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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.

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.

Touch

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.

Sight

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.

Taste

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.

Smell

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.

Hearing

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.

7 ways to improve your sleep

7 ways to improve your sleep

College students are constantly busy. In order to keep up with the demands of being in college, students will often sacrifice their sleep.  While this might seem like a good idea at the time, losing sleep can impact your academic performance and increase your stress levels.

We know Cougs aren’t getting enough sleep. According to our 2016 National College Health Assessment data, about 60 percent of WSU students say they feel tired, dragged out or sleepy for more than three days out of the week.

Sleep is incredibly important. After all, sleeping is how our body recharges and prepares for busy, stressful days ahead. College students need about 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

If you find yourself feeling tired or sleepy throughout the week, try some of our expert tips for improving your sleep.

  1. If you choose to take a nap, be sure to nap earlier in the day and keep it to 45 minutes or less. Taking short naps early in the day has less of an impact on your nighttime sleep.
  2. If you can control the temperature in your bedroom, the best temperature for sleeping is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Avoid looking at your phone when you’re trying to fall asleep. Your mind stays active while looking through social media feeds and you can get stuck in the infinite scroll. And before you know it, you’re still on Facebook hours later.
  4. Set a cut off time for all electronic devices. This allows your brain to unwind before bed. Having a set time will also prevent you from binge watching Netflix till 3:00 am.
  5. Make a schedule. Going to bed and waking up roughly at the same time will reinforce your body’s natural sleep cycle. You’ll start to feel tired around the same time each night, and naturally wake up around the same time every morning.
  6. Only use your bed for sleeping. Avoid eating, doing homework or just hanging out in bed. If you reserve your bed only for sleeping, when you do lie down, your body will know that it’s time for bed.
  7. Avoid bringing stressors to bed. If there is a lot on your mind, try jotting down all of your thoughts right before bed to help put your mind at ease.

Following these tips can increase your sleep quality and help you feel more awake and ready to take on the day.  If you want more information on sleep, check out the National Sleep Foundation.

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

students studying together at a table

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.

6 tips for eating healthy on a budget

Person holding fruit

When you’re looking for food that’s cheap, fast and convenient, it can be tempting to make unhealthy choices. If you’ve ever made an effort to eat healthy while on a budget, you’ve probably felt caught in a decision between cost-effective and healthy choices.

We’ve got good news, though: it really is possible to do both! Here are six quick tips to help:

  1. Plan and make a list. Try planning at least three meals for the week and make a list of the specific ingredients you need before you hit the grocery store. Having a plan and a shopping list will help you stick to buying only what you need.
  2. Freeze leftovers. Your healthy meals will stay fresh longer in the freezer than the refrigerator, and takeout won’t be as tempting if you have healthy leftovers on hand.
  3. Check out frozen foods. Frozen fruits and veggies are often just as nutritious as fresh produce, and are also significantly cheaper.
  4. Buy generic or store brands. Generic brands typically have the exact same ingredients and are significantly cheaper than name brands.
  5. Get the most nutritious foods for your money. Some foods rich in nutrients but low in price include: peanut butter, whole wheat bread, tuna, beans, milk, yogurt, eggs, low-sugar spaghetti sauce, pasta, seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  6. Set yourself up for success. No matter how strong your willpower, keeping cookies and soda in the house makes it easy to slip up. Choosing not to buy unhealthy food in the first place will help you avoid empty calories and save money.

You can find more information about building a healthy diet from Health.gov or by signing up for a Health & Wellness Services workshop on CougSync. If you’re eating on campus, don’t forget to check out the nutrition info provided by Dining Services.

Fitting fitness into your schedule

Woman stretching

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to commit to working out? Quick fixes that promise overnight weight loss are tempting, but can be difficult to maintain over the long term. So how can you start a new fitness habit that sticks? Here are some very simple ways to start squeezing fitness into your schedule.

Play. That’s right, it’s time to play and have fun! Getting active by doing something you enjoy will help you to stay motivated towards your fitness goals. There are so many ways to be active at WSU!

University Recreation offers a wide range of fitness classes, including everything from martial arts to merengue and CrossFit to yoga. Intramural sports are a great way to socialize and be active at the same time. Want to hike or climb? Check out some of the planned trips the Outdoor Recreation offers.

Fitness on the fly. Not sure you have time to commit to a regular fitness class or sport? That’s okay! Finding little opportunities to exercise throughout your day can add up fast. If you take three 10-minute breaks for exercise throughout the day, you’ll reach the 30 minutes of physical activity that many health experts recommend without a huge time commitment.

Consider squeezing in a few jumping jacks, pushups, squats, lunges, tricep dips or whatever else you feel inspired to do as a break from studying or watching TV. Or try walking to and from classes, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or getting your heart rate up with some energetic housework.

Know yourself.  Are you are morning person, or an evening person? Do you prefer going to the gym or exercising at home? In order to find a fitness routine that is sustainable for you, you’ll need to know your habits and preferences.

If you hate running, it’ll be tougher to motivate yourself for a daily jog than for other fitness activities. If you’re a night owl, exercising at 6 a.m. might just not be for you. Set yourself up for success with a routine and activity that fit your personal preferences.

Looking for more tips and tricks on fitness and maintaining a healthy lifestyle? Follow Coug Health on Facebook or check out our current calendar of workshops at CougSync!