Raena joined the Apollo Neuro marketing team as a recent college graduate. With a undergraduate degree in neuroscience, a lot of curiosity around wellness and mindfulness, and a knack for social media, she is an incredibly valuable team member as Social Media and Content Specialist. We sat down with Raena to talk about what graduating in a pandemic has been like. It was an eye-opening conversation, and we’re honored to share her story.
Q: What was it like graduating college during the pandemic?
A: If someone were to tell me that I would spend a large portion of my college experience over Zoom, in my childhood home, unable to see my friends, I would have never believed them. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened and it took a lot of adapting and time, to get used to such a sudden change. Graduating college during the pandemic consisted of a lot of compromising and rapid growth; it allowed me to recognize all of the things about my college experience that I had been taking for granted. Going to school remotely, not being able to bump into your friends while getting lunch or having any social interactions in general was so different from the norm. There were no more extracurricular activities, or attending optional seminars or programs. Like the rest of the world, I felt very restricted in my everyday life but I also began to feel restricted in my studies and passions and started to question a lot of my choices.
Q: What does Raena's pre-pandemic life look like versus current Raena?
A: Before Covid, I would say I was a way more social person. I dedicated a lot more of my time to hanging out with friends, and keeping myself preoccupied by doing things outside of the house. However, during Covid, I found myself enjoying spending more of my time alone, indulging in the activities and hobbies that excited me, and made me want to further my interest and passions, specifically in social media. I became more of a homebody and started investing in myself and the things I liked to do. I picked up reading self-help books and placed a lot of my focus in self-care, mental health and overall wellness. The inability to leave home forced me to find other ways to spend my time which helped open my eyes to a world of possibilities.
Q: What kind of job did you think you’d be doing after graduation?
A: I had always envisioned myself graduating college and pursuing medical school after taking a pre-med track in undergrad with a degree in neuroscience and Spanish. The pandemic really changed the way I looked at my life's trajectory. For me, it served as a pause, to really think about my future, my goals and my purpose, rather than just going through the motions of life and keeping myself busy. During that time, I realized that there was so much more to my college experience than I realized. Stripping away all of the extracurricular and perks of college, leaving only the classes I was enrolled in, homework and back to back Zoom classes. I realized I was not as passionate about my career path as I thought. I had been enrolled in all the prerequisite courses since freshman year, first semester, to apply to medical school, I had known nothing different. On top of that, though the classes were challenging, I did well, so I never had a reason to think I would stray away from this path. However, redirecting my time to activities that excited me, opened my eyes to various possibilities that I didn't even realize were options.
Q: Tell us more about your day to day now.
A: My day to day now has drastically changed from where it started at the beginning of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, I consistently felt like there was not enough time in the day which affected my mental health more drastically than I realized. I would sleep in and leave a lot of my work till the end of the day, which would cause me to stay up late. The pandemic forced me to create a morning routine that got me out of my bed and check in with my overall wellbeing. I now incorporate meditation, journaling, reading, Apollo, and movement in the mornings to ground myself, this also meant that I had to start waking up earlier. My morning routine has really helped me get through my day feeling relaxed and motivated to accomplish my tasks. I found for me, self-care is more than incorporating activities that benefit my mental health but also giving myself time to be present while accomplishing tasks, instead of rushing to do them. I am able to wake up early, spend time on myself and then transition into my work day. Some days are not as seamless as others. However, I have found ways to feel good about the things that get done in my day, even if it's not everything I had planned.
Q: How have you integrated Apollo into your daily routine??
A: Using my Apollo as an alarm clock took some time to get used to but once I did, I love it. I am obsessed with the Scheduling feature and I have all of my modes scheduled throughout the day, so I don't have to think about it once I am in the zone. I wake up using Energy & Wake Up at 15% intensity for 15 minutes. From there I go into Meditation and Mindfulness at 35% intensity for 45 minutes. During this time I am meditating, journaling, doing light movement, and reading; I have found that these settings keep me in a calm flow state. When it’s time to work I switch into Clear and Focused at 20% intensity for 60 minutes, usually going in and out of this for the majority of the day.
Depending on my schedule, I will turn on Social and Open 10 minutes before my meetings at 30% intensity. At night, I have Relax and Unwind scheduled to come on for an hour at 40% intensity, this calmly alerts me that it is time to unwind down for bed. After that session, I have Sleep and Renew scheduled for 2 hours at 50% and I sleep like a baby, every time. I use Apollo a lot throughout my day and the Scheduling feature is what makes this process so seamless!
Q: What are your keys to staying balanced with that much going on?
I have to separate my tasks in a way that I still feel accomplished if everything does not go to plan. The reality is, a lot of the time I don't get it all done in a day. I used to create the longest to-do lists and at the end of the day, I found myself feeling disappointed in my accomplishments because everything was not crossed off. I did not realize that this was an unrealistic way to accomplish my goals. Now, instead of trying to get everything done, I set out 3 tasks that I have to accomplish on that day. With those 3 tasks completed, I know that I accomplished everything I needed for that day. I then can move forward on to the secondary tasks that are not as important but still needed to be done. So to answer the question, I get everything I need to get done in a day because I only assign myself a reasonable amount of things to do. It was when I stopped setting unrealistic expectations for myself that I felt the most accomplished in my everyday life.
Q: What advice would you give someone heading to college?
A: I entered college thinking I had to have it all figured out. I went in with a career/profession and followed that path for my entire college experience until I decided second semester of my senior year that that wasn’t the path for me. All of this to say, don’t go into college with a fixed mindset. College allows you the privilege to explore your passions and explore things that you may have not known interest you. College is a period of growth and learning about yourself. Try everything that comes your way. Find activities and people that make you genuinely happy. Change the mindset that you have to enter with a plan and stick to that path, it’s so possible to pivot and succeed. If you find yourself struggling, it’s ok to ask for help, in fact, college provides you with professors and faculty members whose job it is to help, don’t be afraid to use them as a resource. You can turn your dreams into your reality, no matter how many people tell you it’s unrealistic. Go after your passion and focus on what makes you happy.
I think this advice stands for someone that is graduating from college as well. The transition between college and “adulthood” is one that is rarely talked about in an honest way. It is a transition that can leave you feeling very lost, purposeless, and lonely. The future can look so daunting and uncertain and the safety net and distraction of college life is gone. However, don't allow the path you chose to take in college dictate the steps you choose to take next. Also, don't allow other people’s paths to dictate how you feel about where you are in life. Easier said than done, but so important. Everyone has a different timeline and you must be patient with your own. There’s a fallacy that the growth happens in college, and you graduate with clarity for your path. That’s been anything but true in my experience. Personal growth is exponential, so it’s been important to me to keep learning about myself and the world around me, all while remembering to give myself grace.
Thank you for sharing your story, Raena.