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

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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.

BMI- Does it matter?

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BMI, or body mass index, was a measurement created to determine whether or not an individual is obese or overweight. Recently, however, more studies are showing that BMI isn’t such a great marker for health. BMI doesn’t take into account many important health behaviors such as exercise, nutrition, and sleep.  In some studies, many individuals classified as “overweight” by BMI standard were healthy by other measures, like glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, and blood pressure. Conversely, individuals with a “healthy” BMI were not found to be healthy via the same measures.

 

Even more importantly, medical professionals have found that evaluating children and adolescents using BMI could trigger eating disorders or disordered eating.

 

Many nutritionists and dieticians agree that there are better ways to measure health than just BMI. Here are some ways to determine if you’re on the right path that don’t have anything to do with BMI:

 

  1. Maintaining weight. Individuals should be able to fall into a biologically appropriate weight through exercise, adequate sleep, and intuitive, regular eating. If you’re constantly tired and hungry or exhausted from over-exercising, you may not be at a healthy weight.
  1. Proper nutrition. A restrictive diet is likely to cause someone to miss out on appropriate and necessary nutrients. It’s important to eat a range of foods—even desserts—as nothing is bad in moderation.
  1. Thinking about food too much. Being obsessed with eating or weight loss may have detrimental effects on many areas of your life. Moreover, thinking about food all the time may be a sign of malnourishment.
  1. Eating your feelings. Once in awhile, we might eat for comfort. For the most part, it’s not good to eat to deprive yourself of food for emotional reasons—like eating only a salad to feel in control. Food is meant to sustain you, not comfort your or prove how “good” you are.
  1. Exercise. There are many different ways to exercise, so even if you find that going to the gym is boring or makes you resent exercise, there are many other forms you can try. It’s important to find a method you enjoy, instead of suffering through something you dislike.
  1. Rules around food. When we construct rules around eating food, we move away from natural hunger cues from the body. Additionally, rules about food can lead to more serious problems.

 

Difficulties with Body Image

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Issues with body image and disordered eating are commonly thought of as problems that primarily affect women and girls. However, there has been an increase in the prevalence of difficulties with body image and eating disorders among men and boys. There are many important discussions surrounding male body image that should be addressed.

More and more in the media, male characters are portrayed with perfect physiques. This can negatively impact males’ perceptions of body image. It may also lead to misconceptions regarding weight and muscularity. Research has shown that many males believe that a lean, muscular body shape is the ideal body type. Failure to conform to this standard may lead to body dissatisfaction.

Males also take extreme measures to lose weight or obtain an ideal body. The rates of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa have been increasing among males. Even rates of disordered eating behaviors, like laxative abuse and fasting, are as common among males as they are among females.

Body image difficulties among men are highly stigmatized. There are many reasons for this. First, men are often looked down upon for talking about their concerns regarding their body and body image. Because issues with disordered eating are often viewed as female disorders, men dealing with such problems maybe be labeled as feminine. Additionally, men face backlash for seeking psychological help.

Healthy eating: How much is too much?

There’s a lot of pressure to make sure that the food you eat is “healthy,” but sometimes, focusing on eating healthy food can go too far. The obsession with and fixation on eating healthy food, known as orthorexia, can be dangerous. For some individuals, genuinely wanting to eat healthy may become a problem if the person becomes consumed with what and how much to eat, the quality and purity of food, and self-punishment when the diet is broken. The obsession with quality and purity of food can cause someone to continue to restrict the types and amounts of food until health begins to suffer—restrictive diets often cause nutritional deficits.

As with many disordered eating behaviors, an obsession with healthy food can lead to withdrawal from activities and interests and impairment in relationships. Some individuals focus their time solely on planning their meals and their food intake.

The line between health and obsession can be difficult to differentiate. Here are several signs that someone may be having difficulty with food:

  • Preoccupation with the purity or healthiness of foods
  • Avoiding foods that you label “unhealthy”
  • Spending a large amount of time per day researching foods and preparing “healthy” foods
  • Feeling guilty after you eat foods that are “unhealthy”
  • Engaging in exercise or food restriction after eating foods you deem unhealthy or impure
  • Judging others for their diets

 

 

 

 

Defining Disordered Eating

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New pressures in college, including increased responsibilities, workload, and focus on friends and decrease in structure, may mix with anxiety, poor self-esteem, and perfectionism. For some individuals, this may lead difficulties with body image and eating. Social pressures during college may cause someone to believe they need to look or act a certain way. Or, someone may turn to controlling their diet and exercise in response to the difficulties in college. There are many ways that someone might develop an eating disorder or disordered eating. Disordered eating is not a type of diagnosable eating disorder, but is a serious concern for college students. Disordered eating behaviors include fad dieting and “clean” or restrictive eating. There are some signs that someone may be developing disordered eating behaviors.

  • Talking about food. Someone that talks about food in a judgmental or obsessive way may be heading toward a controlling or unhealthy relationship with food. Food is a necessary part of a balanced life and is fuel for the body. Individuals struggling with disordered eating may obsess over healthy versus unhealthy food, calories, eating too much, or different types of diet.
  • Negative body talk. Along with many other aspects of life during college, bodies also may change. In conjunction with social demands, some people start to compare themselves to others and view their body negatively.
  • Altered behaviors. Because of the many ways disordered eating behaviors occur, not everyone will develop the same type of behaviors. However, difficulties with eating and body image may generally result in someone withdrawing from social events, wanting to be alone when eating, or increasing the time they exercise.

It may sometimes be difficult to recognize disordered eating behaviors: more often than not, peers deem these behaviors to be acceptable. However, statistics show that up to 35% of normal dieters progress to unhealthy dieting- of those, 20-25% of individuals develop a diagnosable eating disorder. Early intervention in the case of disordered eating could prevent severe illness later.

For more information, check out the resources available through the Student Counseling Center.

Faculty Spotlight: Disordered Eating & Body Image

Disordered eating and eating disorders are common issues on college campuses. Disordered eating can include excessive dieting, restricted eating, pre-occupation with food or weight, binge-eating, and/or purging behaviors. The majority of eating disorders onset before the age of 20—early identification of disordered eating behaviors are important before the illness spirals out of control. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates among mental illnesses, and can affect students academically, emotionally, and medically. There are common signs and symptoms that faculty and staff may notice:

  • Significant increases or decreases in weight
  • Statements suggesting distorted body image
  • Preoccupation with food, weight loss, or exercising
  • Regimented/unusual eating habits or secretive eating
  • Food restriction, bingeing, or purging behaviors
  • Excessive exercise
  • Social withdrawal
  • Low self-esteem
  • Perfectionism
  • Fatigue
  • Moodiness/irritability

Additionally, there are some prevalent myths about disordered eating behaviors that faculty and staff should consider. First, even students of normal weight may have disordered eating problems or poor body image. Next, eating disorders can affect both male and female students. Many times, eating disorders are thought to affect women only; however rates of eating disorders among men have been rising. Lastly, eating disorders are very complicated illnesses and treatment involves much more than just gaining weight. Proper treatment requires several medical and mental health professionals.

If you suspect that a student is struggling with disordered eating, please contact the Student Support Team. Resources on eating disorders are available at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

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Art by Meg Quinn. Used with permission

 

 

 

 

 

Panic Attacks

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Who experiences panic attacks? It’s possible to have a panic attack without being diagnosed with any anxiety disorder. It’s also possible to experience recurrent panic attacks when diagnosed with disorders like Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, or Obsessive Compulsive disorder. The symptoms of a panic attack vary from person to person, but common symptoms include the following:

  • Pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Feelings of shocking
  • Crying
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Feeling of being detached from yourself
  • Feeling like you’re losing control
  • Fear of dying.

 

Panic attacks normally seem to start “out of the blue” and last around 10 minutes, but some feelings and sensations may last for up to 30 minutes. Because of the increase in stress and changes in environment, routines, and social relationships that occur during college, college students are much more likely to experience a panic attack. Thus, it’s possible to experience a panic attack during college even if you’ve never had an issue with anxiety or panic before.

 

Dealing with a Panic Attack

Just as the symptoms of panic attacks are different for everyone, how individuals manage panic attacks are different. People that experience recurrent panic attacks may start to recognize the signs of a panic attack before it begins. Once a panic attack begins, there are some ways to manage that anxiety:

  1. Recognize the panic attack is happening
  2. Take deep breaths; try to keep your breathing from becoming shallow and rapid. For a guide on deep breathing, read here
  3. Relax and stretch your muscles.
  4. Talk through the anxiety and panic—remind yourself that it will be ok and the panic will end.

If you have concerns about having panic attacks, contact the Student Counseling Center.

Be Well: Mindful Yoga- Mindfulness of Thoughts and Feelings

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This week's Be Well: Mindful Yoga mindfulness exercises focus on feelings, emotions, and sensations. When we are mindful of our thoughts, emotions, and sensations, we aren't fighting against them or avoiding them altogether. This helps to reduce stress through acceptance and acknowledgement. Below is this week's exercise. If you would like a downloadable MP3, please email wellness@spu.edu