10 Healthy Study Snacks

Studying can lead to poor eating-- whether it's absent-minded snacking, caffeine overloading, or stress eating, we are all guilty of making poor choices. With midterms lurking, I figured I'd put together a list of healthy snacks to have around for your study sessions.

1. Water. Your thirst reflex is really weak-- as a result, many of the times we think we're hungry, we're actually thirsty. As a college student, I know I rarely get my eight glasses a day. Instead of reaching for the chips, go for some water first to see if that's what your body really wants.

2. Pretzels and hummus. Crunchy enough to keep you going and the hummus is filled with nutrients and protein. Protein is a great way to feel full without carboloading.

3. Cucumbers, carrots, or other raw veggies. Crunchy, crisp, refreshing, nutritious, and low cal. Have with dip/dressing or alone.

4. Triscuits. These crackers are as addictive as the are delicious. They're baked and fiberful and come in many flavors! They're a great alternative to chips. You can top them with whatever you like-- like say a dab of cream cheese!

5. Tea. In addition to being a low calorie option to your sugary coffee-drink, teas have some great health benefits. They are, for the most part, great at killing bad bacteria, good for your heart, curb appetite, and even decrease you chances of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers! You can get caffeinated or decaf varieties. My favorite is Korean Rice tea-- it tastes like my childhood.

6. Boiled eggs. Protein is good energy and fullness so eggs are a great option. You can boil a bunch of eggs at once and save them for later. They're pretty easy to pack too! I also find that the tactile aspect of peeling a boiled egg helps refocus me and give my brain something else to do by activating a part of it that is distinct from my study-parts.

7. Chocolate milk. If you are having a midnight ice cream craving, try this instead. It meets that sweet, cold craving while making it easier for you to keep working while snacking and taking less time. And in general, it's also low-calorie compared to your Cookie Dough Ben and Jerry's.

8. Ramen-- but don't drink the soup! As a college student, you are probably well-versed in the ways of pouring hot water into a styrofoam bowl or cup filled with 500% of your daily recommended value of sodium. I used to think nothing of it, but my friend who has a family history of hypertension told me she doesn't drink the broth in order to cut out a lot of that salt! Just a little adjustment can make your ramen healthier. (Another recommendation-- halve and toss in one of your boiled eggs! Yummy!)

9. Fine cheese. A good cheese will feel rich and filling without actually being so. I recommend a good Gouda, Muenster, or Bellavitano.

10. Avocados with soy sauce. I don't know how many other people do this, but I like to halve an avocado, stab the pit with the knife to pull it out, and then fill the pit-void with soy sauce and eat the avocado with a spoon. It's delicious. It feels fatty and takes the edge off my craving but does so with good oils.

These are some of my preferred exam season snacks to I try to stock up around midterms and finals. What are your favorite healthy study snacks?

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The Dangers of Autopilot

I've been cruising on autopilot for a while. I need to stop.

The thing about autopilot is that if it's not properly calibrated, you pilot yourself right into a downward spiral. I once again accidentally turned nocturnal and lost all sense of time. This has been facilitated by my anxiety disorder that has resulted in a TV addiction. Autopilot works on the assumption that you have great habits and that you aren't prone to decadence. But me, I love food and enjoy having 40 side projects at a time to amuse myself with. This has led to some very bad things. I need to build better habits.

When autopiloting, it's hard to get out of your rut. It's hard to find ways to stop playing catch-up and actually be caught up. I was kind of depressed about the overwhelming prospect of getting it all together. For all my inner motivation to make something of myself, losing direction is very dangerous to me. Falling behind is about the worst thing to me. Drop a few plates and suddenly I want to stop spinning the rest and wallow in my failure for a while as punishment. Sometimes my anxiety makes me feel more hopeless than I should. I don't feel depressed in a clinical way and probably not in an apparent way-- I'm prone to escapism when I feel anxious or upset, which is really not productive especially habitually. I just want to crawl into a hole with my favorite characters and escape my own life. Enter my TV addiction. At my low, I watched the entire series of the tragically cancelled Eli Stone in a little over a week. I'm very rarely outwardly sad or depressed. I just hide away, either in media or in sleep. I'd rather sleep than cry about my life. But the change happens with one good day.

I'm on day two of my turn around. I just had the first full night's sleep (actually at night and not losing an entire Saturday) in months. I feel good. I'm doing my readings, talking to professors.

Sometimes I fall into that perfectionist trap of thinking that I can't do something until all the conditions are perfect. For example, thinking that I can't ask for help in a class until I read every single handout and article and reading. Somewhere I know I won't have the time to do all that and I'm going to eventually have to resign myself to going over everything in a more efficient manner, but there's that nagging feeling that I should wait until all the conditions are perfect. It's the same as thinking you can't go to the gym until you get a decent pair of sneakers and a better fitting sports bra. So with this thought, I would continue on autopilot, playing catch up.

I'm getting on top of things. It's not enough to pick up the pieces afterward. Sometimes I let the big picture overwhelm me--It's like standing at the foot of a mountain, getting intimidated staring off at the summit and tripping on the rocks in front of you. I'm getting my bearings again and moving forward, one foot in front of the other.
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That's Not My Name

What's in a name? A lot actually.

Names are our first shred of identity. They are the first piece of us people get a hold of, really. It's a set of sounds that means "you." As a writer, I take names very seriously. Maybe it's a little silly of me-- sentimental, superstitious-- but I feel like names are a part of our grand destiny. As a marketing student, I know that a name is an identity and it can even make or break you. I have always felt like names are very important and should be treated as such because they are rife with meaning and context. Granted we ourselves build upon those things, but the beginnings instilled in a name are still there.

My first name by birth is Samantha (PLOT TWIST!). I was named after Alyssa Milano's character on Who's the Boss. I've never felt like a Samantha. It always seemed so common-- even boys had my name (Sam, Sammi). I would later discover that I have the 4th most popular girls' name for the year of my birth in US. And that's not even thinking about the Samuels of America. My only solace in my name is that if I want to name my kids after TV characters my parents won't be able to mount a decent argument against it. I would often lament my name and joke that my parents should have named me Gilligan. At least that would have been interesting, I told them. I'm not even sure how invested my parents were in my name. Had I been a boy, I'd have been named Christian after some basketball star in that year's March Madness because I'm a Spring baby. Ironically, Samantha is a name with Judeo-Christian roots which means "the one who listens to God." Either way, my name wouldn't fit since I'm an atheist.

I wore my name like an ill-fitting hat. It was never quite a part of me. It just sort of got smushed onto my head. I'd have to turn it around all the time for people, too. There were so many Sams, Samanthas, and Sammy's I'd be Sam in one classroom, Samantha in another, and Sammi in the next, all to accommodate the abundance of Sams. It never felt like it belonged to me and I would never own it.

It took literally years but I finally picked a new name for myself. Harper. After the author of To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee-- Yes, I'm Harper Yi.

Harper sounds like me. It sounds sunny, it sounds a little quirky, it sounds like music and birds. I always wanted a name that sounded bright and happy. Samantha was solemn and feminine and elegant in a way I never was. When I went to college I made the transition. Yeah, I'm that girl who picked a new nickname for herself in college-- there's always one. A Liz formerly known as Elizabeth. A Cassandra formerly known as Sandy.

I like it much better. No one ever forgets me. I feel like myself. I've built a brand around my name. On my campus, when people talk about Harper, people recognize it's me. I feel unique. And weird. Like I am. They say you find yourself in college-- I think finding my name was a really important first step.

I want to add Harper to my legal name since it feels like me, but I'm keeping Samantha in memoriam for the years I endured feeling lukewarm about myself. I haven't done it yet, but I want Harper on my diploma. There's something very satisfying about my decision to change my name, despite how awkward it is talking to people who knew me as Harper struggle. My family is fine with other people calling me Harper, but I don't think they could really do it. Facebook friend requests to old friends typically have to be prefaced with an explanation. But I am glad I have this name. It's the one I want to have on my publications. On my tombstone.

Interestingly enough, I am apparently doomed to never have a barista who understands my name.

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It's Complicated

A page from my art journal
Relationships are not easy. They're not black and white. They don't wrap up all nice and tight with a little bow with a "Happily Ever After" inscription attached. They are, in fact, complicated. We all know this. It's a reality we've had to face since the moment we ever cared about someone. Probably the first taste of it came when you didn't get invited to a birthday party you expected to be invited to in the third grade or whenever it was that inviting the whole class stopped being an imperative. Yes, even with friends, things can be complicated. It's no surprise that when romantic feelings and sex get involved it gets even more complicated because honestly, most of us are only just pretending to have a clue about who we are and what we want and how we feel.

It's complicated. We all know it.

Yet whenever it pops up on our facebook feeds we all groan.

"So and so went from being single/taken to being in a complicated relationship." 

What the hell does that even mean? -- my immediate reaction.

Relationships don't fit into nice neat little boxes and people have varying sexualities and romantic orientations. I have asexual friends who want romance. I have aromantic friends who want sex. I have known people to be polyamorous at one point or another. I have straight friends and gay friends and queer friends and friends who are straight with the exception of so and so and bisexual friends and pansexual friends. There are a lot of different ways to love and be loved, and more importantly it's not really any of my damn business. Yet whenever it comes onto my feed, I want to know what exactly this "complicated" thing is-- maybe because facebook makes it feel like my business by putting it into my social stream.

And this is where it gets crazy.
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I am an anxious person.

It's not really a bad thing, necessarily. It's just a fact. In fact, I think I feel a lot of emotions bigger than most people. It's part of how I process things. My highs are very high and I prolong them-- I've been known to laugh more and fuller than most people, and I get on kicks where I'm obsessed with something that makes me happy, like people who have to listen to their favorite song non-stop until they find a new one. My lows are fairly intense but if I express them outwardly I move on very quickly. It's very strange to most people the way I process things, but it's how I work. I'm not like that when it comes to work or when I generally have to keep it together but that's my natural state. I don't like to mentally distance myself from the things happening around me which I think is a big part of it-- I get really emotionally invested in movies, for example.

When I was a kid, I always had a lot of pressure put on me. Not necessarily by my parents, but just from the whole way I saw the world and the way I thought the world saw me. I was always told how smart I was, from the very beginning when my mother told me I was born with a twinkle in my eye like I knew things, to when I was pulled out of Spanish Immersion and into the Gifted and Talented magnet school program in elementary school. I had this anxious awareness of how very small I was in the world and how very big my brain was supposed to be, and how big it was supposed to make me. It was hard enough to make a splash in the world, and I felt like the world expected a tidal wave from me. I was a ripple. It was overwhelming.

This all lead to me being odd. I'm pretty well-adjusted, all things considered, but that definitely doesn't preclude me from being strange. I was hyper-aware of death as a kid, which as someone who grew up unathletic and over-analytical seemed to lurk around every corner. I could get run over. I could drown in the pool. I could fall and crack my head open. I didn't have the confidence in my body or sense of coordination to dismiss these thoughts like any other kid who could outrun an adult with bad intentions or jump out of the way of a car or had a basic awareness of their surroundings. These thoughts were fleeting but frequent. Thy almost became routine, in fact.

I grew up in a home that encouraged me to feel empowered and to challenge myself, to embarrass myself by unabashedly pursuing something, and to take pride in what I did. And I did-- but this also lead to a constant anxiety that there would come a day when I would disappoint, when I would fail to out-do myself. I would grind my teeth at night, to the point where I've never really had fully formed molars-- they're about down to the gums. They could hear me destroying my teeth during my naps in kindergarten. And that's because it's not something that's all in my head-- it's part of how I'm programmed. My anxiety is part of who I am, much like any other behavioral pattern we deem part of a "personality."

But like other parts of a personality, it isn't an absolute. Some people are angry people and they learn to curb it. Some people are more introverted, but they can teach themselves ways to be more extraverted at parties or work functions. One of the things that made me incredibly anxious was the pressure I put on myself. It was the way I saw the world and valued good things and bad things, success and failure. I was not only hungry for achievement, but terrified of failure. It made me so anxious. I would lay in bed at night and think of my failings and how everyone had noticed them (they didn't).

Enter the concept known as wabi-sabi. It's a Japanese concept that has no real translation in English. I stumbled across it while reading art blogs back in early high school. Wabi-sabi is something close to transience. The idea of impermanence and imperfection and the beauty that results from that. It's the beauty of a balance struck between light and dark. Wabi-sabi is a concept of reverence for time, nature, and the everyday. It's a concept of authenticity and earnestness. It is an abandonment of the search for perfection. It is an acknowledgement of how small and impermanent we are and an appreciation and a pride in that. It's a still pond disturbed by a ripple. It's a blade of grass growing between cracks in the cement. It's a rusty trinket that was once held dear, now abandoned. It's a little melancholic, and a little nostalgic, and a soft, glowing kind of happy.

I read about this philosophy, and I found it comforting. It was a philosophy that reconciled my feeling of smallness in the world with my need to establish my worth. It set up in my mind a system of worth that was not necessarily easier to meet, but that was more nuanced than the rigid standards I had previously held. It made it okay to fail sometimes. It valued how imperfect and insignificant and lost I felt. It made me happier with less. It made me more able to appreciate the richness of my experience and be able to laugh at myself with more ease.

I think this was a really important step in my managing my anxiety. I didn't always feel like I was in a race against my peers as I had for so long. I didn't feel the need to be a great force in the world-- I just needed to be a force in my own. I still grind. I still freak out every once in a while. I've discovered in the past few years that I have Panic Disorder. But I am faced with a little bit less stress now that I don't solely draw my sense of place and worth from achievement.
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