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Health & Wellness Services Division of Student Affairs

Pilot stress program helps over 150 Cougs

Pilot stress program helps over 150 Cougs

We’re helping over 150 Cougs lower their stress with our interactive pilot text message program. Every week we check in with students to see how they’re doing, then send them personalized tips for relieving stress.

According to National College Health Assessment data over the years, WSU students consistently report stress as the most common health-related factor affecting their academic performance. In 2016, 51.6 percent of Cougs said they experienced more than average stress in the past 12 months.

We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the stress management texting program, and we’re eager to offer it to students again next year.

Moving forward, we want to collaborate with campus partners to increase the number of activities and resources to help Cougs lower their stress. And we’re exploring the possibility of creating a similar program just for graduate students.

We were able to provide the pilot stress management program with support from student technology fees and student activity fees.

Supporting health in the Greek community

Following their recent student-led moratorium, Greek leaders reached out to Health & Wellness Services staff for support and resources. Together we’re developing action plans tailored to each individual chapter to address public health concerns like violence, substance abuse, and mental health.

We worked with student leaders from individual chapters to survey their members and assess their attitudes and concerns around these issues. Over 2,900 Greek students responded to our survey on violence, and our survey on substance abuse is in progress.

After the surveys, our next step is to meet with each chapter to review their specific results and provide some initial educational information. So far, we’ve met with 39 chapters about violence prevention and continue to meet about substance abuse and mental health.

Why these specific topics? Research shows alcohol use, drug use, and mental health concerns can negatively affect college students’ academic performance in a variety of ways.

The surveys we conducted this semester show many Greek students are drinking to cope with stress. And according to the 2016 National College Health Assessment, 13.4 percent of Greek students experience academic difficulties due to alcohol.

Moving forward, we will provide each chapter leader with reports on survey results and suggestions for how they can promote healthy behaviors in their chapter.

Get personalized stress management tips

Get personalized stress management tips

Feeling stressed, need help coping, or just want personalized stress management techniques? We can help! This semester we’re launching a new text messaging program to help you relieve your stress.

We will:

  • Check in with you every other week to see how you’re doing
  • Send you weekly tips for lowering stress, customized to your individual stress level
  • Enter you to win a free Ferdinand’s ice cream grabber whenever you do a check in

To sign up, text “STRESS” to 30644. Text messages will start March 1, but you can join at any point in the semester.

For any questions about this program or our stress management workshops, give us a call at 509-335-WELL.

6 tips for performing your best during finals

6 tips for performing your best during finals

It’s finals week, and a lot of Cougs are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with all they have to do. To overcome test anxiety and perform your best this week, try some of these tips for studying effectively and staying well during finals.

1. Take short breaks. One study method you may find effective is the Pomodoro Technique, where you focus on a task for 25 minutes, and then take a five minute break. These short breaks give your mind a much-needed rest, and give you a chance to hydrate, get a snack or check your social media feeds.

2. Break up big tasks. Breaking up a big task into smaller steps can help it feel manageable and make it easier to get started. For example, if you need to write a paper you could break it down like this: find research articles, take notes, write paper outline, include citations, write introduction, etc. If you’re struggling to get started on a big project, make it your first task simply to open a new file and create a title page.

3. Set specific study goals and deadlines. Once you’ve broken your big tasks down into manageable chunks, set deadlines or schedule time for each step. Instead of just writing “study for chem final” in your planner, try setting a specific goal like make flash cards, review lecture slides, rewrite class notes, meet with study group or complete practice test. Planning study sessions with specific goals will help you study smarter.

4. Eat that frog. Let’s imagine you have to eat a frog today. Because eating a frog sounds awful, you keep putting it off. But once you eat the frog and get it out of the way, the rest of your day will be easy by comparison.

What’s the most difficult and stressful task on your to-do list? Try tackling that task first – eating the frog – to give yourself a sense of accomplishment and help you feel ready to take on everything else.

5. Take care of yourself. Having a healthy body and mind can help you succeed during finals week. This means eating before you take a test, staying hydrated, scheduling some self-care activities and getting enough sleep.

6. Be aware of what you’re telling yourself. Try not to get angry if you get off track with your study plan or procrastinate. Getting mad at yourself only increases your stress levels, and it can create a cycle of procrastination, anger and more procrastination. The key is to practice self-compassion.

Follow us on Facebook to get more helpful tips on staying well during finals.

Alcohol and coping with stress

We’re well into the semester and many of us have stressful deadlines and looming final projects. If you feel your stress rising with the workload, you’re not alone.

A lot of Cougs feel stressed by their academic load. In 2016, 83 percent of Cougs reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do.

When life gets stressful, it can be tempting to cope by drinking. Since alcohol is a depressant, it can lower anxiety and make you feel relaxed. While this may calm your nerves for a while, the effects are short-lived.

While drinking may make you feel better in the moment, regular drinking and binge drinking can increase stress and anxiety. And long-term, heavy drinking can alter the brain’s chemistry, making you more susceptible to stress.   

While occasionally drinking to relax or socialize with friends can be healthy and normal, regularly drinking to cope with stress can become a dangerous habit. How do you know when your drinking is problematic? Ask yourself:

  • Is drinking the only way you cope with stress?
  • Do you have to drink more to get the same benefits?
  • Do you feel anxious if you are unable to drink?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may want to speak with a health care provider or counselor about your drinking habits.

Drinking doesn’t address the underlying causes of stress. Instead, focus on ways you can reduce your overall stress levels, or increase your resiliency to stress and support your mental health.

Consider trying activities that help you deal with stress successfully, like:

You can learn more about alcohol, stress management, mindfulness and other topics by attending our free workshops listed on CougSync.

Show your support for mental health

Show support for mental health

At WSU, we want to create a campus culture that is supportive and educated about mental and emotional health.

Mental health conditions affect all of society, including many of us here at WSU. In our 2016 NCHA survey data, 34.8 percent of Cougs reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function in the last year.

This month, groups across campus are hosting events to raise awareness about mental and emotional health. Learn more and show your support by attending an event!

Mental health awareness campaign

To kick off the month, we’re partnering with ASWSU and student group To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) to host a mental health awareness campaign Nov. 1-4. Together, we hope to destigmatize mental illness and mental health problems.

For event information and mental health resources, follow ASWSU on Facebook or Twitter.

Campus Connect suicide prevention training

Wednesday, Nov. 2

This training covers facts and statistics about college student suicide, warning signs and how to intervene during a crisis. The training is free and all students are welcome to attend. Check out training times, and sign up on CougSync.

Keynote speaker on mental illness: Hakeem Rahim

Thursday, Nov. 3, 6:30-7:30 pm, Todd 116

Come listen to Hakeem Rahim, a professional speaker on mental health awareness, depression and suicide prevention. Hakeem will talk about his personal journey with mental illness as well as strategies to support, educate, and empower students to end mental health stigma. Make sure to check out #IAMACCEPTANCE on social media.

Movember at University Recreation

Join University Recreation for Movember, a month-long campaign focused on men’s health. UREC is hosting a full schedule of events, and all are welcome to participate!

6 tips for creative self-care

6 tips for Creative Self Care

We’re almost halfway through the semester! At this point, staff and students alike are feeling drained and worn out.

It’s easy to not take care of ourselves as well as we should. Of course, classic self-care techniques like exercise, a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep are essential for a successful term.

If you’re looking to boost your self-care practice and find some much needed motivation and energy, try some of our creative self-care strategies.

  • Learn to say no. It’s okay to be picky with your commitments! If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed with everything you have to do, prioritize which activities are essential to your values, goals and wellbeing. And then practice saying no to the rest.
  • Unplug for an evening. Reduce mental clutter by turning off your phone and getting off the internet. Reconnect with a friend, take a quiet walk outside, go to a coffee shop and read for pleasure, or people watch.
  • Practice gratitude. Studies show taking time to express gratitude for others in our lives increases our overall happiness. Try it out! Write a brief letter to someone you’re grateful for. Be sure to write specific reasons why you’re thankful for this person and how they make you feel. You could even give them the letter and brighten their day as well.
  • Get cleaning! Having a clean, organized space for living and working can reduce stress and even depression. Clutter is distracting and causes unnecessary stress in your brain. Plus, cleaning can be relaxing and even give you a little exercise!
  • Take a different route to class. Routines can help us stay organized, but sometimes they make us feel stuck in a rut. Small, intentional changes in your daily routines can help you cope with day to day stress. Plus, maybe you’ll see something new on campus, or meet someone new!
  • Write a list of your best tips. Self-care is all about you! Sit down and write a list of things that help you feel relaxed and restored. It could be as simple as taking a shower, taking a walk, or petting a dog. Keep this list on hand as a cheat sheet for when you’re tired and stressed.

Do you have any creative self-care ideas of your own that you’d like to share? Come visit us on Facebook at WSU Coug Health and share your favorite self-care strategy.

Looking for ways to better manage stress and improve well-being? Check out our full list of helpful workshops on CougSync.

Happy, healthy success for students

Happy, healthy success for students

When I came to WSU as an undergraduate student in 1997, I was not healthy. I didn’t have any type of obvious physical dysfunction. I just wasn’t thriving emotionally or physically.

How do you define health? I think happiness is health. Accepting who you are and what you can do is health. Finding your path and enjoying the journey – yes, I think that’s health too.

During my time at WSU, I’ve been an undergraduate student, graduate student and now an employee with a mission to support students. I’ve had a lot of time to consider what would have helped me to be healthy, to thrive, as a new student.

Here’s what I wish I would have known:

  • Do what’s important to you. People everywhere will be telling you what you should do and the best way to do it. (Like me right now!) But only you know what your goals are, and you’re the one who ultimately has to determine the best way for you to get there.
  • Know your support system. At Health and Wellness Services, we have programs and services to help support your mental, emotional and physical health. And across campus, there are so many people and offices specifically in place to help you with any challenge that may come your way.
  • Ask for help when you need it, even for the little things. And if the person you ask can’t or won’t help, keep asking until you find someone who will. I guarantee that whatever challenge you’re facing, there’s someone (usually more than one someone) on this campus who can and will help you.

Like me, you’ll get a lot of advice while you’re here at WSU. And maybe, like me, you’ll end up with a list of “I wish I would have knowns.” In the end, you’ll sort through it all and figure out what works best for you. And if you need help along the way, we’re here for you.

Paula Adams holds the position of associate director of health promotion at Health & Wellness Services and is a bit compulsive about effectiveness and efficiency. She is working toward a doctoral degree in prevention science.

8 ways to study smarter

8 ways to study smarter

Want to overcome exam stress and maximize academic performance? There’s no sure formula that works for everyone, but there are some basic principles you can adapt to fit your classes, schedule and learning style.

  1. Schedule your study sessions. It’s easier to motivate yourself to study if you already have it on your schedule for a specific time.
  2. Take breaks. Giving your brain a rest every 30 minutes to 1 hour is better for learning than studying for hours with no breaks. Try setting a timer to study for 30 minutes, then take a 5-minute break and repeat.
  3. Make flash cards. Flashcards are often more effective study aids than highlighting, underlining, rereading or using mnemonic devices. Flashcards incorporate multiple learning styles, including visual, verbal and motor. Make sure to use your flashcards for review after making them!
  4. Set a specific study goal. Feeling overwhelmed? Set a specific goal before you start studying. For example, instead of saying “I’m going to study for biology lab tonight,” commit to reviewing your lab reports and quizzes or doing practice tests.
  5. Create practice tests. Creating practice tests is a great way to thoroughly learn concepts. This strategy also helps memory recall, which can reduce test anxiety.
  6. Practice by teaching others. Explaining material you just learned to others can improve your understanding the material. Just be sure to avoid getting off topic when studying in groups.
  7. Find a quiet study space. Try studying in an environment similar to the classroom where you’ll be taking your test.
  8. Remove distractions. Yes, that means turning off your phone and closing your internet browser. Removing distractions can significantly boost your focus. Listening to music can be distracting, and some studies suggest it may be less effective than studying in silence. If music helps you relax, try listening to it before and after your study session.

Everyone learns differently, so try out a few of these tips and see what works best for you. If you want to learn more about study skills, consider signing up for an educational workshop.