LAKERS TOGETHER: Find out information about COVID-19
“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
It is a known fact that people have a hard time during the winter. The holidays create loads of stress, the gloomy weather puts us into a sad slump, and now with the Coronavirus pandemic on the rise again, this winter will be harder than ever. In order to make this season great, we have to actively try to make the best of it! Years of research have proven that the key to happiness is “a sense of social connectedness” (Vox.com). With the spread of COVID-19 still happening, we’re here to share some ideas on how to stay happy throughout the season while staying safe:
Staying Physically Active
According to the CDC, keeping up with regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your body. Along with the physical benefits, muscle strengthening and toning, and decreased likelihood of heart disease and Type II diabetes, exercise has many other immediate effects. Exercise has proven to increase cognition in people of all ages, and drastically reduce the risk of sleep deprivation, anxiety, and depression. It is hard to stay active in the colder months, especially when stuck indoors, so GVSU has lots of virtual workout options to use at home!
Keeping Up With Mental Health
As mentioned before, physical activity can improve mental health, but for those who struggle to exercise regularly, focusing solely on your mental well-being is ok too! One thing that scientists have found to promote a healthy mind is to focus on the idea of your “smaller self.” This is defined as a “healthy sense of proportion between your own self and the bigger picture of the world around you” (Vox.com). In doing this, you are able to focus on the smaller things around you that truly matter. When worrying about things you can’t control, you put yourself in great distress, without an answer that will satisfy you.
Time with Family (or Not)
Many students may be heading back to their family home for the holidays, and it’s important to prepare for it being different. Your room may have been changed, your routine and your family’s routine has changed, and your thoughts/beliefs may have changed. The best way to prepare for the trip home? Make a plan ahead of time.
- Don’t be afraid to set yourself some boundaries and let your family know what those are.
- Take alone time when you need it.
- Prepare for tough conversations whether they are around politics or social injustice or what to eat for dinner. Know how you will respond.
- Know what to do if there might be a time where you don’t feel safe to be your authentic self (have a plan for another place to stay or ride back to campus, etc).
Making a Hygge Home
Making your home, or apartment, a place of comfort can greatly improve your mental health. In Denmark, an important aspect of everyday life is hygge. Pronounced hoo-gah , the word’s closest literal translation means “coziness” and embodies the essence of it as well. The Danes created hygge to cope with the cold, dark, unbearable winters in Denmark. As Michigan begins to feel like the arctic circle this winter, hygge would be great to incorporate into your living space as well!
- Light lots of candles, incense, wax melts, or diffuse essential oils to fill your home with a comforting aroma. Some scents that are known to reduce stress are lavender, lemongrass, and sage.
- Hang string lights throughout the room to give off a subtle glow and warm ambiance.
- Drink coffee or tea in the mornings to get a cozy start on your days, and cuddle up with a warm tea or hot chocolate in the evenings to get your body ready for bed. Some flavors of calming tea include chamomile, valerian root, and lavender.
- Keep blankets and throw pillows out to create a welcoming and comforting environment for anyone that enters.
Hygge is known as “an art of creating intimacy” (HyggeHouse.com). There is no set way to “buy hygge,” because it's all about your own happiness. In the process of creating your own hygge home, remember to add what speaks to you! In doing this, you are able to focus on yourself and the important things around you. Staying happy during this season will be harder than ever because of the pandemic, but remembering to put your happiness before other things can relieve loads of stress for you this year.
By: Camryn Lane, WIT Peer Educator
The time change can be disorienting. It happens every year, but I’m still shocked that it’s already dark at 5 PM. Besides thinking it’s 9 PM at 6 PM, many people may begin to feel unmotivated, tired, or sad during this time. This is because as we approach winter, we experience less and less sunlight. By the time we reach the Winter Solstice (December 21) those of us in Michigan are getting less than 9 hours of daylight, which is 6 hours less than in June! Plus, winter usually means more cloudy days, which unfortunately gives us even less of a chance to see the sun. This change has many effects on our mental state.
How Less Sunlight Affects Us
Reduced sunlight disrupts our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm is like a biological clock that tells us when our bodies should feel alert or sleepy. A disruption may leave you low on energy during the day. This can also change the levels of a sleep hormone called melatonin, making it harder for you to fall and stay asleep. Reduced sunlight can also cause a drop in serotonin levels, a brain chemical that affects our mood.
Common Effects of Less Sunlight
During the fall and winter months, you may find yourself oversleeping or struggling to stay alert during the day. I personally have to stop myself from taking multiple naps; my bed just looks so welcoming! Aside from that, you also may become more short tempered or anxious than usual. Many also experience a change in appetite or weight.
In more intense cases, this is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. In fact, those with preexisting conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are often more susceptible to the effects from a lack of sunlight. SAD is characterized by heightened, constant, and long-lasting symptoms that often worsen as the season progresses. The GVSU University Counseling Center is open to all students and FREE. Aside from RecWell, they are another great resource if you’re looking to improve your emotional well-being!
How Can I Reduce the Effects?
Get outside and stay active! Time spent outside is proven to calm the mind and improve self-confidence/clarity. Exercise, whether that’s a short walk around the block or following an intense workout video, is also proven to boost mood and overall well-being, as well as improve appetite and sleep cycles. Any amount is beneficial, but consistency is key, so set time aside each day for you to focus on your well-being. Seriously, it could be as short as a 5 minute stretch!
Light therapy is another popular treatment option. A light therapy box mimics sunlight, “tricking” your brain! Many feel great improvements in alertness and mood by sitting in front of one for just 30 minutes a day. Our very own WIT Advisor and RecWell Student Health Promotions Coordinator, Katie, uses one in the winter months to help when she's feeling down or lacking energy. She says it gives her that little extra bit to keep going during dark, winter days.
It’s important to understand that it’s common to feel a change in your well-being with the change of seasons. Remember, you’re not alone and there are many GVSU resources that can help! Check out student wellness information from RecWell, look into the University Counseling Center, or reach out to your friends. And remember, spring is right around the corner!
By: WIT Peer Educator, Stella Sterling
The best face coverings for exercise should keep you safe, comfortable and dry, while being flexible enough to bend and move without falling off during your workout. Stay safe and comfortable while you break a sweat.
Why do I need to wear a face covering while exercising?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a face covering as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the face covering coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control. The use of face coverings is even more important in an environment such as the Recreation Center, where individuals increase their respiratory rate (heavier breathing). The heavier an individual is breathing, the further their respiratory droplets can potentially spread.
Is it safe to exercise with a face covering on?
Yes; it's safe to wear a face covering while exercising, but considerations and precautions should be made. It’s recommended that you perform low- to moderate-intensity exercise rather than vigorous exercise while wearing a face covering. This is because of the decreased airflow allowed through the face covering which is caused by an increase in inhalation and exhalation resistance. This decrease in air flow can make it more difficult to catch your breath and impact your ability to properly regulate body temperature. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded that the increase in inhalation and exhalation resistance has a very minor impact on the body’s physiological ability to effectively achieve respiratory ventilation (less than 3% during low to moderate physical activity). In other words, exercising with a face covering is safe, though you may experience some slight discomfort.
Selecting and Wearing a Face Covering while Exercising
Look for face coverings with two or more layers that are made from lightweight, moisture-wicking materials that will keep your face dry and comfortable. Since you’ll be moving, select a face covering that has a bit of stretch to it to ensure that it moves with you and doesn’t slide down during your workout.
Your face covering should be comfortable and snug around your cheeks and nose, and large enough to cover your nose and mouth. Test and adjust the fit prior to exercising. If your face covering is uncomfortable, or makes breathing difficult prior to exercising, chances are it will continue to be uncomfortable and hard to breathe in during your workout.
- Check to ensure your face covering fits properly, covers your mouth and nose, and is secure so it doesn’t slide down or move during your workout.
- Take a moderated approach to exercise intensity. Face coverings may increase perceived effort and decrease performance during your workout.
- If you tend to sweat a lot when you exercise, bring an extra face covering with you to replace the damp one.
- If possible, have a few face coverings that you use specifically for exercise. This will help ensure you have a clean face covering available each time you plan to exercise.
- Be cautious and err on the side of caution. While exercising with a face covering, some may experience side effects including dizziness, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. If these symptoms occur, stop exercising.
- Change your mindset. Be grateful that the recreation center is open for you to utilize. Wearing a face covering is a small inconvenience compared to not being able to access the facility.
Lastly, wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol prior to putting on your face covering. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth when removing your face covering, and wash your hands afterwards. While exercising, your face covering should be viewed as a barrier, and not an impenetrable shield. Therefore, continue to follow safe social-distancing practices, regular hand washing, and other sanitation measures, such as thoroughly wiping down equipment before and after use.
By: Becca Guilford and John Offerman
Considerations for Wearing Face Coverings:
- Slow the spread of COVID-19. (2020, August 7). National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html
- Roberge, R. J., Kim, J.-H., & Benson, S. M. (2012). Absence of consequential changes in physiological, thermal and subjective responses from wearing a surgical mask. Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology, 181, 29-35.
- Scheid, J. L., Lupien, S. P., Ford, G. S., & West, S. L. (2020). Commentary: physiological and psychological impact of face mask usage during the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17, 3-4.
We are living in a new normal, a normal of face coverings and social distancing. Because COVID-19 is still so new to us, there are a lot of questions and uncertainty around the virus and its impact. It is, however, important to get back to some form of “normal” for your overall health. We can do this while adapting to the recommended Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and keeping others safe.
How COVID-19 Effects Your Body
COVID-19 is a viral infection; the virus sticks to the small hairs found in your nose and cells found in your mouth. Once the virus has attached to the cells in your body, the active replication starts almost immediately in the upper respiratory tract. 80% of people will have mild symptoms such as a cough, fever, and loss of taste or smell. Of that, 13.5% of people will have to be hospitalized due to shortness of breath. Symptoms and signs of distress will appear in individuals 10 days after they contract the virus. After you contract the virus, it is possible to get your lungs back to normal, but it will not be an overnight fix. As a result of COVID-19, your lungs will begin to develop scar tissue, which will take approximately six months to a year to fully heal and get back to normal oxygen levels. After you contract the virus and are symptom-free, you are able to get back to daily activities, such as working out. However, you should consult with your primary care provider on the best course of action for your personal needs.
Before Starting Back Up with Exercise
Upon arrival back into your fitness or exercise routine, make sure you are limiting your alcohol and tobacco consumption, eating healthy meals, trying not to skip meals, drinking plenty of water, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule to aid in your body’s healing process. Drinking alcohol does not cure COVID-19, and the excess use of alcohol can be harmful by increasing your health risks. Before you enter into exercise, make a plan for modified exercises on your first day back. Having more than one plan and being flexible is also important for easing back into your routine. Some things to keep in mind:
- Breaking an intense 30-minute exercise into two 15-minute low to moderate sessions
- Modifying your workout
- Checking facility websites for updated cleaning, capacity guidelines, and any equipment restrictions
Once you are able to get back to exercise, avoid pushing yourself too hard; your body needs time to heal. You should only be working at about 50% of your usual intensity, and slowly ease your way back into it. Make sure to stay hydrated when working out, and monitor any other changes that your body may experience. Some individuals may feel lightheadedness or dizziness when returning; try not to panic. Slow down the workout and take a break to catch your breath. If symptoms don’t subside, then, following CDC and facility guidelines, take your face covering off to help maximize airflow. Try to avoid exercises that are extra demanding of your cardiovascular system, like a HIIT class, as it may be more difficult or cause more symptoms of lightheadedness and dizziness. Finally, as always, keep up with CDC guidelines to wash your hands regularly, stay six feet away from others, and avoid face touching.
Staying active, whether it’s in the gym, outside, or at home, is beneficial to your health and wellness. Most forms of exercise can be performed almost anywhere. Especially now, it’s easy to find at-home workouts online. Whether you are someone who benefits from doing an at-home workout, going for a walk, run, bike ride, or hike, it’s important to keep moving and stay active. And don’t forget: stay hydrated, eat a healthy snack or meal, and do an active recovery cool-down to gradually lower your heart rate back to its resting state. If you go to the gym make sure to wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol, use your face covering, and maintain social distancing. Staying active and adapting a routine is one of the most important things you can do to help your overall health during this time.
By: Erin Colling
- Exercising after COVID-19 Flyer
- GVSU Recreation & Wellness
- GVSU Alcohol & Other Drugs Services
- GVSU Campus Health Center
- GVSU Family Health Center
- Reynolds, Colleen, et al. “How to Adapt Your Workout While Wearing a Mask.” OSF HealthCare Blog, 8 July 2020, www.osfhealthcare.org/blog/how-to-adapt-your-workout-while-wearing-a-mask/.
- “Should I Exercise with a Mask On?” Mercy Health Blog, 4 Sept. 2020, blog.mercy.com/coronavirus-covid-19-face-mask-while-exercising/.
- “What Are the Effects of COVID-19 on the Lungs?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/covid-19-what-happens-inside-the-body.
How does the word “fitness” make you feel? Does it excite you or leave you feeling dread? Your outlook on your healthy routine is influential on your success for maintaining it. Of course, if you truly love to workout and love to incorporate good nutrition in your diet, it will make it much easier to be successful. But, what if you don’t love it? How do you change your attitude toward living a healthy lifestyle?
Stop viewing good nutrition and fitness as
restrictions. If you completely cut out lazy days and foods
that you love, you’ll be less likely to maintain that routine. Have
you ever completely lost your motivation? Sometimes by making your
lifestyle too strict, it can feel more like a punishment rather than
doing it to better yourself. Change your mindset by creating a
balance. Eat small portions of less nutritious foods, find recipes
that make eating healthy fun, and don’t feel guilty about spending a
day being lazy. It should be about creating a healthy
lifestyle, not creating a boot camp for your
Find the parts of living healthy that you look forward
to. Realistically, there isn’t just one way to exercise. If
you don’t like the treadmill, don’t go on the treadmill. If you
don’t like going to the gym, you don’t have to go to the gym!
Fitness isn’t the same for everyone, and it shouldn’t feel like it
has one definition. If you love group exercise or going for a run
outside or rock climbing or hiking, do that instead! If you love
working out with friends, find a dedicated workout partner! Be
conscious of what you do that makes you excited to keep going.
Make sure that you’re doing it for the right
reasons. If fitness to you is looking at the scale every
night and leaves you with negative feelings, you’re creating a
negative relationship between you and living healthy. Focus less on
how exercise is making you look and more on how it is making you
feel. How do you feel after completing a successful workout? How
much more energy do you have when have a day full of eating
nutritious meals? If things like counting calories has you feeling
consumed or leaves you feeling dread, then simply don’t do it. Think
of all the other benefits that come from exercise and make that your
reason for continuing.
Take a step back every once in awhile. It’s
important to reflect on your journey, and this doesn’t always mean
focusing on your end goal. It’s important to recognize your
progress, to see how far you’ve come, and to be proud of yourself!
If you have a constant focus on how far you are from your goals, you
won’t be motivated to achieve them. Recognize small successes -
whether it is being able to do more reps, or choosing an apple over
a muffin. Your self-confidence is important, and oftentimes, you are
making more progress than you recognize. Pat yourself on the back
when it’s well deserved.
- Remember that a healthy lifestyle is flexible, because life isn’t consistent. Let’s face it, some days or even months are more difficult than others. Your attitude shouldn’t be that you need to get a full workout in or the day is wasted. Some days, maybe taking a walk around the neighborhood is all you have the time and energy for, and that’s OKAY! You shouldn’t have the feeling of guilt if you eat pizza with friends, or if you can't complete your workout for that day. Creating a healthy lifestyle is balancing what is good for you with what makes you happy. Choose healthy habits the majority of the time, but don’t hold yourself back from the joys of life.
Your definition of fitness is going to be completely different than anyone else’s, and that’s encouraged! We’re all different, and that’s what makes it so great. Go to dinner with friends, be lazy when you feel like it, and don’t feel like living healthy is a chore. Start each day with the mindset that you’re doing this to better yourself and your pace is the perfect pace.
By: Alexis Smith
Being a student can be challenging to navigate and a little confusing. Life can get busy, and it might feel like you have no time to focus on yourself. That’s understandable, and you’re not alone. Knowing that and caring about your individual well-being and your experience as a student, it’s important to take time to prioritize yourself and your well-being.
What exactly is wellness?
Wellness is a life-long journey; "a conscious, self-directed, and evolving process of achieving full potential" (National Wellness Institute). 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 illness.” This doesn’t mean just going to the doctor when you’re feeling sick, it’s about evaluating all aspects of how you feel. As a college student, it is especially important to take care of yourself. Many of the habits you form in college may stick with you, so it’s important to build healthy habits now. Understanding the 8 dimensions of wellness can help guide your personal well-being during your college experience.
Emotional wellness involves enjoying your life and adjusting to changes adequately. It is important to evaluate your emotional wellness to ensure you are aware of your feelings and are delegating them as needed. This includes: expressing your feelings to others, seeking support in times of need and consciously evaluating yourself to improve. A good way to assess your emotional wellness is by evaluating how you treat others, feeling as if your life has meaning, and just simply liking who you are. For more tips for improving your emotional wellness, visit the University Counseling Center.
Social wellness is important in creating a sense of belonging and upholding a strong support system. Coming into college can sometimes feel lonely, and it’s important to get involved and work to develop that sense of belonging. Relationships with your family, friends, and peers is important when assessing your support system. Are you balancing your social and personal time? Is your social circle a positive influence to you? These are examples of good questions to ask yourself when evaluating your social wellness. Find more ways to get involved and expand your social group by visiting Recreation & Wellness or the Office of Student Life.
College itself is a tool toward your journey to occupational wellness. Although, it’s important to stay in touch with yourself to explore different opportunities for careers that are right for you. Are you pursuing a career that supports the life you are trying to create? Are you excited about learning in the classroom? Don’t be afraid to look into things you’re passionate about, and don’t be afraid to ask for support. Visit the Career Center or Academic Advising Center for career advice and academic support.
Intellectual wellness involves your formal education in the classroom but also includes all learning outside including your hobbies and other interests. Are you challenging your brain on a regular basis? Make an effort to pursue new things and keep yourself on your toes. Examples of ways to maintain your intellectual wellness journey include: reading, student organizations, attending new events, and many more.
Financial wellness is important to students being that they understand their financial situation and resources. Topics in this dimension include: income, savings, budgeting, etc. Do you feel like you have a good understanding on how to budget and handle your finances? Learn more about money management and even your journey from college to a career, visit MoneySmart Lakers.
Environmental wellness encompasses both feeling safe in your environment and also spending time at places that support your well-being. Be conscious of the experiences that you enjoy and surround yourself with those who make you happy. If you are concerned about your safety, visit the Department of Public Safety or learn more about how you can impact the environment through the Office of Sustainability Practices.
Spiritual wellness involves the time spent focusing on your sense of meaning in life. It is important to feel purpose in life and to uphold a strong connection to yourself. Do you feel like you’re living on autopilot? Focus on the values and beliefs that are important to you and surround yourself with a community that shares those same principles. It is important to feel as if your life has meaning. Get connected through Campus Interfaith Resources.
Physical wellness focuses on having a healthy body by practicing good habits. It’s important that we take care of our bodies and make sure we’re hydrated, eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Also, make sure you’re getting regular check-ups with your physician. If you are concerned with your physical health, the Campus Health Center provides care for GVSU students, and Recreation & Wellness offers something for everyone and a multitude of ways to get involved, be active, and live healthy!
Recreation & Wellness has recently changed its name from Campus Recreation, and is dedicated to supporting student well-being and toward connecting students with the resources they need. Visit the Student Wellness website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By: Alexis Smith