October 22, 2016

DIY Couples' Costumes Straight From Your Closet!

Arguably, the best part about having a significant other - or best friend! - is the possibility for couples' costumes. Everybody knows that double the cute, clever costumes = double the Halloween fun. And, Halloween being one of my favorite holidays (and, not to mention, just around the corner), I just can't help but ogle at all the cute couples' costumes people have thrown together for years gone by.

Ironically, despite looking into couples' costumes weeks in advance, I am also a huge procrastinator when it comes to actually putting my ideas into action. While Ryan and I have known what we were going to dress as (hint: the answer is one of the ideas below!) for probably a solid month know, I haven't actually moved to DIY anything yet.

Luckily, our costumes won't require a lot of advance prep. Ryan and I decided together that neither of us wanted to spend any money on Halloween costumes this year, so we both agreed that whatever couples' ensemble we chose would come straight from our closets.

I was all for this idea. Not only is saving money hella important for college students everywhere, but the idea of being able to throw together a costume the day before Halloween definitely appealed to my inner lazy girl. And soon, I began to think to myself that I bet a lot of you guys would probably feel the same, and might appreciate hearing some of my ideas!

So, I decided to share with you four ideas for cheap and easy DIY costumes that you can pretty much grab straight from your closet. They don't require any advance prep, really, nor any advanced makeup techniques or expensive accessory purchases. And for those of you who're against the typical slutty Halloween costume, you won't find anything earmarked "sexy" here, either. You'll just have to make them sexy with your charming good looks ;)

On that note, here are four DIY couples' costume ideas for the lazy closet-shopper in all of us. Grab a friend or significant other and study up!

(Bonus: nothing pictured in the Polyvore sets below is over $50, so you won't have to blow your entire paycheck on an impulse buy.)

Look One: Leslie Knope & Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation

Couples' Costume One: Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt

Must-haves for her: Color-coordinated pantsuit, printed blouse, and practical flats. Accessorize with a smart watch and classic pearl earrings - and don't forget your Knope-Wyatt 2016 campaign button! (Me and Ryan are going to DIY these from construction paper, because we're poor AF, but they also sell tons of these on Etsy for cheap.)

Must-haves for him: Checked shirt, printed tie, button-up cardigan, and khaki pants. To be topped off with casual shoes and, of course, a button in support of his Vice Presidential campaign.

Why I love it: This is what Ryan and I decided to dress up as this year! For us, this costume was special because we watched Parks & Rec together and both loved it. However, I also love that this costume is so appropriate for the current election season (and perhaps offers us some better write-in candidates? #KnopeWyatt2016).

Bonus points awarded for: Waffles and whipped cream; a stuffed Little Sebastian; scrapbook supplies; the Cones of Dunshire; uncontrollable excitement over anyone named Anne Perkins.

Look Two: Baby Houseman and Johnny Castle from Dirty Dancing

Couples' Costume Two: Baby and Johnny

Must-haves for her: The pink dress, nude ballroom shoes, and tasteful jewelry. Wrap your wet hair in foam rollers and wear overnight to recreate Baby's crazy curls.

Must-haves for him: Black shirt, black leather pants, and black dress shoes. What more could you need?

Why I love it: Dirty Dancing is one of my all-time favorite romantic movies, the one I turn to on rainy days and sad occasions to cheer me up from my blues. Not to mention, it's a classic - and whoever doesn't get the reference deserves to be put in the corner.

Bonus points awarded for: Singing "Loverboy" on command; soulful dance moves; the lift.

Look Three: Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl

Couples' Costume Three: Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass

Must-haves for her: Designer (or designer knockoff) dress, to be purchased at your local thrift store. Top it off with feminine accessories, stilettos that could kill a man, and plenty of bling. Oh, and no costume would be complete without Blair's iconic headband!

Must-haves for him: Color-coordinated button-down shirt (ironed to a crisp), suspenders, and bow-tie, with clean white pants and matching shoes.

Why I love it: I binge-watched Gossip Girl in high school - way later than everyone else I knew. While many of them might be over the series by now, Chuck and Blair's tumultuous but true love has stuck with me ever since. If there's anything I learned from the show, it's that money may come and go - but OTPs are forever.

Bonus points awarded for: Plotting your best friends' downfall; steamy hookups in the back of a limo; a budding hotel empire; Chuck's scarves.

Look Four: Cher Horowitz and Dionne Davenport from Clueless

Couples' Costume Four: Cher and Dionne

Must-haves for her (Cher): Uniform-inspired separates that match to a painstaking T: bow-tie blouse, printed sweater vest, and button-up skirt with schoolgirl socks and Mary Janes.

Must-haves for her (Dionne): A velvet dress layered over a white collared shirt. Knee-high white tights with boots to match. Finish the look with a black bucket bag and plenty of gold rings. 

Why I love it: Clueless is, of course, another one of those classic movies - but the best part of this costume is that you don't need a man to make it complete! Dress up with your best friend or your female partner for a costume that's anything but whatever (or, hey, I guess you could still enlist an adventurous guy friend if he's into that kind of thing - we don't judge here!).

Bonus points awarded for: Sending yourself flowers; walking and talking on your cell phones (especially when standing next to one another); hooking up your least favorite teachers; falling in love with your stepbrother.

What's the best couples' costume you and your S.O. (or BFF) have worn in the past? Let me know in the comments below!

October 16, 2016

6 Free Printable Harry Potter Quotes

Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros.

Little known fact about me: I am a total Potterhead.

I am also a Ravenclaw and a Pukwudgie. My wand is 10 inches long, made of fir wood with a unicorn hair core and unbending flexibility. My patronus is a bay stallion. (PSA for my fellow nerds: check out Pottermore to find out yours!)

Recently reading the new Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play reminded me of how much I used to love Harry Potter as a younger teenager. To put it in perspective, I was one of the thirteen-year-old girls dressed in Hufflepuff colors at the premiere of the 8th and final movie (though I wasn't allowed to go out at midnight, boo). I cried when Fred Weasley died, both in the books and the movies, and consoled myself over his death by writing FanFiction in which my OC Alice fell in love with him. I also participated in online roleplays in which I could act out my Hogwarts fantasies by writing back-and-forth scenes with other players' characters.

Embarrassing? Maybe a little. But warranted? 100%.

Harry Potter was for me what it has been for so many others: the classic children's series that I grew up with. As the characters grew older and began to become interested in boys, so did I. As their lives became more dangerous, mine became more complicated with age. Turning to Harry Potter, like the many other books I've devoured and loved throughout my lifetime, helped me escape from some of the difficulties of everyday life. And while some might have described me as "obsessed" with it back then,

Though my love for Harry, Ron, and Hermione had been laid away on the back-burner, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child revived some of that spark. I had forgotten how much I used to love the characters, but seeing the brand-new shenanigans and grown-up dynamic between the Golden Trio kindled something familiar in my heart.

So, in honor of Halloween, I decided to put my creative skills and that rediscovered love to the test! I got to work putting together six gorgeous printables for y'all. They're cute, clever, and full of that familiar Potter spirit we all know and love.

Feel free to print 'em out, frame 'em, hang 'em up in your home - whatever you want to do with them! Just don't steal them and pass them off as your own, k? (Fellow bloggers: if you want to repost, please credit Love, Haley and link back to the blog!)

These printables are yours for PERSONAL USE only!

Click each photo to enlarge & print.

What Hogwarts house are you in? 

Let me know in the comments below!

October 11, 2016

Are you anxious - or just stressed? Here's the difference...

Hey, guys! I'm about to talk about some sensitive mental health issues with y'all.

If you're in crisis, please don't turn to this post for advice! 

Call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. 

And always remember: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Some degree of stress - whether it's because of school, work, or events in your personal life - is normal, which is why whenever I've talked to counselors on campus about my anxiety, they tend to rule it off as part of the "adjustment period" that all freshmen go through.

But experiencing anxiety isn't the same as feeling stressed out, no matter what anyone might say. It's more than worrying the night before a midterm, or fighting with your significant other during a challenging life transition.

So what is anxiety, then? And what makes it different from stress? While the following post aims to answer as many of your questions as possible, here's my simplified answer:

Anxiety is a serious mental health condition. It's not "normal," and it's not "something everyone goes through." So, don't let anyone belittle your experience by telling you otherwise. If you're having panic attacks, if you're afraid to leave your dorm, if you sweat and shake and want to vomit every time a stranger says hi to you in the halls - don't let anyone tell you that they know exactly how you feel just because they know what it's like to survive finals week. Because while stress might share some of the same symptoms as anxiety, anxiety hangs around long after the final is over. Stress doesn't.

And that's just one of the many differences between normal, manageable stress and a more serious mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression. In reality, you can't distinguish between stress and anxiety by asking yourself one simple question. The nuances are more complicated than that.

For that reason, I urge you - if you identify with any of the statements in this post, reach out to a mental health resource on campus! Many colleges offer free short-term therapy, counseling, mental health coaching, or at the very least academic advisers who might be able to help you make sense of what you're going through and direct you to more helpful outside resources. Thanks to the steady rise of mental health awareness on college campuses, many universities understand the common challenges facing college students and are able to offer greater help than ever before.

Oh, and one other important takeaway: Anxiety is not normal - but it is common. Particularly on college campuses, mental illness continues to appear at higher and higher rates.

Mental illness does not discriminate - nobody is immune to anxiety or depression. Even if somebody seems bubbly on the outside, you never know how much they are struggling on the inside. So, even if you're saying to yourself "There's no way that's me - I can't be anxious/depressed/mentally ill," don't forget that mental illness can literally happen to everyone. And many times, mental illness begins as stress - stress that wasn't adequately handled or even confronted at all.

Thus, don't hesitate to reach out to a counselor even if you know that what you're dealing with isn't as serious as anxiety, depression, or another clinical mental health problem. Yes, therapy is stigmatized - but it really isn't just for the so-called "crazy" people. In actuality, therapy is a coping tool that helps us better understand ourselves and how we react, emotionally, to difficult situations that confront us.

In other words, only YOU know your mind and body best, and if what you're feeling isn't normal for you, then reaching out to a therapist might help you learn some strategies you can use in your everyday life to cope better with even a little bit of healthy, normal stress. Hell, even perfectly well-adjusted people can still benefit from a little soul-searching in therapy! You don't need to have a mental illness to give your mental health a little TLC <3

You're more scared than worried.

While anxiety often manifests itself through worry, too, a sense of impending doom is a hallmark symptom of anxiety - not stress. When you're stressed, you might say you're going to die if you fail the chem final, but chances are that your rational brain knows that's not really the case. 

For an anxious person, however, the threat of dying if you fail a test feels real. The worst part is, you probably realize how crazy and irrational you're being - you just can't help it. Your brain knows that the world isn't going to collapse if you don't get an A, but your body doesn't, and your thoughts are powerless against the overwhelming feeling of panic and doom.

That's anxiety - not stress. So, if you're relating to any of those feelings, and they don't subside after the stressful situation has passed, then you'll probably want to seek a doctor, counselor, or therapist for a mental health check-up.

You don't know why you're stressed.

Typically, stress comes with an identifiable cause. If you're stressed, you know that you're stressed because something probably just happened to you - whether it's that your cat just died, your finals are coming up, you have homework due at midnight and it's 11:05, or whatever your reasoning may be.

On the other hand, the causes of anxiety tend to be more elusive and vague. If you suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), you might wake up feeling stressed, scared, and jittery on what otherwise might have been a completely normal Tuesday, and have no idea why. Your finals might have just ended, and by all other accounts, you should be feeling happy and relieved - but you don't. You just feel impending DOOM instead.

By their very nature, stress symptoms like racing mind, rapidly beating heart, or sweaty palms constitute our body's response to threatening situations. That means if there's no situation causing you stress, then it's not normal to experience anxiety for no reason at all. Thus, if you've been stressed for an extended period of time and just can't figure out why, it might be worth looking into your mental health more closely. Anxiety could be causing your symptoms, and you might not even know it! 

You can't remember the last time you weren't stressed.

Another hallmark of stress is that it tends to pass with the said stressful situation - meaning, if you're stressed about catching an airplane, you shouldn't still feel anxious once you're strapped into your seat and ready to take off.

Anxiety can persist hours, days, weeks, even months after a stressful situation passes (which explains why I am still nervous about that dumb thing I said when I was twelve, I hope). Anxiety doesn't follow a logical timeline by any means, whereas stress is built into our body's biological clock to accompany stressful times in our lives.

So, yes - while it's normal to feel stressed sometimes, it's never normal to feel stressed all the time. Yet even if you've felt off for an extended period of time, it still might not be anxiety. It could be prolonged stress due to a long-lasting situation (such as a job or relationship) that you didn't realize was causing you stress - or even a completely different mental health disorder. Alternatively, it might be anxiety if it's long-lasting and has no clear cause, not even one that you don't want to admit.

Either way, I would recommend seeking outside help for this problem if it gets to the point where stress has become a fixture in your everyday life. If you can't think of a single day in the past few weeks where you have found even moderate repose from stress, please - visit a therapist or another mental health professional! A counselor will be able to help you identify the true cause of your emotional distress.

You're having trouble concentrating, eating, or sleeping.

Severe stress can definitely interfere with our sleep, appetite, and concentration - but it's not okay if that becomes your norm. Not sleeping well the night before a big exam is one thing; having trouble working up an appetite for weeks on end is a totally different animal. See what I'm saying?

When you know what's bothering you, it's more likely that your distraction is just stress talking, and not anxiety. However, if you're not sure what the problem is, and you're having these symptoms, it might be worth consulting a mental health professional. 

Oh, and if you're having these symptoms but no other symptoms of anxiety or depression, consider seeing your primary care doctor first! Sometimes, what we think is a mental health issue may actually be caused by a physical problem, especially when stress begins to interfere with our bodies themselves. As a medical professional, your doc can definitely give you a better idea of whether it's physical or mental than I can.

You have these aches and pains all the time.

...and you know they aren't caused by a physical health problem. You've seen your doctor; you've explained what you're going through; and still, they can't find anything wrong with you. What's up with that?

This symptom actually happened to me last fall, and still happens to me now: I visited my doctor for chronic neck pain that was interfering with my concentration in school, my sleep, and even my dancing. But when she examined me, she said that it was most likely that the cause of my neck pain was simply stress. Today, my neck pain only flares up during periods of intense stress and anxiety - which is how I know she was completely right!

Physical symptoms are definitely interconnected with mental ones, especially when it comes to anxiety. A lot of our stress response is physical as well as mental, from a racing heartbeat and chest palpitations to neck pain and tension headaches. Because anxiety has the same symptoms as stress, experiencing these problems for prolonged periods of time with no medical explanation could be a symptom of anxiety.

In some cases, physical illnesses like common colds can even be triggered by anxiety. So, if you have an unexplained ache, pain, or other health problem and know that nothing else is wrong, try a mental health check-up instead of a physical one. You just might find the answers you're looking for in this new approach :)

You feel disconnected - you're not sure what's real.

Even serious stress shouldn't interfere with your ability to connect with the people around you. Granted, you might feel a little distracted around your friends and family if something big has just happened to you, such as a death in the family or a major work problem. But you shouldn't feel out-of-body, as if you are floating, or begin to question reality. 

That's called dissociation, and it's a major symptom of chronic anxiety. Dissociation can be broken into groups of symptoms, too - for example, an out-of-body experience is known as depersonalization, while the uncertainty of what's real and what isn't is known as derealization. Or, it can even be as simple as feeling numb toward or disconnected from an important event (i.e. having no feelings about an experience that should have otherwise been important to you). This kind of dissociation is often seen in patients with PTSD after a traumatic experience. 

Dissociation can occur in people with anxiety or PTSD when facing a stressor or talking about the past - but it can be a hallmark of other mental illnesses as well. For example, someone who suffers from depression might experience a constant state of numbness and inability to connect with others. Dissociation on its own also characterizes several independent disorders - so, if you're experiencing dissociation but no other symptoms of anxiety, you should still seek help from a mental health professional who can tell you more about what you're going through!

You're starting to avoid places, people, or situations out of fear.

While stress might tempt us to skip our finals, deep inside we know we could never do that. Our grade fundamentally matters to us more than paying attention to some silly stress response.

Yet for someone with anxiety, that stress might simply be too much for them, and they might start skipping classes or tests because their physical and mental distress is too great. Or, they might avoid social situations because the fear of embarrassing themselves is simply too high. Or, they might have a phobia of some other thing that they can't stand to be around because it leads to obsessive thoughts or feelings of terror.

Whatever your fears are, if they are so great that they're leading you to avoid certain places, people, or situations, chances are that your problem isn't simple stress. If you're stressed about a number of things, it might be generalized anxiety, whereas if you're stressed about social situations in particular, you might have social anxiety in particular. There are also a number of phobias that pertain to specific situations and things, varying from public speaking to spiders. And even still, there are other disorders - like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - that cause intense fear of certain unpleasant situations or thoughts. While they're very diverse in their symptoms and causes, all of these mental health issues are much more serious than plain old stress, and definitely deserve a trip to a therapist or other professional for deeper exploration.

Your problem is solved - yet you're still worrying about it.

As I mentioned earlier, normal stress is, by its very nature, a response to certain troubling situations or events. So, if you're experiencing stress for no reason at all, it might be less normal than you originally thought.

The same is true for periods of prolonged stress, as we also talked about before. However, it can be difficult to tell how long is too long to worry, even when your stress does have an identifiable cause. So here's what I'll tell you, as a general guideline: if your problem still causes you distress long after it's solved, then it's not just stress. It's probably more severe than that.

Here's an example from my own life to help you out: at Boston University, I write for the student newspaper, and I was recently assigned an article that caused me a lot of trouble. Even after I submitted this challenging article to my editor - meaning that I should have been done worrying about it for good - I was still preoccupied by sentences I'd written and interviews I'd conducted that I wasn't 100% certain about. 

And that is not normal for someone who's experiencing normal stress about a situation. For me as an anxiety sufferer, however, it's a classic hallmark of my mental health disorder, and didn't come as a great surprise to me - I'm constantly dwelling on my problems, even after they should have been "solved" by all other accounts. If that sounds like you, then it could definitely be more than stress, and it's probably worth looking into.

You're having panic attacks, chest pain, or palpitations.

Everybody has a panic attack once or twice in their life, probably - but having them much more often than that isn't normal at all. In fact, it's a surefire symptom of a deeper anxiety disorder. And chest pain and heart palpitations are never normal; whether your problem is physical or mental, chances are that these symptoms signal an underlying issue there.

Now, don't get me wrong: chest pain and heart palpitations - two symptoms of a panic attack - can definitely be symptoms of physical ailments, so don't rule out seeing a doctor before you jump to the conclusion that your problem is mental. However, if you're having other symptoms of anxiety and know that your problem isn't physical, it could be anxiety or panic disorder, an anxiety disorder that isn't accompanied by other symptoms.  

No matter what, however, panic attacks definitely don't equal normal stress. Normal stress won't cause chest pain or the feeling that your heart has "skipped a beat." If you're having these symptoms, be sure to take them seriously and see a medical professional who can help you determine the underlying cause.

Your worries are uncontrollable - nothing helps anymore.

It's important to remember that normal stress can and should be managed. Dealing with stress in a healthy, productive way is what allows a healthy mind to remain healthy. On the other hand, unhealthy stress responses, when left unchecked for long periods of time, can deteriorate into more serious mental health problems, such as an anxiety or mood disorder.

To some extent, worrying is a normal part of life. You might worry about what dress to wear on your date tonight, or running late for your 8 AM class when you wake up late - and that doesn't mean you have anxiety. 

However, it's never normal for anxiety to interfere with your everyday life to the point where you have difficulty functioning. You shouldn't be worrying incessantly about every little thing you do, or worrying relentlessly about one thing until you feel sick to your stomach and just wish you could go back to bed. So, when worrying interferes with your life to that extent, and you feel powerless to do anything about it, don't rule it off as the stress experienced by an average person - it's probably not, and it's at least worth looking into! 

You're having thoughts of death, suicide, or hurting yourself or others.

If this sounds like you right now, please CALL THE NATIONAL SUICIDE HOTLINE AT 1-800-273-8255 or seek help URGENTLY from another source. No matter how you might be feeling, your life is still beautiful and still worth living! This feeling is just your mental health disorder talking, and says nothing about who you are as a person or what you're truly worth. Try not to listen to that ugly, horrible voice in your head - it's simply not true!

It might seem obvious that feeling like you don't want to live or like your life isn't worth living isn't normal. In fact, people who feel this way are often aware that their feelings are outside of the norm of regular stress. But unfortunately, it's a sad truth that prolonged, chronic stress can push people to the point of suicide. 

As I said before, many mental health disorders begin as perfectly normal, healthy stress, but morph into something more sinister and dangerous because the original stress wasn't coped with properly. If this sounds like you, PLEASE SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY! Even if you're having these thoughts intermittently or "casually," your mental health could deteriorate quickly if you're faced with even the slightest stressor. 

And if this doesn't sound like you, but maybe you know someone who's said concerning things like this in the past, be sure to take what they say 100% seriously - every cry for help deserves to be heard, and you can simply never predict what someone in severe emotional pain might be capable of. Never assume that a threat of suicide is just a threat! 

Something just feels off, but you don't know what. 

Finally, sometimes stress leaves us feeling a little off our game, but we don't know how or why. Maybe there's no one specific "symptom" concerning us, but instead it's an amalgamation of things. Perhaps our feelings have become so muddled and confused surrounding the stressful situation that we can't identify one clear reason why it's become a problem; we just know that we don't feel right. And that's okay.

Knowing that something is off, but not knowing why, does not necessarily mean that you have a mental health disorder - but it doesn't necessarily mean that you don't, either. Sometimes, it's difficult to describe how we feel, or put a specific word or phrase to an experience. That doesn't make our symptoms any less real to us than they are to someone who can eloquently explain exactly how they feel to a therapist, nor does it discount the possibility of anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue.

Chances are, just feeling "off" for a little while probably isn't a sign of a deep emotional problem. Feeling a little off-balance from time to time is a natural part of life, especially when confronted with enormous amounts of stress. However, if it feels like it's been going on forever, and you still can't shake the idea that something unidentifiable is wrong, then don't just ignore it! 

I've said this a thousand times in this post so far, but it still couldn't be more true: only YOU know your mind and body better than anyone else. If you think something is off, then you are probably right! And in your search for answers, don't discount the possibility that the problem could be mental, not physical. Not all illnesses are ones we can see...

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or mental health counselor.
This post should not be construed as medical advice in any way.
Please consult with your doctor if you identify with any of the symptoms in this post or are in need of mental health treatment for any other reason.

October 3, 2016

Healthy Dining Hall Hacks + Free Meal Planning Printable!

Any ex-dieter knows that there are three stages of giving up on fad diets for good:

At first, you're still dieting, but just starting to realize how miserable and deprived you feel.

Then you make the decision to quit, and the world feels like your oyster. You eat everything unhealthy in sight, because for the first time in your life, you're allowed to. And after a couple weeks of eating this way, you might just gain a couple pounds. At first, this probably terrifies you - but once you're able to let go of your old, unhealthy attitudes toward food and your weight, you can finally free yourself from guilt about the food you choose to eat, not to mention the number on the scale.

And, most likely, a month or so after this state of zen, new cravings start to slide in, so sneakily you hardly realize it. You still want to eat Chipotle every night, don't get me wrong - but you've suddenly started to think obsessively about eating something else, too: devouring a big, crunchy, tart, tasty, deliciously tangy....salad?

That's right! The third stage of quitting dieting, at least for me, was that I actually found myself starting to crave healthy foods all the time. Maybe it was the three or four months of straight-up binging on Annie's Mac and Cheese and cookie dough ice cream that made my body desperate for some balance, but after awhile, I started to obsess over eating quinoa salads and healthy homemade taco bowls rather than overloading my body with processed junk.

One of the hardest things I dealt with when it came to eating at college was trying not to binge on foods that wouldn't make me feel good later. Of course, the key to a healthy lifestyle remains, of course, moderation - which means that on top of visiting the salad bar or eating a healthy meal of soup and crackers in my dorm room, I occasionally (okay, often) splurge on a pumpkin cupcake at the dining hall, or a cider doughnut from the local apple orchard when I'm home.

But the first month or so of college, I pretty much consistently ate crap. I was so overwhelmed by attempting to navigate the dozens of options in our huge dining hall that I gave up and started eating the first vegetarian thing I could find - until Ryan, my loving boyfriend, gave me a suggestion: why don't I start checking the menus and planning out my meals in advance?

At first, I had a strong "no" reaction to this proposal. Meal planning was something I strongly associated with the dieting industry, something that I remain vehemently opposed to even today. But after doing a quick Pinterest search on the theme in preparation for this post, I found out that the majority of bloggers posting about meal planning aren't fitness models - they're everyday moms just trying to simplify their lives and make healthy, cheap eating easier for them and their families.

So in the end, that's who I decided to model myself after when I started meal planning. I thought about the plan not in terms of a diet, but in terms of simplification and minimalism; of making my life 10 times easier. And yes, I still often diverge from my meal plan when I step into the dining hall and realize, oh joy, those vegan pumpkin parfaits are back! (It's fall, y'all - I'm all pumpkin, all day, every day.)

But in the end, my life is easier because I can walk into the dining hall with an objective, instead of leaving with a bunch of plates full of unhealthy foods I don't need to be putting into my body in the first place. When I go home at the end of a satisfying meal, I feel better knowing that the food I've eaten is going to help fuel my system with healthy, positive, nutritious energy, rather than drag me down and make me feel guilty about my choices.

So, here's the moral of the story: learning to navigate the many choices of the dining hall wasn't easy as first, but with a little advance planning, I learned how to best hack my options. Now, I'm going to share those hacks with you so you can learn all my dirty little secrets for eating healthy under tight conditions...oh, and stick it through to the very end of the post and you'll be rewarded with an awesome MEAL PLANNING PRINTABLE, courtesy of yours truly!

Ready? Let's do this!

Add, Don't Subtract

Remember that old phrase, "everything in moderation"? I'm sure I've said it once already in this post, and well, it'll get you further than any fad diet ever will. Healthy eating differs from dieting because rather than strictly limiting what you can and can't eat, you're allowed to have a little bit of everything - as long as you don't go overboard. 

Nutritionists say that making sure you're getting basic nutrients first is the most important party. The best way to do this is to focus on adding whole foods to your diet, rather than "subtracting" foods from your menu. Once you've added fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy proteins to your diet, you get a little bit of extra room to wiggle. That means you get to eat the sugars and fats you love and still stay healthy and happy - because you've still got vitamins A through K, and all the fiber you need. 

So go ahead: have the pasta with butter. Just have some broccoli on the side. Or, feel free to follow up your soup and salad lunch with a brownie and ice cream. Why not, when you're chock-full of nutrients already?

Steam Veggies in the Microwave

Here's a quick trick I learned from a nutrition major during my time in BU's community service program for first-years (check out my post about it here): if your dining hall has a microwave, then you can easily steam your own veggies. Just load up on broccoli, spinach, carrots - whatever vegetables you're craving - from the salad bar, cover your bowl with a plate, and microwave for 1-2 minutes. 

Steaming your own vegetables preserves more of the vital nutrients in raw veggies than other methods of cooking - not to mention that it saves you from eating all of those unnecessary salts, fats, and seasonings that they add to the dining hall broccoli. (I mean, come on - do green beans really need that much butter?) Plus, if you still want oil, salt, or even a bit of butter, you can add your own in less conservative portions than what they would be handing out from the dining hall stations. It's a simple and quick, yet still effective trick for boosting the health factor of your college diet. 

Combine Foods From Different Stations

Speaking of dining hall stations, have you ever noticed that one station sometimes offers two or three different components of a meal? For example, you might have roasted sweet potatoes, brown rice, and pulled pork. Or, you might have mashed potatoes, green beans, and roasted turkey with gravy. Well, oftentimes, if you're just looking for the rice and veggies, but not the greasy meat - or the turkey and green beans, but not the starchy potatoes or sticky gravy - all you have to do is ask the dining hall staff. Usually, they are more than happy to accommodate requests!

Another trick I'd recommend when it comes to combining food from different areas of the dining hall is to simply keep an eye out for what's around you, and start thinking about what might pair well with what. For example, at the Warren Towers dining hall (located inside the building where I live), there's always pasta in the back of the room. If I'm craving pasta, yes, I could just eat a big ol' bowl of carbs and sauce (and probably have before), but a healthier choice is to toss it with some steamed broccoli and olive oil derived from the salad bar. Another thing I do, specifically at breakfast, is put honey from the section with the tea and coffee on top of my yogurt, and eat it with a little bit of granola from the cereal section. Or, I'll have an apple with peanut butter from the sandwich/toast station - and I'm sure if I ever wanted to I could go ahead and have a peanut butter and banana from the same section. The possibilities are truly endless!

Eating at a big dining hall can be scary at first, but once you figure out the ins and outs of your particular school's options, then you can start thinking creatively about how you might be able to craft something a little more tasty than the boring meals your school is giving you. 

Keep an Eye Out for Lighter Options

At my school, we have something called Sargent Choice (named for the College of Health Sciences) meals. Basically, any meal that's considered a more nutritious option gets the Sargent Choice seal of approval. This symbol is an easy visual that lets me know when something might be a healthier choice for me - for example, the other day I had Sargent Choice pizza. It had fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil on a whole wheat pizza crust - and was probably my favorite thing I've eaten here all year! So, don't be afraid to try your school's healthy options. They're probably not as bad as you think they are.

Another way I try to pursue healthier options is to keep an eye out for desserts that might be less heavy than others offered on the menu. I have a huge sweet tooth, so eliminating dessert altogether simply isn't an option for me. Instead, I look out for vegan dessert options, which won't contain unhealthy fats like butter, or lighter choices like fruit and granola parfaits. Granted, all desserts still contain sugar, and making something "vegan" won't automatically make it healthy - but if you're like me and you just can't say no, keep an eye out for these better choices.

Take Advantage of "Create Your Own" Stations

Boston University is all about that "make your own" life in the dining halls. There are build your own quesadillas, make your own stir fry concoction, create your own vegan bowls...the possibilities are endless. 

If your school offers these options, you can easily customize your dinner to be healthier than what they might serve you otherwise. For example, at the stir fry station, load up on veggies with a little bit of rice, and go for a dash of soy sauce instead of sugary flavors like teriyaki. Or, at the vegan bowl station, choose the quinoa, sweet potatoes, and plain grilled tofu instead of white rice and sticky Asian tofu. 

Even if your school doesn't have a "create your own" station, per say, you can probably still find ways to customize your food. For example, most schools have a salad bar, which lets you "create your own" healthy bowl in a way! But if you're seriously concerned that you're not getting enough healthy options at your school, you can always talk to the dining hall staff for more ways to fill your plate with nutritious choices. They might offer you ways to customize your food that you might not even have heard of. 

Snag Healthy Snacks For Your Dorm Room

Now, I'm not saying you should steal (wink wink, nudge nudge), but snagging fruits, veggies, and even condiments from the dining hall is a sneaky way to get some extra nutrition in your diet, and make the most of those meal swipes!

My dining hall allows students to take up to one piece of fruit with them, and that's it. But I've easily seen students leave the dining hall with an armful of bananas - and they usually don't see any penalties. Me myself, I've even brought Tupperware into the dining hall and filled it with peanut butter to eat with apple slices for a snack in my dorm room later that night. My dining hall also offers whole grain Goldfish for a snack that would be easy to slip into a plastic Ziploc baggie and take with you on the go. And like I said before, the dining hall staff usually doesn't see a thing. 

My theory is that they know we're poor college students - so why not let us make the most of what we've got? In college, you have got to be crafty to make the most of your funds! Snagging fruit and other snacks from the dining hall is a great way to do just that, and oftentimes these snacks are healthier than those you might be able to afford at your local Target. (I mean, an apple with peanut butter is much better for you than salty ramen noodles, is it not?)

Eat Allergy-Friendly or Specialty Diet Foods

Does your school have a gluten-free or vegan station? Mine has both, which is great for people who fall under those specialty diet categories. 

On the other hand, I do not follow a vegan or gluten-free diet - but I still love eating from these stations! Why, you might ask? Because I simply find them a lot lighter and healthier than some of the offerings at other stations. For example, the vegan station tends to have tofu or quinoa dishes, superfoods that you would be hard-pressed to find at the average college dining hall. Meanwhile, the gluten-free station always has delicious veggies and often has brown rice or rice noodles, two options that are great to combine with steamed veggies from the salad bar and toppings like soy sauce or olive oil. 

Check Menus Ahead of Time - And If All Else Fails, Eat In

This is why I originally started making meal plans...I didn't like arriving at the dining hall and not knowing what would be for dinner. It was what led me to get so overwhelmed and wind up binging on unhealthy entrees in the first place! 

Eventually, however, when I started to make meal plans, I realized that you could check the dining hall menus in advance in several ways. Firstly, before you swipe into the dining hall, there's usually a sign posted outside the door. Secondly, you can always check online - and thirdly, my school even has an app called BU Food. While they're not always great about updating it, I keep the app on my phone because it allows me to conveniently see what food choices are available to me on an average day. That way, I can plan what I'm going to eat for lunch and dinner while I'm still at breakfast, just by glancing at my phone! 

And if you're really not into what's on the menu on any given night, don't hesitate to stay in and eat something in your dorm room. I have a microfridge in my dorm room, and I usually keep a couple of organic freezer meals stocked for emergencies. Target is a great place to get things like soup, Lean Cuisines (they have a new organic line!), and crackers, while I tend to hit up my local Trader Joe's (usually if I go home on the weekend, because it's cheaper there than in Boston obviously) for my favorite specialty foods like pumpkin frosted shortbread cookies (YES, I KNOW), roasted garlic hummus, and vanilla almond granola. 

Plus, depending on your meal plan, you might even have to eat a couple meals in your room every week just to make ends meet! So make sure you don't end up eating in your dorm room when you'd rather be having that mac and cheese in the dining hall (or, alternatively, eating soggy pizza in the dining hall when you'd rather be having microwaveable pesto pasta), and check that menu ahead of time. 

Finally, Make a Plan!

Alrighty y'all - now here's what I came here to talk to you about!

Making a meal plan helps you navigate the dining hall better because not only does it encourage you to check out menus ahead of time, but it also prepares you for days when you'd be better off eating at the salad bar or in your room than going for an unhealthy entree. Preparing yourself ahead of time can help you make wiser, healthier choices and keep yourself from binging on foods you'll later regret and feel sad about. Not to mention, it can help you create balance! For example, if you saw something delicious on the menu for Tuesday, like a chocolate brownie with ice cream (YUM), you can plan to eat the brownie and then make a healthier choice on Wednesday, when you're less passionate about the dessert, to even it all out.  

Meal planning is all about weighing your choices ahead of time. But while it will ultimately help you make better, healthier dining choices, it might seem a little boring to the inexperience newbie. That's why it's better done with a cute printable, of course!

I put together this awesome meal planning printable for you guys to help you make healthy choices in the dining hall that you can feel good about at the end of the day. Please feel free to print and share this resource with your friends - but don't go selling it or passing it off as your own, or I'll send my pack of flying monkeys after ya 0:)

This printable is a free resource from Love, Haley Blog.

Please feel free to share, print, and distribute for PERSONAL USE ONLY! 

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional.
The nutritional advice provided in this post is purely based on my own experiences and should not be interpreted as medical advice in any way.

September 30, 2016

15 Cozy Products You Need For Fall

Recently, one of my old posts has been going viral: My Grown-Up Gift Card Wishlist, a post I made after Christmas basically as an excuse to online shop. And while I still can't quite figure out why it's blowing up like crazy (considering I never even pinned it...*insert blushing emoji here* Oops!), I'm gonna go ahead and assume you guys like seeing what products I pick out when I go scrolling through my favorite shopping websites. 

In case you were curious, the inspiration for this post format came from those Buzzfeed articles we all know and love. You know, the ones about 50 Products You Need From Amazon or whatever? The ones you never buy but love to ogle at anyways? Yeah, those! So, maybe their successful formula has rubbed off on me by bringing me a sudden rush of blog traffic? Who knows?!

Whatever the reason for my recent success, I love creating these shopping posts for you just as much as you love reading them. I'm not quite sure why I'm so addicted to these posts when I don't have the money or the motivation to actually go out and purchase any of these adorable items. The problem with being a college student is you have so little cash and so little time to shop that you end up blowing all your paychecks on buying microwave dinners at Target (hi, my name is Haley and I am addicted to Fenway Target). But for me, that has been the beauty of writing these fashion posts for y'all: I get the satisfaction of feeling trendy and getting to ogle at all the newest products, yet I never actually have to shell out the hundreds of dollars it would take me to buy all of these cozy new sweaters. Meanwhile, you guys get a nosy insight into my obsession with fall and my (hopefully not terrible) sense of style. The way I see it, it's a win-win situation for everybody! 

So, I'm trying out a little experiment to see if y'all like reading these posts as much as I think you do. I'm bringing back the online-shopping, product-showcasing format - this time, with a cozy twist for fall. I hope you all liked the fifteen products I picked out as the warmest, fluffiest, cuddliest fashion, beauty, and lifestyle items on the web! 

Urban Outfitters

 MUK LUKS Pennley Pompom Slipper ($$)

I wish I'd brought a pair of slippers to college - I regret my decision not to bring them maybe more than anything else I decided not to bring. These cozy slippers would not only cushion your feet from the cold, harm dorm floors, but also protect them from the nasty germs of sharing a floor. (Because unfortunately, with sweater season also comes flu season!)

DENY Pink Summer Monogram Pillow ($$)

Who doesn't want to cuddle with their initials all night long? Sounds like the ultimate expression of self-love to me. The muted colors and wreath detail add a warm touch that will have you thinking ahead to the holidays.

Out From Under Cross My Heart Hoodie Sweatshirt ($$)

I mentally squealed when I saw the adorable back detail on this hoodie. In my opinion, the criss-cross effect takes loungewear to a whole new level. Plus, with how popular the athleisure trend has become on college campuses, you'll be ready to roll from yoga class to English class in no time. That is, if you can drag yourself out of bed in the first place...

Boy Smells Candle in Ash ($$)

Not sure if these "Boy Smells" candles are supposed to appeal to men, or to women who enjoy the scent of men, but as a lady who likes to sniff her boyfriend's cologne, I'm sticking with the latter. If you enjoy the scent of firewood, then you'll love this candle. After smelling it for just a moment, you'll soon find yourself nostalgic for autumn bonfires and tailgates before your high school football games.

2017 Cats in Sweaters Wall Calendar ($)

Cats. In sweaters. Do you really need me to tell you what's cozy about that? Nothing would look cuter hanging above your head than a calico cat in a calico sweater.


Sorel Tivoli Pull-On Boots ($$$)

Bean Boots are so overrated - but boots are undoubtedly a necessity of fall life, especially when you go to college in the Northeast. If you can swing the hefty price tag, these boots will help you break away from the crowds of students blindly wearing L.L.'s finest. Plus, in case you couldn't tell from the fuzzy detail, they're warm and cozy as all heck. 

Patchwork Pup Pillow ($$$)

Unless you have a service dog, pets probably aren't allowed in your dorm. This pillow is a cute way to sneak in a reminder of Fido and still get that cuddle time in. I'm especially loving the play-on-words that the cute Brit-chic details - like the tiny crown jewels and the Union Jack quilting - create ('cuz it's an English bulldog, get it?).

Romy V-Neck Pullover ($$)

In my opinion, nothing screams fall and winter more than wearing a too-big shirt with the sleeves pulled over your fingertips like makeshift gloves. This low-swinging shirt from Romy features a cute heart detail that reads "Get in here" on the front and "good hYOUman" on the back. Kill 'em with kindness, dah-lings.

Lourdes Throw ($$$)

If I had to describe this blanket's aesthetic in three words, I'd choose: tassels, tassels, and more tassels. Okay, that's technically four or five words - but you get my idea. I love the idea of cuddling up with this blanket, a mug of hot chocolate, and a book (or, more realistically, the entire 2nd season of Jane the Virgin on Netflix) on a chilly fall evening. Bonus points for not spilling on your brand-new throw.

Home Book ($)

What could be cozier than home? Especially to a first-year college student, who's probably starting to feel a little homesick by now (if you're not like me and haven't been homesick since the first day of class, that is). This book of illustrations explores the concept of home, and is the perfect lookbook to cuddle up with on a crisp day. 


Dormify Ombre Knit Throw ($$)

SO MANY BLANKETS. I just can't stop loving you, fall knits. (Side note, but are you guys playing the Michael Jackson song in your head right now? Yeah, same.) The ombre detail on this throw distinguishes it from other blankets, and will show your friends on movie night that you're both comfortable and fashionable. 

Exfoliating Body Wash in Be Cozy ($)

In college, I miss taking baths maybe more than anything else about my old bathroom at home (that, and not having to share with 10 other girls). Nothing is better than taking a hot bath with a soothing scrub on a cold morning. Aerie's scrub is the coziest of all because it a) has the word "Cozy" in the very name and b) smells like a fresh-baked vanilla cupcake. What more could you ask for?

Hi-Neck Lace Bralette + Mesh ($)

I am all about the new bralette trend, which to me, feels like a sanctified excuse to go braless in public. Probably why I love it so much...or, maybe I love it because you can wear them in so many different ways. Throw a cuddly cardigan over it for lounging at home, pair it with leggings and an athletic zip-up jacket to go to the gym, or use it as a revealing detail under a warm, off-the-shoulder sweater for class. There's nowhere you can't take your bralette.

Off-The-Shoulder Sweater ($$)

Speaking of off-the-shoulder sweaters, I had so much trouble deciding which sweater to select from Aerie's fall collection! They're all about the cowl necks, turtle necks, and fun collars this season. But in the end, I had to go with this off-the-shoulder sweater not just for the polished appearance and subtle color, but also for the way the model wears it. There's something so subtly sexy - not to mention downright cozy - about tossing a cable knit sweater over a breezy dress. I love the idea that a sweater can help carry your wardrobe from summer to fall, and this sweater does just that. 

Harem Pant ($ - on sale!)

I used to be a little iffy on the harem pant trend, namely because of a particularly ugly dance costume from awhile back that was still giving me nightmares about them. But they're slowly starting to grow on me, simply because they just look so damn cozy. The harem pant feels like a socially acceptable way to wear pajamas out and about in your daily life - and I love it. What could be more autumn than that?

September 26, 2016

Ten Reasons Why You Need to Vote in 2016 + Free Voter Cheatsheet!

The outcome of this year's presidential election won't be determined by who votes. In politics, it's all about who doesn't vote.

As few as 57.5% of American citizens stepped into the polls to cast their vote in the 2012 election. And of that number, young adults between the ages of 18-24 will constitute the smallest turnout of any demographic.

Today's post arrives on a pivotal night in the 2016 presidential election: the first televised presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump since God only knows when.

I know I don't normally write about politics on this blog, but I do write for college students, and I do write about mental health - two issues that are close to my heart, and that this year's presidential election will dramatically affect. 

Hillary Clinton has developed a comprehensive plan to address America's mental health needs, with measures such as launching a national initiative for suicide prevention and training law enforcement in crisis intervention. Meanwhile, if you Google "Donald Trump mental health," you won't find any mention of a concrete plan at all - instead, you'll see headlines upon headlines questioning his own psychological stability. (Not to shame The Donald for any real or nonexistent mental illness he might have, of course - in fact, I'd be relieved to find out that he had bipolar disorder and wasn't just an erratic racist!)

As for all you college students out there, Hillary has pledged to make public in-state colleges free for every American and crack down on predatory student loan lenders. While Trump doesn't go quite that far, he does propose tax incentives for colleges working to combat tuition hikes and student debt.

I'll try to be as nonpartisan as possible, but I can't help my natural biases - and y'all can probably already tell which way I'm leaning this November. But in the end, I'm not here to tell you to vote for Hillary. I'm just here to tell you that this election is an important one, and that it's your responsibility as a citizen (my high school history teacher liked to call it your "civic duty") to check off that ballot, whatever name you should choose. It doesn't matter who you vote for, so long as you educate yourself, get out there, and cast your vote at the polls.

First step's first: before November 8th, hit up vote.usa.gov to conveniently register to vote online, regardless of what state you live in. You just have to be eighteen and, obviously, a citizen of the United States. (But hey, high school seniors: if your birthday's before Election Day, don't forget to double-check if your state allows pre-registration for 17-year-olds. That's what I did - so if you're in Massachusetts, too, then good news!)

Oh, and if you're not quite convinced to cast your ballot yet, here are ten hot-button issues this year that might convince you otherwise:

1. National security.

In the wake of awful terrorist attacks like those in France and New York City, many would say that our national security is of the utmost importance. Depending on your view, this might mean that you think the United States should avoid international entanglements and adopt a nationalist view - or, alternatively, that we should turn our attention to powers overseas. Your view of military action (for example, getting involved in Syria) might also be affected by the terrorism debate. And if you want a candidate who shares your view on these issues, you have no excuse not to step into the polls and vote on November 8th.

Clinton and Trump butt heads on a number of these issues, which range from the war in Iraq, to nuclear sanctions on Iran, to combating ISIS in the Middle East. Hillary both supported the United States' role in Iraq and negotiated the nuclear agreement with Iran as the former Secretary of State. While Trump, too, supports sanctions on Iran, he asserts that former president George W. Bush never should have acted in Iraq.

When it comes to ISIS, both candidates agree that further action must be taken to, in Clinton's words, "destroy" the terrorist group. However, their proposed strategies for addressing the problem could not be more different. According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump names strategies such as bombing ISIS's oil operations, deploying up to 30,000 U.S. troops, and changing international laws against military torture. Meanwhile, Clinton suggests less direct methods such as expanding U.S. air strikes, limiting ISIS's access to social media as a tool for recruitment, and accepting greater numbers of Syrian refugees in the United States. Unlike President Obama, Clinton also endorses creating a no-fly zone over Syria, which could put the U.S. in direct conflict with pro-Assad Russia - a move Trump, as a strong supporter of President Putin, would likely denounce.

2. Reproductive Rights.

I wish I didn't live in a country where I had to label my body as a hot-button campaign issue - but that's why we, as women, need to exercise our 19th Amendment rights more than ever before.

In 2016, the debate over reproductive rights usually concerns government funding of Planned Parenthood, the women's health clinic providing services that range from STD testing to performing abortions. But most would agree that the real question behind Planned Parenthood funding is the tired argument between pro-choice and pro-life political pundits.

Planned Parenthood, in a round-up of the two candidates' positions on women and family planning issues, showed that while Clinton strongly supports abortion access, Trump stands in favor of banning abortion altogether. While Clinton pledges to repeal the Hyde Amendment - which prohibits Medicare funding of abortions - and defend Planned Parenthood, Trump would prefer to punish women who seek abortions (if abortion was banned), appoint anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court, and defund Planned Parenthood altogether. 

3. LGBTQ rights.

2015's landmark Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges ruled that the right to gay marriage could not be denied in any state. However, that does not mean that today's LGBTQ community faces zero challenges this election season. Transgender visibility and rights remain at the forefront of the LGBTQ debate, as well as the validity of the Supreme Court's decision altogether.

Clinton has been criticized in the past for changing her stance on gay marriage. While she previously did not support it, today she is arguably one of the strongest proponents of LGBTQ rights. According to Ballotpedia, Clinton affirms that she will train law enforcement to better handle hate crimes related to the LGBTQ community, allow the government to collect better data on crimes committed against transgender Americans, and remove obstacles that currently prevent transgender people from having their gender identity reflected on their passports.

The same source reflects Donald Trump's wavering stance on LGBTQ rights. After the 2015 Supreme Court decision, Trump identified himself as a proponent of "traditional marriage," despite being criticized for his several divorces. He also changed his mind on the Obama Administration's statement ordering schools to allow students to use whatever bathroom they feel comfortable using, first saying that North Carolina should "leave it the way it is" and later stating that "[The states] are more capable of making the decision" than the executive.

4. Immigration.

Historically, the United States has been a country of immigrants. Chances are, your family originally crossed into the United States from another country, whether legally or illegally. This just goes to show that immigration issues affect us all, regardless of our opinions on it - which is exactly why we need to vote to protect our views.

Politifact says that while both candidates favor stronger border protection, Clinton supports a path to citizenship and protection from deportation - unlike Donald Trump. Arguing that families pose little to no risk to national security, Clinton wants to increase outreach and education surrounding naturalization programs and to remove obstacles that stand in the way of many immigrants becoming citizens, such as high costs and certain time limits on remaining in the country. As president, Clinton would also seek to expand the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") so that illegal immigrants could begin to purchase health coverage.

Arguably, Trump's stance on immigration has garnered him more media attention than any of his other opinions. Chants of "Build a wall!" resonate at many of his rallies, since he outlined his rough plan to build a wall along the United States' border with Mexico - and force the Mexican government to pay for it. Infamously, Trump has also suggested that the United States should ban all Muslims from entering the country, because of the perceived threat that Islamic terrorist groups pose to our national security.

5. Health care.

The health care debate is a common thread in politics throughout modern history. Famously, the passing of Obamacare in March of 2010 had many Republicans in Congress up in arms about the constitutionality of the law. 

During the 2016 election, the candidates have been eager to weigh in on the Affordable Care Act and outline their own plans for expanding health coverage in the United States. According to PBS, Trump's plan will not require anyone to buy health coverage if they don't want to. Instead, he will legalize the sale of health insurance between state lines, with the idea that the increased competition would lower costs. 

PBS also shared Clinton's opposite opinion: that the Affordable Care Act should not just remain intact, but be expanded. Under her version of the ACA, a government-run insurance program would become available to compete with private insurers. As aforementioned, she also seeks to allow undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance under the Act. 

6. Gun safety.

With a new mass shooting becoming breaking news every day in the United States, the debate over gun control is more pressing of a question than ever before. Along with the argument over gun control comes the issue of whether or not the Second Amendment remains relevant in today's modern society. Staunch gun rights activists proclaim that the Second Amendment is an unalterable constitutional right, while leftward extremists shout that the Second Amendment should be repealed, now that the United States has a centralized military with no state militias.

The Daily Dot weighed in on the gun control debate of the 2016 election with an article titled "How Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stack up on guns." According to the article, Donald Trump previously supported the gun control measures proposed by the Obama Administration after the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. However, he has since made "Second Amendment Rights" a prominent issue of his campaign website, proclaiming his opposition for any and all types of weaponry bans - even those creating gun-free zones around schools and military bases.

Alternatively, Hillary Clinton brags about her low report card rating from the NRA. She supported the Brady Bill, and has "called for restrictions on online gun sales," and increasing the legal age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21. Her belief is that loopholes surrounding gun sales must be closed, assault weapons must be banned, and gun sales must be strictly regulated.

7. Wall Street.

The Big Short - the blockbuster movie about the 2008 financial crisis - took in $255 million in domestic sales, according to Vanity Fair. Perhaps the reason that the film accrued so much popularity was that for many Americans, the suffering inflicted by Wall Street during the 2008 financial crisis was their grim reality. 

After Bernie Sanders, the only candidate who could have truly been considered anti-Wall Street, lost the primary, some of his supporters have been unsure where to turn - probably because Sanders consistently derided Clinton for her dependence on Wall Street and other big business backers for fundraising. But Clinton claims she will not go easy on the banks who played a role in the 2008 financial crisis - and Politico even argues that her plan is "one of the most progressive financial regulatory plans in history." If elected president, Clinton says she would regulate the "too-big-to-fail" banks that caused the financial crash with their reckless betting, and prevent them from preying on customers in the future.

In terms of taxes, Investopedia writer Milton Ezrati suggests that Trump might be the preferred candidate by Wall Street, simply because Clinton has proposed tax hikes for the wealthy while Trump would dramatically simplify the tax system and decrease corporate tax rates. The one group Trump will increase taxes for? Hedge fund managers, who can currently evade taxes by claiming less income than they actually make. 

8. Family. 

Your family is probably one of the most important structures in your life - so it's natural that, as a voter, you'd want to protect your definition of what family is. "Family" comprises a broad topic, but namely let's talk about family planning as it pertains to the workplace. National paid family leave, according to the Washington Post, is offered in all but eight countries - and the United States is the only developed nation on that list. 

According to Planned Parenthood, Donald Trump has reportedly called pregnancy an "inconvenience" for a woman's employer and said that it was fair to pay working mothers less because they devote more time to their children than their jobs. But after Clinton released her plan for paid family leave, Trump offered a counter-strategy: a plan for six weeks of maternity leave for new mothers paid by unemployment insurance, said the Post. 

In case her constant reminders that she is a grandmother aren't enough assurance for you, the Post also went into detail about Clinton's plan for paid family leave. Clinton's plan allows for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave with at least 2/3 of the parents' wages paid for - and equal treatment for both fathers and mothers. 

9. The environment.

Environmentalists say we're in danger. Non-believers claim that climate change isn't real. Whatever your opinion, the debate over environmental protection remains as heated as the Earth itself - and no matter what your stance on this issue is, your opinion doesn't truly count unless you vote to support it.

Fracking, a controversial oil extraction technique, is one example where the environmental debate becomes more complex and more passionate than ever. Trump's support for the technique is staunch. He claims he will both expand the procedure and revoke legislation prohibiting it. According to Real Clear Politics, Trump even tweeted in 2012 that "fracking will lead to American energy independence." In a broader sense, Trump has also attacked the EPA and asserted that he would "cancel the Paris Climate Agreement."

Real Clear Politics also portrayed Clinton's alternative ideology: an increasingly-progressive stance on environmental issues. Though she has yet to make a public statement on domestic fracking (though she supported it overseas in 2012), she would likely move forward with Obama's Clean Power Plan (a result of the Paris Climate Agreement) and help America transition to a "post-fossil fuel economy."

10. Nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons came on the scene during the Cold War, forever shaping American foreign policy. As my high school history teacher often liked to remind us, the United States is the only country currently that can claim to have used nuclear weapons in the past (on Japan during WWII). Today, the president remains entrusted with enormous quantities of power as Commander-in-Chief - and one of those powers, terrifyingly enough, is the power of deploying nuclear weapons.

According to Politico, rumors have been floating around Washington that Trump repeatedly asked an unnamed foreign policy expert the question: "If we have nuclear weapons, why can't we use them?" Perhaps because of his questionable temperament and exchanges like this one, Fox News polls revealed that 56% of voters trusted Clinton more than Trump with nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Trump garnered a mere 34% of the nuclear confidence vote.

Ultimately, however, the answer to who you should vote for when it comes to nuclear weaponry has nothing to do with the candidates' positions. Instead, it rests in this important question: which candidate would you trust with that big, red button? Or with any policy decision, for that matter?

So, will it be Trump, with his volatile temper and explosive language - or Clinton, with her history of lies and political misconduct as it relates to Benghazi? We, as Americans, must answer this question this November, when we elect the lesser of two evils to the Oval Office.

Oh, and if - even after reading all that - you're still not sure which box to check at the polls this November, check out this handy cheat-sheet (courtesy of moi) to remind you of the candidates' positions! Simply click on the image below to enlarge and print.

Feel free to print, share, and distribute this graphic for PERSONAL USE ONLY, please!

September 21, 2016

What's In My Backpack? + 5 Tips for Transitioning from Class to Life!

Disclaimer: all of the opinions expressed in this post are my own.
I was not compensated for this post in any way.

It's time to tell you all that I'm looking to branch out from blogging exclusively about mental health. The reasons for this shift are many, but the main one is this: my mental health journey is part of who I am, but it does not define me. And I will not allow it to consume all of my creative energies on this blog.

There are so many other aspects of my life as a college freshman that I can't wait to share with you as part of this blogging transition. While it's true that my social anxiety and depression have shaped my experiences on campus (just as they will continue to shape the content of this blog), I have had the chance to explore so many other interests during my first month at BU. For example, I've joined Boston University's chapter of PRSSA (that stands for Public Relations Student Society of America) and become a news reporter for the Daily Free Press, our school's newspaper. Those are experiences I would love to blog about - but that in my prior niche as a mental health blogger, I might have never been able to share with you. 

In my experience, focusing on my anxiety and depression has never helped me. When I wallow in how terribly I feel for more than an hour or two, I'm left feeling sad and lethargic. The best days are the ones when I am able to successfully distract myself by engaging in one of my passions. Blogging is one such passion for me - but when I'm blogging only about mental health, it's difficult to escape from those terrible, negative feelings.

I am ready to break out of the mental health niche - and to show you all that healing from mental health disorders doesn't mean you have to forget all the other parts of your life. As someone who struggles with her mental health on a daily basis, that will always be part of my experience. But I'm excited and hopeful to try something new and see where it takes us at Love, Haley! 

A writing opportunity on campus has me delving into fashion writing in a way I've never done before, not even when I used to blog almost exclusively about lifestyle. The article I'm currently writing has me thinking a lot about the things I used to love about fashion blogging, before I convinced myself it wasn't "professional" or "worthy" enough to demand my attention.

Before I tell you what I missed the most about fashion blogging, I'd like to give a little aside challenging my prior beliefs about fashion writing: fashion and lifestyle writing are hard! This subject material and the journalists who cover it still deserve respect. These writers are no less qualified than any other, and as a writer, you should never have to feel pressured to give up on something you care about just because you view it as "frivolous" or "unprofessional." 

I've learned over the past few weeks that if your writing shows who you really are, then it will be respected regardless of how casual its voice or how silly its subject material. No one is running around calling Amy Schumer an idiot just because she likes to tell jokes for a living - because it's what she does, and gosh darn it, she is one of the best.

Okay, thanks for following me on that little diversion. Back on track now: my favorite thing about style blogging is perhaps a little embarrassing, but I'm going to share it with you anyways - after all, I'm only human! 

Honestly, what I missed the most about fashion blogging was creating Polyvore sets. That's right, folks. Do you remember Polyvore from the early days of Tumblr (or, if you're anything like me, from creating outfits for your characters on those online roleplays you used to write for)? If not, Polyvore is a unique tool for creating fashion collages. 

I use it in a lot of ways, such as creating style concepts before heading out to go back-to-school shopping, or to flesh out my characters' appearance when I'm working on a new writing project. But my favorite way to use Polyvore has always been to showcase my favorite style trends online. And Polyvore is great for that, because it compiles practically all of the clothing the Internet has to offer in one place, and allows you to neatly present your favorite pieces to your readers in a professional-looking collage for free. (This isn't an ad for Polyvore, I swear - just my own natural enthusiasm!)

Today, I won't be sharing fashion trends with you exactly - but I have created an awesome Polyvore set for you all! But instead of talking about the latest in style news, I'm excited to share with you some tips and tricks I've learned about transitioning from class, to work, to class, to life, and back again - a skill every college girl must master for herself. 

In my opinion, the key to it all running smoothly is what I keep in my backpack. As you'll see, if I'm going from the library to dance class, I can't facilitate the transition without sticking my tights and shoes in my bag first. If I'm going from breakfast to class, I certainly can't go anywhere without a mug full of decaffeinated coffee first. And if I'm walking across campus from my COM 101 lecture to work (as I do every Tuesday and Thursday morning!), I'll need to be well-equipped with a sweater and umbrella to protect me on my walk.

In addition to sharing what I keep in my bag to smooth my transitions between class and life, I'll also let you in on a couple secrets I've picked up along the way that aren't related to what's in my backpack. 

But first, let's hone in on this beautiful Polyvore collage and talk about what I keep in my backpack to help me manage my everyday transitions smoothly. (Oh, and fun fact: the backpack featured in my collage is actually the same one I own and use here at BU! How cool is that?)

What's in my backpack?

(Reading horizontally from left to right) 

A sweater. New England weather can be unpredictable - especially in the fall! I feel like I keep waiting for the day when it won't suddenly jump from sixty degrees in the morning, to eighty degrees in the afternoon, to pouring rain in the evenings. Can't we just have our pretty fall leaves and idyllic weather already? Until then, I can't go anywhere without wearing layers. My white cardigan gets me from East to West campus feeling toasty warm and dry.

A coffee mug. I'm all about pastel cuteness, in case you couldn't tell - which is why I chose to highlight the glitter mug with Pusheen the Cat on it, of course. I prefer using a travel mug and filling it up in the dining hall rather than suffering through the line at Starbucks every morning.  For one thing, it's cheaper, especially if I'm already eating in the dining hall anyways - and secondly, it saves me a heck of a lot of time! So, if you're going to college for the first time next year or you're already in college but looking to save some funds, I would highly recommend bringing a set of cheap plastic travel mugs like I did.

Gum. I don't know about you, but I can't stand the taste of food in my mouth after I've eaten. I'm the kind of girl who would brush her teeth after every meal if she had the opportunity. But since I'm usually eating on the go, it's much simpler to bring a pack of peppermint gum with me than it is to pack a toothbrush and toothpaste (I mean, who wants to brush their teeth in a public bathroom?). And, bonus: if you're headed to take a test, chewing gum might just help you ace it!

My planner. Okay, okay - I know that looks like a binder up there, but I swear to goodness it's my planner. In fact, that's the exact same binder I have at home! I decided to try out a binder and planner inserts this year thinking that it would be cheaper in the long run, but I'm actually finding that I prefer the typical notebook-style of planner instead. By the time I do another "What's in my backpack?" post I'll probably have switched back...but regardless of the style of your planner, I recommend keeping one in general. It helps me organize everything from my assignments to my extra-curriculars to the weekends I plan on going home to stay with Ryan, and I couldn't live without it (or the Washi tape I use to decorate it, either).

Ballet shoes (and tights, in lower right-hand corner). Admittedly, this is pretty specific to me because I'm currently taking a ballet class through my college - but the idea of preparing for your classes in advance can definitely be translated to anything you're taking! I prefer to go back to my dorm and change for dance so that I have time to put my hair up in a bun and do whatever else I've got to do - but when I simply don't have time, putting my ballet shoes and tights in my backpack saves me a heck of a lot of time. It's much easier to be able to change right in the locker room knowing I've only got a one minute walk to class, than it is to change in my dorm and have to scramble across campus wondering if I'll make it on time.

Money. This one seems obvious, but as a college student I sometimes forget to take cash with me, thinking that everything I want in life can be paid for with my student ID (yeah, no). But you never know when you might get accidentally stuck buying food somewhere where you can't use dining points, or need to make an emergency pit stop for tampons or dress tape during a night out. If you ever plan to leave the bubble of your university, money - or at the very least your debit card - is a must.

A water bottle. I know I'm not the only one out there who definitely doesn't drink enough water! I think it's pretty safe to say we could all use an extra gulp or two. And especially if you're planning on transitioning from class to the gym, or even if you're simply planning on making a long hike across campus, keeping up with your water intake becomes especially important. In fact, let's all fill up our water bottles and take two long chugs before continuing to read!

My ID holder and lanyard. On move in day, my mom took me to the bookstore and bought me an ID holder, which I attached to a lanyard along with my room key and CVS card. It's honestly the smartest thing we could have done! My ID holder has enough room for all of my essentials, not just my student ID (I've stopped carrying a wallet altogether) - and my lanyard ensures that I can always find my keys when I need them, even in the messy depths of my backpack's front pocket.

A notebook. This notebook isn't class-related - I tried to keep the school supplies to a minimum in this post, since I think by now we all know what we need to be bringing to class every day. The notebook I'm talking about is simply one for bright ideas. In fact, I'm a gal of many notebooks: there's one for random scrawling of million-dollar thoughts, one for my novel's plot outline, one for my reporting with the Daily Free Press. I know we all have the notes function on our phones, and I'm just as guilty as using it as anyone else - but sometimes, when I need to make a list or otherwise formulate an idea that I'm at a loss for words about, I just need to brainstorm on good, old-fashioned lined paper. Can anyone else here relate to that?

Lip gloss. I used to be a much bigger beauty person than I am now, wearing cat eyeliner and Urban Decay eye-shadow to school every day. But now I much prefer a simple, natural look - or no make-up at all, on the off-chance my skin has decided to behave. My Naked lip gloss is pretty much the only make-up I carry with me most places nowadays (although if I'm bringing my purse instead of a backpack, I've also got lip balm and a travel-size mascara for those rough days on the go), but it does the trick for when I need to look pretty and polished, but not overdone.

A pencil case. I'm obsessed with cactuses, so don't mind me fangirling over this cute pencil pouch. But seriously now: I am not the kind of girl who can leave all of her pens and pencils and highlighters in a heap at the bottom of her bag. If my pens weren't all neatly contained in a pencil case like this one, I could never feel like I had my life together, not even a little bit. So while you may think it seems a little "high school" to be carrying around a bright teal plastic pencil case like I do, at least I'm not the one scrambling around in my bag for a pen when the professor begins his lecture two minutes early :)

SNACKS! I'm a petite girl who's enthusiastic about food - go ahead, sue me. Not to mention, you will have periods between classes where there's just enough time to go to a dining hall, but not enough time to stand in line for the pizza. Even if you think you won't, no one is invincible to this curse. Not in college, at least. So, I repeat: no matter where you're headed, ALWAYS BRING SNACKS! Even when you think you won't need them, BRING THEM!

An umbrella. Have I name-dropped New England weather yet? I've made the mistake of getting caught in the rain without an umbrella one too many times when walking across campus. Now, I just keep it in a pocket in my backpack so I'm never without it. Ta-da - problem solved! Keeping clothes dry since Fall of 2016.

Tupperware? You're questioning me now; I just know it. But hear me out on this one: as college students, we can't afford to go wasting half our lunches every day. That's why Tupperware is an absolute essential. Granted, I don't bring Tupperware with me everywhere I go; that would be weird. But if Tupperware's in my bag, it's either because there's something good in the dining hall that I plan to capitalize on, or because it's full of Annie's Extra-Cheesy Cheddar Bunnies.

Highlighters. Come on - we're in college now. Do you really need me to tell you why you need to bring highlighters to class? (As a side note, though - don't just bring your school supplies when you're headed to class. If you're headed out somewhere for the day, bring your backpack and whatever homework you're working on with you - that way, if you get a spare moment on your work break or while riding public transportation, you can power through to get something important accomplished!)

Pens. Same deal as the highlighters. Plus, you never really know when you might need to head over to the financial aid office and sign an important legal document.

+ 5 Tips for Transitioning from Class to Your Everyday Life!

Tip #1: Bring everything you need.

And I do mean everything! For example, if you know you're heading to a pitch meeting for the school paper later that night, don't leave the house at 8 AM without packing your reporter's notebook. You might think that you have time to stop by your room to get it when you actually don't. Or, you might realize your dorm is too far away from the newsroom to make a pit stop. So even if you think you might have downtime, make sure you're prepared for anything and everything to come up suddenly. 

Tip #2: Use the time between classes.

Never waste a free moment when you have one. You might not think you can accomplish much in the fifteen minutes between your 8:00 AM and your second class of the day, but when you think about the fact that you have so many of those tiny breaks throughout your day every single day of the week...well, it all adds up fast. Some days, you might be so busy you can't get to the library, and you might come home to find your roommate living it up with friends in your room. That's what I say never go anywhere without a book to read or a text to highlight! For me personally, some of my most productive study sessions thus far have occurred when taking the subway from place to place, or when waiting for my next commitment to start.

Tip #3: Take your keys everywhere.

You do not want to be the roommate who desperately calls her roomie in the middle of the afternoon because she's locked out of the room. This already happened to me and my roommate once - and what's worse, she was showering, so in addition to her keys being locked in the room, so were her clothes and her cell phone! She was lucky I came back just in time. Trust me: you do NOT want this to happen to you. Nothing can get in the way of plans faster than not being able to get into your room to change clothes or grab your subway pass.

Tip #4: Freshen up whenever possible.

Let's be honest: how many of you actually have time to take a shower in the morning (or at night) every single day? As disgusting as it may sound to admit it out loud, sometimes, sharing a bathroom with 15 other girls is simply not our friend - and sometimes, that means we miss out on our chance to use the shower. An easy way to avoid this is to take your showers in the afternoons or between classes when you know you'll have time - and when most other people might not be using the dorm yet. Some of my showers after going to the gym have been my most satisfying and private because the bathroom was quieter at dinnertime than first thing in the morning. Oh, and never underestimate the power of dry shampoo or body spray, especially after the gym! Scents are your friend!

Tip #5: Invest in a surge protector.

You might be wondering what this has to do with saving time - but trust me, owning a surge protector is a lifesaver. In my room, we only have two outlets. On my side of the room, the refrigerator, microwave, and fan have to be plugged in, which leaves me with one free space at full power and one "power save" outlet (which is basically an environmentally-friendly way of saying "it shuts off whenever it feels like it"). Before I got a surge protector, I had to choose between charging my phone, my laptop, or my Fitbit at night. I sometimes used my laptop to charge things, but usually this just left me frantically wondering why my phone hadn't charged yet. Getting a surge protector saved me from my phone dying in the middle of the day, or from not having a fully-charged laptop when I needed it for class. Trust me: you will want to invest! 

Are you excited to see more lifestyle, fashion, and beauty articles from Love, Haley Blog? Let me know what you want to read about in the comments below! xo