Mental Health, Stress Management, & Self-Care

Statistics ambassador Mia Paelmo tackles the topic of mental health as a student, and shares some tips and resources.

Image courtesy of Mia Paelmo

We are officially in the last leg of the semester! Unfortunately, this is also the time when burnout begins to kick in. You’re tired, you have midterms coming up, and all you want is another break. Trust me, I get it. I’ve been in your position, and I’ve spent many semesters trying to figure out how to take care of my well being in order to make it to finals. In these low moments where you feel like your mental health cannot take on anymore stress, it is important to practice self care. Today, I am going to share with you what I do to keep myself motivated and how I prioritize my mental health.

1. Go on a walk outside!
This is one of my favorite “brain break” activities, especially in the springtime. Whenever I feel stressed out or feel like I am drowning under all my work, I go outside and take a stroll around campus. It helps clear my mind and being in the fresh air really helps lessen any internal tension I might be feeling. It’s almost like a reset for my body. Sometimes a solo walk is good, I recommend throwing on your headphones and putting on a podcast or music, but I also really enjoy taking walks with my friends. It’s nice to have company and have someone to talk to. I have found that when I spend time with the people I love, it boosts my mood 100%. So, call up a friend and go outside, being in the sun can work wonders for your mental health!!

Image courtesy of Mia Paelmo

2. Do something you love
This is something that is so simple but can have such a large impact on your mood and your mental health. Sometimes, I feel like when we’re at school we focus too much on what we have to do, we never find time to do the things we want to do. And when I say you should do something you love, it doesn’t have to be a big thing. Obviously if you love to travel, you can’t just pack a bag and catch a plane in the middle of the week. However, you can find little things you can do for yourself, and honestly it will have just as much of an impact. For example, I love to cook. I’m not the best cook and I’m still learning, but the process of cooking is really soothing for me, and I get a good meal out of it! Another thing I love to do is paint my nails. It’s only about an hour long process, but that hour of mindlessly filing and painting my nails is time dedicated to giving my brain a break. As simple as these 2 activities are, they help me actively practice self care and when you take care of yourself, even in the smallest way, your mental health will thank you!

3. Stay Organized
This is a crucial stress management tip that I feel like I am constantly working to keep up with. Staying organized is so important, especially if you are taking a lot of credit hours! My suggestion is physically writing down a general work schedule for yourself at the beginning of each week. When you take multiple different classes each semester and have various deadlines, you might have trouble deciding what class to put your focus on. What I’ve found that works best for me is first, writing down all your deadlines for the week (assignments, exams, etc.). Then, I strategically pick, at most, 2 classes to study/do work for each day. I find it a lot less overwhelming when I plan out my week like this because then I’m not spending hours switching between assignments for 5 different classes. Limiting myself to only focus on 2 classes everyday motivates me to stay on top of my schoolwork, and I feel like the quality of my work is better because I spend a decent amount of time on it. I will admit, sticking to my schedule is hard, especially if you have other things going on throughout the day, but being able to break down my work by having this general outline has relieved a lot of my stress!

Image courtesy of Mia Paelmo

4. Counseling
I think whenever we talk about mental health in college, we are constantly reminded to go seek help at the counseling center. It probably feels really repetitive, but it’s good to know the resources around you and how they can be useful. The UIUC counseling center has a lot of great services that are available to students. Sometimes the stress can be too much for you to handle, and that is okay! Being able to talk to someone about how you’re feeling and have an outlet can take a lot of weight off your shoulders. The counseling center offers limited or continuous sessions (both private and group!) depending on what you need, so you can decide what type of commitment is right for you. Find out more info about the counseling center here: UIUC Counseling Center

To wrap this up, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. In the midst of all our school work and activities, we sometimes forget to prioritize ourselves. I hope this article has provided you with some ways you can practice self care, and remember these are just some things that I have found successful results with. Self care might look completely different for you, and that’s okay! At the end of the day, you know what’s good for you, and as long as you are doing things that make you feel happy and give yourself a break, that’s all that matters!
We’re almost to the end of the semester, keep pushing!!

Post-Graduation Plans with Tanya Wang

Tanya is a graduating senior majoring in Statistics. Below she shares her plans for life after graduation, and how her major helped her prepare for those plans.

My post-graduate goal is to further explore the fields in biostatistics. A thorough grounding in statistics provided a solid foundation for this pursuit, instilling in me the complex language of data and its profound impact on biological research and medical innovation. My undergraduate experience sparked a strong desire to delve deeper into biostatistics, where I could apply statistical methods to unravel complex biological problems. My goal is not only to earn a master’s degree, but also to consider pursuing a PhD where I can immerse myself in research at the exciting intersection of statistics and health sciences. This path represents more than just an academic pursuit; It is a commitment to promote key health discoveries that can shape the future of healthcare and public health policy. 

The statistics program is uniquely diverse, offering courses aimed at a wide range of specialized areas. The curriculum ensures that regardless of a student’s future direction, there are courses designed to provide the necessary skills and knowledge. For example, the program offers statistical programming courses such as STAT 385, STAT 447, and STAT 440, which are ideal for those who wish to explore the technical depth of statistical analysis and data manipulation. At the same time, the program also includes biostatistics-focused courses such as STAT 212 and STAT 434 get students well prepared for the intersection of statistics and health sciences. In addition, conceptual courses like STAT 433 require students to think critically about statistical theory and its applications. The program’s expansive offering ensures that as we, the students, pave our individual academic and professional paths, we can do so with confidence, backed by a strong, tailored educational foundation from UIUC. 

Course Recommendations Outside of STAT

Three of our ambassadors share their recommendations for courses outside of the Statistics major. As we approach Spring registration, take a look at these valuable courses!

Tanya Wang

From Yutong (Tanya) Wang:

ASTR 121
My favorite course is ASTR 121 – Solar System and Worlds Beyond. It offers a comprehensive study of our celestial surroundings. This course explores the intricate orbital mechanics of planets and moons, unravels the enigma surrounding the genesis of our Solar System, and introduces us to the discoveries of exoplanets in distant stellar systems.

Image provided by Tanya Wang

What sets ASTR 121 apart is its immersive pedagogical approach, which includes attending enlightening presentations at the Staerkel Planetarium and participating in night observatory sessions. These practical experiences not only enhanced my comprehension of the universe but also motivated my curiosity for the universe. ASTR 121 has been pivotal in igniting my fervor for astronomy and planetary science.

CHLH 260
Another course I would recommend is CHLH 260, Introduction to Medical Ethics. This course talks about ethical complexities of the medical field, and it’s unlike any other class I’ve experienced. What makes it unique is that it uses movies and TV shows to explore medical ethics. Analyzing ethical dilemmas and moral challenges in media sources makes it highly relatable and engaging.

Image provided by Tanya Wang

Finally, I was tasked with writing an essay that examines different ethical concepts and reflects on our chosen media source. CHLH 260 left me a lasting impression by its unique blend of media analysis and ethics and deepen my understanding of the complexities in healthcare area. It’s a course that has not only broadened my knowledge but also shaped my perspective on ethical decision-making.

Kelly Li

From Jieruo (Kelly) Li:

ANSC 207
One of my favorite courses outside of statistics is ANSC 207, “The Science of Pets and How to Care for Them”. The course focused on introducing the biology of companion animals, including their physical structure, nutrition, behavior, and reproduction. While most people consider cats and dogs as their primary choice of pets, these two animal species are the primary focus of the course.

Image provided by Kelly Li

Despite being a huge animal lover, I don’t have a pet of my own because I always felt a strong sense of responsibility for having a companion animal. But after taking this course, I learned a lot about the potential congenital and heritable disorders for certain dog types, different stages of pet growth, “checked pets” for airline travel, ways to distinguish the gender of a kitten, and even how to adopt a cat from the shelter! So, if you are an animal lover who might want to have your own pets but don’t have any experience, don’t worry! ANSC 207 is the perfect course to help you learn everything about companion animals!

FSHN 343
Another course that I found really interesting is FSHN 343, “Foundations in Beverage Management: Introduction to Wine, Beer, and Spirits”. It is worth mentioning at the beginning that this course has an age requirement of 21+ and is only open for registration in the fall semester. The course will focus on the application of principles and practices related to the preparation and service of alcohol and specialty beverages in the hospitality industry.

Image credit: Kelly Li

Students can learn about the origin, stories, and techniques of making beer, wine, spirits, and cocktails while having the opportunity to taste them and make observations of aroma, flavor, and other characteristics. Most importantly, each student will study beverages in a safe way because everyone must complete alcohol training and become certified.

From Ruihan (Rita) Liu:

ANSC 205
One of my favorite courses outside the realm of statistics has been ANSC 205: World Animal Resources. In this course, you’ll get a chance to explore the world of animals and their various roles within different climates, economies, and cultures. Plus, you’ll get to delve into how these animals lived today and what the future may hold for them. It’s a journey that is eye-opening, offering insights that go beyond the ordinary. 

At the start of the course, you get to pick a country to focus on. As an Advanced Composition class, ANSC 205 presents an opportunity to gradually craft a well-structured essay while gaining a deep understanding of a particular country’s unique animals. You’ll start by brainstorming your topic and digging into available resources online. Then, you’ll craft your first draft, get some feedback, and finish up with a final draft. It takes some time and effort, but the journey of gathering pertinent information and building a comprehensive essay about animals is truly engaging. 

Another interesting aspect is its incorporation of peer reviews, typically occurring between the first and final drafts. It’s a chance to see what others are doing and how their essays are shaping up. Reading something completely different from your own topic can really make you think about how to improve your work. 

Image provided by Rita Liu

Professor Emmert also offers invaluable support and guidance, ensuring that we remain on the right track and providing all the encouragement we require. It’s not solely about studying animals; it’s a comprehensive opportunity to acquire skills in research, writing, and critical thinking. 

In summary, ANSC 205: World Animal Resources is a class that I absolutely adore. It’s packed with fascinating insights into the world of animals and offers a unique learning experience. 

STAT course recommendations

As Spring registration approaches, two ambassadors share their favorite STAT courses.

From Mingli Xu:

The first course I wish to recommend is STAT 433, “Stochastic Processes.” This course serves as an in-depth exploration of stochastic processes, encompassing topics such as Markov Chains, Poisson Processes, and Brownian Motions. If you have an inclination towards theoretical statistical knowledge and aspire to enhance your logical reasoning abilities, I highly recommend this course. Professor Alex Stepanov imparts a captivating learning experience, artfully blending humor with lucid explanations of complex concepts. Stochastic processes hold substantial relevance across various fields, including financial markets and biology, rendering the acquisition of this knowledge a valuable asset for modeling and analyzing real-world phenomena characterized by inherent randomness. 

The second course I would like to recommend is STAT 420, “Methods of Applied Statistics.” This course delves into the practical application of statistical methods, including topics like linear regression, analysis of variance, and multiple comparisons, with a particular emphasis on their appropriateness and hands-on implementation using the statistical programming language R. This course was my initial exposure to R programming, and prior to my college experience, I had never envisioned myself engaging in any form of programming. Under the guidance of Professor Julie Deeke in STAT 420, I gained valuable insights into performing tasks such as data visualization, statistical analysis, and hypothesis testing within the programming context. This experience highlighted the significance of harnessing modern technology to augment theoretical knowledge and offered me a new perspective on data analysis through visual representation. 

(Advising note: STAT 420 no longer satisfies a major requirement in Statistics or Stat&CS. But it’s still a great choice for students outside of our majors!) 

Mingli Xu, senior, ASRM and Statistics.
Botao Huang, senior, Statistics and Econometrics

From Botao Huang:

There are numerous pathways to fulfill the requirements for a Statistics major, each of which can lead to a distinguished career as a statistician. As a dedicated student with a keen interest in the intersection of financial knowledge and statistics, with aspirations to become a financial analyst, my primary focus lies in selecting courses that will enable me to delve into the realm of data analysis. Two courses that I consider highly relevant are STAT 448, Advanced Data Analysis, and STAT 440, Statistical Data Management

STAT448, especially when instructed by Professor Darren Glosemeyer, offered me a comprehensive introduction to advanced data analysis. This course covers about 16 advanced statistical analysis techniques and their practical implementations using SAS. Rather than solely delving into tedious mathematical concepts, you will gain valuable insights into the practical applications of these skills, which are pivotal if you aspire to pursue a career in data-related fields. It is noteworthy that the Professor also provides the corresponding R code as a reference to the SAS code, allowing you to develop your own intuition about the course materials. This significantly enhanced my understanding, especially since I had more experience with R than SAS at the time. Consequently, this course prepares you well and solidifies your versatility in using various software tools. STAT440, on the other hand, is a course that primarily emphasizes the utilization of R and its built-in functionalities to generate relevant data wrangling displays and visualizations. This course can be particularly beneficial when dealing with large datasets, as it equips you with more efficient data cleaning methods compared to using Excel. 

Photo courtesy of Botao Huang.

Study Tips and Productivity Tools

Alyssa Anastasi, class of 2025, offers some tips for staying on track during midterm season.

Alyssa Anastasi

As the semester goes on, it can be more and more difficult to stay motivated and on top of your work. Here are some of the tips and resources that I use to make every semester a success!

The first, and most important, is to stay organized. It is important to know exactly what assignments are coming up and when they are due. At the beginning of every semester, I like to take all of my syllabi and create a table of all of my assignments and their due dates. This allows me to have a clear overview of exactly what I need to do each week, and sets me up to be organized for the rest of the semester. My favorite tools to stay organized are Google Calendar and Notion!

Photo credit: Alyssa Anastasi

Secondly, break down your assignments. Sometimes looking at an assignment can feel overwhelming because it feels like a lot to get done in not a lot of time. It can be helpful to break down the assignment into smaller tasks to have a full understanding of what needs to be done. Once you do this, you can set a day for you to complete the task, so you are able to complete the assignment over time rather than all in one sitting.

If you find yourself confused on a specific problem, or even so confused you don’t even know where to start, it can be helpful to go to office hours. Office hours give you the opportunity to ask questions and work on assignments with support from the professor and/or course staff. In order to make your office hours visit a productive experience, make sure to attempt the problems beforehand and come with specific questions. In addition to getting help, office hours allow you to get to know your professors, which can be difficult in large classes.

As the semester progresses, it can be difficult to maintain motivation to work on all of your assignments. I would recommend changing your study space. So, instead of studying at the desk in your room, try going to a library on campus, a cafe nearby, or even sitting outside! It can be helpful to surround yourself with people who are also studying, limit the distractions that you might have in your room, or just get a change of scenery. My personal favorite study spots are the Main Library, the Communications Library, and the 2nd floor of Grainger!

Photo Credit: Alyssa Anastasi

Lastly, try not to procrastinate! Everyone is busy, and it can be easy to push assignments that are less urgent to a later date. However, this can result in a lot of stressful all-nighters. The first tip to beating procrastination is to look at the assignment as soon as possible. So, the day that the assignment is released, just take a look at what the expectations are to get an idea of what is ahead of you. Then, by using your assignment schedule and breakdown, you can distribute the work evenly over a period of time, rather than one day. This will allow you to take the time you need for the assignment, and get help from the professor if needed!

Study Tips and Exam Prep

Michael Escobedo, senior in Statistics, shares tips and resources for preparing for midterms.

With as many exciting opportunities to get heavily involved on campus as possible, it is essential that students do not forget about their studies. Whether this is your first year or you’re sorting out post-graduation plans, having a consistent workflow will bolster your academic success and make life on campus more fun and a lot easier. I’ve achieved academic success with a few study tips and academic resources that I will share with you today.

Michael Escobedo

Review consistently

First, as someone who is very studious, I recommend constructing a system where you consistently review material for your classes throughout the semester. Any effective study schedule will allow you ample time to comprehend your material enough to prepare you for exams and projects. Personally, I take note of when each of my midterms, finals, and other major assignments are due, and plan at least a week of time for me to review any concepts that I feel stuck on. For instance, if I had a class that covered three chapters of material, I would dedicate one day to each chapter to write review questions and at least two days for a comprehensive review of all my content. From there, because statistics is very computationally-based, I would practice problems as much as possible.

Find your study space(s)

Next, it is important to have a study space that allows you to engage with your material as effectively and efficiently as possible. I recommend the Grainger Library and the Undergraduate Library, as both allow you to study peacefully or openly cooperate with others if that is more preferable. As mentioned before, statistics is quite computational, and as someone who is a big fan of whiteboards, I particularly like doing practice problems on a whiteboard with my friends in the study room of my apartment building. It allows me to have fun with the material, as I get to teach my friends what I’ve learned, while actively reinforcing concepts that are crucial to understand as a future statistician.

Photo credit: Michael Escobedo

Get academic support

Now, for academic resources, I will always recommend going to office hours first. As someone who is a former course assistant, office hours are designed not to only help with homework, but to help students further engage in the material and explore their interest within the concepts that they are learning. Not to mention, I have had wonderful experiences with getting help from professors and their teaching assistants, as faculty is highly collaborative and quite welcoming. From here, there are many other resources that are available to promote academic success such as: Statistics Advising, the Mathematics & Statistics Student Support Center, and the Statistics Tutoring Database.

With all that said, it is crucial that you find a system that works for you. For me, I have sought a workflow that allows me to utilize spaced repetition for reviewing material, to access my professors and peers for help with understanding challenging concepts, and to find a fun way for me to engage with my studies. I challenge you to find a system that will allow you to effectively engage with your own material in an exciting and collaborative manner, as you strive to be the best version of yourself this academic year.

Study tips, academic resources, and productivity tools

Junior Mia Paelmo, majoring in Statistics and minoring in CS, shares some tips for academic success.

Mia Paelmo

We’re a little over a month into the school year and the first round of midterms are most likely right around the corner. Looking back to my first year, I remember being overwhelmed this time of the semester. Your first big exam or project at college, and you want to do well. But where do you start? What material should you know? How early should you start studying? All of these questions have probably started piling on and suddenly you are stressed to the max. Don’t worry!
Don’t stress, everything will be okay. As a seasoned college student, I’m here to help and give you the best studying advice I can offer based on my personal experiences.

1. Making a ‘Cheat Sheet’

Photo credit: Mia Paelmo

This is a study tip I swear and live by. I’ve learned that over the semester I accumulate a lot of notes, and most of the time the content of my notes are disorganized and shuffled around. When I begin studying for exams and quizzes I like to look at my notes and pick out the big topics (if your professor provides you with an exam topic page, that’s even better!). After deciding on the important topics, I take a blank piece of paper and rewrite the key points for each topic. By the end, you should have an organized page with weeks’ worth of important material. I like this study tip because not only does it help me organize my thoughts, but it also forces me to go back, look at the class content, and understand things I probably didn’t the first time around. The best part about this tip is that in the past, classes like STAT 400 and STAT 410 have encouraged this type of studying and professors have allowed students to use their formula sheets on exams!

2. Redo Homeworks and Quizzes

I think one of the biggest obstacles I had trouble getting over when I was a first year was the exam format. Sometimes, you will get professors who push out a lot of exam material (past/practice exams, videos, topic list, etc.) and other times you will have professors who are pretty vague about exams and do not give much direction on how the exams will be formatted. For me, these were the classes I dreaded studying for since it was up to me to decide what material I should focus on and spend time practicing. In these desperate times, I advise you to turn to past homework assignments or quizzes (if you have any).
Professors usually create their assignments for the class, in terms of format and the type of problems they ask, and this is a big help when it comes to studying. It gives you an idea of what the professor is looking for and what they want you to practice. Use this to guide your studying and decide what topics got the most attention in homeworks/quizzes.
Another bonus for this study tip, exams cover weeks worth of material, going back and redoing the homeworks help jog your memory and give you extra practice.

3. Study Places

The ‘where’ to study is an important question; I believe a good mindset and environment is key to successful studying. When I was a freshman I was never able to study in my dorm. I felt it was too tempting that my bed was next to me and there was too much stuff around to distract me. I am a big advocate for studying far from the space you relax in (at least if you’re planning to study for a few hours). If you want to stay close to home most dorms have study spaces in the same building or close to the building, and I utilized those spaces a lot my freshman year. However, to this day I still love studying at the libraries on campus. My personal favorite places to study are the Chemistry Library in Noyes, ACES Library, and the Main Library. I highly recommend reserving study rooms in any of the University libraries, especially if you plan on studying with a group or just want privacy to write notes on the board or talk aloud without disturbing anyone.

ACES Library

To conclude, I know exam week is stressful and deciding how and when to study can be super overwhelming, but it’s nothing you can’t handle! I hope the tips I provided that have helped me in the past ease a bit of that stress and give you some guidance on how to form your own study habits. Good luck!!

Five Pieces of Advice I Would Give to First-year Students

By Jessica Abraham

Jessica Abraham

Starting off anything new can be extremely challenging. Whether it’s the basics like learning how to add numbers or mastering the art of tying our shoes, we’ve all begun in unfamiliar territory and gradually found our footing. When I first arrived at this University, I was filled with hesitation and uncertainty about the future because it was something new. But now, as someone who has successfully navigated through her freshman year and is well into her third year, I can look back and see areas where I could’ve approached things differently, both mentally and physically. So below, I just have a short list of pieces of advice I would give to a first year student.

First and foremost, I would say that time management is key to getting through college. I firmly believe that there’s always a way to balance what you love to do with what you must do. One way that I keep my time management in check is by using Google Calendar. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I discovered Google Calendar, and it truly was a game changer. The color-coding system for my RSOs, classes, hangouts, and more makes each day purposeful and efficient. Anyway, that was just a mini spiel on why Google Calendar is amazing. The point is that planning ahead – be it a week or even just a few days – can dramatically reduce stress. I really wish I learned this my freshman year because I truly think it would have lessened my stress load by just a little bit.

Keep yourselves organized!

Secondly, I would say that you should definitely get more involved in RSO’s here. I know, I know – this advice seems to be on repeat for every freshman, but it genuinely holds value. As a freshman at quad day, it can be extremely daunting to see the five million stalls spread across the quad. However, remember you don’t need to join all of them. Joining even one can be transformative to your college journey.

Quad Day 2022

Next, I would like to say it’s completely understandable if you’re still unsure of what you want to do in the future. Remember, as a freshman, you are still young and just beginning your journey. At this stage, it’s natural to not have all the answers regarding your preferences and passions. So even if you had to apply to the University of Illinois for a specific major, college offers a vast landscape of opportunities for everyone. It’s a time to delve into subjects and experiences you might not have encountered in high school. Therefore, rather than viewing uncertainty as an adversary, consider it an invitation to growth and exploration.

I would also say to keep an open mind when it comes to forming close friendships. The pressure to find your perfect friend can lead you to overlook some really good people. Life can sometimes be a true rollercoaster and you never know when the most meaningful connections can form.

Finally, I would like to emphasize the importance of not comparing yourself with your peers. The University of Illinois is home to many individuals with diverse backgrounds, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and start measuring your progress with others. Such comparisons, however, are often counterproductive and only undermine your own confidence. So, forget about comparing yourself to others and always strive to be the best version of yourself. When you reflect on your college journey after four years, I promise that you’ll see the remarkable growth you’ve achieved.

Overall, I truly hope that you were able to take something out of this and I wish you all the very best for your years ahead!