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Practicing Self Love During the Holiday Season

By: Shellsea Lomeli

There are so many things about the holiday season that I absolutely love. Late-night drives while blasting my favorite Christmas songs, driving through the neighborhoods that deck their houses out in holiday lights, wearing matching pajamas with my family, and more. I love the feeling of joy, family, and friendship. However, holidays can also have some downsides. For me, this time of year tends to evoke feels of guilt in situations such as straying away from a diet, not being able to afford a certain gift for a certain friend, and not spending enough time with family. 

During situations like these, we can often start to feel bad and blame ourselves when, in reality, we should be practicing self-love instead. The holidays are all about spreading love and joy but sometimes we forget that we need to try and give those feelings ourselves too, not just our loved ones. 

In hopes of alleviating some of the guilt that the holidays can bring, I’ve written out a few reminders for myself and for anyone who needs it. 

1. Allow Yourself to Recharge

If you’re like me, the holiday season means having a million things to do with a limited time to do them. From holiday gift shopping to getting together with loved ones (covid-safe, of course), I always feel my energy running out during this time of the year. When my social battery – or just energy in general – runs out, I often find myself feeling bad for not dedicating enough time to my family and friends. Or for not completing the list of things I set out to accomplish that day. We often expect too much from ourselves which is why it is so important to take time for yourself. Taking care of yourself is NOTHING to feel guilty about. 

Some of my favorite ways to destress are painting, going on a solo car ride while blasting my favorite music, or watching a sappy movie on Netflix, and maybe even shedding a tear or two. 

2. Money Doesn’t Equal Love

As a college student, money is often tight. A part-time job that pays $13 an hour doesn’t necessarily allow for buying your friends the glamorous gifts you wish you could. And that’s okay! Expensive gifts are not the only way to show someone that you care about them even though our capitalist society likes to say otherwise. 

Try not to stress about money this holiday season. Your mental health will thank you. Instead of focusing on the price tag, focus on the meaning of the gift you’re gifting. Personally, my favorite type of present is something that is personal and thoughtful. I’d like to believe a lot of other people feel the same. 

I recommend checking out customizable sites like Shutterfly or VistaPrint. If you’re trying to support small businesses, check out Etsy which has a lot of personalized gifts to choose from. Last Christmas, I used Shutterfly to make a customized calendar for one of my best friends. Each month had a different theme and was decorated with pictures of our friends, inside jokes, her favorite music artists, and more. I had so much fun making it and she loved it. This gift brought so much joy to both of us and it costed almost nothing.

3. Enjoy the Holiday Food 

As someone who’s experienced body image issues for quite some time, this particular piece of advice is probably the hardest for me to execute. Holiday food is my favorite, especially during Thanksgiving, but I’ve often found myself either limiting what I eat or feeling incredibly guilty after a holiday meal. As much as we are told otherwise by a society that often values “skinny” over “fat”, eating IS self-care. Food fuels our bodies, our minds, and even provides pleasure. It’s a good thing, even if the meal you’re eating is characterized as “unhealthy”. So if you’re considering getting a second helping of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner and the only thing that is holding you back are the calories or grams of sugar of the food, eat the pie. Make your tastebuds happy. It’s okay! 

While you’re sending love to your friends and family this holiday season, remember to send love to yourself too. You are worthy of it. 

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A Few Thoughts on Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the Anti-Feminists’ Feminist Icon

By: Shellsea Lomeli

Watching Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed to the highest court in the land in 2018, despite the sexual assault allegations against him, crushed me. I am sure it crushed a lot of people, especially sexual assault survivors who had finally started to see the significant impact of sharing their stories and holding aggressors accountable through the Me Too Movement. In a TedTalk given a month after Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too Movement, described this feeling of numbness in the face of defeat. “Numbness,” she said, “is not always the absence of feeling. Sometimes it’s an accumulation of feelings.” I felt this numbness when Kavanaugh took his seat next to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a feminist trailblazer, and I felt it again when Amy Coney Barrett replaced her. 

Kavanaugh becoming a Supreme Court justice was not just a slap in the face for survivors. It was an example of how men in power step on the necks of women everywhere and society just lets them. When Congress confirmed Kavanaugh’s nomination, they also confirmed to women everywhere that their voices do not matter. What women think, say, and feel is not as important as what a man does. And it made me numb as a feminist — as a woman. 

It took me a while to build myself back up to the “raging” feminist that I was before my country’s government allowed a rapist to decide what I get to do with my body. But I did. Because a woman’s fight is never over, especially when facing setbacks like this one. 

It was easy for me to see Kavanaugh as a villain and to understand his abuse of privilege as a straight, white, affluent man. But it is also easy to make the mistake of believing that men are more likely to be against you but women will always be on your side. This error in thought is probably why this year’s Supreme Court confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, just a month after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, brought me back to that feeling of numbness. 

In theory, the confirmation of another woman to the Supreme Court is a huge step for feminists. All but four Justices have been men with Barrett being only the fifth woman to serve at the highest court. However, this is absolutely not the case when the woman confirmed goes against everything that feminists stand for and have worked tirelessly to accomplish. 

First off, Amy Coney Barrett is pro-life. While she may not have openly stated her stance on the controversial subject in such clear wording, her recurring comments on the topic align with the ideology of those who are against a woman’s right to choose. During a discussion in 2013, Barrett stated that “supporting poor, single mothers would be the best way to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S.” Supporting mothers as an alternative to allowing women to choose whether they want to be a mother is a common strategy that the pro-life community takes. During her confirmation hearing, Barrett would not comment on Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that granted women the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, but she has previously said that “Republicans are heavily invested in getting judges who will overturn Roe [v. Wade].” As a Justice nominated by a Republican administration, it is not a far stretch to assume that she will try to strip women of the right to choose what happens to their bodies. 

Barrett’s stance on Roe v. Wade is not the only component of her confirmation that poses a threat to women and the feminist movement. There is also the fact that anti-feminist people everywhere are idolizing Barrett’s accomplishment as an accomplishment for all women. Another woman has been appointed to the Supreme Court which must mean that the divide between men and women in American society is not as dramatic as the feminist movement claims it is. But we, as a collective, must understand that Amy Coney Barrett is not all women. She belongs to the percentage of women who are privileged in incredible ways. She is a white, heterosexual woman who was born into a well-off family. She went to private school. She has access to childcare. The list goes on. Of course, I am not saying there is anything wrong with being privileged. What is wrong, however, is allowing the continuation of the false narrative that Barrett represents all women. 

The truth of the matter is this. Not all women with only three years of experience as a judge would have been confirmed to the Supreme Court. They probably would not have even gotten a nomination. 

In the past few weeks, I have seen a recurring post on social media. The wording is different each time but the message remains the same: Amy Coney Barrett is a perfect example of an under-qualified white woman getting the job before a person of color has a chance. We cannot ignore that. 

Overall, Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court poses a threat, both directly and indirectly to the past and future accomplishments of the feminist movement. There is a lot to be wary of in the coming years as she serves as a Justice. But, just as we persevered through the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, we will persevere once more. 

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A Brief Discussion on the Neglect of Mental Health Education in Schools

By: Shellsea Lomeli

The importance of physical health has been drilled into us since we were children. From being forced to run laps in elementary school P.E. classes to sitting through a lecture about STDs in the eighth grade, schools have prioritized the promotion of a physically “healthy” lifestyle for students. Based on my personal experiences in public school, the same agenda was not given to another vital component of students’ health : mental wellbeing. 

The point of this article is not to depict physical education and health as being unimportant. Clearly, keeping your body strong and well should be a priority. Having physical education classes throughout grade school is, in theory, a good thing. However, P.E. classes should not be the extent to which health is discussed with students. Nor should they be operated in a way that puts young people at risk of developing body image issues that can become detrimental to one’s mental health.

While the concept of mental health encompasses a lot of different things, I want to specifically discuss the way in which physical health is prioritized in school can be detrimental to mental and emotional wellness. My experience with P.E. in middle school was surrounded with numbers and measurements of my body and it’s ability. How long did it take you to run the mile? How much do you weigh? What is your BMI? These were all measurements of ourselves that we were forced to expose in a very public setting where anyone in class could see and use to compare bodies and abilities with one another. 

For many, the days students had to weigh themselves and record it was just another Tuesday. But for people like myself who have struggled with body image issues for years, stepping on a scale while an entire line of classmates watched and waited, was absolute hell. If schools still want to collect students’ Body Mass Index (BMI) scores for surveillance and screening purposes, although there is great controversy on whether this measurement accurately measures physical health, this collection must be done in a better way. There should be a way that promotes privacy and decreases the likelihood of young people becoming at risk of developing weight related mental illnesses such as eating disorders. 

Making changes to how physical education is conducted in schools is just the beginning of promoting mental health among students. If mental health is just as important as physical health, which I argue it is, then shouldn’t there also be some sort of educational platform that is geared towards mental health education in particular? In the same way that we are taught how to take care of our bodies through eating well and exercising, students should be taught how to take care of their minds. 

In my twenty-one years of life, I have learned so much about how to lose weight and strengthen my muscles but I still struggle on figuring what to do to maintain or improve my mental health. Searching up a ten minute abs video on youtube is something I do without a second thought yet watching a meditation video seems almost taboo to me. While I cannot blame the entirety of this issue on my grade school education, I strongly believe that my hesitation to discover ways to better my mental and emotional wellbeing stem from not being introduced to these essential activities in my youth. 

Obviously, it has been years since I have taken a grade school P.E. class so I cannot attest to how schools approach mental health education now. I hope educators are beginning to realize the importance of familiarizing students with taking care of all parts of themselves, not just their physical being. I hope improving mental wellbeing becomes something that is easy and less stigmatized for this new generation. Finally, when we were not exposed to it at a younger age, I hope that my own peers are beginning to realize the importance of taking care of your mind just as I am.