All posts by Helene

Everything Makes Me Anxious: Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and all of this is based on my own personal experience. If you think you are experiencing anxiety or depression, please consult a medical professional.

Most people have had the feeling of being anxious, of having those nervous butterflies in your stomach or that heart plummeting into your stomach feeling when you think you forgot to lock the front door or before a big presentation. These are small, everyday forms of anxiety, and they are pretty normal. Everyone feels anxious sometimes, but for people with anxiety disorders; they can feel this way more often than not.

So what is the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder? Well, anxiety sure doesn’t feel good, but it doesn’t derail everyday life long term the way that an anxiety disorder does. An anxiety disorder creates severe ongoing anxiety that interferes with a person’s everyday activities. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) often means that you feel as though disaster could come at anytime, and are unable to shake an irrational fear that something bad is about to happen. These feelings often persist for six months or longer, which is often the baseline for diagnosis, defining it differently from anxiety caused by a set stressor. With generalized anxiety, it is hard to pin the cause of your anxiety, consequently making it very difficult to handle.

Many people with anxiety are aware that their anxiety is much more than the average; they know that their level of anxiety at a situation is more extreme than normal. Symptoms of GAD can include overthinking solutions to worst-case scenarios, having trouble handling uncertainty, inability to relax, and fear of making the wrong decision. People who suffer from GAD can feel like their anxiety is completely consuming them and controlling their life.

An anxiety disorder can also come with some physical symptoms, which is how I was finally diagnosed with GAD. Stomachaches, headaches, dizziness, trouble sleeping, muscle tension, twitchiness or trembling and fatigue are just some of these conditions. It can also bear a resemblance to panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Generalized anxiety disorder is often treated with various kinds of therapy, often using cognitive behavior therapy and other methods for figuring out the triggers of your anxiety. Some psychiatrists will also treat anxiety with SSRIs, which is a logical choice as people with anxiety will also commonly have depression, which is also commonly treated with SSRIs. There isn’t a cure for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and treatment will take time to take effect, but keep at it. Many people with anxiety disorders live very normal lives under treatment.

Anxiety can feel all-consuming and overwhelming, but you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to talk to your family and friends about how you are feeling, and let them know the best way to support you. It is hard for them to understand your anxiety without honest communication; they will want to help you to feel better and won’t know what to do for you if you don’t tell them. Most importantly, talk to a doctor so that you can come up with a treatment plan. You deserve a full healthy life, and no matter how difficult it seems right now, there is hope.

How do you deal with your anxiety? Tell me in the comments!

Where to Put the Bodies: The Modern Methods of Burial

Death is something we are taught not to talk about in Western culture, but unfortunately, we all die sometime. Every person who has ever existed, and every person who will exist in the future will one day die. And the reality is, that’s a lot of bodies. The conventional way we bury won’t work with an increasing population. There isn’t enough space to bury everyone, since many burials are surrounded in concrete, so the bodies never decay into the earth. But in a world of modern innovation, we have a lot of out of the box options for what to do with the dead.
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Teleportation IRL: Quantum Entanglement

Have you dreamed of teleporting somewhere, instead of spending hours in a train/car/plane? Well, the time of instant teleportation could be here sooner than we think. There is a theory in quantum mechanics called quantum entanglement, and it could be the solution to what was once only science fiction.

The math behind this is pretty complicated, and even professionals in the field are only beginning to understand how it works. The practical application behind it is fascinating, and much easier to explain. Quantum entanglement is a state when particles are so connected to one another that they cannot be distinguished from one another, no matter how far apart the group of particles are from one another. Anything you do to one particle effects the other particle in the same way. If I tickle a particle in Boston, a particle in China entangled with it would also feel the tickle. This minutephysics video summarizes it pretty well:

So why is this useful or relevant? While, through quantum entanglement, what you do to one particle effects all of the other particles. In practical application, this could revolutionize communication and transportation. In the world of communication, you could send encrypted messages during war time, and there would be no way the enemy could interfere or decipher what is being said. This could also bring about a quantum internet, which would be more secure than the current internet. After all, if the quantum internet means that things travel directly to their destination, with no interference from other sources, then there is no opportunity for hacking or compromising the security of your information. The sacrifice that comes with this is that a quantum internet would most likely be slower than our current internet speeds. Is this a worthwhile sacrifice, or do we need to work toward a compromise of the two systems?

This article from The Washington Post talks about a very recent experiment where is the first teleportation experiments have begun very successfully in China. Photons on earth that were 700 miles apart were beamed onto a satellite orbiting 300 miles overhead. This is the longest case of quantum teleportation ever to occur, and the first step in one day making teleportation something real and accessible to the masses.

Quantum entanglement is so beautiful to some, it has been turned into a true art. Perhaps it is through this art that the average person can come to truly understand quantum entanglement. For now, it’s just incredible to see the many possibilities that can come from it, and to think about the day that I can travel across the world near the speed of light.

Where would you go if you could teleport? Would you give up internet speed for a more secure communication process? Tell us in the comments!

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Harry and the Potters: 15 years of Wizard Rock

Harry Potter has been a part of the overall cultural narrative on an international scale for almost two decades now. So today, you might learn something about Harry Potter that you might not know: he has a band, a whole genre of music, as a matter of fact. Wizard Rock as a genre is rock music about Harry Potter the story, but the band I’m going to tell you about today deals with is about Harry Potter the character, and the two guys who bring him to life in the real world.

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Unpaid Internships: A Class Divide?

Internships are practically a requirement of many industries, and an only way into the industry for many undergraduates. An internship can give you connections in your chosen industry, experience in the field you want to spend your life in, and help you figure out what you really want to commit yourself to. On the other hand, internships can be stressful and unpleasant, especially if an intern feels like they are doing all the grunt work for none (or very little) pay.

Many internships now are unpaid, which creates a barrier of accessibility to many people who need an internship for experience in order to get a future job. For students who come from lower income families, they often have a summer job (or two) to help pay for college and sometimes even support their family. These people cannot afford to quit these jobs for three months to take an unpaid internship. Basically, if you do not have financial stability from someone else, an unpaid internship probably isn’t a realistic option. This was my situation during my undergraduate education. Both of my parents were disabled, so during summers I worked to earn money for my schoolbooks and to take care of them. There would have been no way for me to take an unpaid internship.

There are many opinion articles about how unpaid internships create inequality, and only allows those who are already privileged to succeed. But there is still hope for those of us who do not come from privileged backgrounds, as their are paid internship options out there (though they may be harder to find).

But is an unpaid internship legal, let alone worthwhile? Well, it turns out that an unpaid internship should function very differently from a paid one, according to the US Department of Labor. They have 6 requirements for an internship to be unpaid, but the most important ones are:

  1. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff
  2. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded

In nonlegal jargon, this means that if you are doing work an employee would do, you MUST be paid for it. If you are being an asset to the company by the use of your skills, they need to pay you for it. Keep this in mind the next time you consider an internship. An unpaid internship should be observation and shadowing, not work.

Before you resign yourself to an unpaid internship (or the inability to take one), know that unpaid internships are not as helpful as they are cracked up to be. According to Fortune magazine, a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers showed that paid interns were both more likely to land a full-time job after graduation and make more money than their unpaid counterparts.

Unpaid internships are an international problem, and they shouldn’t become the standard. Yes, it is easier for a business to take on an intern without paying them, but this means that so many students won’t have the option to learn with that company. I don’t have a immediate solution to this problem, except to stand up for those who are marginalized by this issue to the best abilities, and to keep fighting for economic opportunities for all.

Have you had an unpaid internship? Did it feel worthwhile? Have you ever felt disadvantaged by not having an internship? Tell us in the comments!

Libertarian Socialism: An Intersection of Political Values

So it has been a discussion among my internet friends lately that we are often talking into an echo chamber of people who share our exact political beliefs. So this quiz was posted and many of us discussed our results (mine is shown below, and I’ll break it down in a minute), most of which were variations on a theme. This really made me think about my political beliefs. Personally, I am much more passionate about individual issues than parties or schools of political thought, which in reality means I haven’t ever really done  my research about what these various schools of thought represent. As I (and many others) become more politically active in the current cultural climate, it is ever more important to know what we stand for.

Results of a political values quiz, result: Libertarian Socialism

The results from my quiz were interesting to me, and perhaps a little different than I was expecting. The website gives a pretty good breakdown of what it all means, but obviously this varies from person to person based on their values. My result surprised me, and almost made me feel repulsed for a moment, so I thought I would dive in further and find out what it all means.

First, let’s break down what the eight different values represent as a whole, and in relation to me:

Economic Axis: Social

The higher side of this axis for me is Equality (74.4%): “Those with higher Equality scores believe the economy should distribute value evenly among the populace.” As a person who spent much of her childhood only able to survive because of social programs like Medicare and Food Stamps, this makes sense. Even though I am now a self-sufficient adult who no longer needs this assistance, I want it to be available to those who need it. The other side of this axis is Markets (25.6%): “Those with higher Market scores believe the economy should be focused on rapid growth.” I support the growth of markets, but I also think that it isn’t the most important priority.

Diplomatic Axis: Peaceful

The higher end of this axis for me was World (72.3%): “[People with high World scores] often believe in a peaceful foreign policy, emphasizing diplomacy, cooperation, integration, and at high values, a world government.” As a person with international friends and a love of the world as a whole, it makes send that this percentage is high. I am a person who strongly opposes violence unless there is no other option, and I think that the world is a better place when countries work together. The other end of this axis is Nation (27.7%): “Those with higher Nation scores are patriotic and nationalist. They often believe in an aggressive foreign policy, valuing the military, strength, sovereignty, and at high values, territorial expansion.” This doesn’t fit me, because even though most days I am proud of my country, I don’t think they are the best (sorry!). I know there are always ways for countries to improve, including my own.

Civil Axis: Libertarian

The high end of this axis for me is Liberty (76.2%): “Those with higher Liberty scores believe in strong civil liberties.” I am definitely a strong and passionate proponent for equal rights for all people, and I believe that government interference in what we do with our bodies and the like should be minimal, but at the same time, I know that government and authority is necessary for a society to function. I’m not an anarchist, and I know that a decentralization of government just isn’t practical, and would do more harm than good. The other end of this axis is Authority (23.8%): “Those with higher Authority believe in strong state power.” This includes things like being in favor of censorship and government surveillance, both of which are things I do not support, so it makes sense that this percentage is low for me.

Societal Axis: Very Progressive

The highest percentage axis leaning of all of these for me was Progress (77.4%): “Those with higher Progress scores believe in social change and rationality.” The 8values website also goes on to say that these people are usually secular or atheist (I am United Methodist), but the rest of this fits me very well. I am deeply passionate about the environment and fighting climate change, as well as scientific innovation in medicine. This means that the other end of this axis was my lowest score, Tradition (22.6%): “Those with higher Tradition scores believe in traditional values and strict adherence to a moral code.” I like to think I have a strong moral code, and I do not necessarily think that these two side of the axis should have to be in direct opposition to one another. I believe the world needs change. which is most likely why this score is so low for me.

So what does this mean?

8values is honest that “This is a work in progress and is much less accurate than the values and axes, so don’t take it too seriously.” I’m gonna take this information with a grain of salt, because to be honest, the thought that I am a libertarian socialist freaks me out a bit (just look at this Wikipedia page, don’t you feel overwhelmed?). This quiz definitely made me think a lot more about what I believe in, and where I got those beliefs. I think on what my parents believe in (they don’t like socialism or government interference in life), what my religion tells me (progressive, but not as progressive as I am), and I have really gained more perspective on who I am. Am I a libertarian socialist as this quiz leads me to believe? I’m not so sure…

Did you take this quiz? Did this change the way you think about your political beliefs? Post your results below! 

Race to the Red Planet: Mars 2033

I’m really passionate about space. A lot of the reason I got a degree in physics is due to a childhood passion for the cosmos. I wanted to be an astronaut more than anything as a child. To be able to see the vast expanse of the universe and do research that would change the world? That’s the dream for me. Unfortunately, I have a bad knee and have terrible vision, and astronauts have to be in prime physical condition. So instead, I find the wonders of the universe in physics.

Space travel has become more and more prominent in recent years due to its integration into the private sector via organizations like Space X, who also strive to make reusable rockets, instead of our current unsustainable single use rockets. But what does this mean for NASA? And what does it mean for those of us who hope to go to space but aren’t astronauts? Private sector organizations show the world that anyone can go to space if they have the money, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a good idea.

Funding has just been granted to NASA for a program that intends to launch a manned mission to Mars in 2033, which seems like a long way off, but is a huge step in space exploration, and will even effect the way we live life on Earth. Some of the most revolutionary leaps in technology and medicine have been products of the space program. Research happens at the International Space Station each and every day,  a worldwide collaboration in discovery. They aren’t the only ones headed to the Red Planet though. The private organization Mars One intends to make a permanent colony on Mars along the same timeline NASA has for its manned mission, but this plan seems overly ambitious and unrealistic.

The main differences between these private organizations and NASA are funding, accessibility to civilians, and rules about what we are allowed to do on the Martian surface. Where Mars One and even Space X want to colonize on Mars (though with very different methods), NASA wants to explore the surface, gaining scientific knowledge with minimal disruption to the planet’s surface. The NASA Office of Planetary Protection strives to make sure that we do not harm the places we explore.

I have all the hope in the world for future space travel. The biggest thing holding the human race back from getting people to Mars is due to money, because space travel is really expensive. There is much to be gained from space travel, but only by working together on an international scale will we have the skills we need to truly discover the secrets of the universe.

What do you want the future of space travel to be? Should humans live on Mars? 

Why do I still feel broke?: Lifestyle Inflation

Lifestyle inflation isn’t something that gets talked about often, which means a lot of people aren’t even aware it is occurring. When you get a new, better paying job, you are often spending more to accommodate your new lifestyle. This can happen to be best of us, but awareness is key to stopping it.

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Silence Does Not Mean Yes: Consent

Living in a city, I deal with being catcalled, inappropriately touched, and harassed on a weekly, if not more frequent, basis, and I know that I am not alone in this experience. It defies gender, race, and sexuality, though some are more affected than others.

Consent is often a hot topic these days, and is another one of those words where everybody has a different definition. The legal definition in the United States varies from state to state, and some states, such as Massachusetts or Iowa, do not specifically define it at all.
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