As students, we are expected to read and read often. Many of us are drowning in textbook chapters, novels, articles, and wordy Blackboard discussion posts. While this reading is of course crucial to our educational endeavor, it can lead to huge reading burnout. Over winter break, I picked up a young adult romance novel and realized just how much I missed reading for enjoyment. It got me thinking about how I’ve learned to approach reading as a college student– I don’t unless I have to and when I do, I am skimming– part because I don’t have time to read, but part because I’m uninterested. A lot of people who came to college as bookworms have lost that part of themselves underneath all of the content– but it’s so important to win that part back. Others, maybe were never into reading– that’s okay too. But there’s so much more to reading once you get beyond the annoyance. Reading is like sex– especially if you’re reading erotica– everyone has yucks and yums and all are valid. There is a lot of reading material out there for everyone’s interest in well-being. We’ll dive more into this later.
Reading for relationship-building
There are a lot of published studies that highlight the importance of reading for mental wellness and intellectual wellness. Many of us have heard of reading to reduce stress and anxiety in addition to improving cognitive outcomes (check out this article that explores some of this!) However, one perk of reading that does not get emphasized enough is the benefit of reading for our social life; cracking open a book can improve social wellness! Reading perspectives that are similar and dissimilar to ours helps us improve our ability to communicate with others as well as build a foundation for solid values and understanding one another. One study concluded that reading “includes learning more about yourself and others; learning how to understand, empathize, and interact with other people; gaining insight into your and others’ relationships; and generally helping with personal problems” (https://journals.ala.org/index.php/rusq/article/view/4099/4667).
An additional option for exploration is book clubs! One study found that “A sense of belonging was achieved between students with a variety of differences and
disagreements. The sense of belonging extended to multiple contexts, deepening understanding and accountability within the academic and social aspects of learning” (Petrich 11).
Book clubs serve as an opportunity for social interaction while also creating a shared interest for discussion to break the ice. If you’re interested in joining a book club, there is a student organization Book Club. Find out more information on laker link. A lot of bookstores and coffee shops also host book clubs- keep your eyes peeled for fliers when you’re there!
Let’s Talk About Sex (In Literature)
So, speaking of erotica, let’s talk about sex. We live in a culture, and a geographical space, where sex is taboo. As a peer sex educator, I feel perfectly comfortable talking about sex and sex education- but I also acknowledge that there is stigma. Not everyone is having sex and not everyone wants to and that is so valid! For those wanting to explore sex and sexuality while remaining abstinent, one of the best places to go is literature. Of course, there are educational texts out there that include diagrams of penises and vulvas which are great to learn about anatomy, but there is so much more available than what we might’ve been taught in sex ed. There’s a huge variety of content that covers sex and sexuality such as romance novels, erotica, online fanfiction*, books that explore the psychology of sex and relationships, books about sexuality, and the iconic category that is “ah! Horny Vampires!” (looking at you Twilight and Dracula). Reading about sex and sexuality as an alternative to engaging in sex is great for protecting against STIs and pregnancy. When combined with sex, reading material like erotica can spice things up.
Check out some benefits of reading erotica: https://hellogiggles.com/erotica-benefits/
Self-proclaimed sexologist Lucy Rowett shares some books that led her to become a sexologist: https://lucyrowett.com/top-10-books-influenced-me-sexologist-purity-culture/
*Please be advised that fanfiction is a very broad genre and may be confusing to navigate. Often, there are fanfiction websites with special search engines that allow you to explore what you’re looking for. Search safely (and clear your browser history).
Finance literature may be an intimidating genre for many college students. However, there is a lot of information out there that does apply! While we may not care to learn about 401ks and savings bonds, doing some research on budgeting, how to use a credit card, and navigating student loans may be beneficial. One great resource if you’re looking for a shorter read is the Federal Student Aid webpage. The Federal Student Aid webpage contains a lot of information specific to students and offers different resource links for further reading and research!
There’s a lot of stuff out there to read! Instead of scrolling through Tiktok, consider looking for some reading materials- whether it be a full-length novel, an article, or a blog post (such as the WIT blog series). Read on!
By: Rowan, WIT Peer Educator
Posted on Permanent link for Reading for Wellness on February 15, 2024.
Living a healthy and long life is something that many of us aspire to do. The average lifespan for someone living in the United States is about 77 years (according to the CDC). Quality versus quantity of life is also an important aspect to consider for this conversation. There is one location in the United States that stands out compared to the rest of the U.S.. Loma Linda, California is one of five locations throughout the world that is categorized as a Blue Zone. People in Loma Linda live up to ten years longer than the national average and people in Blue Zones typically live to 100 years. So let’s have an overview as to what makes the Blue Zones so unique.
The Power Nine
The Blue Zones were discovered and named by explorer and journalist Dan Buettner. Buettner identified the five Blue Zones- Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and Nicoya, Costa Rica. Nine elements that these five locations have in common include:
- Movement; through everyday activity
- Purpose; having your “Why”
- Relaxation; taking time for yourself
- Eating to 80% fullness; not eating to uncomfortable fullness
- Rarely eating meat; prioritizing a plant-based diet with whole grains, beans, vegetables, nuts and seeds with the occasional fish or other meat
- Moderate drinking habits; especially within a social setting by having a glass of wine
- Community; belonging to a faith-based community or other communities that share interests or values
- Importance of family; being close to parents, grandparents, or lifelong partners
- Social belonging; your social circle or group of friends
In other words, the Blue Zones prioritized daily movement, a balanced diet and having a social circle to promote belonging and community. I can also see there is a general theme of low stress and overall enjoying life and the day-to-day activities a person does. The people in Blue Zones emphasize the importance of not getting stressed about the little things.
In the United States, there tends to be a culture that revolves around a ‘hustle and grind’ mentality, which is almost a polar opposite to the Blue Zones. Individuals in the Blue Zones also enjoy working. The work they do gives them a sense of community and purpose, not something that they need to do in order to be viewed as ‘productive’. The work they do also prioritizes their community and social circles to benefit the people around them. Finding a career that truly brings you joy and purpose can bring you one step closer to living like those in the Blue Zones.
These individuals eat and share a balance of eating what is healthy for one’s body but also fully enjoying the food. Eating fresh food that is in an abundance of plants and limited processed foods is a staple. Green leafy vegetables, beans, whole grains, and the occasional meat or fish is common. Meals are also centered around community and family as well, which emphasizes the importance of these connections. Through the majority of these Power Nine elements, the aspect of others and social wellness is something to make note of. Family, friends and community is what likely gives the Blue Zones its advantage towards longevity.
By: Claire, WIT Peer Educator
Posted on Permanent link for The Blue Zones on February 8, 2024.
In case you didn’t know (just like I didn’t), January is Self-Love Month! What could be a better way to start off the new semester than that, huh? But, just because January’s almost over, that doesn’t mean you should stop practicing self-love during the rest of the year! For some of you, you might have self-love locked down. For others, it might be a bit harder. Either way, we’ve got some helpful tips and activities that’ll help you nurture and flourish the love you have for yourself.
What is Self-Love & What Does it Look Like?
Although it might seem obvious, let’s define what self-love really means. Self-love means having an appreciation of your worth; and having concern for, and giving attention to, your own happiness and well-being. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, though. I know that I’m definitely guilty of putting the happiness of my friends and my partners before my own. It is a good thing to be selfless and put the needs of others first, but not when it’s at the expense of your own well-being. You deserve to be appreciated and happy. And no one else can truly appreciate you better than yourself.
So, we know what self-love is, but what does it look like? Well, self-love looks like taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially. Simply put, practicing self-care can develop the love you have for yourself. Self-care encompasses the actions and practices that you take to support your overall well-being.
How To Develop Self-Love Through Self-Care
The first step in practicing self-care is to know yourself and your body. Start by taking a moment to recognize how you feel after engaging in specific activities like sleep, exercise, spending time with friends, a favorite hobby, or a night out partying. Which activities seem to drain you? And which feel like they rejuvenate you? Do some of them give you energy only for a certain amount of time before becoming draining? Knowing what makes you feel good (and what doesn’t) is the first step in knowing what you need in order to care for yourself.
For example, if you know you feel better after physical activity (and let’s be honest, most of us do), self-care is making room in your schedule to exercise, even if it means giving up something else like watching your favorite TV show. Sometimes, self-care isn’t fun. It means following through with what you need even if you don’t want to. Sometimes, self-care can be hard, too, such as having to set boundaries with friends and with loved ones. This can look like saying “no” when something is asked of you even if that means disappointing someone else, or standing up for yourself when you’re being treated unfairly. It can also look like ending a toxic relationship because it might be hard to see it, but you know that you deserve better.
All of this isn’t to say that self-care can’t be enjoyable or fun because it absolutely can be! Self-care can also look like taking a day off because you’ve been working really hard lately (maybe a little too hard) or reading a good book or going to see a movie. It can look like treating yourself to a special food or taking a relaxing bath, getting your hair done, playing a video game, or spending time with friends.
Ultimately, self-care is listening to your body and your mind, and then giving yourself whatever it is you need in order to feel your best and become the best version of yourself that you can be.
Classic Self-Care Tips
Some specific ideas for practicing self-care while at college include:
- Setting a routine (and sticking to it). As mentioned earlier with the exercise example, you may not want to do it, but you will benefit from it. So decide to do it and follow through; it’ll help you feel more productive and focused in the long run.
- Prioritizing your sleep. As a college student, there’s always something to do (trust me, I know). But making sure you get enough sleep each night (at least seven hours), will give you more energy to do even more things. Read more about How to Unleash Your Inner Sleeping Beauty!
- Eating as many balanced meals as possible. Again, another task that can be difficult for college students, but not impossible. Giving your body the nutrients it deserves will make you feel better physically and mentally. Here are some recipes from one of our other blogs!
I hope these ideas help you practice self-care and I wish you a very happy year of self-love!
By: Sara, WIT Peer Educator
Do you ever get into a routine and then come to realize your week went by in a blink? Do you ever get the feeling that what you are learning is losing its charm? Are you wondering how you can be more present and have more fun? Well according to many studies, the answer could be curiosity:
- Beat the winter blues with curiosity. Studies have shown that when we discover or learn about something new our brains send us signals that make us feel good, boosting our mood.
- Build relationships. Research shows that genuine curiosity is one of the biggest factors that contributes to creating a closer connection when interacting with others.
- Score higher on assignments. Whether at school or any other occupation, having curiosity about the task at hand can improve the overall outcome of our efforts.
This winter, the WIT Peer Educators are excited to keep your adventuring and curiosity going with some new content each week! We are a group of fellow students with a passion for helping our peers stay informed and inspired about health and wellness topics.
We are back this winter with a series of content including some of our favorite topic areas of sexual health, nutrition, rest, the 8 dimensions of wellness, and much more! We have so many topic ideas we are excited to share with you this semester. Watch for a post every Thursday, either on Instagram, the RecWell blog, or both!
If you can’t wait until Thursday, check out our past blog posts on our website. Take a look at everything from “What is Sexuality?” to “Easy Winter Meals to Make in Your Dorm” to “How to Unleash Your Inner Sleeping Beauty". Got another idea you’d like to see? Head over to our Ask WIT question box and we’ll get one written just for you!
If blog posts or Instagram aren’t your thing, scroll through the student wellness website containing a plethora of information and resources, request a presentation on our website, catch us at the WIT cart (probably inside this semester) or attend some of our many events, including the continuation of the Eat Well series with Laker Food Co.
Whatever you might be up to this winter, we hope you can take some moments to pause and explore a range of wellness topics to boost your mood, foster growth in the 8 dimensions of wellness, put more joy into learning, and reap the benefits of curiosity!
By: Josie, WIT Peer Educator
Permanent link for Ways to Keep Your Immune System Strong in the Cold Winter Months on December 11, 2023
Well, I think we can say that we are finally getting into the colder months. As I walk around campus I see the ugg boots, coats, hats, and gloves and the coffee shops busier than ever! With this time of year cold and flu season kicks into high gear and we must take the time to make extra efforts in keeping ourselves healthy. While it's impossible to remove yourself completely from all the winter germs, there are many things you can do to help keep your immune system in tip top shape so that you can fight the germs when they come your way.
Sleep and immunity are closely tied, as poor quality sleep is linked to higher susceptibility to sickness. Getting adequate rest is important to strengthen your immunity and keep up with your busy schedule. Also, if you do get sick, it's important to allow your body extra time for rest as your body will be able to better fight off the illness. Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep each night to promote healthy sleep hygiene. If you have trouble sleeping, keeping your room as dark as possible, going to bed at the same time each night, and exercising regularly can help improve sleep quality.
Foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes are full of nutrients and antioxidants that help decrease inflammation in the body. Increased inflammation is linked to having a lower immune response and can cause you to catch a cold easier. Also, fiber in plant foods feed your gut microbiome which is the bacteria that lives in your stomach along the digestive tract. A good gut microbiome can improve your immunity and help keep harmful pathogens from entering your body via the digestive tract. Fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C like oranges, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes and potatoes also will help to fight off that common cold. Other foods that are particularly good for the immune system include whole grains, lean protein, fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso or tempeh, and some spices like garlic, ginger, turmeric and even cinnamon.
Moderate exercise can help boost your immune system tremendously. It has been shown to be just as effective as vaccines in people with compromised immune systems. Regular moderate exercise also helps keep inflammation low and help your immune cells regenerate regularly. Jogging, walking, swimming, lifting or any other activity you enjoy are all great ways to keep your body healthy!
Water plays many important roles in our body including supporting our immune system. Water is important because our blood and lymph, the fluid that provides a way for the body to get rid of waste, need water in order to keep the immune cells in them flowing and circulating. It's important that you are hydrating with the right fluids too. Water is the best, as you should try and avoid loading up on caffeinated drinks, juices, and sodas.
It's important to keep stress levels at bay as chronic stress can really impact your health. Stress can potentially have a secondary impact on your immune function if it leads to sleep disturbances, a tendency to eat less nutritious foods, less water intake, and less frequent exercise. A tip to help keep stress levels low is finding time to engage in self care regularly. Whether that is lighting a candle, reading, walking in nature, a nice warm bath, or enjoying a cup of coffee or tea.
Utilizing these simple techniques can help you stay healthy during the colder months so that you can enjoy all that this season has to offer. I know I’ll be!
By: Amber Gunneson, WIT Volunteer
During the holiday season everyone seems so busy! With parties, events, finals, shopping and all the exciting and joyful things you participate in at this time of year can become a time of stress and anxiety as well. I know for myself Christmas is my favorite time of year, however, as much joy that it does bring me I have to make sure that during this busy season I find time to take extra care of myself, and my mental health. Oftentimes the holidays, whichever you celebrate, can bring up a lot of different emotions. From excitement, joy, gratitude, and pleasure to overwhelm, sadness, and burnout, this time of year can bring up a lot. I want you to know that you are not alone and this is totally normal! I’ve created some tips that have helped me and others navigate this time of year so that we can still be able to enjoy the holidays as well as take care of ourselves.
It can be extremely helpful to write a list of all the things you need to accomplish. That may also involve prioritizing what should get done first and what can wait till a later date. This may come with having to say no to certain things/plans in order to take care of yourself and not get overwhelmed. This is something I know that I continue to have to work on as I am always wanting to be involved in everything, but I know that if I say yes all the time burnout occurs much quicker and I lose sight of what the holiday season really is supposed to be about.
2. Find pleasure and Joy and Rest
Yes the holidays are busy but it's important to find time to engage in the joyful, pleasurable, rejuvenating things that refresh you and give you energy to get through all the tasks at hand! This also includes taking time to rest. Things like making sure you get enough sleep, making sure you are eating healthy foods in nourishing amounts and finding time for your favorite self care activities is very important. This can all help to avoid getting overwhelmed by the stress of the busy season. Some of my favorite self care activities to do in the winter are taking warm baths, drinking some hot tea or coffee, journaling, watching Christmas/holiday movies, and Christmas coloring pages. I also love lighting holiday scented candles during this time of year!
3. Ask or Accept Help
Accepting and/or asking for help can be an extremely hard task for many. I know for me it is! However, we can not and certainly shouldn’t do everything ourselves. Asking for help is necessary in order to get everything done. It can be helpful to delegate tasks with others like splitting up the cooking or shopping duties. Also, if you find yourself needing extra help to get through finals don’t be afraid to join a study group, visit the tutoring center, or speak with the professor. Everyone needs help from time to time. Don’t feel bad asking for help. We as humans are not made to walk through life alone, and that doesn’t change during the holiday season as well!
4. Allow room for changes in routine
With the holiday season comes a lot of changes in routine and schedule. This can also bring about a lot of stress or anxiety. It can often leave you feeling unsettled and maybe not fully grounded. Change in general, no matter good or bad, can be very hard and even uncomfortable. For me change can sometimes even be scary. The one thing I have learned through going through change is that things will go smoother if you embrace and allow for the change to happen, instead of trying to avoid or resist it. This can be an extremely hard thing to do and I am still working on it myself! Give yourself some grace! It's okay to fall back into your old routine from time to time as well!
5. Find time to breathe…..and Laugh!!
It's important to remember to breathe during this time of year. We often hold so much stress and tension that we forget to do this simple thing. Breathing and taking a second to focus on your breath can bring comfort, strength, and focus to get you through the day/season. Not only is it important to breathe, it's also important to find time to laugh! The holidays shouldn’t be all stress and anxiety but it should be a time for celebration and excitement as well. Find time to laugh with friends and family, maybe reflecting back on memories or engaging in holiday activities. Laughter can lift our spirits up and release a lot of stress in our bodies.
Utilizing these 5 tips can help make the holiday season or any stressful time of year a much more enjoyable and healthy experience for you! Remember, at the end of the day the holidays aren’t meant to make us anxious, stressed or overwhelmed. However, they are meant to provide celebration, joy, love, and excitement into our everyday lives!
By: WIT Volunteer, Amber Gunneson
Permanent link for How to Unleash Your Inner Sleeping Beauty: The Ultimate Guide to Better Zzz's for GV Students on April 24, 2023
As a Wellness Information Team Peer Educator, one of the most common concerns we hear from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) students is trouble sleeping. Numerous students have trouble obtaining the sleep they need, whether it's due to trouble falling asleep, remaining asleep, or waking up feeling exhausted. In this blog, we will explore the psychological and emotional impact of sleep and provide practical tips to help students get a good night's rest. Let's dive in!
Think: "Unlocking Your Best Self: The Power of Good Sleep Habits"
When it comes to achieving your goals and feeling your best, quality sleep is a critical component. The way we think about sleep can have a big impact on our ability to prioritize it and establish healthy habits. By recognizing the power of good sleep habits and the benefits they can bring, we can shift our mindset towards prioritizing rest and reaping the rewards of a well-rested mind and body.
The term "thinking" in this sense refers to a variety of activities. You must consider your existing sleeping patterns and attitudes, including whether you value sleep and understand its significance. It also involves being aware of the advantages of getting enough sleep, including enhanced mental clarity, greater physical health, and increased productivity. Last but not least, it is being proactive about changing your sleeping patterns, for example, by putting the blog's advice into practice or looking for extra resources and support.
By "unlocking" the power of good sleep habits and recognizing their role in achieving our best selves, we can take a more intentional approach to sleep and prioritize it alongside other aspects of our well-being.
Feel: "Snooze to Success: Empowering Your Mind and Body with Quality Sleep"
The way we feel about sleep can have a big impact on our ability to prioritize it and establish healthy habits. When we recognize the benefits of quality sleep and the positive impact it can have on our mental and physical health, we're more likely to make it a priority in our daily lives.
The "feel" aspect of this title is all about recognizing the emotional benefits of quality sleep. Getting enough rest can help us feel more energized, focused, and productive during the day. It can also reduce stress and anxiety, improve our mood, and support our overall well-being. By prioritizing quality sleep, we can tap into these emotional benefits and empower ourselves to feel our best.
In this context, "feeling" is about recognizing the connection between our emotions and our sleep habits. It involves understanding the impact that sleep can have on our mood, stress levels, and overall well-being. It also means recognizing the emotional benefits of quality sleep and prioritizing it as a key aspect of self-care.
By "snoozing" to success and empowering our mind and body with quality sleep, we can tap into the emotional benefits of rest and support our overall well-being.
Do: "Take Charge of Your Zzz's: Practical Tips for a Restful Night's Sleep"
- Insomnia: difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Sleep apnea: a condition where breathing is interrupted during sleep, leading to snoring and daytime fatigue
- Restless leg syndrome: a condition where you feel an uncomfortable sensation in your legs that makes it difficult to sleep
- Circadian rhythm disorders: disruptions in your body's internal clock that can lead to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at the right times
If you're experiencing any of these sleep problems, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment.
There are several things you can do to improve your sleep quality. Here are some tips:
- Stick to a sleep schedule: Establishing a consistent sleep routine can help regulate ( your body's internal clock and improve sleep quality. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. If you have trouble falling asleep, avoid napping during the day, as this can disrupt your sleep schedule.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment: Your sleeping environment can have a big impact on sleep quality. Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark. If you live in a noisy area or have roommates who stay up late, consider using earplugs or a white noise machine to block out distractions. Use blackout curtains or an eye mask if necessary to block out any light that might disturb your sleep.
- Limit screen time : Exposure to the blue light emitted by electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops can interfere with your body's natural sleep-wake cycle. Try to avoid using electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime. If you need to use your device, consider using a blue light filter or wearing blue light-blocking glasses to reduce the impact on your sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep quality. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake, while alcohol can interfere with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is important for memory consolidation and overall sleep quality. Try to avoid these substances in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Stress and anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help you relax and prepare for sleep. Consider incorporating these practices into your bedtime routine to help calm your mind and body before bed.
- Get regular exercise: Exercise can help improve sleep quality by reducing stress, promoting relaxation, and regulating your body's internal clock. However, try to avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as it can increase alertness and make it harder to fall asleep. Aim to exercise earlier in the day, at least a few hours before bedtime.
- Seek help if needed: If you're struggling with sleep despite trying these tips, consider talking to a healthcare provider or seeking help from a sleep specialist. There are many effective treatments for sleep disorders, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for sleep apnea. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best course of treatment for your specific needs.
In conclusion, getting enough sleep is critical for overall health and well-being. By prioritizing sleep and taking steps to improve sleep quality, you can feel more rested, alert, and focused throughout the day. Don't hesitate to seek help if you're struggling with sleep, as there are many effective treatments available. Good luck and Sweet dreams!
- Worley SL. The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep: The Detrimental Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Health and Public Safety Drive an Explosion of Sleep Research. P T. 2018 Dec;43(12):758-763. PMID: 30559589; PMCID: PMC6281147.,
- https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene ,
By: Aravind Gurusaran Korukonda, WIT Peer Educator
Springtime has arrived in West Michigan, and with it so has the end of the semester rush. Finals week is approaching, and most of us are probably more than ready to feel the relief of being done with the school year. Springtime also ushers in April, the Month of Stress Awareness.
With “exam cram season” just around the corner many of us will experience increased levels of anxiety and stress related to the added pressures of school work. At GVSU Recreation & Wellness our goal is to provide students with the knowledge and tools necessary to account for and improve their overall wellness, as well as in specific domains of wellness. Aligning our goals at Rec & Wellness with the month of April’s Stress Awareness, our aim is to present you with the knowledge and techniques that can help you manage the added stress from the end of the academic year.
To understand why coping with stress using healthy practices is important, we should understand why stress is aversive to our physical and mental health, especially as it’s related to the added pressures at the end of the semester. Stress that stems from the “exam cram season” is typically linked to decreased sleep, internalized expectations/pressures, lack of positive coping techniques, and/or a combination of these. Experiencing these types of stress can be a hindrance to our mental and physical wellness, causing various physiological systems and emotions to become dysregulated. Some of these symptoms may be reported as:
- Increased irritability
- Increased anxiety or depression
- Feelings of anger, sadness, loneliness
- Decrease in sleep, focus
- Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
- Muscular tension, discomfort
- Changes in appetite
- Vomiting, nausea
- Illnesses become more common as immune system becomes less effective
As we continue to progress closer towards our final exams, most of us may begin to notice and account for more of the feelings or sensations that are described above. Being able to identify and attribute your stressful symptoms to the correct source is the first step towards being able to identify and apply a coping technique that is effective and healthy for you. Although it may seem overwhelming to address these stressors during such a hectic time, the CDC explains that healthy coping mechanisms can reduce stressful feelings and sensations, whether they are physical and emotional. In short, finding ways to deal with stress that elicit positive emotions and improve physical and psychological wellness are the best ways to decrease stress.
Dealing with Stress
Because some stressors present themselves on an individual basis (not every stressor is universal to all) it is likely that one form of coping is not going to be a universal solution for everyone experiencing stress. One practice each of us can apply on an individual basis, however, is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the process of connecting and becoming aware of the changes in your body in response to different situations/sensations. This process is a very grounding experience and has been linked to decreases in stress, anxiety, and depression.
Here are a few short mindfulness exercises you can do wherever you are to be able to identify and listen to your bodily sensations:
Box Breathing: An exercise used to regulate blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, stress, and anxiety. This exercise targets our respiratory system to actively reduce the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in our blood stream.
- To do this exercise sit in a chair with good posture (spine in alignment) or lay down flat.
- Follow the graphic at the bottom of the blog post, begin in the top left corner and follow the instructions on the outside of the box as you move along. Repeat these steps, and imagine the circle moving along the perimeter of the box as you go, taking 3-5 minutes or until you feel relaxed and refocused.
5-4-3-2-1: This activity allows us to make time to account for ourselves and our environment, deepening our connection to our bodily sensations.
- In your immediate surroundings, without moving where you are name
- 5 things you hear
- 4 things you see
- 3 things you can touch
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
STOP Practice: A 4-step technique to reduce feelings of overwhelm, stress, and anxiety.
- S: Stop whatever you are doing, stop whatever you are thinking, and dedicate yourself and this moment to practicing mindfulness.
- T: Take a deep breath in and out. Slow down, you may count up or down as you breathe, or even combine other breathing techniques for even better results!
- O: Observe your body. How do you feel physically? Mentally? Observe your surroundings. Focus on small details, like the texture of an object across the room, the unique noises you can hear, etc.
- P: Proceed with intention. Set a time limit for your study session, make sure you’re hydrated, grab your favorite snack, and practice listening to what your mind and body are telling you.
Now that we are aware of how our body might react to the added stress of final exams and how we can use mindfulness to identify those reactions, we can be attentive in our care for ourselves. This time of year is busy for almost all of us, and taking time to hear our body and mind is very important to managing the intense and sometimes overwhelming amount of stress we experience. As you move forward this exam season, I encourage you to use the resources provided in this article to help you, but also refer to more of our great campus resources, as well as experiment with other things that may help you like journaling, exercise, and getting adequate sleep.
Here are some on-campus resources that are here to serve you during this April Month of Stress Awareness:
- GVSU Counseling Center - Especially around this time of year the GVSU Counseling Center hosts events and activities that are inclusive and educational, and are specifically catered towards dealing with the stresses of exams! GVSU Counseling Center also coordinates with West Michigan Therapy Dogs to bring some support pups to the library, this is a personal favorite and a must for any animal lover who needs a break from their studies. In addition there is an emergency/crisis response available for students.
- GVSU Student Academic Success Center - Success coaching is a great option for those of us who may be looking for more personalized help in approaching their learning. The SASC also coordinates with the other campus resources to organize workshops catered to end of the semester learning.
- GVSU Rec & Wellness - GVSU Rec & Wellness is a multi-faceted resource that offers support to students in multiple different ways. There are free group fitness and yoga classes focused on providing students with a positive outlet for reducing stress. GVSU also offers personalized, individual consultations with Wellness Navigators and Wellness Coaches who aim to help students manage different aspects of their overall wellness like nutrition, time management, and stress.
By: Kameron Kempker, WIT Peer Educator
Posted on Permanent link for Combating Stress with Emotional Wellness on April 13, 2023.
It is that time of the school year again for finals, but don’t let studying take up too much of your time! It is important to balance school and time for yourself. The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and the birds are calling your name! But don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
What the outdoors can do for you!
- Helps motivation and physical health
- Lowers stress and anxiety levels
- Improves sleep
- Stronger immunity
- Supports positive mental health
- Better breathing and sight
Tips for getting outside!
- Make plans with a friend
- Block an hour out of your schedule
- Set a time limit for studying
- Make a reminder
Things to do outdoors on campus!
- Hammock in the arboretum
- Go hiking on the trails behind campus or near Laker Village
- Set up a slackline with a friend
- Have a picnic
- Play sand volleyball
- Read a book or make friendship bracelets on a blanket
- Eat lunch with a friend on a bench
- Ride your bike
- Take a nap under a tree
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Roller Skate or skateboard on the sidewalks
- Set up your yoga mat in the sun
The outdoors improves your overall health! There are many ways to get outdoors on campus. And remember to treat the outdoors with kindness. We want our favorite places to last a long time!
By: Ruhi Khanna, WIT Peer Educator and Climbing Center Staff
Meditation is a powerful tool that can help you achieve mental, emotional, and physical wellness. As a college student, you may face many challenges, such as stress, anxiety, and a lack of focus. Meditation can help you overcome these challenges and improve your overall well-being.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice that involves training your mind to focus on the present moment. It can involve different techniques, such as deep breathing, visualization, and mindfulness. The goal of meditation is to quiet the mind and achieve a sense of inner peace and calm.
How can meditation benefit college students?
- Reduces stress and anxiety: College life can be stressful, and it can lead to anxiety and other mental health issues. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, and improve overall mental health.
- Improves focus and concentration: Meditation can help you improve your focus and concentration, which can be beneficial for your academic performance. By training your mind to focus on one thing at a time, you can improve your productivity and efficiency.
- Enhances self-awareness: Meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. By observing your thoughts without judgment, you can develop a better understanding of yourself and your feelings.
- Improves sleep quality: College students often struggle with sleep issues, such as insomnia or sleep deprivation. Meditation can help you relax and calm your mind, which can improve your sleep quality and quantity.
How to get started with meditation?
- Find a quiet and comfortable space where you won't be disturbed.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and your eyes closed.
- Take deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
- Focus your attention on your breath, and try to keep your mind from wandering.
- If your mind does wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
- Practice meditation for at least 5-10 minutes a day, and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable with the practice.
In conclusion, meditation is a simple yet powerful practice that can help college students achieve mental, emotional, and physical wellness. By incorporating meditation into your daily routine, you can reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus and concentration, enhance self-awareness, and improve sleep quality. Give it a try and see how it can benefit you.
By: Abdul Ciise, WIT Peer Educator