What is Wellness?

It's almost a new school year! You’ve jumped through the hurdles of getting into college, figuring out financial aid, where you’re going to live, and you may have already signed up for your fall classes. You’ve taken care of all the logistics of getting yourself to college and this stage of your life – but are you taking care of you?

The SPU Wellness Initiative is here to provide you with information and resources to help you succeed at SPU. Wellness includes physical, emotional, spiritual, social, intellectual, environmental and occupational wellness. From helping you figure out how to navigate mental health, academic stress, and how to maintain healthy eating habits to managing procrastination and planning for the future. Throughout the school year there are weekly posts on various topics posted here and on our Facebook for you to check out.

As September gets closer you may be feeling the upcoming stress as you transition into the identity of a college student. You’re going to start new relationships, take on responsibilities, and navigate many new experiences. What are some ways you can manage this transition?

  1. Set realistic expectations while you transition
    • Yes, you will want to get straight A’s, be involved in on-campus activities and attend social events. Try to set realistic expectations and goals. You don’t have to be perfect and we all know FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing.
  1. Be kind and treat yourself
    • Try to take an hour a day to unwind – close your laptop, put away that heavy textbook and do an activity you enjoy. You might feel selfish for not spending 24/7 studying, but your brain will thank you later.
  1. Plan ahead and be mindful of your time
    • One of the simplest ways to combat academic stress is to plan ahead. Jotting down when your next test is coming up or when the next social event is will save you a lot of time and worry later on. Being mindful of how you’re spending your time will also help prevent the dreaded phenomenon of procrastination.

Taking time to think about how you can better take care of yourself will pay off in the future and will make your college experience more enjoyable. Here's to a new academic year and one with a focus on wellness!

 

Technology-Based Mental Health Resources

Mental health problems are prevalent on college campuses. As technology continues to expand into almost every corner of our culture, the mental health field has also began to embrace technology as a method to reach those in need of support for mental health problems. Technology-based mental health services can be a helpful option for students who need support and are not ready to try traditional counseling, may be on a waitlist for counseling services, or may prefer getting support via their smartphone.

Research suggests that technology-based interventions for mental health show promise among college students for improving depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress. A brief search in your App Store can quickly show that there are many different kinds of resources aimed at helping with a wide range of mental health problems. There are Apps that allow you to text with a therapist and others that provide mood tracking or relaxation services.

If you are interested in trying out some of these services, here are some resources to get you started:

Mental Health Awareness Month: Spotlight on Stigma

Stigma against mental health can lead college students who are struggling with mental health problems to feel ashamed and prevent them from seeking the help they need. Stigma refers to negative attitudes toward, and misperceptions or stereotypes about people with mental health problems. Research shows that about 50% of students with mental illness do not talk about their mental health problems. One of the top reasons they cite for not disclosing their struggles is fear of stigma or that it would change how they were perceived and treated by others.

There are many different types of stigma that students encounter. Self-stigma is the self-blame and negative beliefs about oneself due to mental health problems. Public stigma are the myths and misinformation about people with mental health problems that leads to negative attitudes in the general population. Label stigma is when a person’s whole identity is assigned to a diagnostic label. An example of label stigma is saying, “She’s bipolar” because it is equating someone’s identity with a mental health problem. Stigma by association is the experience of feeling stigmatized because you are close to someone who has a mental health problem.

Since stigma against mental illness can negatively impact students who are struggling, their loved ones, and the larger community, it’s important to think about different ways we can combat the stigma. Here are some ways that you can lessen the stigma of mental illness:

  • Talk openly about mental health – mental health problems are widespread, and keeping them a secret contributes to feelings of shame
  • Educate yourself and others about mental health
  • Be conscious of language – many people get labeled as “crazy” or “psycho,” which can be hurtful for people struggling with mental illness
  • Show empathy and compassion towards those who are struggling
  • See the person, not the illness
  • Get involved in advocacy efforts to end stigma and promote mental health

You can make a big difference towards ending stigma and promoting a healthier community!

Mental Health Awareness Month: Asking for Help Effectively

We all go through times that are difficult, whether we are feeling overwhelmed by school, dealing with relationship conflicts, or feeling anxious or depressed. During those times, it can feel hard to ask for help. Some people say that they don’t ask for help or support because they are worried about being a burden on someone else, being rejected, or appearing weak. Others say that they don’t ask for help because they are afraid of admitting they are out of control.

It can be helpful to remember that everyone needs support sometimes, and that it’s ok to ask for help. Consider how you would feel if your friend asked for help. You would likely be happy to help your friend, and it might even strengthen your relationship. Another reason that many people don’t ask for help is because they aren’t sure how to ask for help effectively. If you notice that you are struggling, here are some ways to effectively manage the situation:

  1. You can try to cope on your own. Sometimes all you need is to use your emotion regulation skills to feel better.
  2. If you coping on your own doesn’t work or isn’t enough, try distracting yourself with other people. Identify 2-3 people you can call, text, or hang out with to distract yourself, and get your mind off your problems.
  3. Ask for help from family or friends. Identify a family member or a close friend who you can trust. It should be someone who you can ask for help coping with your problems.
  4. Sometimes you need more help, and in that case, you can seek professional help. Some helpful resources are:
    1. Counseling Center
    2. Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255)
    3. Finding a therapist in Seattle
  5. If you are in crisis, you may need immediate assistance. In that case you should call 9-1-1 or Campus Safety (206-281-2911). Another step you can take is to make your environment safer. If you are feeling suicidal, remove things from your room, apartment, or house that you could use to harm yourself with.

Remember, we all need help sometimes, and whatever the problem is, you can do things to help yourself, or ask for help from people you trust.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Spotlight on Suicide

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among college students in the US, with over 1,000 suicides on college campuses each year. Beyond those who die by suicide, many more have experienced suicidal thoughts. Research suggests that 1 in 10 students report having suicidal ideation.

Some of the risk factors for suicide among college students, include depression or another mental health problem, a past history of suicide, impulsivity, loss of a social network, loss of a relationship, and being in a new environment. Many students also experience college level academics as more demanding, and may have decreased academic performance and subsequent feelings of failure. Substance use increases risk for suicidal behavior, and male students are more than two times more likely to die by suicide than female students.

Suicide on college campuses is a major problem and should be taken seriously. There are some protective factors that students may have, including:

  • Supportive social and family network
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to cope and regulate strong emotions
  • A positive view of the future
  • Religious or cultural beliefs that discourage suicide
  • Access to mental health care

If you are worried about a friend or classmate who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out to offer support. Here are some things you may consider when reaching out:

  • Express your concern – try saying “I’m worried about you”
  • Don’t be afraid to ask about suicide directly. Asking a friend about suicide won’t increase their risk of suicide.
  • Listen, show interest, offer support, and take it seriously.
  • Don’t promise to keep secrets – always seek more support when needed
  • Help your friend find assistance
    • Talk with your RA
    • Counseling Center
    • Campus Safety (206-281-2911)
    • Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255)
  • If your friend is in imminent or immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or campus safety

Mental health problems are treatable, and suicide is preventable. Supporting your friends and classmates and connecting them with help goes a long way to preventing suicide.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Spotlight on Anxiety

Among college students, rates of anxiety are high, and according to some studies, may be even higher than the rates of depression. Anxiety is typically viewed as a reaction to stress or uncertainty – and college students experience a lot of stress and uncertainty. In the short term, anxiety is adaptive and helps us overcome the immediate challenge, like a midterm or final or big presentation. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to escape from the onslaught of stressors during college, when you have academic stress, social stress, and maybe even family stress to deal with.

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, and small to moderate amounts of anxiety can help motivate us to perform well, remain cautious, and prepare for upcoming challenges. However, when feelings of intense fear, anxiety, or nervousness are overwhelming, they may interfere with our day-to-day lives and become problematic.

In addition to the feelings of fear or anxiety, many people also experience physical changes related to anxiety. These can be muscle tension, restlessness, pounding or racing heart, shortness of breath, upset stomach, sweating, tremors, headaches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal distress.

If you notice that you are starting to get overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety, there are some simple things you can do to counteract your symptoms. Check out some of our previous posts on tips for managing stress:

For some students, using these stress management and relaxation strategies will help relieve their anxiety. Other students may need additional support to deal with their anxiety. If you need support for anxiety, consider making an appointment with the counseling center, or joining one of their groups.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Spotlight on Depression

This month we celebrate Mental Health Month! Mental health problems impact about 1 in 5 Americans, and on college campuses those numbers are even higher. The good news is that there is help available for many mental health problems, and students with mental health problems are able to succeed in school and in their lives after college. Mental Health Month is all about raising awareness and reducing the stigma associated with mental health problems. This month, the blog will focus on raising awareness about common problems students experience and examining the stigma associated with mental health.

One of the most common mental health conditions that college students report is depression. Approximately 27% of students nationwide say that they are living with depression. Depression is a mood disorder that is more than just having a bad mood every once and a while. There are many symptoms that students experience differently.

Women and men may also experience depression differently. The rates of depression are typically higher among women compared to men. Women who experience depression typically endorse the symptoms of sadness, worthlessness, and guilt. On the other hand, men are more likely to report feeling very tired, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and loss of interest in previously-enjoyed activities. Some research has found the cultural pressure to act “manly” and not show self-doubt or sadness may account for this difference. The sadness that some men feel may come out as anger and irritability instead.

Here are some of the common signs that you may notice in yourself or a friend:

  • Avoiding regular hobbies, and instead gravitating towards activities that require little effort, like TV, video games, or surfing the web
  • Sleep changes or difficulties – this can include not being able to fall asleep, waking up many times during the night, waking up early, or sleeping during the day
  • Eating changes – some people eat more, and others eat less
  • Anger or irritability
  • Expressing negative thoughts
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Aches and pains that won’t seem to go away

Knowing the signs of depression may help you know whether you or someone you care about may be struggling. If you are worried about someone, try reaching out to them to offer support. You may also consider making an appointment with the counseling center.

 

Abusive Relationships

Abusive relationships and dating violence are a widespread problem on college campuses. 43% of college women report experiencing violent or abusive dating behavior, and 52% report knowing a friend who experienced violent or abusive dating behaviors. An abusive relationship is a pattern of behaviors used to maintain power and control over a partner. It can be emotional, financial, sexual or physical. Often threats, isolation, and intimidation are used. Technology is another major method that abusers can use to abuse or harass their partner. This can include:

  • Monitoring their partner’s email communication
  • Sending repeated emails or texts
  • Using social networking sites to get information about their partner and to monitor their partner’s messages and friendships
  • Using GPS devices to monitor their partner’s location

Abuse can happen to anyone, regardless or gender, age, sexual orientation, race, or economic background. It’s important to know the warning signs:

  • Checking your cellphone or email without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Extreme jealousy, insecurity, or possessiveness
  • Explosive temper or mood swings
  • Isolating you from family or friends
  • Making false accusations
  • Telling you what to do or pressuring you to have sex

People stay in abusive relationships for many different reasons. Some people experience conflicting emotions about abuse, including fear, embarrassment, and love. There may also be social or cultural pressures that influence people to stay in abusive relationships. Others may rely on their abusive partner for financial support or feel helpless in their situation.

There are things that you can do to help support a friend who is in an abusive relationship:

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend who you are worried about. Help your friend recognize that abuse is not normal and is not their fault
  • Be supportive and listen without judging
  • Physical safety is a big priority – tell your friend if you’re worried about their physical safety and help them develop a plan for what to do
  • Make sure your friend knows they are not alone
  • Help your friend locate resources

If you are worried about your own or a friend’s imminent safety, call Safety and Security (206-281-2911) or tell your Resident Life Coordinator. If you are struggling in an abusive relationship, know that you are not alone and that there are resources that can help. These resources may help you receive anonymous support, and if you feel safe doing so, make an appointment with the Student Counseling Center.

 

 

Keeping in Touch with Family and Friends

For many college students, starting college meant moving away from home. Some may have moved across the country, while others may have family and friends nearby. In either case, a lot of college students report that their relationships with family and friends shift somewhat after starting college. Some students say they feel anxiety about being “out of touch” or disconnected with their family and friends back home. Friends and family may also put pressure on you to keep in touch or show disappointment if you don’t call enough. The tension and balance between being present at college and keeping in touch with your family and friends back home can be a major source of relationship stress.

While it can feel lonely or scary to go through these relationship changes, it is a normal part of your development as a person. You are learning to be more independent, make new relationships, and become your own person. As you become more immersed in your college experience, you can decide how much contact feels right for you to have with your family and friends back home. Some may decide that calling home once every other week is enough for them, while others may communicate with far away family and friends on a daily basis.

If you do decide you want to stay in touch with family and friends, one of the biggest factors is making an effort to do so. Staying in contact with friends and family does not have to be a huge time commitment, especially in our age of social media. Texting, commenting on photos or posts, or sending Snaps can go a long way to maintaining relationships. Here are some other ways that you can keep in touch:

  • Send actual mail – receiving a letter, package, or postcard can feel like a treat!
  • Visit them or have them visit you
  • Teach your parents how to use social media – this may feel awkward at first, but it can help you stay connected without having to spend hours on the phone
  • Make time for both family and friends when you visit home

However much contact you decide to have with family and friends back home, do what makes sense for you. Trying to stay connected on a daily basis can work for some students, but create additional stress for others. If your family or friends are wanting more contact than is right for you, try setting boundaries about how much contact should be expected, and honor your commitments. This can help all parties involved feel a sense of ease because they know when or how often they will receive a call.

Talking to Professors

As students, we see professors nearly every day. Many students feel nervous and anxious about talking with professors or attending office hours. Having positive relationships with your professors can be quite beneficial. Students with positive relationships with their professors often have higher academic achievement and feel more connected to the school’s community. Furthermore, there may come a time when you need a letter of recommendation from your professor - having a positive relationship with them will help them write a strong letter for you.

So how do we get past the nervousness and talk to our professors? Here are some steps that can help you get started:

  1. Visit your professor during their office hours or make an appointment
  2. Use respectful communication, and honor relationship boundaries – you may become informal and friendly with your professors as you get to know them, but remember that it is a professional relationship
  3. Be prepared when you arrive
    1. If you have questions about the course material, try writing down your questions, so you’ll be sure to remember them.
    2. If you are having problems personally, academically, or otherwise, be honest with your professor. Your professor may be able to have some flexibility with you or be able to help you access resources.
    3. If you are going to dispute a grade, don’t make excuses, but come prepared to offer other solutions, like doing extra work, asking for help with the course material, or re-doing the assignment. Your professor may say “no,” but your commitment to learning may make a favorable impression on them, and you may end up getting some extra help.
    4. If you are looking for advice about how to exceed in a particular field, ask your professor with tips about how to do so.
  4. Your professors are regular people too, with interests, hobbies, and families. Ask your professor how they got interested in their field or to talk to you about their research.

And remember, many professors actually like talking with students and helping students enhance their learning. Check out more tips about talking to your professor here. Having a plan before you talk with your professor can ease some of the anxiety ahead of time, and the more you talk with your professors, the more comfortable you will become!