Love Knows No Boundaries

Modernization has pioneered interracial relationships. The 1967 Supreme Court Case Loving v. Virginia overturned the illegality of mixed race relationships. However, in such a modern world, how does culture influence the dating game?

Vietnamese-American student, Tiffany Vo has been in a relationship with her boyfriend, Jesus Urzua since they met in high school for over three years. Urzua identifies as Mexican-American.

Both Vo and Urzua say their relationship is more acceptable to the outside world, considering the United States’ history. “I think society has definitely grown to accept it more and more,” said Vo.  Urzua added, “But not every single person is accepting of it.”

Vo’s family values have affected her relationship. “My parents holding such strong traditional Vietnamese values, they only accept him as a close friend, even though I have made it quite obvious that he is a lot more than that,” said Vo. To this day, Vo says that her family does not consider Urzua her boyfriend.

Urzua said that his family however, is more open to his first interracial relationship despite cultural or racial barriers. “There is definitely a language barrier with her parents and I, and also between my parents and Tiffany,” said Urzua.

Dating, however, is different than marriage. Colombian native, Elizabeth Maker has been married for 12 years to her U.S. born, white husband. Maker and her husband met in Bogota, Colombia.

Two different countries mean compromise. “My religion is Catholicism. When we started our relationship, he was not involved at all in my Catholic Parish,” said Maker. She added that the difficulty of the situation changed as he learned to practice her religion.

Maker’s first and only interracial relationship also results in language barrier. It is a feat overcome by combining each other’s culture into a Colombo-American life.

As diverse as cultures are from one another, couples are capable of learning much from their partner. “I have learned a great deal about partner communication in these past couple of years,” said Vo. Urzua added that his commitment to Vo has taught him a lot about relationships and has given him the pleasure to explore a different culture, while sharing his too.

“[A relationship] changes you point of view of what works in the world and realize each human is equal,” Maker said, “I am happy and lucky to have this cultural marriage… and grow as a human being.”

Relationships may face problems over race, socioeconomic status, gender, etc. In any case, there are times where a person has to choose between their traditional family values and partners.

“In my opinion, society sees interracial relationships as normal situations because we are living in a different time with a more open mind,” said Maker, “I had a very private life with my husband when we started our relationship.” For that reason, Maker says she never felt criticized.

Vo says her family is very traditional and claims she chooses her boyfriend over traditional family values. “It’s a real struggle, but it’s worth it.” She says she realizes that in the future, she will have to abide by her parents “guidelines on what guys to date and which career to pursue.”

Who a person dates may be highly influenced by their culture. While some know that they will face cultural barriers, in the most cliché of terms love overcomes anything. For now they are happily committed to a person of a different race.

To Your (Mental) Health!

Girls JumpingHave you ever felt really, really bad but worried that if you told someone, they just might not understand? That they might totally miss the point, overreact, or, even worse, not react at all? As teenage girls, we go through a ton of changes in a short period of time. As Latinas in the United States, we face the added pressure of having to navigate and satisfy different cultural expectations and social pressures.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, it is projected that up to 46% of Latina women  in the US have experienced or will experience clinical depression (NAMI). Satisfying varied cultural and gender expectations while constantly feeling “different”  is certainly not easy, and can sometimes make us feel overwhelmed, lost, anxious and sad. Sometimes these feelings are fleeting, lasting only a few days, but sometimes difficult feelings can linger…and linger….and linger.

Unfortunately, there are people who will tell you to just “snap out of it,” as if at the flick of a wrist your emotional clouds will disappear behind happy rainbows and unicorns. Others might tell you to simply “get over it.”  As if.

Time for Help?
It is true that sometimes we just have some good old teenage angst.  And yes, sometimes we do overreact. For example, your crush going on a date with your frenemy is not the end of the world (even though it feels like it). Neither is being grounded for a weekend. But sometimes feelings go beyond regular troubles. Maybe your parents recently divorced or you feel lonely at school. Maybe you lost a loved one. Maybe you worry about everything so much that you cannot do anything.

Lucia Schmidt, 23, confides “sometimes I get so anxious at school that I just go in circles, paralyzed, feeling worse and worse. I cannot seem to accomplish any amount of productivity. On a good day, I can conquer my anxiety. On a bad day, I fall into an attack of sweats, shortened breath, and loss of emotional control” (known commonly as a panic attack). It is important to recognize at which point emotional stress exceeds healthy levels.

Sometimes we get so low and stressed that we need help coping with our feelings. This is the time to consider talking to a trusted adult. This person can be a parent, a teacher, a school counselor, or perhaps a psychologist. A psychologist is a professional trained to help you work through hard times. A psychologist specializes in mental health care, and your school counselor can probably recommend one to you (and help you find the most affordable—even free—options).

Gabriela Mendoza, 19, is grateful that she was encouraged to seek professional help.  ”It is so comforting to have a knowledgeable, unbiased person to talk to. I feel like I can truly unload my stresses and fears. My therapist helps me untangle my emotions and develop ways to handle emotionally difficult situations.”

It is neither weird nor bad to need and seek help. The hormones of adolescence, stress of school, and social pressures can make times feel pretty tough. You are not alone, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. On the contrary, kudos for recognizing that something is getting in the way of you being your absolute most fabulous self!  Asking for help shows not only great maturity, but that you want to live the healthiest, happiest life possible. Cheers!

You Are Never Alone
Feelings can be pretty tricky to talk about. It is normal (though unnecessary) to feel shy when talking about the inner workings of your mind and heart. Don’t beat yourself up if the right words seem hard to find, and never think a particular feeling is weird or bad—if you have felt it, so have millions of others, and you can be sure any psychologist or counselor knows exactly what you are talking about. In fact, amongst your friends and family you are almost guaranteed to find someone who has at some point struggled with a similar feeling. Unfortunately, not everyone acknowledges his or her emotional struggles. Not only is this unhealthy, this contributes to a culture of denial and poor mental health. Be patient with yourself, open up to a trusted person, and afford yourself the emotional care and space you need in order to be your happiest self.

Mental health is perhaps the most overlooked yet most important aspect of our overall wellbeing. You, querida amiga, deserve the best in this world. In order to lead the most fun, fulfilling, and fabulous life possible you need to take great care of your entire self: body, heart, and mind.

Dealing with Depression

Whether you have been feeling blue for a week or for a couple of months, you are not alone when it comes to dealing with a constant feeling of sadness. Fighting depression is a tough battle for many Latinas, but there is hope for those feeling under the weather.

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What is depression?

Depression is not just stress. According to PubHealth.com, clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer. According to “Understanding depression,” an article published by Harvard Health Publications, depression is more complex than a chemical imbalance in our brains. It is believed to be caused by a combination of faulty regulation of chemicals in the brain, stressful events, genetics, medication, or medical problems.

Anyone can be affected

Anna is a Latina teen dealing with depression. “I remember my frustration with my parents as a teen. My friends were going through the same problems. Yet, I began isolating myself and pushing them away.”  Anna’s life is different than from her friends. Her father has gone through cancer treatment, her brother is currently serving time in jail, and her mother lives in Guatemala after being deported. Although she smiles each day as she is around friends, Anna hides her suffering and sadness, claiming it is merely the stress all teens experience.

According WebMD, certain types of depression can be hereditary, meaning depression can run in the family. Yet, depression can occur if you have no family history of depression. Depression is not limited to adults, it happens to children and adolescents as well. The US Department for Human Services reports that Hispanic students (12.8%) are significantly more likely than White, Non-Hispanic or Black Non-Hispanic students (6.7% and 7.3%) to attempt suicide. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2007 report found  Latinas suffer the most from this culture clash. The report states “Hispanic female high school students in grades 9-12 reported a higher percentage of suicide attempts (14.0%) than their White, non-Hispanic (7.7%) or Black counterparts.”

Symptoms

MedlinePlus explains that depression can change the way you perceive yourself, your life, and others. Those diagnosed with depression usually see everything with a more negative attitude. They have difficulties imagining a positive solution to a problem. A depressed person feels agitation, restlessness, and irritability. They become withdrawn and isolate themselves. They often describe lacking the ability to concentrate, lacking energy and have a feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, worthlessness, self-hate, and guilt. Depression can also cause trouble sleeping or too much sleeping. In extreme cases, depression can lead to thoughts of death or suicide.

A Lack of Understanding

Wendy Gonzalez, 19, shared her experience with chronic depression. “I told my parents that I had chronic depression and my dad responded with a ‘Tu no tienes nada.’ He said I didn’t have anything and that it was all a product of my fast paced life. I lived a fast paced life in order for me to not be so aware of my emotions,” Gonzalez said.

Depression can result from cultures clashing. As these two cultures share different values, a lack of understanding between parent and child develops.

Remember, depression is temporary. You are not alone; follow these tips in order to kick depression to the curb.

1. Add an Energy Boost to Your Diet

The first step in feeling better is to focus on taking care of yourself. Adopt a healthy food diet that contains quality nutrients. This means adding whole foods, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats to your diet. Eating junk food can make you feel weak and sluggish, while eating properly will give you the energy boost to get moving. Adding structure to your meals and eating at same times each day can help you avoid overeating or skipping meal. Being healthy also means being active. A healthy exercise routine of 60 minutes three times a day is helpful when combating depression. Take a walk around your neighborhood with a parent, pet or friend.

 2. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

This may be a no brainer, but to some drugs and alcohol present themselves as tempting mood boost. Reality check: those boosts are only temporary and will cause more damage than you think. Not only do drugs and alcohol damage your body, the use can also increase suicidal feelings once their effects fade. Additionally, drug and alcohol use can lead to addiction, which can also worsen your depression. While people often use drugs and alcohol to forget their troubles because it temporarily relieves their anxiety and relaxes them, this habit can develop into alcohol or drug abuse once the individual becomes dependent on the “boost.” The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that teens with depression are twice as likely as those who are not depressed to start drinking alcohol.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

There are many forms of help out there. One common form are self help books varying from guidance published by professionals, scientific explanations of depression published by scientists, or collections of inspiring stories of people who have overcome their own depression. “Before I learned that I had chronic depression I got to a point that I did not know what to do anymore…My therapist recommended a book called The Mindful Way Through Depression,” explains Wendy Gonzalez. Do not be shy to talk to your school counselor or therapist; you will not be judged for your actions and these are professional people that can help your fears and frustrations, as well as give you the contact information of a psychiatrist to get you some therapy or medication.

  4. Catch Those Z’s

Make sure you are get enough sleep. When feeling depressed, 8 hours simply isn’t enough. Attempt to sleep early by removing distractions like TV, laptops and cellphones. Sleeping will help you think clearly and give you energy. Experts say sleep disorders could be the hidden cause of depression among the youth. A study presented by Dorothy Bruck at the Australian Psychological Society’s inaugural Health Psychology Conference  found that about one in ten women between 21 and 25 years old  experienced recurring problems sleeping, but otherwise had no symptoms of mental illness. But nine years later, those women were four to five times more likely than others in the study to be diagnosed with depression.

 5. Acknowledge and Share your Feelings

  “It’s a process of being mindful of our feelings,” explains Wendy Gonzalez. “When I started feeling depressed I acknowledged how I feel. I’d say: Okay, yes, I am feeling sad…unfortunately this sadness may never go away and I can’t sit here all my life, so why not try and do something more entertaining,” she adds.  Opening up to a trusted adult or friend can help reduce the feeling of loneliness. Find a way to express your emotions because it is not healthy keeping them bottled up. Instead write music, paint, or write in your journal.

6. Don’t Isolate Yourself

Remember to keep your friends close because there is someone there who wants to help you. When you want to give up, keep pushing yourself to move forward. A helpful way to accomplish that is by continuing to do those things you enjoy and never fear getting help. It may be difficult seeing an end to your depression, but through therapy, medication, or a combination of both, your depression can stop. Lack of communication is a severe problem with those suffering from depression because they have so much going on inside. It is best to deal with your problems than having to deal with depression longer than necessary.

With the high statistics of depression, you are not alone. There is hope to fighting the blues, but it starts with taking the first step. Even if it is a small step, it is the step in the right direction.

Divided by Two Cultures

A major part of our identity is shaped by how culture shapes lives. Growing up we learn about cultura through our family and incorporate them into our own identity; our cultura brings us orgullo. People learn about the amazing and vibrant multicultural aspects of the country, whether it is through daily interaction or media exposure. One topic connected with culture is assimilation. 

What is Assimilation?

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In 2004, the Pew Hispanic Center found assimilation is “now broadly accepted as a way to describe the ways that immigrants and their off spring change as they come in contact with their host society.”

While mamá y papá may seem traditional and old school, assimilation is used to describe the changes the second, third, etc. generation Hispanics experience when we start to re-think nuestra cultura.

On the topic of assimilation and different generations, Kayleig Wade, a Chicano Studies major at Santa Monica College, says ”I am pretty assimilated, my sister is pretty assimilated, and that sucks. I wish [my mom] didn’t have to do that to feel that she’s successful in this country. Our generation’s parents’ decision to assimilate is affecting our generation in more negative ways they intended to.”

Kayleigh shares her mother’s experience with assimilation and how it has caused her to seek out and learn about her roots.

“[My mother] hates the fact that she still has an accent. She [says] ‘I don’t feel like I am taken seriously.’ She goes through a lot. She has a huge internal conflict because of the whole assimilation thing, because she’s here–she’s a successful teacher, she has a white name, she looks white,” Kayleigh says about her mother. “I don’t wanna be like that at all. I don’t wanna feel like they do,” she says.

What happens when our cultura is shunned and turns into negative stereotypes? Some tension and confusion may arise if people from different cultures are unable to understand each other. Think about a situation that includes people from two different cultural groups. People from the first group may only see people from the second group through the narrow lens of a stereotype or a set of stereotypes.

Effects of Stereotypes

This causes another confusing conflict, one that consists of a person carefully trying not to fit the definition of the negative stereotype. Claude Steele, dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education, states that “to remedy the situation, you cannot have homogeneity*; you must have diversity to create excellence.” Discrimination happens when people are labeled as the “Other.”

In some cases, the younger generation becomes self-conscious of the stereotypes assigned to their culture through the process of assimilation.

Internal Struggle

Natalia Toscano, saw a clear connection between a quote from the Zapatista movement and cultural dilemmas.

“‘Vivir en mundo donde quepan muchos mundos.’ One world in which many worlds fit–that’s what we should strive for. We’re all the same, yet we are all different. As individuals, we have our experiences that shape and mold us. Multiple cultures make up someone. That’s why I have a hard time figuring out what assimilation is. I think that’s why we have a hard time defining what [assimilation] is because what is it really? What culture are we really assimilating to? Is it that we are assimilating because we are not accepting a culture that we are supposed to be coming from? Is it because of skin color? My skin color is supposed to define [how] I’m supposed to act or how I should act and what I should believe in?”

Americans can learn to live in a positive and healthy environment that fosters equality and a complex national identity. As intelligent beings, we do not have to put aside our differences and instead celebrate the vibrant culturas that are present in the U.S. We are unique human beings and our identities cannot be completely reshaped to fit a one-size fits all perspective.

*Homogeneity: Sameness throughout, and therefore lacking variety.

Latinas Battling Cancer

Photo from http://alas-wings.org.

At  Milpitas High School, the American Cancer Society Club is promoting cancer awareness to the student body. “We offered additional information such as ‘Words to Know’, where we defined words and phrases like ‘Quality of Life’ and ‘Malignant’. We also offer free booklets and pamphlets to people who were interested in learning more. People should know the facts to reduce their risk and fear of developing cancer,” said Ariel B., Junior and Vice President of Milpitas High School’s American Cancer Society.

The cancer awareness project was created when the “American Cancer Society submitted an informative project to Milpitas High’s Science Fair. The tri-fold poster was filled with information on the three most common cancers among teens: blood cancer, brain cancer, and bone cancer,” explained Ariel.

Latinas and Cancer

One in three Hispanic women will be diagnosed with some type of cancer while they live. 1 out of 6 of these Hispanic women will die because of cancer (American Cancer Society).

“Cancer grows when a cell’s DNA is damaged. How or why the cell becomes damaged is still unknown,”  explained Ariel.

Hispanics are often diagnosed in the late stages of cancer. At these stages, the disease is more likely to have spread to organs which surround the initial point where the cancer developed. Hispanic women are also more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors because of the late diagnosis. According the the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the most common cancer among Hispanic women.

Reasons for a late diagnosis

Two thirds of Hispanic women will discover they have breast cancer during a self-exam. Less than a third will find out they have breast cancer through the usual detection method, a mammogram, according to Science Weekly.

Hispanics are more likely to be unable to afford health insurance. As a result, Hispanics have limited access to healthcare, likely influencing the low screening numbers among Hispanics. Hispanics also have less help from professionals and less guidance from doctors to help them take actions to prevent cancer. According the U.S Census Bureau, in 2007, 33 % of Hispanics were uninsured.

Hispanics often lack an understanding of cancer. Having a limited understanding of English doesn’t help.

“My parents don’t go to the doctor as often because they have trouble speaking to their doctor. They don’t feel helped. And they don’t want to be billed for that,” explains Orizema Cruz, Junior at Milpitas High School and daughter of Mexican immigrants.

She, like many Hispanics, has parents who are limited to services and information due to language barriers.

Risks

The National Breast Cancer Foundation found that genetics, the environment, or most likely a combination of the both, are linked to the origins of cancer. Promoting cancer education to the Hispanic community could encourage earlier detection and healthier lifestyles among Hispanics.

Myths discouraging the Hispanic community to learn about cancer can be stopped through educating the public. Such actions can end the belief that cancer is caused by sleeping with a bra on or using an antiperspirant, or  even the belief that one’s risk of breast cancer increases as the size of your breasts increase. Additionally, this will help end the misinformation passed down from adults to the youth.

Two main established risks factors increasing the risk of developing cancer is obesity and family history.  The National Cancer Institute found that an educational program can promote a healthy lifestyle to Hispanics, who have one of the highest number of obesity. Even if cancer has not affected your family, according to the National Cancer Institute, 70 % of women without a family history of cancer will still develop breast cancer. One’s risk factor can also be reduced by losing some weight if obese, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking or drinking excessively.

Awareness

Citlali Cabrera, a 10 year old from Milpitas, CA , is aware of her family history of cancer. She explains, “My aunts have had breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I know I need to start taking care of myself so I don’t get ill, too. I drink water, eat healthy food, take care of myself, and I don’t eat that much junk food.”

“I want to help people with cancer. Last month, I asked family and friends if  they wanted to donate to the American Cancer Society’s Discovery Shop.  I feel happy helping out,” explained Citlali, who helps out the American Cancer Society on the weekends.

Like Citlali, take the steps to reducing your risk of cancer. It’s simple: know the facts and the risks. The more you know about cancer, the less you fear cancer. Your efforts towards awareness can save lives.

 

Advice: Boyfriend Edition

Dear Latinitas,

Why do guys say if we date more than one guy we’re easy.  But if they do it, they’re a player?


Dear Friend,

There are many views on this topic.  Both girls and guys have their own opinion.  Some say that guys like to have the satisfaction of being the only guy in a girl’s life and that they don’t want to share their girl with anyone else.  Some girls think that there seems to be some sort of competition to see who can get the most girls.  The same thing can be said by girls.  They don’t want to have to share their guy with anyone else.  I believe that it all has to do with the way we were brought up.  It’s a complicated issue and perhaps we will never find the proper answer.  Everyone has different views on it even though it isn’t correct to call someone easy or a player.

Dear Latinitas,

What do I say or do if my boyfriend isn’t matching his clothes, looking all ugly, and we’re going out on a date?

Dear Friend,

I believe that if he thinks what he is wearing looks good, then you shouldn’t have a say in it.  Maybe he’s starting a new trend!  If it bothers you though, you can always ask him if it’s okay to pick out a nice shirt for him every once in a while.  You can say, “you should wear this instead, I love how it looks on you!”  With this you will not sound like you’re trying to change his style and he will be happy that you think he looks well while wearing what you have suggested.  Don’t sweat the clothes, it doesn’t matter what he wears as long as you have a good time on your date!

Dear Latinitas,

How do you ask your boyfriend if he’s cheating on you?  How do you know they are saying the truth?  What do you do if they say yes?

Dear Friend,

First of all, you should have a very good reason to think he’s cheating on you.  If there aren’t any signs then I don’t think you should ask.  If you must ask though, just be straight out, simply ask, “Are you cheating on me?”  Be sure that you have a reason for asking.  When he answers, there is no certainty that he is telling the truth, you have to trust your instincts and most of all, you have to trust him.  If he says yes, I would advice you to end the relationship.  It isn’t worth being with someone who is not being honest.  I hope this helps, buena suerte, chica!

The More You Know, the Less You Stress

To all you Latinitas out there whose mind is running a million miles per second, stop and breathe. Stress is a common factor that every person deals with. It comes at you with a whirlwind of emotions known as anxiety, paranoia, frustration, and agitation (to name a few). As a teen, or young adult, the first phases of stress are often coupled with new responsibilities; and you hardly know how to deal with it.  According to Teenhelp.com, teens usually deal with stress related to school work, friends, family, romantic relationships, or even peer pressure in the social realm.  Here are a few tips that can help you deal.

 

School Stress  

“All in all you’re just another brick in the Wall” - Pink Floyd

As odd as it might sound, you’re not the only one going through school stress. Look around you, everyone else is trying to pass or make an A. They’re also applying to colleges and looking for scholarship money. What you can do is slow down, set goals, and organize and prepare yourself for the unknown. Tackle your school tasks day by day while using planners– one for school-work and activities and another for your future plans (like college). Unless you absolutely have to, only focus on what needs to be done at the present moment.

Marissa Martinez’s solution for school stress is to take study breaks. “Study at intervals so that all the information and stuff you are studying does not consume you, as it can help you lose motivation,” says Marissa. An important tip: while applying for college know that most universities look for Latinas to fill their classrooms. We are wanted all over the nation, use your multitasking, smarts, and perseverance to your advantage while applying for college, but don’t let it get the best of you.

Wendy Gonzalez shares how her college preparation was a little overwhelming. “It was mainly due to always having this force that drove me. I always dreamt of going to college and growing up and then it felt like I had finally arrived at that point and it was scary. It was scary not to know where my life would be headed. Studying and achieving good grades numbed my emotions and my fears,” says Wendy.

Although growing up can be terrifying, don’t be ashamed of your accomplishments, and don’t be scared of putting yourself out there. Going to college or a higher grade level means entering a new phase in your life, embrace it and see what you can do for yourself and others instead of fearing the unknown. You might not know it, but there are people out there who really love and believe in you; if you’re having stress or anxiety problems with your academics, go to someone you are comfortable talking to.


Relationship Stress

“I get by with a little help from my friends” – The Beatles

Sometimes your friends can be like family, they love and support you, they can be extremely judgmental  and they can also be persuasive. Your family can also fall under these categories, just remember that their input is usually meant for the best; take it with loving acknowledgement and do what you believe is right. Stick to your guns and don’t let anyone push you into doing something you don’t want to do. Remember that the person you’re with most is yourself, you should be able to like that person. Your friends and family should be your support group and relief when there’s no one else to go to. Make sure you surround yourself with people you can trust, because those bonds last a lifetime.

If you’re in an unhealthy relationship with a friend, family member, or romantic other, stop and think about how you’re being affected. Peer pressure to do drugs, drink alcohol, or do any kind of sexual activity can be detrimental.  Abusive behavior and inappropriate remarks are all signs of an unhealthy relationship. Although you might feel stuck or are blaming yourself in any of these situations, know that you do have a choice. Communication is key, but most of all communicate with yourself.

Jocelyn Perez comments how people try to keep their feelings to themselves, what she does to release stress is, “ run, paint, sing, and I do something that makes me laugh.”

Find your own niche where you can be comfortable. Keep a diary and write everything down, like your stresses or letters to the people who are harming you. If your problem is with a family member let them know, sit down and talk to them or write them a letter, they need to understand how their harsh words are making you feel. Get everything off your chest, then get yourself out of that position; there are better relationships to be made.

Personal Stress

“You are the Hero of your own Story”- Joseph Campbell

Your surroundings can be overwhelming and may leave you feeling self-conscious and anxious. The trick is to try and keep them out. So many girls are pressured into thinking girls/teens/women need to be thinner, or smarter, or nicer, or more hip, but in reality you just need to be you.  Count your strengths, even the small things. If you help your mom out with your family, that makes you a strong supportive woman. If you turn your homework in on time, that makes you a good student. If you can dance by yourself in front of the mirror that makes you beautiful. If you ever come by a stressful or hopeless feeling take a break from your world to do something that makes you happy.

Gonzalez states, “We have to learn how to be mindful. Acknowledge our feelings and advocate for what we need at specific moments.”

Body image can be a huge factor in causing stress problems. There is a high percentage of girls suffering from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem because they feel that they’re not good enough.

Wendy Gonzalez shares her own experience stating, “stress led to my anemia,vitamin d deficiency,costochondritis fibromyalgia and patellofemoral pain all during my senior year of high school…luckily I am better.”

Stanley Popovich, author of Managing your Persistent Fears, Anxieties and Stresses, advises girls to keep a small notebook full of positive statements that they’ve seen before or wrote themselves. If you ever get low or depressed feelings it’s always good to read one of these affirmations (positive statements) as a mantra, and say it until you believe it.  At the end of the day it all comes down to you, reason with your mind and challenge your thoughts with logical questions (Popovich). If you feel like your stress is turning into something bigger and more disruptive, find help.

All of these topics have one common factor, you. There are many different ways to get rid of stress and handle what might become anxiety, it all depends on your mind power.

A Confidence Boost

Students might genuinely be interested in getting involved at a young age but the “experience” factor may seem disheartening. It is often times discouraging to have a lack of experience stand in the way of any career field, or profession, you might want to explore. From taking on an internship/volunteering to obtaining a job, trying new opportunities can be scary and overwhelming– especially if you feel like a “newbie.” In fact, many students run across this obstacle where the work environment is predominately inclusive of people that may be more “experienced.” Being in such a position at such a young age is difficult, because young people often respond to the “inexperienced” comment with frustration.

Try asking a few high school students about this, and you will very likely get a wide range of responses. A high school freshman, Kaitlin, started off by saying, “It’s a bit like high school, I guess. It’s not like I can change my year, so I can’t sit next to the big, bad high school seniors.”

Yullisa, a high school sophomore, in the search of a summer job has felt the lack of experience to be discouraging as well.

“It’s something I can’t change dramatically soon enough. It’s annoying to say the least,” said Yullisa.

As someone with little experience at the time, Yullisa could not help but be frustrated with the reasoning many business places seemed to have.

Another high school student, Elizabeth, agreed that few business owners would seem to give second thought to many of the applications she submitted for work positions. When she first started her summer job search, it seemed that she “would never get a job, ever.” Throughout this past school year though, Elizabeth eventually found a place to start and has been working.

Of course age cannot be changed, but does age, which is often connected to experience, have to be a deterring factor?

As much as age may dominate high school, it is difficult to believe that age could be that influential and important elsewhere. Speak to someone like Yullisa and you might see the ways to pursue a career interest, a bit differently.

She is a high school sophomore and though she might be an academic year above Kaitlin, Yullisa has had to overcome a few fears in getting involved in her own school campus and beyond. This year joining the Mock Trial team at school, she managed to push herself past her fears. She’s interested in becoming a probation officer and views Mock Trial as something she might likely be able to connect with that particular career. She admitted that it got to be “…so much fun as [she] kept going to the meets and prep sessions, that not being scared was something [she] got used to.”

Such an attitude should be far more encouraged, for any teenager.  Feeling frustrated may be overwhelming, but there is a glimmer of hope. The only way someone cannot gain experience is by not doing anything. Everyone has to start from somewhere and worrying that your work might not mirror the level of older or more experienced people does not improve the situation.

To ensure that teens don’t pass up a great opportunity, here are a few tips to boost your confidence. 

#1: Remember that trying something new cannot hurt you.

As difficult as starting off in a new environment can be, never let the possible hardships deter you. It’s a given that nothing that is ever worth the sincere and committed effort, can be easy. Thinking about it in this way can often help you more than a negative and intimidated mindsets ever will. Give yourself an opportunity to love a new and challenging experience. It will be worth the efforts.

#2: See the opportunity in its fullest.

Making the best of it will ensure that you’re on the right path. Don’t forget that even if you don’t get any coveted positions, make any great projects, or do anything extraordinary on the first try, you can improve. Keep in mind that you can do better, so just because you haven’t yet, you have more than enough time to learn and accomplish more with any new experience.

#3: Have a friend or sibling join you.

Sometimes it’s easier to go along and start off with someone you trust by your side. If you don’t feel like you can do it on your own, at least at the beginning, invite someone to join you. You don’t have to start something new by yourself. It’s very likely that if you ask, they would say yes.

 #4: Just do it!

As much as I and any other person can give advice, you should just go for it. Don’t think that the fear of making mistakes should stop you. You shouldn’t let anything stop you. Go for it because if you otherwise don’t there is no way you will ever achieve what will be worth all the collective efforts in the world.

Post-Grad: Real World Problems

As the weather gets warmer and the days become longer, the arrival of summertime has many teens embarking on summer vacations. For high school graduates across the nation the arrival of the warm weather signifies the celebration of milestone events. You might be part of the select group of students who find themselves at a crossroads either in your Junior or Senior year. The reality for these students is that with the end of their High School career comes the million-dollar question of “What will I do after graduation?”

For many Latinas who are the first in their family to graduate High School the topics of college, earning a degree, and life post-grad in general are all of great mystery and uncertainty. Already facing other financial and cultural obstacles, this absence of knowledge can greatly and negatively impact the aspirations of the Latina collective of accomplishing their professional and academic dreams.

As “women of color” it is important to keep in mind the following “Golden Rules” to strengthen your post-grad journey:

I. Be Informed

As Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, explained, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” As a graduating student it is important to have information on the educational options and opportunities that are available. If paying for college makes you anxious, don’t fret! Getting the funding via scholarships, student grants and other government aid that is accessible will help fund and therefore fulfill your academic dreams. Do not let money be a determining factor in deciding what academic or professional route to take. Do your research and stay informed!

II. Have Clear Goals

So, how can you prepare to enter the real world as a recent Post-Graduate? For one, having clear goals of your academic and professional interests and expectations decreases the anxiety. Knowing what career path you wish to follow can direct you towards volunteer and internship opportunities that will provide you with the necessary experience and can help you establish a network. Ultimately, spending a couple weeks during the summer interning at a firm or at a non-profit can help in creating a support system that can guide you while on the job search or when in need of academic letters of recommendation when filling out college applications or scholarships.

III. Seek a Mentor or a Role Model

Dina M. Horwedel explains, in her article Latina Women and Higher Education – Making it Happen, that by identifying the power in knowledge, developing self-confidence and a support system as well as seeking out role models and mentors can Latina women be better equipped to achieve success in the workforce or in the classroom. It is therefore important to find that someone that you look up to, whose professional life interests you or that individual whose support has greatly inspired you.  You will find great comfort in their personal experience and great motivation in their knowledge.

IV. Confidence is Key

Sometimes “planning ahead” for the real world means taking a different path. While in college you have the opportunity to take a “gap year.” Often times this translates into neither entering the workforce nor entering the classroom but a combination of them both: taking a gap year and living abroad. The idea of the gap year is an option that allows you to gain some international experience via volunteering. This not only helps in building an international network and having life-changing experiences but it also allows you to acquire real-world life and work skills that will help determine and strengthen your goals and future professional interests.  Do not fear taking an alternate route by crossing international borders, the key to success when taking the road less traveled is confidence!

With graduation there emerges the pressure of not knowing what is to come or what is expected of you once you have concluded your High School career. Therefore it is important to explore the different possibilities there are, whether it is heading off to college in the fall, taking a year off and volunteering abroad or even entering the workforce. The key to success when planning ahead for the real world is knowledge, confidence, and determination. Whatever route you decide to take it is vital to consider that as an educated Latina if the road you decide to take is the one less traveled, despite the uncertainties, it is what will make a difference.

Talking to Parents 101: Boys

There’s no escaping them: boys. They’re everywhere and we can’t help but to be drawn to them. This isn’t just a girl thing; guys are naturally attracted to us as well and, if we’re lucky, the one we are crushing over is also crushing over us. But what do you do when he makes a move and now you’re a couple? Do you tell your parents? Do you keep it to yourself? Are you old enough to be in a relationship? These are the most important questions when it comes to boys.

Every parent is different when it comes to the “boyfriend/girlfriend” subject. Some would rather have you wait until you graduate college or high school, some think sixteen is the appropriate age and some (but rarely any) think it’s okay to start dating in middle school. But how does this work out? Truth is we have no control over who we are attracted to, it happens.  So, if you happen to think you’re ready, consider these four rules.

Never try to overpower your parents 

First, never say: “I have a boyfriend and I want you to meet him” or anything in this context. Never say: “I am or I have.” You shouldn’t exert any authority. No parent wants to be told what to do or to accept something, and this will immediately shut them off, leaving no room for compromise. Instead, ease them into the idea. For example, during dinner, say something like: “so there’s a guy at school, and he’s telling people he thinks I’m cute.” This is a good way to bring the topic up, because you’re sharing your personal life with them and they’ll love that. This will also form trust between you and them, making the boyfriend situation easier to consider.

Observe their reaction

Observe their reaction, did they cringe? Did they get angry? Did they find it funny? But most importantly were they open about the topic? If they seemed upset or blew off your comment, this is a sign to back away from the subject (for now). I know this is something you don’t want to hear, but there’s no way around it. There’s no point in pursuing the conversation any further and angering them. Instead, wait a couple days and bring up the conversation again, but this time say something like “so remember that boy I was telling you guys about, well he asked me to eat lunch with him during our lunch break. But I don’t know what to say. What do you guys think?” This is your attempt at forming a trust/permissive relationship with them. They’ll respect you for asking them  but don’t demand an answer right away, let them think about it. Don’t push them, because they’ll just push the topic away even more (and we don’t want that).

Confront your parents with an open mind

Finally, confront them. But when doing so, never say “you don’t, you need, you, etc.” Using the word “you” is a form of attack and this can cause the other person to shut down. You don’t want that. Instead, let them know how you feel. You can do this by saying, “I would like to go out to lunch with him and I want to be able to talk about situations like these with you guys. I know I’m still young, and this is hard for you, but I want you to know that I’m not rushing into a relationship; I just want to try this out.” Let them speak, but most importantly listen. If you want them to hear you out, you need to let them speak also. Hear them out! And if they’re response is not what you wanted to hear, don’t jump up and start justifying yourself or argue. You want them to see you as an adult; arguing, crying, screaming, etc. is going to do the complete opposite. Keep in mind that your parents mean well. I know that is a very cliché thing to say, but it’s true. So, if they don’t think it’s time to date, then respect their decision and this will show them maturity. This is key to gaining their approval!

Be patient

Getting your parents to accept the idea of dating is a process and if at first it doesn’t work, let the subject cool down, and try again! A mature attitude is the pathway to approval. And ladies, please keep in mind that middle school isn’t the time for boyfriends! Those years are made for friends and making memories! Getting ready for high school, joining a sport, dances, or practicing for high school try outs with your BFF’s. Boys will always be there. There’s no need to rush, believe me.

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