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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Arianna’s Blog

Arianna

Can’t Sleep? Count Sheep! >

by Arianna

Life Hacks

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Although Mental Health Awareness month is over, I wanted to write about something I struggle with that many of you may experience as well: sleeplessness. Don’t get me wrong; I love sleeping. I love having vivid and nonsensical dreams that linger in my mind all day, and I love being able to rest and recuperate with an occupation as restorative as sleep. The one thing I don’t love is the “simple” process of falling asleep.

My typical night goes as follows: I get into bed, lay on my side curled up in a fetal position, close my eyes, and think about the day. Pretty soon, I start to think about some embarrassing thing I did in high school. Then, I think about grad-school, and worry about how I’m supposed to pay for that. Next, I think about having to wake up before seven in the morning to commute to classes if I decide to live at home in 2022. Before you know it, my heart is racing, my blood pressure is up, and my entire sympathetic nervous system is ready for action! This can go on for thirty minutes to an hour.

Once my brain is too tired to think, my body takes over. I suddenly have the urge to pee, but when I walk to the bathroom, the urge disappears. Pretty soon, I can feel every fold and wrinkle in my pajamas, and the idea of sleeping in lumpy clothing forces me to get up and reposition myself. Next, I can see a tiny beam of light peeking through the blinds, which of course, bothers me. And last but not least, my baby hairs start to tickle my face. AGHHH!!! By now, I’ve been in bed for two hours, and I have to be up in six.

Now I forget about my body and I am only filled with frustration, for I have just wasted 2 hours of sleep! This sequence of events used to happen every single night, but I’ve picked up a few tricks to help me overcome my sleeplessness.

1. Melatonin tablets
Over the past year, my best friend has become melatonin tablets! Taking 10 mg of melatonin an hour before bedtime helps me feel sleepy. Melatonin has also helped me establish a more regular sleep cycle! Oh, but I do NOT recommend getting the “Natrol Strawberry Melatonin Gummies” because they taste better than most candies, which is dangerous if you have a sweet-tooth like me.

2. No phone in bed!!!
Oh boy, I wish I had the willpower to do this every night. Sometimes when I feel extra motivated to get a good night’s sleep, I charge my phone on my dresser to prevent me from using it in bed. Although the eternal scrolling can be comforting by helping me take my mind off of external stressors, it prevents me from winding down effectively.

3. Mental exercises
I’m not sure if this is considered an exercise, but when my thoughts are overwhelming, I repeat this phrase in my head over and over: “What are you thinking about? Nothing. What are you thinking about? Nothing”. Sometimes I actually fall asleep doing this! I also find counting sheep to be helpful. Although it seems silly, sometimes if I imagine velvet sheep walking across a velvet couch in a velvet room, I become extra relaxed.

4. Deep breaths
Last but not least, never underestimate the power of three deep breaths. Slowly breathing in air, holding it, and exhaling, noticeably slows down my racing heart. I need to remember to practice mindful breathing more often, as it proves time and time again to be beneficial.

These tips have all helped me get better sleep, but of course they don’t work perfectly. Some nights, my brain refuses to sleep no matter how hard I try, and I just have to accept that. If you struggle with sleeplessness, I hope this blog was relatable and comforting. I also hope you were able to gain useful tips to help you get a better night’s rest! We must never forget that sleep is an occupation that everyone deserves to partake in.

Arianna

The career that chooses you >

by Arianna

What are OS/OT?

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Occupational therapy has always been a part of my life. Growing up, I watched my mom (a Chan Division alumna) practice occupational therapy with my grandpas. My maternal grandpa suffered from a stroke and Lewy Body dementia. As I grew older, he was deteriorating. However, my mom dedicated countless days and nights to helping my grandpa live a more fulfilling life. Through research and therapy, she was able to help him maximize his independence.

The passion my mom put into her work was astounding. She spent hours inventing and creating tools for her patients and her dad to use. With admiration in my eyes,  I watched my mom cut up pool noodles, build tiny exercise equipment, and melt plastic to create a hand brace. Growing up in an environment where I was constantly exposed to OT inevitably helped spark my interest in the field.

Although I had an early interest in OT, I found myself wanting to explore other fields. I didn’t want to pursue the only career I had known. I looked into medicine, psychology, and even fashion designing! However, I didn’t feel the same passion and excitement when I researched fields outside of OT. I quickly realized that OT always was and forever will be the career for me. Even when I tried to diversify my interests, OT drew me back like a magnet as if the career was choosing me.

When I was almost 100 percent certain that I wanted to be an OT, I had to find some experience in the field. It was difficult for me to find hands-on opportunities to work alongside an OT. Therefore, I turned to a field of work that provides similar experiences: caregiving.

My first caregiving experience was in 2017 when I was a one-to-one aide for a boy with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Every week we met, I would set simple goals for him to achieve. For example, one week our goal would be “don’t put toys in your mouth”. If we were able to reach this goal, we would move on to a more challenging goal such as “don’t throw hard toys”. I loved my job and I worked with the same boy for two consecutive summers. I ended up becoming a certified caregiver so I could work more closely with him!

In 2019, I began caregiving for a young boy with Down syndrome. This experience put my creative thinking skills to the test because I ended up inventing a new game almost every day for us to play! Now I have many games that I hope to use with my future clients!

These opportunities helped reassure me that I made the right decision to pursue OT. As I begin my first year in the entry level master’s program, I look forward to exploring the endless number of specialties within the field of OT. These past three years studying OT have been some of the most fruitful years of my life and I cannot wait to continue the journey.