Faculty Spotlight: Self-Care

Working at a university carries many stressors: feeling overworked, dealing with high expectations, isolation, and pressure to perform. In addition, faculty and staff have stressors related to their personal lives to balance as well. All this stress can lead to serious mental health problems including anxiety, depression, and burnout. Some even turn to harmful coping strategies like abusing alcohol, overeating, or isolation and avoidance.

Developing your own self-care plan can provide you with strategies to keep your stress level manageable. Self-care refers to a wide range of tools and activities that you engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress, and maintain and enhance health and wellbeing. Sometimes self-care involves taking a break from work. There are a wide range of tools that can help you feel better and have been shown to reduce mental health symptoms. Here’s a brief list of ideas:

  • Exercise elicits the release of endorphins in the brain, boosting your mood. It can also help you build your social support network outside of work. Exercise has been linked to reducing depression, stress, and anxiety. If exercise is new to you, start slow and choose activities that you enjoy. Too much, too fast can lead to feelings of frustration and exercise burnout.
  • Religion and spirituality can help reduce stress by increasing your sense of purpose, your connection to the world, and expanding your social network. Religion and spirituality have also been linked to reductions in anxiety and depression. Take time in your schedule to incorporate a religious or spiritual practice, like prayer, meditation, or attending a church service.
  • Sleep management helps boost mood and improves memory. Make a plan to regularly get enough sleep (7-8 hours) by scheduling it based on what works for you. Night owls may consider avoiding early morning commitments, while early birds may consider avoiding late night commitments.
  • Healthy eating is an important way to maintain physical health, but it also improves energy, mood, and brain health. Eating a balanced diet has been linked to decreasing depression, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms. Regular consumption of food throughout the day can also prevent dips in mood. Scheduling meals and snack can help you get consistent nutrition throughout your day and can prevent overeating.
  • Hobbies, like crafting, cooking, music, or other interests, can help take your mind of the stresses of work. Participating regularly in a hobby has been shown to decrease risk for depression and dementia. Hobbies can be a great way to connect with others or take time for yourself. Find something you love to do.

These self-care strategies are just a suggested list of activities that may or may not work for you. Choose what works best for you and try to fit it into your schedule on a regular basis. This will help you maintain a balance – your life is more than your work. Neglecting your self-care can impair optimal functioning, so taking care of yourself will have a rippling effect in improving your work, too. Take time this summer to develop your own self-care plan! Tools and tips for developing your plan can be found at:

https://socialwork.buffalo.edu/resources/self-care-starter-kit/developing-your-self-care-plan.html

Faculty Spotlight: Emerging Adulthood

College students are at an interesting stage in their lives, in that they have surpassed their teen years but haven’t quite reached adulthood yet. To capture the uniqueness of this stage, psychologist Jeffrey Arnett called the time between ages 18 to approximately 25 “emerging adulthood.” During this time, college students face decisions regarding education, vocation, moving into the workforce, moving away from the family, and possibly, future marriage and parenting. Arnett defines emerging adulthood by five features: age of identity exploration, age of instability, age of self-focus, age of feeling in between, and the age of possibilities.

  • Age of identity exploration: individuals are trying to figure out who they are, what they want to do in life, and what their future looks like.
  • Age of instability: students are constantly moving around, with many changes in residence, employment, and relationships.
  • Age of self-focus: college students are also taking this time to focus on themselves, as they are no longer under parent or government direction, especially regarding school. They are focusing on their own knowledge and skills that they will need for adulthood.
  • Age of feeling in between: this new freedom is one of the reasons emerging adulthood is the age of feeling in between: individuals must start taking responsibility for certain aspects of their life but are not completely “adults.” Many will report the subjective feeling of being in a transitional period of life.
  • Age of possibilities: emerging adults are in a time of possibilities- they are optimistic about their futures even though not a lot as been decided for certain at this point in time.

These five features separate emerging adulthood from all other phases of life. There are both negative and positives to this life stage. It seems as if emerging adults are relying on their parents for a longer period of time, meaning it will take longer for them to become working members of society. Moreover, the many possibilities of this age makes it difficult for emerging adults to sort out all their opportunities, which may lead to increased rates of depression and anxiety. On the positive side, waiting to take on adult responsibilities allows emerging adults to focus on gaining knowledge and experience. Waiting to marry or make crucial decisions regarding work is also a positive, as judgment regarding such decisions will be more mature. To read more about this time period and the struggles emerging adults face, check out this excellent article:

http://www.acsd.org/article/helping-students-transition-into-adulthood/

 

Heading Home for Summer

As the Spring quarter ends, many students will be moving away from campus and back home. For some people, this change can be bumpy or confusing- dealing with your parents full time after months away, reuniting with friends who have had their own experiences, and different responsibilities. It may feel like an awkward in between time- parents may haves rules or restrictions that weren’t existent during college. Freshman especially may have a difficult time adjusting to this different dynamic.

Here are some ways to deal with this change:

  • Dealing with parents. Check in and see what your parents’ expectations are for you this summer and talk about your expectations for the summer. Are you going to be working? Planning on staying out late? Do your parents need you help out around the house? You may need to keep your parents aware of where you are going and when you get home safe. Starting the summer off on the right foot could set the tone for the entire break.
  • Getting a job. Switching from constant schoolwork to a summer job is likely a necessity for some people. For those that prefer a structured environment, a job over the summer can lessen the shock of moving back home. It may also be an opportunity to find a job, internship, or volunteer activity that will be a good addition to your resume.
  • Keeping in touch with college friends. Keeping in contact with your friends in school will make the transition back to school better. Let your college friends know if you miss them- they likely miss you.
  • Reuniting with high school friends. This may be the first chance you’ve had to sit down and really talk to your high school friends since you left for college. It’s likely that both you and your friends have had experiences that changed you in some way. Take this chance to talk with your old friends and learn what happened to them over the course of the year. Even if you don’t fit together perfectly as best friends, it may be a good learning experience.
  • Self-care. Summer is a great time to recuperate from the stress of the school year. Take time to get a normal sleep schedule, exercise, and eat well. It’s good spend time with family and friends, but make sure you can take time for yourself.

Regardless of whether this is your first move back home or your last, we hope your move and your finals go well!

World Eating Disorders Action Day

13301515_1183597165007485_5360518519362227735_o

Eating disorders, disordered eating, and issues with body image are complicated problems that do not develop over night. There are many misconceptions about how these problems do develop, but knowledge about risk factors can help with prevention and intervention. Risk factors can be classified by type: biological, psychological, social, and interpersonal.

Biological. Research has suggested that there may be biological or biochemical causes of eating disorders and disordered eating. For some individuals, certain chemicals in the brain that control signals of hunger, satiety, and digestion have been found to be unbalanced. Additionally, other research has shown that eating disorders run in families and there may be a significant genetic contribution.

Social. For both men and women, there are cultural pressures that may contribute to the development of eating issues. Presentations of bodies in the media support the idea that “beautiful” or the “perfect body” means needing to obtain a specific body weight or shape. Even racial or ethnic discrimination and prejudice may contribute to the development of eating disorders among persons of color.

Psychological. There are several pathways that may result in eating disorders, such as stress, depression, anxiety, feelings of lack of control or inadequacy, and low self-esteem.

Interpersonal. Difficulties with relationships with others may also cause individuals to develop difficulties with food and body image. A history of bullying or being ridiculed based on size or weight may also contribute to body image dissatisfaction.

There are many risk factors that contribute to eating disorders or disordered eating. These problems are complex and will not develop because of one risk factor alone. However, learning more about disordered eating, eating disorders, and body image can raise awareness and reduce some controllable risk factors, such as body dissatisfaction or self-esteem.