and academic, but I’ve grown to become a stronger person emotionally as well. I have been able to gain so much knowledge from my experiences, grow as an expert in my own field, while learning how to be independent (but hey- we all still need a little help). While I wish I could have been nicer to myself throughout the first few years- I will always encourage lovers of learning to do grad school if that’s where their hearts and minds pull them.

 

 

Sourced: https://www.fastcompany.com/40421352/the-five-types-of-impostor-syndrome-and-how-to-beat-them

WELCOME TO MY JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY

As I sit down to write this first blog post, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed with excitement to embark on this journey of self-discovery with you! I don’t know about you, but so far, my journey of/to self-discovery has been a mixture of messy, complex, and enlightening experiences that keep me challenged every day. It has been a wild process of navigating every. little. thing. that happens from day-to-day and trying to find balance in my chaotically imbalanced life.

Up until the past couple of months, my coping mechanism to the stress of being a 24 year-old Grad School student, juggling mental illness, a number of jobs, relationships, a social life (and the list goes on) was basically as follows: get overwhelmed, think about making changes, make changes for a day, give up, feel guilty for giving up, ignore, repeat. As a self-proclaimed procrastinator, my instinct is simply to “wait it out” until I can no longer “wait it out”. While this has *somehow* proven effective in certain cases (read: fellow academics, let’s be honest), in many situations it has stopped me from reaching my full potential. Unfortunately, I am just coming to terms with this now. But I finally feel ready, I think that it is the perfect time to *actually* deal with everything that has been piling up these past 24 years.

Now I’m not here to preach the idea of “you create your own happiness”- because quite frankly, that is bullshit. As someone who has always struggled with mental health issues, who has worked as an ally to marginalized populations, and who studies the social world, I have come to understand all too well how untrue that statement can be for many people. Instead, what I am doing, is choosing to embark on a journey of accountability, autonomy, mindfulness, and vulnerability, to reach a goal of finding balance in all spheres of my own social and individual world.

Which brings me to my last note: I want your help! These journeys are not easy, and the search for any transformative change can be uncomfortable, at times lonely, and (as I know too well) easy to procrastinate. Despite the natural instinct to keep all emotional journeys to myself, I would like to embark on this journey as a ‘community’; and to share with you my on-going tips-and-tricks, struggles, experiences, and new adventures that may also help you on your own journey to finding balance and the ‘self’ (kind of like Eat, Pray, Love but for the broke college student).

With love,

Emily Arsenault