Hi, My Name is Amy and I’m an Extrovert by Amy Collinsworth

 Amy_SA Fit Photo 2

Amy Collinsworth is the Student Outreach Manager for the Center for Career Development and the Educational Resource Center at Boston University. In her role, Amy manages the Student Ambassador program as well as fosters relationships within BU to encourage student participation in academic support and career development services.  Amy holds a bachelor of arts in marketing from Rockford University and a master of science in college student personnel from the University of Tennessee.  Her professional background includes working in MBA career management and undergraduate student leadership development. Outside of work, Amy enjoys spending time with close friends, playing board games, Zumba and hip-hop classes, live music, and traveling. Amy can be reached on twitter: @amycollinsworth

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Similar to many college students, I did not focus on my health as much as I should have during college. In fact, most of the time I just tried not to think about it. During the first 3 1/2 years of college, I worked too much, slept too little, and ate very poorly. I enjoyed being a support for others and became a “yes” person – as a student leader, friend, daughter, and co-worker.

While I was often happy being that “yes” person, it took a great toll on my health. Between graduating high school and the spring semester of my senior year of college, I gained 50lbs. Despite buying larger sizes of jeans, I chose to ignore the amount of weight I gained and the serious implications that might follow if I continued treating my health so poorly. I decided I would recommit to my wellness at the beginning of each semester. Then, 1-2 weeks into each semester, exercise was replaced with a club meeting or a staff meeting, and healthy eating took a backseat to poor food choices.

When I was home for winter break before my last semester of college, my dad asked me how I felt about my health. I answered, “I’m happy with how I feel and how I look. Why?” He very caringly had a conversation with me about his concern for me because of the amount of weight I gained. He said he was happy if I was happy, but wanted to make sure I was also healthy. I stepped on the scale and could not believe the number I read. I was devastated and could not hide from myself any longer.

I found a workout buddy after returning from winter break, and together we kept each other motivated. I found a wonderful Zumba community in my hometown, and soon made eating healthy and working out part of my routine for the entire semester. I finally found a workout that was not only showing results, but was FUN! This more serious recommitment to my health helped me to be more optimistic as I went through the graduate school acceptance season and ended my final semester as an undergraduate student. I lost 25 lbs, felt great, and people noticed my physical transformation. For the first time, I had been able to create a sustainable healthy lifestyle that carried through beyond the first week of the semester.

I rode on that train of weight loss and endorphins until the summer between college and graduate school. Because I did not yet have a graduate assistantship, I spent the summer stressing about the financial burdens of additional loans and how I would get the practical experience I believed I needed to help me get the most out of my academic experience in my masters program. As the stress increased, the commitment to my health decreased. Two weeks before moving to Tennessee from Illinois, I received a call that would turn my worries around.  Another student in the graduate program had rescinded her commitment to attend the program and to work the graduate assistantship she had accepted. Because I had previously interviewed for her assistantship and had not yet accepted another one, I was offered the position, and happily accepted!

Needless to say, the final two weeks in Illinois were joyous and mostly stress free (aside from the stress of moving hundreds of miles away). However, I jumped right back into old habits when I began graduate school, and so returned my mindset of putting my health on the backburner. I worked all day and had classes at night, so the drive-thru window became my new dinner source a few nights a week. I didn’t even think about exercising. It seemed like that was what everyone was doing.  We were all trying to prove ourselves. We sought to complete internships, travel to conferences, inspire our students, make a difference, and become the most marketable candidates we could be for our approaching job searches. It didn’t seem that there was room between all of those other commitments to focus on health. After the first year of graduate school and a summer internship in Oregon, I returned to year two of grad school to a devastating reality. In a little over a year, I had regained all 25lbs I had lost (and then some) and knew I had to make a change. That fall semester, I found myself back on the journey to wellness and experienced an entire semester of healthy eating and exercise. In true Amy-fashion, the spring semester turned back into a high-stress, low health commitment situation as I completed my master’s degree and was on the job search.

The past year has been fraught with transition and the unknown. Since last March, I have moved five times, lived in three states, been a graduate assistant, completed two internships, earned my master’s degree, worked as a temporary full-time staff member, junked my car (RIP Marshmallow), been a part-time retail associate, had a short-term babysitting gig, applied to 60+ jobs, been to several on-campus interviews, and felt more lost than I could ever imagine feeling.

My usually optimistic view of life was turned on end.

When I first moved back home to Illinois in October, I didn’t know what to do with myself and quickly fell into a very depressed mental state. I was not working. My car  was out of working order- for good. I was not getting my usual fill of energy from being around others (Hi, my name is Amy and I’m an extrovert.). I wasn’t sure what to do or how to feel. I began sleeping a lot and eating poorly. I felt a deep sense of rejection each time I received a “thanks, but no thanks,” email about a job to which I applied.

By late November I realized I needed to take control of my own happiness. I had been letting my circumstances dictate my feelings about myself for far too long. My identity has always been as a happy, optimistic Amy who is always ready with a smile and firmly believes that things happen for a reason, knowing that there are great life lessons to be learned from even the direst of circumstances.  It was time for me to take control of my physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

I knew my main goal was to build a healthy lifestyle that I could sustain through transition. I started with my mental health by reflecting on my professional goals, reconsidering how I was approaching my job search, and focusing on applying to jobs at institutions that would be the right fit for who I am. I obtained a part-time job in the bookstore at my undergraduate institution, which provided the opportunity to be back in a place that felt like home and surrounded by a great support system of staff members I had known for years. I spent quality time with my parents and closest friends, knowing that a job offer could take me across the country at any time. I focused on my professional development by reading blogs on leadership and getting connected with the #SAPro online community.

Once I realized my mental well-being was finally in check, it was time to build a sustainable lifestyle in the way that I exercised and ate. When Ed Cabellon wrote his blog post, The 2014 Student Affairs Health Pledge, I was inspired to take the pledge and join the other professionals in the #SAfit community who were recommitting to their health. I began tracking everything I ate and drank, exercising regularly (getting back into the dance classes that I love so much), creating a regular sleep schedule, and talking with friends about how I felt.

The results have been amazing. I have lost 18lbs since January 6. I log my food and exercise in MyFitnessPal and am an active part of the #SApro health pledge community. One month ago I moved to Boston and began a new job at Boston University. So far, I have been successful in sustaining my new lifestyle. With the nicer-weather days increasing, I have taken the opportunity to walk more of my commute instead of taking the bus the entire way. Thanks to two wonderful friends of mine, I have happiness calendars and quotes that I read when I get to work each day, allowing me to focus on my mental wellness on a daily basis.

Managing my health and wellness journey is a daily challenge. I know I am not alone and that we, as student affairs professionals, are in this together. We may be committing to separate goals, but we are a community of people in a helping profession that requires us to take care of ourselves so that we may be of utmost support to others. We need each other as accountability partners and friends. Despite our busy schedules and others-focused mindsets, we must make sure that our health is always a priority.

 

 

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