I can hardly believe I am graduating in a few days. My freshman year was four years ago, but it seems like yesterday. I’ve grown a lot in the last few years, and I often think about how I felt at the start of my degree. In this blog, I hope to share some ideas and resources that have helped me to not just ‘survive’ but thrive in college!
The importance of good sleep is old news on the RecWell blog - in fact I’ve already dedicated a whole post on how much of an effect poor sleep can have on one's life. This was something that I had struggled with in high school; come my freshman year I reached a point where I had to make a change.
I was formally diagnosed with insomnia and greatly appreciate the help of my doctor and counselor. It can be scary to walk into these spaces but understand that they are here to help you! Everyone should be sleeping at least 7 hours on a consistent schedule. In order to fix my sleeping patterns I set specific bed and wake up times. I also used sound-canceling headphones or white noise such as a box fan or the app BetterSleep along with techniques learned in my counseling sessions.
2. Get organized (and motivated).
A good planner can help you reach your academic and personal goals. This may be a physical planner or something online. I personally carried a notebook or daily planner then at the end of the day entered important due dates into a google calendar. My google calendar leads into the next and maybe most important point of this topic: motivation.
What motivates you to complete your work? For me, I loved to make things look aesthetically pleasing. I color-coded my google calendar, created Pinterest moodboards, and used studying websites such as LifeAt to keep myself motivated and organized. Explore different studying techniques - what works best for you?
3. Understand your relationships.
We make a lot of connections in our daily life. It can be hard to find where you fit in, or to figure out which relationships are actually a positive influence. It can be scary to put yourself out there or walk into new spaces. - but college provides us with so many opportunities to do so! Getting involved in a new sport, joining a club, or something smaller like turning to the person next to you in a class can lead to connections.
Sometimes you may have relationships that aren’t so positive. It is ok to set boundaries with people in your life, whether it’s a professor, a roommate, or a close friend. Not sure how? Our Wellness Coaches and Wellness Navigators can help!
4. Find what helps you destress.
College is stressful and can make it feel like everything is in a state of constant change. It’s easy, and well sucks, to just sulk in your room all day. What do you actually enjoy doing and learning about? There is rarely a better time than now to figure out what makes you happy. Get involved in the community, read a book (is it pretentious to link my goodreads?), or try a new workout. Maybe you just need to take a long bath! Whatever it is, make sure that you set aside time for yourself and your well-being. What was hard for me to grasp is that I can’t always please everyone and that it is perfectly ok to have time dedicated to ‘nothing’. I often wrote personal time into my planner.
So there it is: 4 tips for 4 years. I hope anyone reading this can find ways to improve not only their college experience but their overall well-being. Peace!
By: Stella Sterling, WIT Peer Educator
Hello all! This is Katie - taking on writing this spring break blog post so the WIT Peer Educators can take some time to rest, relax and refresh; to press pause if you will.
Is it just me or has this semester seemed really long already?
Now, I know you’re halfway through spring break, but I want to be sure you’re all getting some things done this week. It may seem counterintuitive to have a spring break to do list, but trust me… you’re gonna want to make sure you do some of these things!
Spend time with friends/family - Our social wellness has taken a hit during the pandemic. With more time spent in our rooms and in a virtual world, we’ve lost opportunities to just be in spaces with people. Take some time to be with people you like.
Sleep - Seriously, get some sleep! The WIT Peer Educators have plenty of blog posts on why sleep is so important if you need any reasons to sleep more.
Do something you enjoy - Haven’t read a book for fun in awhile? Haven’t binged the newest Netflix series? Whatever it is (cooking, painting, video-gaming, puzzling, crafting, running, hiking, fishing, dancing, driving, singing….). Now’s your chance!
Unplug - Getting away from technology, especially social media and the 24 hour news cycle can be super cleansing. Maybe go for a walk or call a friend instead?
Whatever you do for the rest of spring break, please take some time to rest.
By: Katie Jourdan, Student Health Promotions Coordinator (and a big fan of resting!)
Permanent link for Can Lack of Sleep Significantly affect One's Physical Well-being? on March 3, 2022
Spoiler: it can.
Have you ever woken up late and been unable to do everything you wanted to do in the day? Finding yourself staying up late on your phone watching Tik Toks? While these activities seem fun at the moment, they negatively impact more than just your energy, they can affect your body, too. Prioritizing your sleep routine can benefit your personal fitness goals!
Your body without sleep: Hungry!
While it is true that sleeping is our body’s way to rest up the brain, sleep gives a deep meaning to our body’s physical health as well. Previously mentioned in last week’s blog, neurotransmitters give our brain signals. Two of them, called ghrelin and leptin, tell our brain how hungry or full we are. A study done by the National Library of Medicine (NIH), tells us that a restriction of sleep, or sleep deprivation, can raise our ghrelin and leptin levels, causing us to get hungrier. The study also concluded that we tend to choose calorie-dense foods that are high in carbohydrates when we’re sleepy and hungry. Now, carbohydrates are really good for our body - they are our body’s preferred source of energy - but the problem is, the study shows we tend to choose fatty foods for our carb fix with lots of less healthy fats, such as pizza, donuts, fries, etc. when we do not get enough sleep.
Other ways sleep affects the body and your fitness goals
- Helps muscles rebuild at night (think muscle repair after a workout)
- Lowers blood pressure, giving your heart and blood vessels a break
- Increases motivation (which is important if you’re trying to stick to routine!)
- Supports your immune system
- Allows for a steadier blood sugar level in the deepest sleep (which helps lower risk of type 2 diabetes).
So if you’re lacking sleep, you’re missing out on all these benefits!
A step in the right direction
Reading all this, it may be overwhelming to think what is happening to your body with too little sleep, but you can make a change and get more sleep if you want! For example, I personally just found out about google calendar and now like to incorporate my sleep schedule into each day. Giving yourself an idea of when to go to bed and how much sleep you will get is very useful! And,the biggest piece of advice I have is setting a specific amount of time to put your phone away before bed. The Tik Tok video will still be there when you wake up. This has become especially helpful for me being, that I would always be on my phone late trying to chase the next helpful or funny video, but what I realized was, the most helpful thing I can do is go to sleep on time; because waking up late and having to risk missing a class is not the funniest thing in the world.
If setting up a calendar a week in advance or putting your phone away an hour before bed seems like too much, then take baby steps. Maybe just plan a day out. You can put your phone in a place where you cannot reach it before you go to bed. What can also help is figuring out how many hours of sleep your body needs. Testing different amounts of sleep and seeing how your body reacts can be handy. This gives you a plan for how many hours you want to set aside to sleep.
Sleep to access the gains
When you go to sleep early, it gives your body strength to take on the day! It leaves more time to cook, say yes to healthier food options, and even prevent obesity. Make sure to get the proper amount of sleep so that you can make the best choices for your body and chase after your fitness goals (or just feel better physically). For more information on the benefits of sleep, how to get better sleep, and sleep in general, be sure to check out our other blog posts about sleep.
By: Emilio Espinosa, WIT Peer Educator
I think we’ve all done it before: the mindless, endless scrolling when we get that spare chance to take a break from work or school. A few minutes of liking Instagram pics on the bus, or maybe a quick look at TikTok during lunch (with the realization that “oh crap!” it's actually been nearly an hour!). Sometimes if I’m in an awkward social situation I even pretend to be interested in my phone (wow, the weather app looks SO interesting all of the sudden). It adds up; so what are we losing to screen time?
Saying what most already know: technology and social media aren’t the best for us.
I look at my screen time and am always surprised by how much time I actually spend on social media. Yet I feel like I never have free time! I’m not alone in this. In a short survey I created last semester, I discovered that of the 45% of GVSU students that reported having no regular leisure time in their schedules, 62% also reported spending 1-6 hours each day on social media (some even said they spent 6-9 hours). It seems that many of us don’t consider social media as “leisure time”. Last year’s Unplugged blog by Sofia talked about how technology use can affect our physical and mental well-being. Today, I’d like to talk more about social media use and the need to constantly be checking our screens.
Screen addiction is a new concept; much of the science around it is from within the last 10 years. But here is something we are starting to realize: experts from recent studies say “the question of whether an adult, or a child, has a problem with technology can't be answered simply by measuring screen time. What matters most… is your relationship to it” (Kamanetz, NPR). Technology and social media use is linked to decreased psychological well-being, signs of addiction, and even physically changing your brain matter.
- Are you troubled, restless, or otherwise unhappy when unplugged?
- Is your technology or social media use increasing over time? Have you tried to limit yourself and been unsuccessful?
- Does your technology or social media use interfere with relationships, job, or school?
- Do you ever feel guilty about your technology or social media use?
If you answered yes to most of these questions you may be struggling with screen or social media ‘addiction’. It’s ok, many people are in the same boat. So what can you do?
What would you do right now if you didn’t have your phone or computer with you? Pretend like you don’t have responsibilities for a moment: the group chat isn’t blowing up, you aren’t waiting for that important email, that assignment isn’t due at midnight. What activities and experiences would you explore? This could be the time to revisit an old activity you used to love or try something new. When I was little I used to pull all-nighters in order to finish a book- I realized that in recent years I had essentially stopped reading for fun. Now that I limit my social media use, I found I truly do have the time to read (even if it’s just for a half-hour each night).
Here's what I did that may help you as well:
- Set screen time limits for some of your apps, especially the ones that are eating up most of your time or don’t make you feel good (hint: it’s probably the social media apps)
- Write blocks of time into your schedule where you can allow yourself to unplug. Often if I don't explicitly give myself time for leisure or unplugging, I don’t do it.
It doesn’t have to be reading. You could try a new workout, like yoga or kickboxing; pick up knitting; get lunch with a good friend (no phones at the table, of course). And try to resist the urge to constantly check your phone. I don’t think the world will end if you accidentally make eye contact with someone in public.
Speaking of eye contact, keep an eye out these next few weeks: I’ll be walking around asking GVSU students how they “unplug”. Share your answer with me and you could win an awesome Unplugged t-shirt from RecWell! Hopefully this gives you some inspiration to get off this webpage and try something new!
By: Stella Sterling, WIT Peer Educator
“Wellness” has become a bit of a buzzword lately. We’re bombarded with ads for wellness products, we see the term tied to fad diets, and we’re told to buy items in order to practice self-care. But, do we really need all of that to be well? Unfortunately, it feels like the word “wellness” is being used to market consumerism rather than what its true meaning is...
According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is a life-long journey; "a conscious, self-directed, and evolving process of achieving full potential.” And if you look even bigger, the Global Wellness Institute says wellness is “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.”
There’s no purchase necessary when it comes to wellness. (But, there may be some reading and learning!)
Nowadays, a lot of us want short and simple information that we can read quickly and keep scrolling. But, there are some topics that require just a little more attention than a social media post.That’s why our WIT peer educators are going to be writing blog posts this semester to dive deeper into topics of general wellness, nutrition, sexual health, and rest. All of these areas can help you on your well-being journey.
If you want to check out previous posts written by the team, we’ve got plenty on the RecWell blog already (you can filter the posts by topic!). This is also where the new posts will show up each week - or you can just click the link on our Instagram stories each week.
Follow along with us this semester as we focus on what wellness really means, how we can improve our lives, and why learning about these topics is so valuable!
By: Ryleigh Emelander, MPH Candidate, Health Promotion Assistant and Katie Jourdan, Student Health Promotions Coordinator
Many of us find ourselves in a revolving door of hustle and grind. School, work, life, repeat. There’s often little priority given to resting because rest can be seen as lazy and unproductive. But, research suggests that isn’t true. Just look to nature – even the trees and the plants and the soil and the animals take breaks to be the best that they can be. Yet, in the middle of an on-going pandemic, we continue to grind – but as the great Nap Bishop Tricia Hersey says – “You are not a machine. Stop grinding.”
What if instead we dilly-dally, daydream, rest, and play more?
Why the Grind Needs to Stop
Well, simply: We. Are. Burnt. Out.
85% of college students report being overwhelmed by everything they had to do at some point within the past year. 1 in 3 working adults feel burnout in the workplace. And for what? We lose $500 billion each year in lost productivity and 550 million working days due to stress on the job. It’s such a problem that the World Health Organization officially included burnout in its International Classification of Disease.
Our productivity doesn’t go up when we grind either. In fact - we are more productive when we rest. When we give ourselves a chance to slow down and take a break, our brains are sharper, we’re more creative, get more done in less time, make better decisions, prevent illness, and are able to review and reflect on our days. And, even if our productivity did go up when we were grinding - our pay hasn’t gone up, so why are we doing it if we haven't seen a return on investment?
How to Stop Grinding: Finding Balance to Avoid Burnout
One of the best ways we’ve found to avoid burnout and find balance in life? Set boundaries - with your friends, family and yourself. It can be hard, but with practice you will make time to: engage in self-care, find enjoyment, spend time on hobbies, connect with friends, get some exercise, sleep a little (or a lot) and so much more.
So, how do you set boundaries? Here are few tips:
- Seek help . Reach out to those that can help, including professors. They can give you tips for succeeding in their courses.
- Conduct a personal audit of situations, times, or people that cause you stress or anger. This helps you recognize these circumstances in the future so you can be prepared and have strategies already in place to help you cope.
- Choose and set clear limits for yourself. Many times the people that cross our boundaries the most are us. It’s vital that you determine what goals or activities are most important to you (like rest, exercise, family, cooking meals, getting good grades, etc) and keep them at the top of your priority list.
- You should communicate your boundaries with those around you, particularly those that are most likely to cross them. And, it’s important to let someone know when they’ve crossed one of your boundaries when they do it.
- Practice saying “no.” No’s tend to be super hard for people to say. So it’s important to practice saying no in low risk situations - like getting a coffee for example. When they ask if you want whipped cream with that…. no. Practice in front of the mirror - wherever, whenever so when you really want or need to say no you can.
- Use the 4 D system. When you make a to do list, determine if you are going to do it now, defer it to another time, delegate it to someone else (like if it’s a group project or if you’re in a student organization, etc), or drop it - and just decide it’s something you don’t have to do at all.
- Finally, prepare for pushback . People don’t often get told no or have people enforce boundaries (because we’re pretty bad at doing it as a society). So, know that others will likely react to you enforcing boundaries - this just means the boundaries were necessary. (Also, don’t forget, you are most likely to step over your own boundaries so be prepared to keep setting boundaries for yourself!)
Keep Pressing Pause
Our societal culture of hustle and grind is why Recreation & Wellness created the Press Pause campaign for Winter 2021 – a gentle reminder to give yourself a break. Remember, that it’s okay (and vital) to rest. Even a five minute pause in our days can lower our heart rate, loosen our muscles, increase immunity, improve sleep and digestion, and elevate our overall well-being. The semester is coming to an end and we know that stress and burnout will be even more pronounced. So, plan time to press pause and honor your boundaries. And - don’t forget to keep pressing pause into the spring and summer.
Wishing you a day (month, year, life) full of daydreaming, dilly-dallying, resting, playing, and contentment.
Want to learn even more? Request a WIT presentation about Finding Rest in the Grind.
By: Katie Jourdan, Student Health Promotions Coordinato
Picture this: You’re on the bus heading to class,
walking at the park, or waiting in line at the grocery store.
What do you notice? Every time I look up, it seems like everyone around me is on their phone. Sometimes texting, sometimes talking on the phone; but, usually just clicking from app to app to pass the time. Then, I usually look back down at my own phone - feeling guilty - but doing it anyway because everyone else is and I need a distraction. I think about all the times my mom would say things to me like “you probably have a headache from being on that phone all the time” in high school; and, while it annoyed me at the time, there’s probably some truth to that. I can’t help but wonder how it has really affected me growing up with technology and constant opportunities for distractions around me all the time. You might have wondered this too, so I decided to do the research so you don’t have to! Here’s what I found:
How Does it Affect Me?
- Some studies have shown that students not using their phone in the class wrote down 62% more information in their notes, were able to recall more information, and on average scored a full letter and half grade higher on an exam compared to those on their phones.
- Excessive phone and internet usage is also linked to anxiety, which is concerning when more than 45% of teenagers report being online “almost constantly.” College students like us are following similar trends.
- Not to mention, spending too much time on the phone is actually linked to feeling more lonely - the opposite of what it is supposed to be doing.
- Americans spend an average of 7 hours on technology. These numbers are increasing exponentially.
- Constant technology usage can also cause eye strain, headaches, fatigue, and decreased creativity.
Of course, with online learning and remote work, stepping away can be difficult (and impossible to completely avoid) and not all internet usage is bad. But it’s important for us to think about when it might be best to take a break from social media to rest. But what can we do to unplug?
Finding some time to disconnect, even for a little bit during the day, can improve your mood and overall health. This article gives a few great examples of how taking time to unplug can be beneficial. Taking time to unplug can mean different things for different people, whether it’s exercise, journaling, meditation, or spending time with friends and family. For more benefits about unplugging, be sure to check out the Press Pause campaign’s page for Unplugged, this month’s theme. Be sure to follow us on social media at @GVSURecWell for more information and giveaways related to unplugging. We encourage you to take some time to rest, relax, and find some time for yourself this month by spending some time unplugged.
By: Sofia Hessler, WIT Peer Educator
Work, Work, Work
Whether it’s a job, college classes, volunteering, or a combination of all three, it’s no secret that Americans love to work. In fact, we have become so invested and focused on the hustle and grind of everyday life that many of us hardly get a break. Taking breaks is even frowned upon in many workplaces and academic settings. You’ve probably heard the saying “the grind never stops” but this concept doesn’t only apply to those in the workforce; sometimes, it can be even harder for us as students to rest. There is always something we should be doing. Even if we finish all of our assignments, we are told that we should at least still be studying. While many of us remain focused on the grind and a constant hustle, Americans tend to suffer from extremely high rates of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. As college students in the U.S., rates of anxiety and depression have continued to increase over the past few years and these rates have changed drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a study from Texas A&M, researchers found that 71% of students are experiencing increased stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 outbreak (Son et al., 2020).
With many of us having to transition to working and learning from home, we have to ask ourselves, “what can I do to rest and take care of myself?” No, not just sleep, but rest. What do you do to unwind or disconnect from work?
How Can I Rest?
As Elizabeth Gilbert describes in Eat, Pray, Love, “Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma...Americans don’t really know how to do NOTHING.” When was the last time you were able to press pause on life and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee alone, or go for a walk with no purpose, or doodle and daydream? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves. Instead of replaying our to-do lists in our heads 24/7, we can take some time to get better at doing absolutely nothing. But what are the different types of rest and how do we do it?
Physical rest: Sleep of course! As college
students, we tend to struggle with this (especially around finals
week). Getting enough sleep (and maintaining a healthy sleep
schedule) is so important for our mental and physical health.
Research shows while college students are rarely getting enough of
it, we need it to maintain learning and memory skills. Creating a
sleep ritual can be helpful for some people as well (
more). Aside from sleeping, taking breaks throughout the
day, especially with spending the day sitting at our computers, restorative
yoga or stretching breaks can help relieve physical stress.
Mental rest: Begin with distinguishing activities
as rest or entertainment. Does this activity allow you to relax and
recharge? Or is it just entertainment to distract you? I know how
easy and tempting it is to spend hours mindlessly scrolling through
Instagram, Tik Tok, or Twitter, but it can also be overwhelming. We
constantly have ads thrown at us and it can become mentally
exhausting comparing ourselves to others on social media. Instead,
meditation and practicing mindfulness is a great way to rest and
relax. If you struggle to meditate on your own, there are lots of
free meditation resources on YouTube or free apps like HeadSpace (P.S. students
can get a year-long
premium subscription for $9.99 instead of the usual
$69.99!). Research shows that meditation can have positive
effects on both physical and mental health (
Emotional rest: It’s no secret that this year has
been emotionally draining on all of us, but you don’t need to deal
with it alone! Find a friend you can confide in or consider
counseling. GVSU’s Counseling Center offers a variety of counseling
services and resources.
Social rest: Take time to unplug for
just a few minutes a day. Even committing to not looking at your
phone in the first hour after you wake up may help disconnect and
let you recharge your mind. Or, take some time away from your phone
while walking to class, riding the bus, or eating. Whether you’re an
introvert or an extrovert, we can all benefit from unplugging once
in a while.
- Creative rest: Unplug and take a walk in nature or read a book you like. Mindlessly scrolling can not only take a social toll but a creative one as well (read more ). Not only does spending time in nature improve health, but it can improve creativity too!
Pressing Pause at GVSU: Rest. Relax. Refresh.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, RecWell is here to help! This year, we created the Press Pause campaign for all of us. We recognize that rest looks different for everyone. The goal of Press Pause is to provide resources and educate about the importance of rest and the different ways we can improve our health via rest. Each month of Press Pause will be dedicated to a different aspect of rest- and we want to interact with you! We will be posting a series of social media and blog posts, as well as hosting events throughout the year promoting rest. To interact with us, make sure to follow us on Instagram at @GVSURecWell, on our website, and check our blog posts! Be on the lookout for future updates, including a series of giveaways on our social media.
Above all, make time to “press pause” like you make time for work and commit to it. As we begin nearing the end of our long (and well deserved) holiday break, we encourage you to take some time to recharge and think about how you can incorporate rest into your everyday life. It’s not always easy and it often takes a conscious and intentional commitment to do absolutely nothing, but your health and happiness will thank you later.
By: Sofia Hessler, WIT Peer Educator
Source: Effects of COVID-19 on College Students’ Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study