Fitting in Exercise

Unless you’re a student athlete, it can be hard to find the time and motivation to exercise. On top of juggling your academic responsibilities and deadlines, it’s starting to get colder and darker outside. While it might seem like extra work, exercise comes with many benefits – making it worthwhile!

Regular exercise is one of the best ways to help yourself manage stress. Stress is everywhere in college. Stress can contribute to feeling anxious and low. Stress can worsen physical symptoms too, leading to problems like shoulder tension, stomach upset, or headaches.

Exercise can help treat symptoms of anxiety, depression, and help boost overall mood. Research has found that exercise can not only reduce stress but improve alertness and concentration. Exercise can alleviate some of these problems by relieving tension, both physical and mental.  When you feel better, you can perform better – in and outside of the classroom.

What can you do to add or increase your exercise routine?

  • Set small goals to exercise a few times a week. The success of meeting small goals can motivate you to go after bigger goals, like longer and more frequent workouts. Check out these dorm-friendly workouts that only require a chair and a wall!
  • Attend a Be Well: Mindful Yoga class – these classes are every Monday night from 7pm – 8pm and FREE for undergraduates.
  • Make it fun! Going for a walk, a bike ride, a fall hike, or playing outdoor games with friends can be fun ways to squeeze in exercise, especially on the weekends.
  • Lastly, you can visit SPU’s fitness center to get a cardio workout or visit the weight room – open from 7am to 11pm!

Sleep & Diet Management

As Fall quarter starts, maintaining a healthy sleep and diet routine can be difficult. Academics and extracurriculars start to take priority. All-nighters and late-night snack runs start happening, and sometimes you even skip breakfast – all which can impact your success as a college student!

Your goal for sleep? Seven to nine hours a night. Here are a few tips to help you get that full night of rest:

  • You’ve definitely heard this before but limit screen time. Put your cell phone away 30 minutes before bed (crazy, I know) and try reading if you’re having a hard time sleeping.
  • Be careful of trying to “catch up” on sleep on the weekends. Unfortunately, this isn’t how sleep works, you can’t stock up on it for later.
  • If you’re having trouble sleeping try taking a hot shower before bed. Research has shown that this may trigger sleep.
  • Lastly, if you’re exercising (hopefully you are!) and you’re having difficulties falling asleep, try moving your work-out to earlier in the day.

According to Google, the top foods college students consume are pizza, fries, ramen, chips, and hamburgers. Considering you may be away from home for the first time or you’re in a dorm room, this diet makes sense and it’s tasty. What can you do to eat healthier?

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.