College life can be good, bad, and everything in between. Learning can happen in different places and sometimes the most important things you learn happen outside the classroom. We’ve gathered some resources below for you to use as you learn to take increasing responsibility for your well-being and physical and mental health.
Many students struggle with adjusting to being away from home, learning to manage new responsibilities, developing new relationships and maintaining old ones, coping with living on campus, and becoming involved in campus life, etc. This can be disconnecting and it can be difficult to develop those skills of being independent for the first time on your own. Often the coping skills you begin to develop now are ones that you will carry with you to your career and relationships beyond college (this is not to say that you will not pick up a few more, or even develop some unhealthy ones that you have to correct later).
Try some of these tips to acclimate to your new environment:
- Stay on campus as much as possible in your first month of school. Friendships get made at this time and it’s harder to get involved and make friends if you return home every weekend.
- Approach one new person in your residence hall each day and try to get to know them. You will be surprised at how pleased other people are to be noticed by you, and you may stumble onto someone that would like as a friend.
- Volunteer for some project, job, or club on campus. Having some responsibilities can make you feel connected to campus
- Try to “get up and going” even if you are not feeling enthusiastic. Sometimes the feelings follow the actions and withdrawing in your room may make you feel worse. Although if you need “introvert” time, it is also important to not over stimulate yourself. Have boundaries!
- Develop a routine for yourself. Be sensitive to your needs. If you are not getting enough rest or eating properly, it can exacerbate low moods.
- Be patient with yourself. The academic year can be strenuous, it is important to pace yourself.
- For more information on transitioning from high school to college and adulthood, visit Set to Go, a JED Foundation Program.
If you are struggling with the adjustment, perhaps coming into the Wellness Center and talking with one of the counselors could be helpful.
*Taken in part from Illinois State University
Focus – Some Tips to Being Productive and Caring For Yourself:
- Write it down – everything (you may not need to do this forever, but getting into the habit of recording what you are thinking in “real time” can allow you to cut down some of the anxiety of forgetting tasks or thoughts.
- Map it out – keep a planner, check in with details a few times a day (most importantly the night before, and first thing in the morning) this gives you a “game plan.”
- Create the right environment- if noises are making your environment too noisy, find quiet. If you need ambient noise – make it happen. Make it work for you, not against you.
- Prioritize tasks
- Take a quick break – boredom can lead to “Google rabbit holes” – take a short break, walk around, get a snack or drink, try a yoga stretch, then come back and regroup.
- Set a timer- be aware of realistic time frames (if it takes you 10 minutes to get across campus, factor that in)
- Plan some joy/fun – it is ok to reward yourself.
- “Chunk it”- Break things up into more manageable tasks.
- Meditate (or find SOME time in your day that is not stimulating, with no flickering screens, no music, no distractions)
- Have time where you let your mind loose – let yourself out of the box, this allows all of the thoughts you are trying to suppress out so they are not rattling you when you need to focus.
Time is one of our greatest resources. Used wisely, it can enable you to do the things in life that are important to you. Review how you spend your time in order to help you prioritize your goals and objectives.
For more help, contact the Learning Center!
Adjusting to college and managing the stress of academics and social situations can be difficult without also having to manage an ongoing medical issue that is unpredictable.
The college experience can be very chaotic. The late nights, ever-changing routine, responsibility of diet regulation, social expectations, academic pressures, and the list goes on can make it very difficult to take care of your body in a way that you feel holistically well. It is sometimes necessary to work to adjust your day to day in a way that will work for your health. It can be very important to approach your feelings about your body and academics from a strengths based perspective.
It is important to utilize academic supports, such as the Learning Center and Disability Support Services in conjunction with the Longbrake Wellness Center to find a pace that will work for you within the college setting. There are a few things that you can do to continue to build that resiliency and focus on mindfully building your strengths*:
- Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope.
- Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.
- Accept that change is part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
- Move towards your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly- even if it seems like a small accomplishment- that enables you to move towards your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing that I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”
- Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
- Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.
- Nurture a positive view of yourself. Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
- Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
- Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.
- Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.
- Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.
*Taken from the American Psychological Association online
Utilize this time to define the “new” you, your normal.
Grief is the normal response of sorrow, emotion, and confusion that comes from losing someone or something important to you. It is a natural part of life. Grief is a typical reaction to death, divorce, a move away from family or friends, or loss of health due to illness.
What you might experience
Just after the loss, you may feel empty and numb, as if you are in shock. You may notice physical changes such as trembling, nausea, trouble breathing, muscle weakness, dry mouth, or trouble sleeping and eating.
You may become angry – at a situation, a particular person, or just angry in general. Almost everyone in grief experiences guilt. Guilt is often expressed as “I could have, I should have, and I wish I would have” statements.
People in grief may have strange dreams or nightmares, be absent-minded, withdraw socially, or lack the desire to return to work or school. While these feelings and behaviors are normal during grief, they will pass.
How long will it last?
Grief lasts as long as it takes for you to accept and learn to live with your loss. For some people, it lasts for a few months. For others, grieving may take years.
The length of time spent grieving is different for each person. There are many reasons for the differences, including personality, health, coping style, culture, family background, and life experiences. The time spent grieving also depends on your relationship with the person lost and how prepared you were for the loss.
The grieving process
Every person who experiences a death or other loss must complete a four-step grieving process:
- Accept the loss
- Work through and feel the physical and emotional pain of grief
- Adjust to living in a world without the person or item lost
- Move on with life.
If the feelings of grief do not go away, ask for help.
*Taken from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
There will be times within your friendships that you can see that someone is struggling or has been through something traumatic. Sometimes we want to know what to do to help and do not know where to even start and may feel “unqualified” to handle certain situations.
Ways to help
There are a few basic things to do to establish some boundaries for yourself and be helpful for your friend:
- Remember that you cannot do everything, do not take responsibility for fixing what is wrong. You cannot make someone else seek help or make big life changes.
- Don’t ignore what is happening because you may not be sure how to respond, often just communicating that is helpful.
- Listen and be supportive, really listening without judgement and without offering advice is often the most helpful way we can be there for others.
- Be honest with yourself about your limitations.
- Be honest with your friend, if you are unable to help, it is ok to redirect to someone that can.
- “Touch base” and encourage your friend to keep talking.
Relationships are one of the most complicated parts of the human experience. College can open the doors to many new relationships and highlight some issues with some already existent relationships. It is important to remember that relationships change, that this is a normal part of life.
Often we tend to mark our stability or fulfillment in situations based on the relationships we have around us. This is not just romantic relationships, although we tend to focus on those more, but on our family relationships, friendships, professional networking relationships, etc.
Maintaining Healthy Relationships
There are a few components in maintaining any kind of healthy relationship*:
- Communication: Both people in the relationship need to feel free to express positive and negative feelings, complaints, and affection. Check out misunderstandings, don’t make assumptions about the other person’s feelings or motives, do not assume that the other person knows how you feel, talk directly with the person about your needs.
- Expectations: Both people need to be on the same page about what they want from a relationship.Agree on how much time you will spend together and how you will spend that time, be aware of the other person’s needs and interests
- Conflict: In ALL relationships, there are times with communication breaks down; healthy relationships are able to clear up conflicts and emerge stronger. Negotiate a time to talk about difficult topics, use “I” statements to express your feelings, avoid “you” statements, don’t overgeneralize, avoid terms like “always” and “never,” use respectful language and avoid name-calling, listen without interrupting, focus on one problem at a time, admit when you are wrong.
- Boundaries: Both people need to be clear about what is okay/not okay in the relationship. Clearly state any limits you have for the relationship, say no when you are asked to do something that makes you uncomfortable, do not take responsibility over the other person’s destructive behavior (substance use, suicidal gestures)
Relationships can be rich and rewarding, they are also very hard. If you are struggling with the beginning of a relationship, end of relationship, establishing healthy boundaries or lack of relationships, etc. do not feel awkward about asking for help or feel as though you need to minimize what is happening to you.
*University of Texas, Austin
Sometimes it is hard to recognize the warning signs of an abusive or toxic relationship. You do not have to have physical injuries to be mistreated. Abuse can take various forms, including verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual. All types of abuse have the potential to escalate, and all types of abuse can have long-term effects on the individual. Take a look at some of these warning signs:
Do you feel like:
- Like you do not have any power in your relationship?
- Afraid of the other person’s temper?
- Afraid to disagree with the other person?
- The need to constantly apologize for the other person’s behavior when around others?
- That you must justify everything to avoid the other person’s anger?
- Like you cannot do anything without the person’s permission?
Does the other person:
- Have a history of bad relationships, none of which they believe to be their fault?
- Brag about hurting or mistreating others?
- Tend to lose their temper quickly and have a history of fighting?
Behave in ways that scare you?
- Act jealous and possessive, including frequently checking up on you?
- Prevent you from seeing other friends and family or get upset when you do?
- Give you orders and make all the decisions for your relationship?
- Demean or belittle you, especially in front of others?
- Criticize you, call you names, and frequently put you down?
- Give you the “silent treatment” or play other “mind games” with you?
- Threaten to leave you?
- Try to manipulate you by saying, “If you really loved/cared about me you would…”?
- Say you provoked them or otherwise blame you for their anger?
- Abuse drugs or alcohol and pressure you to as well?
- Ruin, damage, or destroy your things?
- Grab, push, hit, strangle, restrain, kick, or otherwise physically hurt you?
- Refuse to accept your boundaries or desire to end the relationship?
- Threaten to commit suicide (this is not the same as struggling with depression and ideation, it is used as a manipulation tool)
Consider seeking help
If you find yourself in a relationship that sounds like a few of these circumstances, consider seeking help from a counselor to process through developing healthy relationships around you and strengthening boundaries for toxic circumstances.
Use latex condoms to prevent the exchanges of semen and vaginal secretions. Be sure you learn the proper way to use a condom before trying it. Used incorrectly, condoms are ineffective at preventing STDs and pregnancy. There are many additional options to protect against pregnancy such as oral contraceptives, IUDs, or implants. You can talk to a medical care provider about making your decisions.
Lubricants can prevent discomfort associated with dryness before intercourse, as well as bruising that happens during anal sex. However, if you choose to use lubricants, always use water-based lubricants. Oil-based lubricants can weaken condoms and make them break. Lubricants that contain the spermicide nonoxynol-9 also provide extra protection against HIV.
Communicate with your partner
Communicate openly and effectively with your partner before any sexual activity.
Don’t mix alcohol or drug use to help overcome uncomfortable feelings associated with sexual intimacy. You probably would benefit from re-examining your reasons for entering a sexual relationship at this time or with this particular person.
*Taken from the Mayo Clinic
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Being prepared to talk to your medical provider about STDs:
- Write down any symptoms you’re experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Make a list of all medications.
- Write down questions to ask. A few basic questions include:
- What is the medical name of the infection or infections I have?
- How exactly, is it transmitted?
- Does my partner have to go to a doctor to be treated?
- Give your doctor a complete report of your symptoms and sexual history will help your provider determine how best to care for you. Here are some things that may be asked (Remember it is not about stigma or judgment, but for how to help you):
- What symptoms prompted you to come in? How long have you had these symptoms?
- Are you sexually active with men, women, or both?
- Do you currently have one partner or more than one?
- Have you ever injected yourself with drugs?
- Have you ever had sex with someone who injected themselves with drugs?
- What do you do to protect yourself from STDs?
- What do you to do to prevent pregnancy?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with an STD?
- How many partners have you had in the last year?
- When was your most recent sexual encounter?
Becoming pregnant while in college can be overwhelming. You may be wondering if you are ready to be a parent and about how a pregnancy will effect academic and career plans. If the pregnancy is unexpected, you may be struggling with how to talk to you partner, parents, family, and/or friends. You don’t have to experience the feelings and make the decisions to keep the baby, give up the child for adoption, or end the pregnancy alone. Help is available.*
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, you may contact the LSWC to arrange a confidential pregnancy test:
- Missed period
- Nausea and vomiting
- Soreness or enlargement of the breasts
- Increased urination
- Increased sensitivity to odors
- Food aversions
*Taken from Illinois State University
Sexuality is part of being human. Love, affection and intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships.
You often hear about the importance of physical health, mental health and spiritual health, but feeling confident about your sexual health also is very important. Achieving sexual health allows for:
- Healthy relationships
- Planned pregnancy
- Disease prevention
That’s why it is essential to be well-informed about all aspects of sexual health and what it takes to have a fulfilling sex life. Similarly, it’s important to be aware of factors that can complicate your sexual health. Don’t let embarrassment to keep you from bringing up concerns or asking questions of your partner, doctor, and other health care providers.
Entering into a sexual relationship with another person can be extremely exciting, difficult, scary, or intense. Like any big, important decision, it is one that requires you to gather a good deal of information beforehand so that it is an educated decision (this does not take the excitement away, can you imagine going skydiving but not checking your parachute?).
It is important to figure out what your own beliefs are conclusions are before you make the choice:
- Will my behavior harm me or the other person, physically or psychologically? Will I still like myself? What are the possible outcomes that could arise (emotional concerns, pregnancy, STDs)?
- Does my sexual expression enhance my self-esteem, self-respect, positive feelings about myself?
- Do I believe this will be enjoyable and gratifying to me?
- How will having a sexual relationship with this person affect our relationship beyond sex?
- What precautions will I take to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases? What will I do if I or my partner gets a STD or becomes pregnant?
*Taken from the Mayo Clinic
Sleep is not optional
It may seem like there are too many things going on such as studying, working, or spending time with friends and extracurricular activities to make sleep a priority. Being a college student often becomes synonymous with lack of sleep. However, research shows consistently that sleep is not optional, but critical to remaining healthy. Lack of sleep can interfere with focus, concentration, ability to retain information, mood stability, and weaken your immune system.
How much sleep do you need?
So, how much is enough? A healthy adult will range in sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night. Maintaining consistent sleep cycles is also important, having an established routine can aid in stability.
Tips for better sleep
Try some of these tips if you are having a hard time getting enough sleep:
- Create an environment that is conducive to sleep (dark, cooler, quiet)
Make sure you feel comfortable (comfortable blankets and pillows)
- Do not study or work in your bed as you begin to associate it with these activities rather use this area only for sleep or sex.
- Remove electronic devices from your sleep area (phones, tvs, laptops etc. give off light and stimulate the part of your brain that signals it is time to stay awake)
- If you are not able to fall asleep after around 20 min, don’t stay in bed. Get up and find an activity that will help to relax you (hot shower, listening to relaxing music).
- Don’t bring your stressors with you, if you are having a hard time letting go of worries for the next day, jot down a note to remind you of it in the morning.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol. Alcohol can often make individuals feel sleepy at first, but prevents actual REM cycle sleep often leading to inability to go back to sleep after effects have worn off.
- Try to have a consistent schedule, even on weekends where you are tempted to sleep in.
- Exercising regularly can make it easier to go to sleep, but be careful about the timing of your workout. Workouts right before bed can make it more difficult to sleep, morning and afternoon are the best times of day.
- Be cognizant of your eating schedule, eating spicy, sugary, or heavy foods before bed can make it more difficult to rest. However, sometimes a light snack can help “curb the edge” before bed time.