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


Art by Meg Quinn. Used with permission






Panic Attacks


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

Managing Test Anxiety

Test anxiety can happen to anyone, and it affects some people more than others. Some students sit down for a test and have their mind go completely blank and their stomach twist into knots. Test anxiety can occur for many reasons—fear of failure, past problems with tests, or even genetics. There are many different ways to cope with and overcome test anxiety- you can start before the exam.

  • Before exams:
    • Prepare yourself. This may seem obvious, but sometimes students confuse familiarity with deeper learning. Give yourself plenty of time to study and don’t wait until the last minute to try to cram. Set up a routine of good study techniques that work for you.
    • Get enough sleep. Staying up all night to cram, or a lack of sleep in general can have adverse effects on memory and overall well-being. Being exhausted will also affect your performance on the exam.
    • Eat well. This ensures that you have the energy to study and take the test.
    • Even light exercise during study breaks helps your mind focus on something other than schoolwork. Exercise also helps manage stress.
    • Be confident! Negative, irrational thinking might shake your confidence and self-esteem.
  • During the test:
    • Breathe! If you feel anxious, take a few slow, deep breaths.
    • Preview the test. Look through all sections and consider your time. Try to divide your time wisely.
    • Don’t rush. Take your time and make sure you check all answers before you turn in the test.
    • Focus on the test. Pay attention to what you are doing in the moment. Don’t start making assumptions about your grade or thinking that you are going to fail.
  • After the test:
    • Keep breathing. If you remain anxious and worried about your score, try to take more deep breaths.
    • Discussing test answers. Sometimes discussing test answers with peers can cause more anxiety if your answers don’t match. If you think talking to peers will cause more stress than relief, try to avoid it. Remember, your classmates don’t always have the correct answers.
    • Don’t globalize. Failing a test, or even getting a lower grade than you expect, does not mean you are a bad student or a bad person. There are ways to improve for next time.

If you find yourself struggling with test anxiety, or are having difficulty preparing for exams, SPU’s Center for Learning, located in Lower Moyer Hall, as many resources and staff to help you.


Be Well: Mindful Yoga- Mindfulness of Breath

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This week's Be Well: Mindful Yoga exercises focus on mindfulness of the breath. This introduction explains how mindful breathing helps us:

Here is the exercise. For downloadable MP3 files, please contact wellness@spu.edu

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety might easily be confused with shyness—however, social anxiety is an extreme fear of being judged or scrutinized by others in social or performance situations. The unique experience of college may result in increased feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and shyness that may lead to social anxiety disorder. Being socially anxious during college can have adverse effects on academic performance—it may be difficult or impossible to give presentations in class, participate in discussions, or be engaged with clubs and activities on campus.

Here are some common signs of social anxiety:

  • Intense fear of interacting with strangers
  • Fear of situations in which others may judge you
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Avoiding doing things out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attentions
  • Difficulty making eye contact or talking to people
  • Experiencing things like blushing, sweating, trembling, racing heartbeat, or upset stomach before or during social situations
  • Worrying so much that it disrupts your daily routine

For someone with social anxiety, their experience might look something like this:

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If you believe that you may be dealing with social anxiety, contact the Student Counseling Center for information on treatment options. There are several ways to manage and alleviate social anxiety symptoms.





Source: halfofus.com/social-anxiety-disorder

Be Well: Mindful Yoga- Body Inventory & Scan

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As part of the Be Well: Mindful Yoga program, we are able to provide audio files of the mindfulness and relaxation activities. These can be used to practice on your own at home. This week, we focus on taking a body inventory and body scan. These exercises are used to help us become aware of tension and stress in our body.

This is a more detailed description of the two exercises:

The next track includes the two exercises. For a downloadable MP3 version, please email wellness@spu.edu

What is Anxiety?

Stress and anxiety are seemingly very similar, but the differences between the two are important.  Stress is a natural response of the body. In small to moderate doses, stress can be motivating, though chronic can have adverse effects on the body. Stress comes and goes depending on daily events.  Stress can be managed through changes in work, activity level,  diet, and sleep.

Anxiety and anxiety disorders involve chronic, debilitating, and unprompted feelings of apprehension, nervousness, and fear. It is normal to experience some anxiety, such as before an examination or during a presentation. However, anxiety goes beyond the feeling of stress to a deeper sense of worry. It may continue beyond the initial event and spill over to other areas of life. When the worry and anxiety becomes overwhelming and interferes with daily living, there may be a problem that requires intervention. For example, you might be experiencing difficulty with anxiety if you worry so much before a test that you can’t study well, you worry while taking the test, and then you continue to worry afterwards that it distracts you from other work.

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We’ll be talking about more specific types of anxiety throughout April. If you have concerns about anxiety, you can contact the Student Counseling Center for help and more information.