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Health & Wellness Services Division of Student Affairs

How to overcome the bystander effect

How to overcome the bystander effect

While most of us are sympathetic toward helping someone, the bystander effect can prevent us from stepping in. The bystander effect is when a group of people sees a problem or someone in need, but no one does anything to help.

Why don’t we help? One reason why people choose not to help is because they observe and follow what other people are doing. So if everyone is passing by and not paying attention, we conclude that what’s happening isn’t a big deal. After all, no one else looks concerned.

You’ve probably experienced a similar phenomenon in class. The professor asks if there are any questions, and since everyone else looks like they understand, you decide to not ask your question. When we follow social queues from others it becomes easy to make assumptions that are not true.

So what can you do? Next time you see someone who needs help, pay attention to your reaction. You might be tempted to ignore what’s happening because no one else is doing anything. Instead, stop and ask the person who appears to need help if they’re okay.

Another reason why people don’t help is because of the diffusion of responsibility. This is when you assume another person will step in or someone more qualified will help. And when there are more people present, like at a party, the less likely it is someone else will help.

If you notice something like possible symptoms of alcohol poisoning, a couple fighting, or something else that just doesn’t feel right, don’t wait for someone else to step in – take action immediately.

What can you do? Recruit a specific person and ask for their help. Then give that person a specific job like calling 911 or turning down the music.

Overcoming the bystander effect can be difficult, but the solution is to recognize these instinctive responses and decide to help anyway.

If you want to feel more confident in your ability to respond to someone who needs help, sign up for alcohol safety or bystander intervention training.

Try light therapy for seasonal affective disorder

Try light therapy for seasonal affective disorder

When the fall and winter months roll around and there’s less sunlight, some people experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD is a type of depression that occurs during a specific season, and subsides for the rest of the year. Symptoms of SAD are different for everyone, but they can include low energy, poor mood, fatigue, and similar symptoms.

How light therapy can help

If you’re experiencing SAD or other types of depression, consider trying light therapy. Light therapy involves using a specialized lamp that mimics real sunshine and produces similar benefits. It can help improve mood, regulate sleep hormones, increase levels of vitamin D, and relieve other symptoms of SAD.

For best results, our healthcare providers recommend using light therapy for 20 to 30 minutes first thing in the morning. You’ll want to sit 16 inches to two feet away from the light, without looking directly into it.

Before you try light therapy, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about risks, benefits, and other special considerations.

What to look for when buying a light therapy lamp

Want to buy your own light therapy unit? Try to get one with at least 10,000 lux. This level of light is optimal for reducing symptoms of SAD.

If you’re a client with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), you can use the light therapy lamp in their relaxation room (Washington Building room 302A). To access this lamp, all you need to do is talk with a CAPS staff member at the front desk during regular business hours.

Light therapy is just one treatment option for SAD and other types of depression. There are many other options you can try! If you’re experiencing any symptoms of depression, don’t hesitate to drop in during Counseling and Psychological Services’ walk-in hours, or make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

Violence prevention for graduate students

Violence prevention for graduate students

As a graduate student, you can take an active role to stop violence from happening on our campus. By knowing what your barriers are and what you can do about them, you’ll be ready to make WSU a safer place to live, work, and learn.

Violence prevention for a graduate student will probably be different than it would for an undergraduate. Conversations about violence sometimes focus on social settings like parties where people are drinking, but maybe you’ve seen someone in a professional or academic setting do something hurtful. This could be a faculty member, fellow graduate student, or one of your students.

Gender-based violence and other harmful behavior like harassment and discrimination can come in many different forms and can happen regardless of education or position.

We all experience barriers to taking action when we see something that concerns us. As a graduate or professional student you might’ve felt:

  • Scared of professional retaliation
  • Hesitant because it’s not your business
  • Worried about what others in your department will think if you spoke up
  • Uncertain about who you can talk to
  • Concerned about power dynamics in a relationship (for example, committee chair and student, supervising faculty member and TA or RA, lab partner and you)

So how can you work around these barriers? The answer is to direct, delegate, or distract.

Direct. Do something yourself. If you’re concerned about someone, ask them directly how they’re doing and if you can help. If a lab mate or a student appear to be struggling, ask questions like, “Hey, is everything going okay?” or, “Do you need anything?”

Delegate. Ask someone else for help. Sometimes you aren’t the best person to intervene in a given situation. Asking someone else for help is always an option. Talk with your department chair, a faculty member you trust, or a fellow student.

Concerned about a student under your supervision? Contact the AWARE Network. The AWARE Network allows you to share concerns about a student’s emotional or psychological wellbeing, physical health, or academic performance with colleagues who can help.

Distract. Diffuse the situation by diverting people’s attention. For example, if you see someone treating another person in a way that’s not okay, try to distract from what’s happening. For example, you could chime in and start a conversation about an unrelated topic.

If you or someone you know experiences harassment, discrimination or gender-based violence there are resources available to help.

Want to learn more about how you can prevent violence? Check out our toolkit for faculty and staff and sign up for updates on violence prevention.

Overcome the stress of perfection

Overcome the stress of perfection

Having high expectations for yourself can be a good thing. It can help you excel at your job and in class. But having standards that are too high can lead to stress and feelings of frustration when they’re not met.

Perfectionism is the tendency to set standards so high, they’re unattainable or only met with great difficulty. Someone who has perfectionist tendencies believes that anything short of perfect is a problem and fears making mistakes.

The effects of perfectionism

Feelings. Perfectionism can cause you to feel depressed, frustrated, anxious, and even angry. If you tend to criticize yourself for not doing what you think is a good job, these feelings can be more intense.

Thinking. You might think anything less than perfect is a failure. You may believe your self-worth depends on your achievements and that others judge you based on your accomplishments.

Behaviors. Perfectionism can cause you to chronically procrastinate, have difficulty completing tasks, or give up easily on something because you don’t feel it’s perfect. Perfectionism can also keep you from being creative and innovative.

Mental health. Perfectionism is related to eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and stress.

So how can you tell if perfectionism has gotten out of hand? Ask yourself:

  • Is it difficult for me to meet my own expectations?
  • Do I feel frustrated, depressed, anxious, or angry when I try to meet my standards?
  • Do my standards get in the way of doing what I want or need to do?
  • Do they make it difficult for me to meet deadlines, finish a task, trust others, or be spontaneous?

Tips for overcoming perfectionism

Think realistically. Challenge negative self-talk with realistic statements and self-compassion. For example, when you start to be overly critical of yourself, try to be kind and remind yourself nobody is perfect.

Try a new perspective. When you don’t meet your own expectations, try and view yourself as a friend would. They’d probably highlight positive things. Sure, you didn’t work out five days last week, but you made it to the gym three times and that’s a perfectly reasonable amount.

Conquer procrastination. Perfectionists tend to put off to dos because they may be unsure how to do something perfectly. Try practicing self-compassion for overcoming procrastination.

Create realistic expectations. You have a limited amount of time and energy. Try to spend these resources on projects, assignments, and other things that are most important. Prioritizing your to do list and setting SMART goals can help you set realistic expectations.

Allow yourself to make mistakes. You might fear making mistakes, but making them is a completely natural and expected part of human existence. After you make a few mistakes, you’ll realize it’s not the worst that can happen.

The content in this post is adapted from Anxiety BC®’s guide on “How to overcome perfectionism.”

Community safety starts with a conversation

Community safety starts with a conversation

Creating a culture of support for survivors of stalking, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault is essential for making our community a safer place.

When you share your knowledge about healthy relationships or how to support a survivor, it creates a ripple effect which improves our community’s well-being.

Plus, hearing about these issues from people we already know and trust is a major factor in changing unhealthy cultural attitudes toward violence.

So how can you start a conversation about violence? Here are some tips to help.

Know your barriers. Personal barriers can prevent us from starting tough conversations. You might be afraid of what others will think of you or feel like you’re not qualified to talk about this important issue. The key is to learn what your personal barriers are and find ways to overcome them.

Watch a movie and discuss it. Next time you watch a movie or TV show with someone, talk about the characters’ relationships – are they healthy or unhealthy? Being able to identify these behaviors in media can help you notice them in real life, either in your own relationship or someone else’s.

Share what you’ve read. Have you read something recently about violence that caught your attention? Talk with friends or family about how it impacted you. Ask them what they think and share your thoughts.

Get active on social media. Follow organizations and individuals who are posting about violence prevention and healthy relationships. Like or share posts from accounts like WSU Coug Health, Alternatives to Violence on the Palouse, and the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

If you’re not sure what to share, considering posting a positive story or video about someone who took action to ensure another person’s safety.

Show your support for violence prevention. Stop by our programs and outreach office for a keychain or a sticker for your water bottle! You never know what will spark a conversation.

Don’t forget there are other ways you can help prevent violence. When more Cougs take action, less violence happens in our community!

Flu or cold? Know the symptoms

Cold versus flu

All of the sudden, something hits you, you have a headache, your body aches, you develop a cough… Is it the flu or is it a cold? Do you need to see the doctor? Sometimes it’s hard to know if you have a cold or your symptoms are flu related.

Viruses cause both colds and flus, so the symptoms are similar. Flu symptoms usually come on all of a sudden and are more severe than a cold, while cold symptoms come on more gradually.

Flu symptoms:

  • Sudden onset
  • Fever greater than 101 degrees
  • Cough
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Chills, fatigue
  • Deep muscle and/or joint aches
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/ or diarrhea

Cold symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny and/or stuffy nose, sneezing
  • Feeling tired
  • Mild cough
  • Mild fever

The flu can have severe complications so it is good to know when to see a doctor.

If your cold symptoms last longer than 10 – 14 days and are getting worse or not improving you should see a healthcare provider.

If you have a mild flu or cold, learn how to manage your symptoms at home.

If you need advice on over-the-counter medication to take, talk to a pharmacist at Health & Wellness Services Pharmacy, 509-335-5742.

Lower your chances of contracting the flu by getting a flu vaccine.

Get your vaccine at one of our Flu Shot Friday events or by visiting our medical clinic.

When to see your doctor

Even if you are doing all that you can to prevent the flu, like getting a vaccine and practicing good health habits, it’s still possible to get sick. If you happen to get the flu despite being vaccinated, a flu shot may help make symptoms milder.

When you’re sick with the flu the best thing to do is stay home and avoid contact with other people. Provide this document to instructors who request a written note for missing class.

Make sure you seek medical care if:

  • Your temperature is greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Your symptoms do not improve
  • Your breathing becomes difficult
  • You experience pain in your chest or stomach
  • You become dizzy or lightheaded
  • You are vomiting and can’t keep fluids down

Most healthy people don’t need antiviral medicines for treating influenza. They are different from antibiotics in that they kill viruses, not bacteria. When treatment starts within 2 days of the beginning of your symptoms, antivirals can help make symptoms milder and shorten your illness. If your doctor prescribes antiviral medication, be sure to take them as directed. Also, check out our post on how to manage symptoms at home.

If you are unsure about your symptoms, you can call Health & Wellness Services’ 24-hour nurse line, 509-335-3575 #9 and discuss your symptoms with a nurse.

The best way to lower your chances of contracting the flu is by getting a flu vaccine.

You can get your flu vaccine at Health & Wellness Services, simply head over to the patient portal and book an appointment with your provider.

Health & Wellness Services is giving flu shots every Friday from September 29 – October 27 between 10 am – 3 pm, in the Washington Building, room G41. Bring your insurance card.

It will only take a few minutes to get your vaccine, and you will be on your way!

Cultural norms about sexual assault

The culture we live in shapes how we view issues like sex- and gender-based violence. Cultural norms can perpetuate myths about what violence is, who perpetrates it, and how we respond.

Rape culture is a term used to describe the various ways sexual violence is normalized, condoned, excused, and encouraged by prevailing social practices, attitudes, and behaviors. Examples include:

  • Seeing gender roles as rigid and unchanging. We often see this play out in popular music and movies. Women are often treated like sexual objects, and men are often portrayed as dominant and aggressive.
  • Refusing to believe victims of sexual violence when they come forward
  • Excusing and minimizing men’s violence toward women – and other men – with words like, “boys will be boys”

Because we’re constantly surrounded by these ideas, they can influence our views in ways we may not even realize. But there are small, manageable things everyone can do to help reduce the effects of rape culture.

Examine the media you consume. This doesn’t mean avoiding movies or TV shows that normalize violence (though that is an option). This simply means you can be more aware of the messages they send and think about how they contribute to a culture that supports violence.

Stay informed. Learn more about cultural norms surrounding rape culture by watching documentaries. Start with Miss Representation, a documentary about how women are represented in media. Another good one is The Mask You Live In, which talks about how boys and men navigate a culture with narrow views on masculinity.

Speak your mind. If someone makes a comment that makes you feel uncomfortable or concerned, you have options for responding to that person.

Support victims and survivors. If someone tells you they were sexually assaulted, believe them and let them know they have options.

Small actions make a difference. Sometimes issues like this seem overwhelming, but remember: No one has to do everything, but everyone can do something.

To learn more, request a presentation for your student group on the topic of rape culture.

Flu facts

Flu Facts

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated.

Flu vaccines cannot cause influenza. Flu viruses used in vaccines are not live, therefore unable to cause the flu.

Getting a flu shot is the number one way to prevent the flu. If you get the flu vaccine, you are about 60 percent less likely to need treatment for the flu. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older get a flu shot.

A flu shot can help you stay well and prevent serious complications. The flu can cause you to miss school or work. Flu shots helped reduce flu-related hospitalizations by 71 percent during the 2011- 2012 flu season. If you happen to get the flu despite getting a vaccine, a flu shot may help make symptoms milder.

The earlier you get your flu shot, the better. It takes about two weeks to develop antibodies that protect against the flu. Flu season runs from October to May, and getting vaccinated in the fall can help you stay well in the spring.

Get your vaccine at one of our Flu Shot Friday events or by visiting our medical clinic.

7 healthy habits for preventing flu

7 healthy habits for preventing flu

Getting a vaccine is the number one way to prevent the flu, but practicing good health habits can also help stop the spread of flu, colds, and other viruses.

To stay healthy and prevent the flu from spreading, we recommend Cougs practice the following healthy habits:

  1. Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
  2. Cover up. Flu viruses can travel up to six feet when someone coughs, talks, or sneezes! Try to sneeze and cough into your sleeve or a tissue.
  3. Stay home if you’re sick. It might not feel important to miss class, work, or other responsibilities, but it’s more important to rest and avoid spreading germs to others. If you do get sick, be sure to check out our managing symptoms at home post.
  4. Kill germs. Flu viruses can live on a surface for up to eight hours! Be sure to disinfect and clean countertops, sinks, doorknobs, and other frequently used surfaces.
  5. Avoid touching your face. Germs spread when you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  6. Don’t share. Don’t borrow items such as lipstick, lip balm, eating utensils, straws, cups, toothbrushes, smoking devices like hookahs, pipes, vape pens, or cigarettes. Flu-contaminated saliva can be transferred by any of these items.
  7. Take care of yourself. Sleeping, exercising, managing stress, and eating healthy foods can all help you stay healthy. Need help with any of these or aren’t sure where to start? Check out our full list of wellness workshops on CougSync.