Taking a Mindfulness Quiz: Grinches and Self Care

The Grinch needs a mindfulness quiz.

With millennials taking the cake for the most stressed generation, practices like yoga, meditation, and self-care, in general, are becoming increasingly commodified. Going to spas, meditation retreats and weekly or even daily yoga classes become trendier by the day, and the idea that mindfulness is only for the wealthy and the white seeps deeper into our consciousness. And if you’re like me, you wouldn’t touch this faux-enlightened, gentrified, culturally-appropriative, capitalist garbage with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole.

Understand, I’m no stranger to the artsy, new age hippies. I go to theater school, and over the past four years, have basically whittled my skills down to rolling around on the floor and out-of-context vocal exercises. BUT learning mindfulness was an essential component of my training and HAS helped me in my everyday life deal with anxiety, depression and stressful situations.

So today I am here to demystify mindfulness and spread it to the masses! Despite how cult-y yoga and meditation can appear, you don’t need to be a trust fund or a floating embodiment of positivity to learn and practice mindfulness. You can be a Grinch and still practice awareness, presence, and self-compassion.

What is this mindfulness thing?

Well, my fellow grinches, mindfulness is just being aware of the present moment.

That’s it. I swear. Just staying present with your body’s sensations, your thoughts, and your emotions without placing judgment on them.

You may not know it, but you may have been practicing mindfulness without even knowing it. Our friends at The Treatment Center have put together a helpful quiz to gauge your how often you use mindfulness.

So what’s so great about it?

No grinches are immune to anxiety or worries. Using simple mindfulness exercises helps to ground you, and better prepare you for dealing with stressful situations. Mindfulness helps you listen to signals that your body gives you, and helps you manage your emotions and resist immediate impulses.

But HOW do you practice this mindfulness thing?

There are a couple different mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

Being Present: This can be done anywhere: just take stock of what you’re feeling. What kind of thoughts are you having? What emotions are you feeling? How does your body feel? Give attention to each of your body parts, and special attention to the rhythm of your breath. Take in information from each of your senses. This method in particular help people in the middle of panic attacks.

Acceptance: Once you’re present and aware of yourself and your surroundings, try not to judge wherever you’re at. Because of all those rich yuppie gurus who ruin everything, you’re probably going to think you’re not doing it right or you should be having a different reaction. But this is a part of practicing mindfulness! We work to accept thoughts, emotions and states as they are, and hold back from dubbing something ‘good’ or bad’. The more you accept what you’re feeling and thinking, the more time you give yourself to decide how to react in a given situation.

Awareness Meditation: Sit down anywhere that’s comfortable, and bring your attention to your breath: In and out, in and out. When your focus moves to something else, just gently guide it back.

Routines: You heard correctly, grinches: you can do this during any almost activity! When you’re walking, doing dishes, working, even while you’re ruining Christmas. Just keep taking in your surroundings, and observing your thoughts and emotions. 

But I’m a Grinch! Taking care of myself and my emotions don’t sound fun! 

Time for some hard truth, grinches. Everybody needs self care. Self care isn’t glamorous or very much fun, but it’s gonna help prevent us from reacting impulsively or sinking into an unpleasant mental state. Mindfulness gives us the ability to reflect before reacting and letting emotions pass through us. This is a holistic therapy you can give to yourself. Students in particular benefit from mindfulness, because when anxiety and stress aren’t dealt with, students are more susceptible to depression, substance abuse addiction and other mental health issues.

Happy Grinch after becoming mindful and not depressed.

So go forth! Use these skills! Find some inner peace and self-love without spending a lot of money and being an appropriative jerk wad about it!

Affluence, Art and Addiction Assessment

Over the past two months, my social media feed has been decked with decorated caps, selfies with diplomas, and dope commencement speeches. The School of Theater class of 2017 was extremely near and dear to my heart, and even though I could not attend their graduation, I’m so proud of them and what I know they will accomplish.

Yet, along with that excitement, I’m all too aware of the realities of the world my friends are facing head on. To begin with, a theater artist’s life is not a particularly stable or easy one. No one heads into this career expecting to make a lot of money. Rejection is a daily companion, and in a profession where it’s dangerously easy to confuse your identity with your art, it takes vigilance to remain emotionally healthy. Now contextualize this with the current administration, a steady increase of global carbon emissions and far too many cultural idols overdosing: no wonder Millennials experience the most stress.

Now, my love and support are with those who are hit hardest by our current climate: my POC friends, my disabled friends, my Muslim friends, my immigrant friends, and my poor friends. But I don’t pretend to speak for these communities, and I have an issue that often goes unnoticed that I want to explore: Today, I’m going to take a look at the state of my affluent friends, my friends who have safety nets, and how a life of easy access can result in prolonged addiction.

Credit Card

Addiction in Affluence

This issue has surfaced for me after a few ideas had coalesced. It began when I read an article my friends were sharing: ‘Can Only Rich Kids Afford to Work in the Art World?’ This article examined how art students are far more likely to receive financial help from their parents for school and post grad life than the average student. While I know students in my program who are here on full scholarships or work three jobs to attend school, they are definitely in the minority. With BU’s tuition being hiked up every year, this school and the School of Theater, continues to serve wealthier students.

Thinking about these wealthier students, some of whom were born into Hollywood families, it reminds me of the time that one acting teacher told a student that she was riding on her mother’s success. When you come from a world of money that you didn’t earn, a world where almost any mistake can be remedied, it’s all too easy to feel like an imposter. The myth of American exceptionalism is indiscriminate: it affects everyone.

Combining these feelings of insecurity with the tortured artist stereotype, post-grad pressures and how Hollywood perpetuates cycles of addiction, it creates the perfect environment for an addiction to be contracted, to fester, and to grow.

I’m writing about this to dispel myths of addiction in all demographics. Although the wealthy experience many privileges, their lack of financial limit often leaves addictions untreated because of their inability to visibly hit ‘rock bottom’. With being able to purchase alcohol online, drugs online, and delivered to your door, access is easier than ever before.

It can be difficult to identify whether you or a loved one has an addiction: because of societal narratives, addiction is associated with moral failings and a lack of self-control. Luckily, there are many available resources to help. To start, there are many online quizzes associated with Alcohol Rehab Centers. These are sometimes good places to start because they’re all online and you don’t have to feel worried about being judged. From the Center The Dunes East Hampton, here are some questions you can ask yourself or your loved one:

Do you find yourself drinking before and/or during work hours?

Have you found yourself budgeting more money for alcohol each month?

Has a friend or family asked you to cut back on your drinking?

Have you and your partner argued frequently about the nature of your alcohol abuse?

Have you accidentally injured yourself (or others while consuming alcohol?

Do you ever drink in response to feeling strong emotions such as anxiety or anger?

Do you consistently feel guilty about decisions you make when you’re drinking?

Are you unable to stop consuming after having a few drinks?

If you or your loved one answered yes to any of these questions, it may be beneficial for you to educate yourself about the disease of addiction and explore treatment options.

In the theater alone. Don't give into addiction.

It’s at these times I think of the great artists we’ve lost to overdoses. Even over the short span of my lifetime, it’s been devastating: Prince, Carrie Fischer, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Robin Williams, to name a small few. And I’m lucky enough to have worked with students at my school who have moved me as those great artists have moved me. To think, that when professional help is available, we could lose anyone capable of reminding us of our humanity with such power is harrowing.

To all my friends, in all walks of life, while working and fighting for kindness and justice and art, be gentle with yourselves in these hard, hard times.

Home Lock Tips for College

Allston Village Metro

Livin’ It Up In Rat City: College Living and Home Locks

Ah, Allston. As a junior, I’ve had my fair share of crap living in the area of Boston appropriately dubbed ‘Rat City’. I’ve had plumbing issues, electric issues, and issues (luckily not any rat issues, but I have grown fond of hearing them fight to the death outside my bedroom window), and like every college student to have ever lived, I’ve locked myself out of my apartment. When this happened and left me to wait until someone else came through the door, get up to my porch and slither through my window into the living room, I realized how easy it would be to break into my apartment.

This led me down a rabbit hole of learning way too much about home security, residential locksmiths, and efficient locksmith services for me to ever continue operating under the assumption that I’m cool. But because we live in a city, and I’ve heard of too many of my friends getting robbed, I thought I’d share some helpful tips about home locks and security.

Actual photo of a rat friend
Actual photo of a rat friend

Changing Your Locks

So for those of you moving in apartments in Allston, there are so many people who come through these living spaces, it’s almost guaranteed many people still have keys to your apartment. If you’ve got the cash, it’s really best to get your landlord to change the locks. It can give you a whole lot of peace of mind, knowing you and your roommates are the only ones who have keys. There are two principal ways of doing this: you can rekey the lock, or you can replace the locks entirely.

The ANSI Rating

Sounds fancy, right? Apparently, locks are given ANSI ratings, Grade 1, Grade 2, or Grade 3. Grade 1 locks are provided by residential locksmiths, and most apartments have these. Grade 2 locks are a little more secure, and Grade 3 are used by commercial locksmiths. As college students, you probably don’t need any higher than Grade 1. Some people may be tempted to get Bluetooth or touch screen keys (if they had that much money to throw around), but beyond their trendiness, make sure they’re actually secure.

Getting to Know Your Local Residential Locksmith!

In the end, it’s probably most cost effective to just re-key your current locks. And once you get new locks, maintain them. You can use Teflon or other dry lubricants to get all the gunk out of your locks. If you copy a key that’s been used a bunch, it’s not very likely to work (this has happened to me), so make sure to keep an extra of the original key.

And hey, if you’ve stumbled across this blog, and you happen to live in Clearwater, Florida, ABC Locksmith Clearwater provides great commercial and residential services!

Security in The Internet of Things

Closer Than We Think in the Age of The Internet of Things

At 7:30, your alarm wakes you up with your favorite song. After a few refrains, a calming voice chimes in to remind you that you wanted a reminder to pick up the dry cleaning today.

As your toes touch the bathroom floor, the lights turn on, and the news comes on as you enter the shower and the water hits your skin at precisely the right temperature.

As you’re brushing your teeth, you remember you forgot to order roses for your anniversary. Once you spit out your toothpaste, you call out:

“Alexa, order a dozen roses from the flower shop on Main Street and have them sent to Melissa’s work address.”

‘Ok’, it responds. And it’s done. You slip on your suit, and you head downstairs to where your coffee is brewed. You grab it as you head out the door, as the thermostat automatically goes down, as the lights automatically shut off, and the garage door automatically closes.

Jon Hamm in Black Mirror's episode 'White Christmas'
Jon Hamm in Black Mirror’s episode ‘White Christmas’

Master In Charge of the Internet of Things

This may sound like an episode of Netflix’s modern anthology series Black Mirror (specifically White Christmas, which, if you haven’t seen, you should get on that right about now), but this integration of home systems, called the internet of things, is one of the most popular tech items on the market right now. Amazon Echo and Google Home are just two examples of devices that integrate various home systems to make them more immediately accessible to the user.

Although this could simplify some of our day-to-day, this technology is developing very quickly; so quickly, in fact, that the industry struggling to develop smart home security at the same pace. Beyond the distaste for a lot of men buying a device with a feminine voice to do whatever they say (that’s a discussion for another day); beyond the Promethean concerns of man becoming too big for his bridges, the integration of smart home technology is very vulnerable to hackers.

Alicia Viikander in 'Ex Machina - Internet of Things'
Alicia Viikander in ‘Ex Machina’

Hackers and Smart Home Security

Although we may not have to worry about our smart homes enslaving us just yet, other humans, who may be more technologically savvy than the average Amazon Echo purchaser, we may have to be wary of.

With all of our home technology interconnected, people can actually hack into locks or shut off alarm systems. Researchers at the University of Michigan and the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence have conducted experiments exposing how various systems connected to the internet of things can be breached with ease.

Luckily, there are organizations and companies developing smart home security at this very moment. Amazon and other providers provide frequent updates that can aid in security. But these are still vulnerable devices, and can be best protected by a local locksmith, or going invisible with Tor software. Tor’s are enabled when websites or systems want to hide their location. Although it is difficult for the layman to set up, Tor’s Guardian Project offers top notch security.

As our tech advances and adapts, we have to remember that hackers adapt just as fast.

For more information about home security, explore Locksmith Sarasota’s website.

Calling in and Cushioning Drug and Alcohol Treatment

 

People Places Things - Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Denise Gough in Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things

Witnessing the Cycle of Addiction

About mid semester last fall, I was exercising my favorite method of procrastination: reading plays that I might produce post-grad. All of my friends who had been abroad in London last year were raving about Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places, and Things. I had gotten my hands on a copy and snuggled up on a couch on the second floor of the CFA.

The play followed an addict, Emma, who committed herself to a drug and alcohol treatment center. Emma refuses to admit she’s an addict from the beginning, and resists the program, believing herself to be above it. Once she’s released, she comes back some time later, begging for help and finally seeing the way her addiction runs her life. In the final scene of the play, Emma returns to her home. And everything we believed about Emma is turned upside down.

Although we have just seen one cycle of this behavior, her family has bared witness to it for most of her life. When Emma attempts to apologize, her mother reminds her of the time she stabbed her when her mother attempted to flush her stash of drugs down the toilet. Her parents’ sympathy for her has run dry. She guilted, manipulated and used her family too often for their relationship to ever really heal.

People, Places and Things - On Stage
Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things

How to Know When To Call In for Help with Drug and Alcohol Abuse 

More often than not, families of addicts don’t know when to say enough is enough. Despite all the common portrayals of addiction, when a loved one becomes an addict, empathy and pity are a valid response. Seeing a loved one in pain is horrible, and doling out second chances is tempting.

But when nothing seems to create a long term change, what does one do?

It seems like calling in for professional interventionist help may be necessary, but how can one be sure? That’s when tools like an intervention quiz become vital. These quizzes can help contextualize one’s experience and see if professional intervention is what your family needs.

Do you feel like you often sacrifice your own needs to help your loved one?

Does your loved one make you feel guilty often?

Do you feel responsible for your loved one’s behavior?

Does your loved one depend on you (or others close to them) for financial support?

These are just a few of the questions from Family First Intervention’s quiz. If the answer to any of these questions is yes, I would strongly suggest taking the quiz.

People Places and Things - Drug and Alcohol AbuseDuncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things

Unknowing Cushions of Addiction 

The painful truth of it is that addicts were family first, and it’s difficult to resist enabling them. To support their addiction, they will convince their loved ones to believe that they are capable of helping themselves. This so often turns people into unknowing enablers. Family members become cushions to support their addiction, not their recovery. It’s understandable, but at the end of the day, it can be fatal. In situations like this, addicts and families need professional interventionists to aid them in effective and long-term recovery.

None of us want to look at our loved ones and find our reserves of love depleted.

 

For more resources, refer to the Family First Intervention’s website.

 

 

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Within Our Communities

 

Not in My Circles: Uncovering Drug and Alcohol Addiction Around Us

A alcoholic mother - Drug and Alcohol Addiction

I was sitting in a circle of chairs, in a small back room of a church in Northampton, and I had no idea what I was doing there. It was mostly women in their forties, a couple of men, and my friend and I, a fifteen-year-old duo. Each person took a turn and talked about their last week, barely mentioning the word ‘alcohol’ or ‘addiction’. Everyone laughed and mmm’d at the right moments. When they finally got to me, I was so nervous, I just passed, and let the circle continue on without me.

After about an hour, everyone bowed their heads, said a kind of prayer that I didn’t know, and dispersed. I grabbed a couple of snacks, and my friend and I jetted. Once in the parking lot, we started giggling confusedly. This meeting was decidedly not for us. We walked into town and I never went back.

I drank possibly three times in my high school career. I smoked weed once. I was the kid who would discreetly search a drug slang dictionary to clue myself into a conversation that was going over my head. The world of addiction lived in certain corners of my community, but certainly not in my circles.

So it came to a surprise when a mentor of mine had suggested I go to Al Anon, an anonymous support group for family and friends of problem drinkers. She was convinced my mother had an alcohol addiction. I didn’t believe her—you wouldn’t find my mother barely balanced on a barstool at 2 PM. You wouldn’t find my mother on the street, covered in her own vomit. You wouldn’t find my mother being driven to an addiction treatment center for the second or third time.

I had gone to my mentor because I was having a hard time getting along with my mother, but I believed it to be something every normal teenager went through. It didn’t have anything to do with addiction.

I Finally Saw an Alcohol Addict

After an extremely tense holiday following a nasty divorce, my mother and I settled into our Airbnb in Austin, TX. We were staying there for a half a week for me to apply for a couple internships, and we spent every waking moment together. We went to restaurants and museums and gardens. We even went to The Muttcracker, a holiday circus show with dogs. But amidst all this exploring, I had discovered something I didn’t expect: because we weren’t in the house, I witnessed every drink and every bottle of alcohol my mother purchased in real time.

On our last day in Texas, we were hiking along a dusty trail on a cool January day, and my mother confided something in me: she was thinking of adopting a baby.

I had to restrain myself from laughing, or worse.

“Why would you want a baby, mom?”

And she sighed with incredible weight.

“I want influence someone’s life: I want to give my life meaning.”

This said by a woman who was married for twenty plus years; who has two children in their 20s, one who does not speak to her anymore, and the other with whom she has a very precarious relationship.

And I saw a big gaping hole in her that she had attempted to fill her entire life with her husband, with her children, with anyone who would care enough to remain close. I finally saw an addict.

Hand and Hand – Drugs and Alcohol in College Parties

Giving a drink - Drug ad Alcohol Abuse
was squeezing my way through the congested channels of an Allston apartment. After a few people that were doing cocaine left the bathroom (talking in drug slang and glorying the amount of at they have just done), I relieved myself. I considered taking another shot, but I knew I was going home soon. I tried to find the few other people I hadn’t chatted with: at BU School of Theater parties, not knowing everyone is a rarity. I find my friend Melody in the host’s room, among the score of old VHS tapes. I told her how much I loved the play she read in class last week, and she told me how much she loves me. Her legs were like noodles, and she toppled onto the bed. That’s when I realized she wouldn’t remember any of this in the morning. Last week her roommate had told me that Melody didn’t have a distinction between getting drunk and blacking out: they were synonymous to her. I asked the host if she needed help, and he said she would be fine. And then I went home.

Nothing to Do with a Person’s Morality

In the same way, I was so insistent that my mother wasn’t an addict, I find similar blind spots for my friends in college. Addiction is stigmatized and widely considered to stem from a moral failing. But in reality, it’s a disease that can befall anyone and has nothing to do with a person’s morality. It’s even more common among people who also suffer from mental illness, which lends itself to more complexity and difficulty in addressing problems when they arise.

This can be even more difficult with college aged artists, who are steeped in both college pressures and drinking culture, along with troubling myths about art-making. I’ve found many young artists believe that they have to suffer to make great art, and this can manifest in allowing addictions (and/or mental illnesses) to go untreated. Sometimes this has led to people finding help in addiction treatment centers; but most of the time, I see addiction and mental illness torturing my friends.

With all of this in mind, I want to encourage us all to look at ourselves and each other without judgment, and honestly assess our health. To open conversations with those we’re concerned about with compassion. To support and help each other find the appropriate support, be it with talk therapy, support groups, or addiction treatment centers. To keep in mind that we’re all just trying to get through the day in one piece.

For more information and resources about Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment or to view a Drug Slang Dictionary, check out The Treatment Center.