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Cougar Health Services October 2016

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!

Alcohol and your diet

When we think about how alcohol affects our body, we immediately think of a nasty hangover.  However, alcohol can impact our nutrition as well.

Alcohol offers little to no nutritional value. In fact, most ingredients in alcoholic beverages are non-essential, meaning our bodies don’t need them to function.

Your body treats alcohol like a toxin. This means your body will try to remove the alcohol from your system before it does anything else. As a result, non-essential nutrients in alcohol start to replace essential nutrients from your food. When this happens, your body loses out on important proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. In extreme cases, drinking too much or too often can lead to malnutrition.

This can also impact your metabolism and your body’s ability to burn fat, which can lead to weight gain.  Drinking on an empty stomach to compensate for the calories in alcohol can intensify its effects.

These nutrition deficiencies can also impact your mental and emotional wellbeing. Excessive alcohol use can greatly lower the B vitamins in your body, which play an important role in preventing anxiety, depression and fatigue.

So what can you do? Try drinking in moderation to limit the number of empty calories and non-essential nutrients you consume.

Learn how to prevent and recover from burnout

Learn how to prevent and recover from burnout

We often hear of people in high-stress or challenging careers experiencing burnout like teachers, nurses or social workers.  But what is burnout?

Burnout is more than just a lack of motivation, which everyone experiences from time to time. Burnout is a debilitating state that can happen after experiencing a large amount of stress over a long period of time. It can include frustration, chronic fatigue, emotional exhaustion, difficulty focusing, lack of motivation and a decreased sense of purpose about work. All of these symptoms can lead to a decline in job or academic performance.

The most common cause for student burnout is assignment overload – too much work from too many classes. Family issues, financial stress and outside jobs can also contribute to student burnout.

Prevent burnout

Burnout is preventable! Try some of these tips to reduce stress before it becomes debilitating.

  • Take care of yourself! When we’re busy, we tend to stop our self-care practices. Try to schedule time to do something that nourishes your soul. Take a yoga class or go to a movie, guilt-free.
  • Stay social. You may feel like you don’t have the time or energy for socializing with friends. Fight the urge to isolate yourself and make sure you spend time around other people. Connecting with others is essential to happiness and emotional health. Go to an event, schedule a dinner with friends or study with a classmate. If you’ve been neglecting your social life, make it a priority!
  • Try meditation. Mindfulness meditation is a practice where you focus your attention and awareness on the breath. Meditation has been found in thousands of studies to help reduce anxiety, depression and stress, while increasing happiness and quality of life. Despite its simplicity, meditation is something that you have to practice! Start small and sit quietly with your eyes closed while counting your breath for 5 minutes or less. Try a meditation app to help you learn!

Recover from burnout

Maybe you’re already feeling burnt out. Recovery from burnout will take time and a dedicated effort to rebalance your mind and life.

  • Decrease your responsibilities. Write out all of your commitments – classes, clubs, jobs, projects, relationships. Identify which items are absolutely essential, and cancel, drop, and say “no” to everything else that isn’t an absolute necessity. Talk to any clubs or organizations you’re involved with and see if you can reduce your responsibilities for a while.
  • Reach out for help. This is the most important thing you can do! If your course load is unmanageable, meet with your advisor and ask for their help. If you have a job, talk to your supervisor about what you’re going through and see if there are ways they can help.
  • Use campus resources. You’re not alone and there are many resources on campus and people who want to help! As a student you get access to free counseling through Counseling and Psychological Services. Our counselors can offer you a place to talk about your burnout and stress, as well as give insight into resources, services and support that is available to you.

Alcohol, sex and getting consent

When it comes to drinking alcohol and having sex, at what point is a person unable to give clear, knowing, and voluntary consent? The short answer: when someone becomes incapacitated.

Incapacitation, as defined by WSU, means someone can’t fully comprehend the details of the situation and has lost the ability to make rational, informed decisions.

It’s important to understand that having sex without consent is sexual assault. And alcohol can diminish someone’s ability to give and get consent. So let’s talk about consent when alcohol is involved.

Sometimes, it’s obvious when someone is incapacitated, like when they are asleep or passed out. Other times, it may appear less clear. Someone’s age, sex, body composition, experience with alcohol and food intake play huge roles in how they are affected by drinking.

If you feel like you’re getting mixed messages, or you’re not 100 percent confident you have consent, stop and reassess. It’s helpful to ask yourself these questions:

  • Can they clearly communicate with their words?
  • Can you carry on a coherent conversation with each other?
  • Can they walk in a straight line, or are they wobbly?
  • Would you feel comfortable giving them the keys to your car?

If you answer “no” or “maybe” to these questions, then it’s best to assume they can’t give clear, knowing, and voluntary consent. Be sure to also regularly check in with the other person. Keep in mind that people can appear coherent even when they’re not. It only takes a moment to check in and ensure the other person is able to consent.

If you’re initiating sexual activity – drunk or not – it’s always your responsibility to get consent. Even if you’re both drunk, it doesn’t mean both of you are incapacitated. Just like we’re not okay with someone hurting others by drinking and driving, being drunk is not a valid excuse for sexually assaulting someone.

Interested in learning more about consent? Request a workshop for your group, chapter, residence hall, or department.

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.

Use all 5 senses for better sleep

Use all 5 senses for better sleep

As college students, we don’t always have the best sleep habits. It’s easy to stay up too late playing on our phones or watching shows, or to drink too much caffeine during the day. And then there are times when our sleep habits just go out the door, like when we stay up late studying or pull an all-nighter.

If you have trouble falling asleep, try using your five senses to improve your sleep environment.


Are your sheets scratchy, or is your bed too firm? Do you feel comfortable when you’re all tucked in or are there little things that annoy you? Touch is really important. The key is to find the right pillow, mattress and sheets for you. If you prefer a soft bed, you can turn a firmer mattress into a softer one with a cloud top or memory foam pad.

Another factor to keep in mind is the temperature of the room. Most people find that 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature for sleep.


Lights and electronics can trick your brain into thinking you should be awake – even when it’s well past your bedtime. It’s best to stop using phones and other electronic devices about an hour before bedtime.

If you can’t put away your phone or tablet before bed, try using a blue light blocking filter. If you need to have lights on for reading or studying, try putting the source of light behind you.


What you eat or drink before bed can affect your sleep. For example, alcohol, chocolate and tomato-based foods can keep you awake. On the other hand, foods like almonds, honey, cherries and bananas have been linked to improving sleep.

The key is to pay attention and learn what works for you. For example, try setting a cutoff time for caffeine and see if it helps you sleep.


Have you ever tried to sleep with a stuffy nose? How about allergies? Trouble breathing can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try cleaning your space. Dust and other allergens can pollute the air and make normal breathing difficult. Washing your sheets and dusting regularly helps improve the air quality in your bedroom.

Want more? Try using aromatherapy. While researchers are still working to conclusively determine if lavender helps with insomnia, many people find it soothing and helpful for falling asleep.


Noise can help or hurt your ability to fall and stay asleep. Some people prefer to fall asleep to white noise from a television or fan. If you prefer background noise, be sure the volume is at a low level and turns off after a set time.

If you’re someone who prefers complete silence you might purchase a pair of earplugs. Earplugs are an easy and inexpensive way to drown out noise, like loud roommates or neighbors.

Tips for a healthy relationship

Tips for a healthy relationship

Did you know that in a one-year period, 8 percent of Cougs experienced physical or emotional abuse in their relationship (ACHA-NCHA, 2016)? Dating violence impacts individuals and communities.

As members of the WSU community, we care about the wellbeing of Cougs. It’s important to talk not only about what violence looks like, but also what a healthy relationship looks like.

October is Domestic Violence Action Month. In honor of this month, here are some healthy relationship tips you can try.

  1. Talk about personal boundaries. Having a shared understanding of your physical and emotional wants, needs and expectations is crucial for a healthy relationship.
  2. Respect boundaries. What feels comfortable and normal for you might be totally different than your partner. Make sure to listen to and respect their needs.
  3. Talk openly and often. Honest communication about how you are feeling is an essential trait of a healthy relationship. Take some time out of a weekend together to chat about how things are going and talk about areas of your relationship you want to improve.
  4. Hear what your partner has to say. You should be able to listen to one another without judgment, anger or fear of retaliation.
  5. Build each other up. Mutual support is crucial for a healthy relationship. If it seems like your partner is feeling insecure about something or doubting themselves, offer some words of encouragement or reassurance.
  6. Don’t be afraid of conflict. You will disagree with each other at various points in your relationship. That’s normal. Constant conflict, or making your partner feel guilty about how they feel, is not.
  7. Take time apart. Your partner shouldn’t pressure you to hang out 24/7. It’s both normal and healthy to need space. Being together doesn’t mean being together all the time.
  8. Recognize feelings of discomfort. You should feel safe in your relationship and trust your partner. Feelings of insecurity are normal, but they shouldn’t take over your relationship or turn into controlling behaviors (like looking at your partner’s cell phone to see who they are texting or dictating who they can or can’t hang out with).

Remember, relationships have natural highs and lows. If you ever feel unsafe in a relationship, know support is available. If you’re having trouble assessing if your relationship is healthy, try this quiz.

Want to learn more about healthy and unhealthy relationship dynamics? Attend one of our workshops.

Consent isn’t just for sex

Consent isn't just for sex

Reading about consent is much different than getting or giving consent in a real-life situation. If you’re like most people, it takes practice before you’re comfortable having open conversations with someone about sex.

Giving and getting consent isn’t exclusive to sex. We have many opportunities in day-to-day life to practice setting our own boundaries and respecting other people’s boundaries.

Practice giving consent

Let’s use a non-sex scenario for example. You get an invitation to a party early in the week and you instantly commit to attend. But later on, what sounded like fun a few days ago sounds less appealing today. You might think that if you don’t go, they’ll be annoyed at you or it will hurt their feelings.

Sometimes we might feel bad when we say no, especially when we initially said yes. But, being clear and open about where you stand doesn’t mean you’re being rude or awkward. Remember, you’re the only one who knows what’s best for you – so it’s up to you to protect your needs.

The key is letting the other person know what you do and do not want. Your wants can change, and that’s okay. It’s important for the person on the receiving end to respect your boundaries.

Practice getting consent

Be ready to be respectful of whatever answer you receive when you ask for consent. Let’s go back to the party example, but this time you’re throwing the party.

If you invite a friend to a party and they cancel at the last minute, you might be annoyed. You might have really looked forward to having them there. But you have to be respectful of their decision.

Here are some tips for being respectful when someone else says “no”:

  • Try not to take it personally. There could be more going on in the situation than you know about.
  • Don’t pressure someone to do something they’re not interested in doing.
  • Understand that everyone can change their mind about decisions they make.
  • Remember, people communicate desires and limits in ways beyond words like “yes” and “no”. Body language and facial expressions can also give you indications about how someone is feeling.
  • If you feel like you’re getting mixed messages, don’t hope or assume the other person has consented! Stop and check in with that person to make sure you’re both on the same page about what’s happening.

Consent is simply making sure your boundaries, and the boundaries of others, are respected.

If you’re interested in learning more about consent, you can request a workshop for your group, chapter, residence hall, or department.