Faculty Spotlight: What is Wellness?

As faculty and staff you are in a unique position to both promote your own wellness and promote the wellness of students. Promoting your own wellness is important in order to have a high quality of life, reduce the risk of illness, and help you perform your job duties to the best of your ability. Likewise, helping students promote their wellness is important because it will help them engage in the community more, perform to their best academically, and reduce stress.

According to the World Health Organization, wellness is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Simply put, wellness is the state of being in good physical and mental health. Wellness includes many facets:

  • Physical Wellness: maintaining a healthy body and seeking care when needed or when ill
  • Emotional Wellness: understanding your feelings and coping effectively with stress, seeking help for distress or mental illness when needed
  • Spiritual Wellness: developing a set of values that help you seek meaning and purpose, including spirituality and religion
  • Social Wellness: developing healthy relationships, performing social roles effectively, building a social support network
  • Intellectual Wellness: engaging with new ideas openly, continuing to expand your knowledge, participating in academic activities
  • Environmental Wellness: respecting the earth and nature, maintaining a lifestyle that minimizes harm to the environment
  • Occupational Wellness: finding a good fit between you and what you are called to do, appreciating your own contributions, and satisfaction with your work

All of these facets together comprise wellness, and striking a balance between them all can be difficult. Many people find that they focus on one or two facets and neglect the rest. For example, faculty and staff may tend to prioritize intellectual or occupational wellness over physical, emotional, or spiritual wellness. More information on the different facets of wellness and how to nurture each can be found here.


Welcome back to Wellness!

A new school year means new classes, new friends, new housing, new opportunities, and new challenges. It can be difficult to balance all of these new opportunities and stay healthy. The Wellness Initiative is here to help. This blog will provide weekly posts on various wellness topics to help you stay well, cope with challenges, and provide resources for help throughout the year.


One way to start the year with thoughts about your own wellness is to reflect about upcoming year and challenges you may face. Research shows that anticipating and planning for challenges is helpful in reducing stress when you do encounter those challenges. Here are some self-reflection questions that can help you plan for the upcoming year:

  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • What upcoming challenges can I plan for?
  • How do I handle negative situations? When these situations occur, how do I typically manage them?
  • What resources (people, activities, or things) could assist me in handling challenging situations?
  • How will I plan to focus on my strengths during challenging situations?

These questions can help you think about what challenges you may face this upcoming year. Thinking about challenging situations ahead of time will help you deal with them when they do come up. Welcome back to school and welcome back to wellness!

Faculty Spotlight: Students in Distress: Recognizing the Signs

Students show signs of distress in many different ways. Some common indicators of distress include:

Signs of Distress

Faculty and staff may feel concerned about students who exhibit any of these common signs of distress. Current research further suggests that students from different cultures may show other signs of distress. Among undergraduates at Seattle Pacific University, 34% are students of color and students come from 43 states and 17 countries. It is important for faculty and staff to be familiar with signs of distress among other cultures, in order to be able to help students who come from different backgrounds.

Some subtle signs of distress that may be demonstrated more often by students of color or students from marginalized groups include:

  • Somatization: Some individuals express distress through reporting physical symptoms rather than emotional symptoms; this may be particularly prevalent among cultures that emphasize a strong mind-body connection. Common somatic symptoms that may be reported are aches and pains, fatigue, and weakness.
  • Sleep Disturbance: Problems with sleep can be indicative of mental health problems and can exacerbate distress. Distress may be demonstrated through reporting difficulties with falling asleep, insomnia, or sleeping too much. Sleep disturbance can also impair students’ ability to stay alert and focus during class.
  • Fainting: Dizziness, fainting, or collapsing is typically thought to indicate a medical problem. However, in some cultures, fainting may be related to mental health problems and distress.

It’s important to remember that each student is unique and may show signs of distress that are congruent with their culture or in another way. If you notice that a student may be showing signs of distress, talk to them to provide support and determine if more services are needed. More on talking with students can be found here.



Faculty Spotlight: Sunshine and Mood: Does Vitamin D Boost Mood?

Summer is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine. People tend to have elevations in mood during the summer, too. In fact, getting sun exposure has been linked to reductions in anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder. Urban lore suggests that Vitamin D is the active ingredient in the relationship between sun exposure and elevated mood. Many researchers have investigated this connection and here’s what they found:


  • Vitamin D and mental health problems: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, seasonal affective disorder, and schizophrenia.
    • Vitamin D may improve your brain’s ability to produce serotonin, which has been implicated in a number of different mental health conditions, including mood disorders.
  • Vitamin D and sunlight: Sunlight produces both UVA and UVB radiation and is a natural source of Vitamin D. Specifically, the skin is able to synthesize Vitamin D in response to UVB radiation exposure. Due to the risk of skin cancer, many people where sunscreen, which blocks UVB radiation from the skin. This prevents the skin from being able to produce Vitamin D.
    • The World Health Organization recommends 5-15 minutes of sunlight, two to three times a week in order to keep your Vitamin D levels up.
    • Others prefer to take Vitamin D supplements, which can be found at local grocery stores.
  • Does increasing Vitamin D lead to decreases in mental health problems? Research shows mixed results about the relationship between Vitamin D and mood disorders.
    • Some studies show that people with mood disorders have benefited from taking Vitamin D supplements, while others found no evidence of a connection between Vitamin D levels and depression symptoms.
    • Others have shown that taking Vitamin D supplements is more effective in alleviating seasonal affective disorder than increasing light exposure.
    • The Mayo Clinic gave the evidence supporting Vitamin D supplements as a treatment for depression a “C” grade, indicating that the scientific evidence supporting this use is unclear.
    • Aside from Vitamin D’s effect on mental health problems, it serves important functions in your body, like maintaining normal levels of calcium and promoting strong bones.


Should I be focusing on increasing my Vitamin D levels by being out in the sun?  Maybe.  Increasing your Vitamin D level won’t help everyone. For some people helping your body produce Vitamin D will help boost mood. For other people, being outside and being active through sports, hiking, or exercise will likely help boost your mood through other means, such as generating endorphins.  As you enjoy the rest of summer, make sure you keep track of how much time you spend in the sun, and wear sunscreen if you’re out for more than 5-15 minutes to protect against the risks of skin cancer.


Vitamin D

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:


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:



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


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?


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


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.