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Combating Seasonal Depression: The Importance of Winter Mental Health

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Written by Aeryn McMurtry

Mental health is one of the most overlooked and least discussed aspects of physical wellness. It can be affected by things like dietary health and physical environment, which is where the concept of seasonal depression comes from. Being in a climate or weather condition that puts stress on your body also puts stress on you mind and can lead to some serious side effects.

Being a college student adds another layer because as soon as it starts getting dark earlier and colder throughout the day, more assignments start piling up. Late November is notorious for being the most academically challenging time in the fall semester. Final papers and projects are due and exams are only three weeks away. Not to mention that going into a 2:50 in the daylight and leaving at 4:20 to sunset is disconcerting on your personal sleep clock and can cause some stress on both your body and mind. You start getting tired earlier because the sun has gone down, you feel like you’ve wasted your whole day even though it’s still technically mid-to-late afternoon.

One easy way to combat this is to make sure you do your homework/studying in a well lit and open area. Seeing people and being exposed to good lighting will keep your body on track and help ease the feeling on seasonal loneliness. Also try and make sure that your home/dorm room is clean: if you can find everything you need for class, you won’t have to worry so much about it.

The cold is another important factor. Fall in the mid-south is always a little tricky because the temperature can go from 35 on Tuesday to mid-60’s on Wednesday. The inconsistency in environment can contribute to mental strain; it’s just one more thing you have to worry about. Keep an extra pair of good socks and a sweater or light blanket in your backpack. You might find that you don’t need to use them, but even having the option can give you piece of mind.

Probably one of the least talked about contributors to seasonal health problems is diet. The colder the weather, the more inclined we are to eat high-calorie and high-fat “comfort foods”. Your body wants to keep fat on itself, and in cold weather, this is especially helpful. But using the cold as an excuse to eat poorly can have lasting effects. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having excess fat on your body, but eating only high-fat food will slow down your metabolism and leaves you feeling tired throughout the day. Keeping your physical energy up will keep your mental energy from depleting too.

One last piece of advice is to check up on your friends. The fall/winter holidays can be a stressful time for people, especially those that have dealt with some sort of family or personal difficulties.  Caring and being cared for also reinforces social bonds and can ease mental strain. Knowing that somebody else is going through a similar stressful time (or knowing that people close to you want to help you through a stressful time) builds community and reassures you that everything will work out.

Don’t Get Your Tinsel in a Tangle! Try Some of These Timely Treats

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Ah, Thanksgiving, you treated us well. We love your turkey with cranberry sauce and your awkward family reunions. We will forever cherish the tea spilled by favorite cousins and eating one more slice of pie than we need in the name of celebration. But, alas, you’ve come and gone, and Christmas is right around the corner. So, it’s time to say goodbye Pumpkin and hello Peppermint, but more importantly, hello Christmas Candy.

Danish Butter Cookies: You might think they all taste the same, but you’d be wrong. Everyone has their one favorite variation, the one style of cookie that they will reach for as soon as the tin lid comes off. These cookies are delicious (obviously) and the container is useful even after all the goodies are gone. It’s a win-win really.

Terry’s Chocolate Oranges: A bit of a niche candy. Gold foil-wrapped orange flavored chocolate? That’s a lot to unpack. These are a truly Christmas treat because they only pop into stores after Thanksgiving and are gone before the first of the year. They are also super fun to eat: you have to whack the orange on a hard surface so that the sections all fall apart before unwrapping. Weird? Maybe. Tasty? No doubt.

Peppermint-Flavored Anything: Peppermint is the quintessential wintery flavor. Nearly every popular candy has a peppermint version, including Hershey’s Kisses and M&M’s. Technically you can find mint flavored things all year, but nothing screams Christmas like a Peppermint Mocha in a “Happy Holidays” Starbucks cup.

Candy Canes: Though still technically minty, candy canes have their own distinct flavor. They are also some of the most fun candy to eat because of their unusual shape. Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a candy cane sword fight and learning their significant religious history. Pro Tip: Candy Cane Milano cookies.

Queen Anne Chocolate Covered Cordial Cherries: These things are just amazing. Though the OG candy is cordial cherries dipped in milk or dark chocolate, Queen Anne’s also does a chocolate covered blueberry. Like the Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, you can’t find Queen Anne’s chocolate covered candies any time other than Christmas.

Old Fashioned Ribbon Candy: Another niche candy buy. This candy is basically artfully sculpted peppermint-flavored sugar, but it’s always a hit with older generations. Though it was popular back in the 1950’s, it can be a little hard to find now. This is the kind of candy that was popular when bad kids got coal and the reindeer couldn’t fly yet. It might be old fashioned, but it’s still fun.

RC Students Compete, Collaborate to Solve Salem Civic Challenge

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Written by Lorin Brice Hall

On Saturday, Nov. 10, RC’s Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurial Innovation (CLEI) and Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) club partnered with the City of Salem to host the first Annual Salem Civic Challenge. The event was a competition in which student teams attempted to construct and present an action plan to address a civic issue that the City decided on.

This year’s prompt regarded incentivizing local high school students toward skilled trade jobs, as there is a rising demand for labor in trade jobs that persistently remains unfilled. Another task was to change misinformed public perceptions of the “dirtiness” and danger of such jobs, many of which have been transformed into technology-driven careers.

With no prior knowledge of the topic, competitors from many different majors gathered in the Cregger Center to start off the day with a presentation from the City. With just a few hours to research the topic and consult officials from the City and community leaders on the viability of their ideas, students worked tirelessly to create a practical plan of action.

The seven teams that competed ended up impressing the judges so much that a representative from the City doubled the initial total prize money of $1000. Among the policy ideas proposed were plans to reach out to young women (especially single moms), the demographic in the Salem area that had the most to gain from trade jobs, as well as initiating plans to give high school students field trips to skilled trade workplaces in order to help remove the stigma from trade jobs that persists in this nation. All of the teams cited this cultural stigma surrounding trade jobs as the greatest obstacle to overcome.

Mr. Steve Baker, CLEI director and business professor as well as the architect of the challenge, was pleased with the outcome of the challenge.

“The City was incredibly enthused about the results of our first ever event. It should be pointed out that I have been advised by the City of Salem that they will be using the ideas presented by the student groups at the Challenge to solve the problem presented,” said Baker.

Gaston “Gaucho” Ocampo, a member of one of two teams that tied for first place, found the experience to be extremely enriching.

“I think this was a fantastic opportunity to further engage students with real issues that are going on in this beautiful college town that we, the Maroon student body, call our home away from home. Not only did we get to learn and acquire valuable skills for our professional lives, but we were also able to help the community by working toward solving problems that are affecting locals,” said Ocampo.

Cassidy Sullivan, treasurer of CEO Club, enjoyed planning and facilitating the Challenge.

“It was a great experience for all of the executives in the club. As a club we are really trying to expand and reach out to more than just business majors, and I believe that this event was the perfect opportunity. We had students from all different majors using entrepreneurial mindsets, which is really the goal of the CEO club. We want to bring people together who share that same entrepreneurial spirit,” said Sullivan.

RC Celebrates Founders’ Day

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Written by Emily Leclerc

Every year since 1993, Roanoke College has celebrated the life of the college’s founder and first president with Founders’ Day. Dr. Reverend David F. Bittle’s birthday falls on Nov. 19, and the Historical Society collaborates with the History Department to celebrate this special day annually. This student-focused event is held to encourage a sense of community and to educate individuals on the fascinating history of our campus community.

Founders’ Day is generally characterized by a discussion of Bittle’s life, accomplishments, and a review of his impact on the rich history of the college. Bittle was responsible for the expansion of the college as well as the establishment of the college’s mission statement. A procession is then followed up to Bittle’s grave, where the alma mater and happy birthday are sung in respect to him.

Starting in 2014, a new aspect was added to Founder’s Day to increase participation and make the celebration more enjoyable. The History Department opened a costume closet, which is composed of a collection of costumes from a range of different eras. On top of the already established Founders’ Day events, students and faculty were encouraged to dress up in period costumes to not only increase the awareness about the costume lab but also to add a fun element to the celebration of Bittle’s life and legacy.

This year’s Founders’ Day saw the participation of about 100 students and faculty in the dress-up portion of the day. In the evening, a karaoke party was thrown in the History Department as a fun way to wrap up the day.

Muslim Matters: Dr. Esposito Talks Facts, Corrects Misperceptions

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Written by Bradley Bommarito

On Wednesday, Nov. 7, renowned Islam scholar Dr. John Esposito spoke to an eager crowd of students, faculty and community members about Muslim-American relations and harmful misinformation surrounding the Muslim community.

This event is sponsored by the Donald L. Jordan Endowment for the Humanities, the Henry H. Fowler Program, and the Turk Pre-Law program. The main purpose is twofold. First, this lecture is an opportunity for our campus to learn more about Islam from polling data, and from a recognized scholar. Second, the purpose is to kick off the Middle East Studies Concentration,” said Dr. Melanie Trexler, assistant professor of religion at RC.

Esposito is the Professor of Religion and International Affairs and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University and Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, as well as the Bridge Initiative: Protecting Pluralism-Ending Islamophobia at Georgetown University. Esposito has served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of State, been a member of the Economic Forum’s Council of 100 Leaders, a Senior Scientist for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, and an ambassador for the UN Alliance of Civilizations. His more than 55 books include: What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam, Shariah: What Everyone Needs to Know, The Future of Islam, and Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (with Dalia Mogahed).

The audience is likely to learn that media coverage of Islam is overwhelmingly negative and this coverage perpetuates Islamophobia. In comparison to media coverage that links Islam to terrorism, from polling data, we learn that American Muslims reject the use of violence against citizens. According to PEW, 76% of American Muslims denounce violence against citizens, in comparison with 59% of the U.S. population as a whole,” said Trexler.

Esposito discussed the discrimination that Muslims face every day in America and touched on how we can make out Muslim brothers and sisters feel welcomed and loved.

There are numerous ways that RC students can show solidarity with Muslim peers, colleagues, and friends. First, share your lives with each other. Ask questions about a Muslim friend’s classes, their favorite music group, and what they enjoy doing in their free time. The same goes for people of all (or no) religion. Form friendships on shared interests and a shared focus on succeeding in your classes. In other words, get to know each other as people sharing a college experience. If you end up talking about religion, great! But, don’t feel you have to start there. Instead, find a common topic – like your shared love of Instagram – and start talking about it.  Second, show up. Attend lectures, interfaith council events, international education programming, and multicultural affairs activities. Attending events like these will provide opportunities for people to interact with each other in new ways. Be sure to go to events you know nothing about to stretch your own horizons. By doing so, students can help to cultivate a more welcoming, comfortable environment for all of us who call Roanoke home’,” said Trexler.

Esposito’s lecture reminded us of the imminent danger of Islamophobia. Luckily, there are ways we can address such as social ills.

Confronting Islamophobia is a challenge we all face and requires us to speak up and take action when we can. In college, we have the unique time to learn how to listen to others’ experiences of racism, to read about the historical origins of xenophobia, and to sit in discomfort when we realize the ways in which we knowingly and unknowingly perpetuate racism. At RC, we also have a commitment to engaging in civil discourse, which means finding ways you can speak out against xenophobia. This can take many forms, including attending prayer vigils or interfaith services. Or, in environments where anti-Muslim sentiment is present, taking action could mean offering to sit next to a Muslim friend on public transportation or asking permission to walk with a Muslim student to her dorm so she is not alone. By putting our bodies alongside the bodies of those in our community, by listening to what people say they need and finding ways to stand with them to help as they fulfill that need, we recognize our shared humanity, even we do not share a faith,” said Trexler.