Feel Great · Get Well

The Genetics of Peer Pressure and Alcohol

A team of six researchers, three of which are from Syracuse University, published a study this semester exploring nature versus nurture as causes of adolescent alcohol use.

According to Michelle Zaso, a SU clinical psychology graduate student involved in the study, says the study explores genetic differences in people’s vulnerability to drinking based on their peers and tendencies to seek out peers with similar levels of drinking.

The study focused on one gene, DRD4, and whether people with the DRD4 gene were more likely to be influenced by their peers.

The study was a follow-up from Syracuse University Professor Dr. Aesoon Park’s abnormal psychology dissertation project from 2011. The study was about how people who have the DRD4 gene are especially vulnerable and influenced by their environment when compared to people who don’t have the DRD4 gene. They feel like everyone’s drinking around them. “Your friends think that drinking heavily is an okay thing to do, or sometimes you even feel like it’s an awesome thing to do,” said Park. “By perceiving that, that cognition is actually causing them to engage in more drinking.”

Prior studies indicate that peer drinking norms are arguably one of the strongest correlates of adolescent drinking.

Afton Kapuscinski, director of the psychological services center at SU, has noticed that college students underestimate the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse.

“Normative doesn’t mean not dangerous,” said Kapuscinski. “Research also indicates that college students tend to overestimate how much other people drink, and they underestimate the amount of students who don’t drink at all.”

Kapuscinski claims that 20 percent of SU students are completely abstinent from alcohol, which she says is higher than most students think.

Eventually Park wants to see some kind of way to predict which people are at a high risk of drinking, by considering an individual’s genes and environment. “So we can prevent it or observe it so we can intervene earlier rather than too late,” said Park.

Park said that she hopes that someday screening for alcohol abuse risk will become like cancer screening. The goal is that when people go to their primary care doctors, they can screen the genetic risk of alcohol problems and provide symptoms and resources for prevention and treatment.

“Genetic counseling is already happening,” said Park. “It’s a long way to go for the drinking problem, but that’s potentially the future. That’s why we’re doing this.”

Dr. Stephen Glatt is an associate professor at SUNY Upstate and one of the authors of the study. “There’s a few different ways that drinking behaviors become entrenched. Some people drink to self medicate,” said Glatt. “Some people just drink because other people are drinking; that’s what this study is about.”

Glatt said that they were interested in seeing if the amount of alcohol taken in by college students is influenced by how much the people around them are drinking, especially because college is a particularly influential period for peer relationships on drinking.

Glatt explained that students drink more if the people around them are drinking more. “People tended to conform to the norms around them,” said Glatt. “This particular study focused on seeing if that, in part, was related to specific genes.”

People with the DRD4 genotype were more likely to drink more when their peers had more positivity towards drinking and alcohol abuse, according to Glatt. People with that genotype tend to hang out with people who are more in favor of drinking.

“It’s not a causal relationship – who you hang out with and what your attitude towards drinking is determined by a lot of factors, it’s not just genetic factors – it’s just probabilistic,” said Glatt.

Though the team feels that these are important public health problems to study, there isn’t a follow-up study coming soon because of a lack of support, according to Glatt. “At this point, we published the paper, we hope that that will be influential in swaying public policy and swaying other scientists to take a look at this so we can come to a consensus that we need more research on this and it’ll be easier to get the funding.”

“What we came away from this study understanding is that this one particular genotype is a small piece of the puzzle in determining who you hang out with,” said Glatt.

Glatt said that the most important takeaway from the study is that genes and environments are both important for determining drinking behavior. “We know that for complex behaviors like drinking, it’s not nature or nurture, it’s both,” said Glatt. “So our job is to figure out what part nature, what part nurture, and how those interact and influence drinking behavior.”

The study was published by Park, Glatt, SU Clinical Psychology Graduate Students Jueun Kim and Zaso, University of Missouri Faculty Kenneth Sher and Brown University Associate Professor Lori Scott-Sheldon.

 

By Abby Rose Sugnet

Feel Great · Get Well

Relationships after College: Now What?

Whether you’re a senior in denial or not, there are only three weeks left until graduation. You’ve probably been making a lot of life decisions about what cities you’d consider moving to or what type of post-grad job would suit you best.

However, if you’re anything like most of the people I know, the one decision that needs addressing is what will happen to your relationship after you throw your grad cap into the air.

I’m not a mind reader, but I’m positive that if you’ve tried to have a conversation regarding the topic with your significant other that ended with this simple sentence, “Let’s just enjoy our time now, and we can figure it out later.” Sure, that was great for a while. Unfortunately, ‘later’ is now, and the thought of figuring it out is still looming over your head.

This subject is one of the trickiest to navigate because even talking about it with your significant other can result in further problems. Everyone doesn’t want this time in his or her life to end, so talking about what a relationship would look like away from Syracuse University is scary. I speak from experience when I say that going into these conversations isn’t easy, and that ‘adulting’ really is hard. However, I’ll let you in on a secret; the key to these conversations is knowing what you want.

While the actual conversation itself is difficult, thinking long and hard about what you actually want from this relationship is harder.

If you thought about it and decided that it’s not going to work out in the future, then this conversation should be had so you and your partner can decide whether to cut it off now or wait another three weeks. This decision is completely fine, but it’s best not to string someone along until graduation and then blindside them right before their parents get here.

However, you might have made the decision to try and make it work. While this might be the more complicated option since there are logistics such as potential long distance and job situations that factor in, if you’re lucky enough to have a mature and stable relationship, anything can work.

When I think about it for my own situation, I know that things might get hard. I know that it might be difficult to do long distance. I know that it’s not going to be the same as living down the block from him. However, when you care about someone enough and know that there isn’t anyone else like them in the world, all of those potential issues seem to disappear.

So, the real question we all need to ask ourselves is, “How bad do I want this?” If your answer is something along the lines of what I said above, then it’s worth sticking around to see if that person could be the one. If your answer makes you wonder what else is out there and how things could be different for you without that person, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate your plans for next year.

Either way, I wish you the best of luck. This whole topic is definitely draining, but I have confidence that we all make the decisions that are best for ourselves.

By Courtney Rosser

Image courtesy of Thought Catalog

 

Feel Great · Get Well

Can Echinacea Beat the Common Cold?

It’s no surprise that with the changing of the season also comes an increase in sickness. What should you do to prevent getting sick during this infectious time? Some might recommend Echinacea, a herbaceous flowing plant that is related to the daisy. For hundreds of years, Echinacea was used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes. When Europeans colonized North America, the idea of Echinacea as an herbal remedy carried over from the Native American culture.

Today, Echinacea is available at pharmacies and supermarkets in a variety of forms. Whether it’s capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, a dried herb or tea, the debate still continues on what its actual effects on the body are.

A recent study performed in 2015 suggested that Echinacea had no significant correlation to the prevention of the common cold. However, they found that Echinacea products might be associated with a small decrease in cold incidence. So while Echinacea might not work like a shot does for the chicken pox, further research reveals that subjects were less likely to get a cold while using one of the various forms of this product. However once you had the cold, this study showed that there was no decrease in duration of the sickness, even when taking Echinacea.

Another research study led by Dr. Craig Coleman from the University of Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, demonstrated that Echinacea has the power to help you avoid and recover from the common cold. They tested the common cold in two ways. The first way was by letting some subjects naturally get sick to see if Echinacea could combat this common sickness. However, the second group was injected with rhinovirus, one of the viruses that typically cause the common cold. From here, the results were analyzed to show that cold incidence was reduced 65% when it was caused naturally. Against the rhinovirus, data depicted that there was only a 35% decrease.

I’m guilty of taking Echinacea tablets during cold and flu season to help my immune system. Maybe it’s a placebo effect or maybe it’s actually helping, but when both of my roommates had strep earlier this semester, I had a clean bill of health.

So does Echinacea really work? That’s something that you’re going to have to decide for yourself, because the science currently released about the subject has mixed reviews. However, it’s important to keep in mind that even if it does work, the FDA doesn’t regulate Echinacea. While you might think just because it’s herbal that it’s automatically safe, you should check with a doctor before you start taking any type of medicine.

May the cold prevention odds be ever in your favor!

 

By Courtney Rosser

Feel Great · Get Well

Does Aromatherapy Really Work?

With the increasing presence of various spa treatments, oils, and lotions, I’m sure that you’ve heard about the benefits of aromatherapy. I’ll admit I’m guilty of having multiple lotions that claim to aid in stress relief and sleep. While it may seem new to pop culture, essential oils have been used to treat various health issues for approximately 6,000 years. A wide range of cultures even used these oils for cosmetics and perfumes.

It wasn’t until a French chemist named René-Maurice Gattefossé applied lavender oil to a burn on his hand that sparked a modern use for essential oils. After studying the effects of these oils in 1928, Gattefossé released the findings from his research to the public and “aromatherapy” was born. From 1950 until today, aromatherapy has become increasingly popular for massage therapy, beauticians, doctors, and more.

The real question is, does aromatherapy actually work? Even with its popularity, there are few research studies that can reliably answer this question.

There have been research studies showing the uses of aromatherapy during labor, after extensive surgeries, and for sleep improvement. What these researchers found was that aromatherapy was not capable of changing the physiology of the body. However, what all of these studies do share, is that essential oils and treatments have proven to lower anxiety and improve mood.Aromatherapy is capable of this because when the smell enters the nose, the molecules from the aroma dissolve within the mucous lining of the membrane. After this occurs, the molecules can then stimulate the olfactory receptors,

which then activate the olfactory bulb. From here, the mitral cells transport the stimulated signal from the olfactory bulb to the olfactory cortex and the limbic system. Together, the scent can be detected and recognized, especially if it triggers a memory.

So will aromatherapy cure your pain or solve your stresses? The science seems to think that it won’t. However, if you want to improve your mood, an aromatherapy spa treatment might just do the trick!

 

By Courtney Rosser

Feel Great · Get Well

Burnout is Real, and it’s Scary

What happens when your mind says go, but your body says no, no, NO?

As college students, we want to get the absolute most out of our time here. We join as many clubs as possible, try new things every week, meet new people everyday, and accept every opportunity that comes our way. Some of us even take on double and triple majors. But sometimes there comes a point when we take on too much.

Two internships, a part time job, a social life, and a full course load? Sure, it may sound manageable at first, but after so long of pushing our bodies to their limits, it’s okay to say enough is enough.

When It Happens to You
Before you get a chance to cut back on your obligations, however, your body might make that decision for you. This is called burnout. According to Psychology Today, burnout is a state of chronic stress. It’s more than just a freak out session, it’s a sign that your body is protesting against your over-achieving ways. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: chronic fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness, impaired concentration, aches and pains, increased occurrence of illness, changes in appetite, anxiety, depression, pessimism, and apathy.

Burnout manifests itself differently in everyone. For me, it meant all of the above but I didn’t know I was nearing the edge until one day I overslept, through all eight of my alarms, and did not wake up until 6pm. I missed an entire day at my internship, putting my grade and my reputation in jeopardy. Halfway through the semester, I had reached an ultimate low.

But for me, it was a learning experience. It’s okay to cut back a little, which I did. It’s not a sign of weakness, in fact it’s a sign of maturity and strength. Pick yourself back up, take responsibility for your actions, and move forward with your head high. Knowing your limits will work in your favor in the long run, because you’ll be a healthier and happier version of yourself. Not only that, but the quality of your work will be so much better and you’ll be able to take those strides in all the right directions.

Stress is a common problem for students, but it doesn’t have to be yours. Here’s some tips from Psychology Today to help reduce stress and avoid burnout:

  • Remember the Basics. Sleep, eat, drink, repeat—don’t forget it, and certainly don’t replace them for unhealthy alternatives. Energy drinks cannot replace sleep, and sweets cannot make up for a well-rounded plate.
  • Relax. Don’t push the things that make you happy and peaceful out of your life in exchange for a busier schedule.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Say No. As long as you do it respectfully, it is
  • Exercise. This will help strengthen your body, keep your insides working properly, and overall give you a foundation of success.
  • Remove Negativity from your Life. This is a big one. If someone or something is stressing you out, either fix it or nix it.

And finally, only you know what helps your body. Light a candle, read a book, spend a day out with friends. Do whatever it takes to keep the balance, because burnout is real and it’s scary, but it is 100% avoidable. Good luck!

 

By Caleigh Gran

Feel Great · Get Well

DIY Face Masks

As we slowly but surely, start to approach spring, it’s time to put some “spring” back into your step, and more importantly, back into your skin. Just because it’s still the dead of winter and pretty frigid out, doesn’t mean your skin has to look dead too. These quick and easy homemade face masks are the perfect products to brighten you up. With little time and few ingredients needed, these quick and easy homemade face masks will make your skin feel bright, fresh, and airy.

avocado-honey-3 2

Avocado and Honey
Winter can make your skin dry and cause it to peel, and sometimes no matter how much you moisturize, lotions can only do so much. Avocado is loaded with vitamin E and fatty acids which will reenergize your skin and help keep it smooth, while the lemon juice and apple cider vinegar are key to reducing redness and swelling. This is something to keep in mind whether you’ve been battling the winter cold, or it’s just the morning after a rough night out.

Ingredients:

  • ½ avocado
  • ¼ cup uncooked oatmeal
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Simply mash and combine the ingredients in a small bowl and apply to your face.
  2. Let sit on your face for about 20 minutes.
  3. Rinse with warm water.
  4. Follow with your favorite moisturizer.

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Organic Banana Face Mask
This face mask is for those who want the results without all of the work. With three basic ingredients that can be found in anyone’s kitchen, this mask has been praised for leaving skin silky, smooth, and glowing, and it works great on all skin types. It only takes five minutes to make, and the results are worth every second.

Ingredients:

  • ½ Banana
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

Directions:

  1. Mash ½ banana.
  2. Mix in 1 tablespoon of orange juice and 1 tablespoon of honey.
  3. Apply to the face and keep the mixture on for 15 minutes.
  4. Rinse with lukewarm water.

Make-an-Egg-Facial-Mask-Step-16 3

Egg White Mask
An unusual twist with something you usually have for your morning breakfast, egg white masks are quite common, and are known for their stellar results. They are great for reducing breakouts and clearing up those nasty acne scars from our teenage years. Even better, they help soak up excess oils on the skin and help rebuild damaged skin cells, so you can start your day off clean and glowing.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 egg whites 

Directions:

  1. Separate two to three egg whites from the yolks and whisk until frothy. Let them stand for a few minutes while you rinse your face and pat dry.
  2. Apply a thin layer with your fingers and allow it to dry a few minutes.
  3. Continue to apply layers until you have three or four in total.
  4. Let the mask dry for 20 minutes then rinse completely and pat skin dry.

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Baking Soda Mask
As odd as it sounds, baking soda is great when used on the skin. It cleans out bacteria in pores, dries up excess oils, and removes dead skin cells. Feel free to add drops of lavender or any other scent your prefer to help you relax or make your skin smell as yummy as it feels.

Ingredients:

  • Equal parts baking soda and water to form a thick paste

Directions:

  1. For an acne mask, mix equal parts baking soda and water to form a thick paste.
  2. Massage onto skin in a circular motion for 2 minutes, then let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat skin dry.

 

By Annie O’Sullivan

Feel Great · Get Well

Animals on Campus

Syracuse University is experiencing an increase in students living with animals on campus, according to the Office of Residence Life.

Terra Peckskamp, Director of the Office of Residence Life at Syracuse University, said that having animals on campus is something a lot of campuses are talking about, seeing more of, and figuring out how to navigate.

“We’ve had more of them on South Campus in the apartments, where it’s a little bit easier to do that, but they can have them in the residence halls too,” said Peckskamp. This year, there are two students with animals in residence halls, and many more on South Campus.

Neha Rauf has an emotional support animal in the University Village Apartments. Her family moved to Wales so she was feeling very lonely and started going to counseling. She brought up the idea of an emotional support animal to her therapist, who also thought it would be beneficial.

“There’s a lot of therapeutic benefit from just taking care of something,” said Rauf. “I enjoy being busy and having responsibilities.”

Peckskamp said that, for students who need emotional support animals, they “can be incredibly beneficial and can really help them thrive on campus. However, having animals in residence halls does create challenges.

Rauf plans her schedule around her dog. She has to go home at some point during the day or have a neighbor check in on her dog. Because of this, Rauf only took twelve credits this semester.

Rauf’s dog, Jill, is a mix of a laboratory retriever and a pitbull, which she says sometimes raises some eyebrows. “Fix It gets nervous,” she said. Still, Rauf said that her dog is one of the best decisions she’s ever made.

dog

Neha Rauf and her dog, Jill.

In a study ran by Theresa McDevitt and others at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 95% of 449 student participants considered interaction with therapy dogs to be a means of stress reduction.

“I think there’s a greater understanding now of the impact of animals on people,” said McDevitt. “If you pet a dog, a hormone is released that makes you calmer and, if your heart was racing, it brings your heart rate back down to normal.”

Timothy Reid is a graduate student in the Psychology Department at Syracuse University, who said that it’s possible that some of the students with animals could be faking mental illness so they can bring their pets to school. “I think it is possible in any field that people will try and cheat the system in some way. With enough research, you could probably fake something,” said Reid. “There are scenarios where it would be advantageous for someone to get a diagnosis that maybe they don’t actually have.”

C.W. Von Bergen, a professor at the Southeastern Oklahoma State University and an expert on animals in society, said that it’s hard to identify mental disabilities so it’s easy for college students to claim they have one. “It’s particularly true in dorms and housing situations, where the federal housing administration has approved bringing animals as a mental accommodation,” said Von Bergen.

He worries that it’s getting easier and easier to get someone classified as having a mental disability. He mentioned that there are a number of companies on the internet that, in exchange for payment, will write a letter to your landlord or university saying that you have a mental disability and that an animal would be beneficial treatment.

However, Peckskamp is confident in Syracuse University’s Office of Residence Life’s system to make sure that the animal is a legitimate need for the student. “It’s not just, ‘Hey I want to bring Fido from home,’… Those are the ones that end up getting turned down.” However, Peckskamp said that most of the cases she’s been involved in have resulted in the student being able to keep the animal.

Still, the Office of Residence Life is still struggling with issues where students have animals who aren’t there legally and try to say it was approved by a therapist, but they haven’t been approved by the school. “We kind of work with them on that process, so in the interim there’s a little bit of limbo where we’ll say the animal can stay for two days but they need to be able to provide the documentation,” said Peckskamp.

“It’s more of the students who actually are just there with pets where we have to say no, that they have to find somewhere else for their animal,” which Peckskamp said happens a lot on South Campus.

Sometimes students will remove the pet, but a few months later the Office of Residence Life will come back to check and the pet will be back again. At that point, they may move the student out of the apartment and into a residence hall, which affects meal plans and financial aid.

“We have students sign a notarized form that says I understand that I’ll be moved if I have my pet back again because it’s not just the student that’s impacted but it’s their roommates, and it’s also the pet. Because our residential facilities may or may not be well equipped for animals,” said Peckskamp.

The Office of Residence Life also keeps a close eye on South Campus apartments because of the wild cat problem. Once people graduate or leave, they sometimes just turn them loose.

“There’s a lot of trickery going on, a lot of faking kind of activities,” said Von Bergen. “I think it does a disservice to people who actually have a mental or emotional disability.”

 

By Abby Rose Sugnet

Feel Great · Get Well

Apps to Improve Mental Health

Whether you’ve been hitting the books hard, going through the grueling process of pledging, or are just beat by the frigid temperatures, it’s easy to get exhausted, run-down, and sick. Being constantly on the go, it’s easy for your body and your mind to underperform—but sometimes it’s hard to take the “me” time you need. Thankfully, your cell phone or laptop can be your “saving grace.” With just the simple touch of a button on these cool apps, you’ll be on your way to a happier, relaxed, and better you.

 

Breathe2Relax (free on both iOS and Android)
This app developed for stress management offers a variety of breathing exercises to help reduce stress, stabilize your mood, and manage anxiety. It can be used individual or in a group, in case you and a bunch of your friends want to relax together.

SAM: Self Help for Anxiety Management (free on both iOS and Android)
As college students, our anxiety can be pretty high, especially with three tests and two papers due all while trying to fit in dinner, gym time, and time with your friends. This app is perfect to help you manage your anxiety levels and identify what causes you the most anxiety. With options to help manage your physical and mental symptoms, this app is perfect for people experiencing anxiety on any level.

Equanimity ($4.99 on iOS devices)
Equanimity is a mediation app that includes a journaling feature. With a variety of meditation options, this app is great for when you need to take a “time out” and focus on you.

BellyBio (free for iOS 7 compatible devices)
A seemingly different take on a meditation app, BellyBio teaches deep breathing techniques based on individual measurements taken by placing your phone on your stomach while using the app. This allows the app to monitor your breathing and teach you better ways to relax and breathe deeply.

Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson ($2.99 for iOS 7 compatible devices)
One of the biggest ways to improve your mental health is by getting enough sleep. This easy to use app gently soothes listeners to sleep. It also features a variety of mediation options, and an alarm, for when those deep relaxations turn into naps.

 

Sometimes our lives become a little too overwhelming, and we need a break. These apps are perfect when you hit those periods in your life, or day, when you need to step back, turn off, and just spend some time with yourself.

And sometimes, it’s okay to not be okay. Sometimes an app cannot always help us be happy, or help us through the hard times. Sometimes we need more than technology. We need friends, and family, and resources. I encourage you, if you are struggling and you don’t know what to do, to reach out to someone, because YOU are important, and YOU matter. Reach out to a friend, a family member, or a local counseling center. Technology can do a lot for us, but a person can do so much more.

 

By Annie O’Sullivan

Feel Great · Get Well

6 Ways to Prevent Anxiety During Finals Week

It’s that dreaded time of year again. The time of year when everyone has the most work to do and the least amount of motivation to do it. Although I’d like to be able to write about how to avoid stress completely during finals week, I know that’s not realistic. However, even though you might be stressing about your cumulative final on Friday or your paper due at midnight, here are some tips that will help better prepare you to deal with the anxiety.

  • STOP pulling “all nighters” – No seriously, go to sleep. Depriving yourself of sleep (even when you’re taking Adderall) is damaging your ability to think clearly and make effective decisions. In a study done by Dr. Timothy Roehrs at the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, results indicate that when comparing sleep-deprived subjects to fully awake subjects, the sleep-deprived subjects didn’t make reasonable decisions based on the task they were asked to perform. Sleep is also the time when your brain consolidates information and commits the important pieces into long-term memories. Without sleep, how are you going to remember all of the information for that history final you just crammed for?
  • Exercise – I know that many of you probably rolled your eyes when seeing this, and thought, “If I had more free time, don’t you think I would’ve already done that?” I understand completely. Nobody has time throughout these tough couple of weeks, but it’s all about making time. The exercise will allow the release of endorphins that will make you happier and reenergize you for more productive studying.
  • Complain (but only a little) – As you’ve probably come to realize at this point in your life, it never pays to hold in your emotions. If you’re really stressed out about your test and need someone to vent to, allot yourself a ten minute phone call with your friend or family member to get it off your chest. Once your not internalizing it anymore, you could allow time for more focused studying.
  • Organize – There is absolutely no way any work is getting done on a desk filled with papers and a backpack overflowing with a mixture of old and new sticky notes. When you first sit down to do your work, take the first 15 minutes to organize your life. Clean up the clutter and create a chronological list of things you have to do. It helps if the highest priority is at the top, but some people prefer to knock out all the smaller tasks first so the last thing they have to tackle is the larger projects. Whichever order you choose, checking off items from your list will make you feel extremely productive.
  • Eat right – While it might be easier to make those dinosaur nuggets you keep in your freezer for emergencies three nights in a row, it’s just not healthy. I know that it might be tempting to always take the easy way out and live off chips and candy for a week while you study, it’s necessary that your body gets the right food to fuel your brain. Try throwing in fruits and veggies as snacks to tie you over between meals. Also, try making meals with a protein and a carb in order to boost your energy level. Your body and mind will definitely thank you later.
  • Do something you love! – Lastly, make sure to do something you love. While studying and finishing your work is important, make sure to fit in a small amount of time to unwind. Listen to music, surf the web, catch up on an episode of your favorite show, etc. Keeping your sanity is crucial during this stressful time of year.

 

It might be easier to just mentally check-out of school work because break is pushed back another week this year, but always remember what Beyoncé once said, “Whenever I feel bad, I use that feeling to motivate me to work harder.”

By Courtney Rosser

Feel Great · Get Well

The Basics of Meditation

Meditation can be defined as many different things. For many, it is a form of thinking, contemplation, or reflection through mental exercise and breathing concentration. Basic, consistent meditation practice can be incredibly beneficial for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. The affects of meditation often leave one feeling more relaxed, open-minded, and more clear in thinking. There are several different forms of meditation, so you have many different options when it comes to figuring out what works for you!

 

How does one meditate?

Just the Basics

  • Sit or lay in a comfortable space and atmosphere
  • Close your eyes
  • Breathe naturally
  • Focus your attention on your body when you take each breathe (how your abdomen rises and falls, the rhythm of each breath)
  1. Focus on one object. Find a comfortable place and sit with your legs crossed concentrating on deep, even breaths. You can focus your attention by staring at something (i.e. a candle) or simply listening to yourself breath in and out. Try not to let your mind wander to other thoughts. Simply focus on the bare basics. It may be difficult for beginners, but if you start by mediating for just a few minutes, you can work your way up to longer periods of time.
  1. Overcome Obstacles. Think about a negative event and focus on ways to find the silver lining. What can you do to try to make this negative event positive? You must believe in yourself that you can overcome it.

 

What are the benefits?

Meditation can provide one with a great deal of relief in several different areas, including your emotional well-being, your mind, and your body. With regular or even sporadic practice, the benefits are exceptional for your health.

Emotional well-being

  • Helps to release anxieties and impulsivity
  • Increases relaxation and awareness
  • Can act as a mood booster
  • Makes you feel more self-aware and in touch with yourself
  • Can help you avoid emotional eating and drug abuse
  • Can reduce anxiety attacks and promote mood regulation

For the mind

  • Boosts focus
  • Helps you to process information better
  • Makes it easier to think creatively
  • Decreases depression
  • Promotes more logical/less impulsive decision-making

For the Body

  • Can reduce blood pressure
  • Improves breathing and heart rates
  • Good for your immune system and energy level
  • May decrease need for sleep
  • Can alleviate pain

 

As Buddah said, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”

 

By Sarah Kinzler

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Are You an Adderall Junkie?

When I first came to college, I was excited and nervous about what the future would hold. I couldn’t help but think frequently about all the concerns I had about what the next year had in store. It came to the point where the only thing I was sure of was the three rules my mom repeated at least (and this is probably a low-ball estimate) fifty times before I stepped foot on campus. The first was to call her at least three times a week, the second was to never walk alone at night, and the third was to never do drugs.

You can imagine my naivety when someone first offered me an “addy” to get through my first round of exams. At this point, I hadn’t even heard of Adderall, so I politely declined. However, as a college student, I became all too aware of how popular Adderall was to get through exams or to boost your buzz on a Friday night out.

Although it’s such a popular pill to take, many college students forget about the risks and problems that can occur from Adderall abuse. While it may be justifiable to take some to get you through that one exam you just didn’t have enough time to prepare for, the more you use it the more harm it can do. Here are some things you probably didn’t know about using Adderall:

 

  1. It can be addictive – Some people might take it once or twice to get them through some really crucial exams, but it becomes a problem if you start relying on it to aid in writing papers, finishing projects and staying focused in class. It eventually becomes addictive because there is a constant feeling that you’re being unproductive without it. Dependency just increases from there.
  1. It’s illegal – Since it’s so common on campus, it almost feels as though Adderall is equivalent to Advil or Tylenol. What most students don’t think about though is that Adderall is a Schedule II substance right next to drugs like cocaine and oxycodone. It can have repercussions for people taking it without medical reason to.
  1. It can have side effects – Just like any other drug, Adderall has side effects. The one that most college students would bring up is the inability to sleep, but its side effects span further than just that. It has been said to have effects such as irritability, depression, sex drive changes, nervousness, anxiety, and loss of appetite.

 

So before you think about Adderall, maybe try a few cups of coffee or a chocolate energy bar! It might help more you in the long term.

 

By Courtney Rosser

Eat Smart · Feel Great · Get Well

6 Unique Benefits of Mint

When most people think of mint, they think of its application as a breath freshener. Whether it be toothpaste, mouthwash, breath mints, or chewing gum, these products overshadow the other healthy uses of mint simply because of their popularity. Here are some unique ways to use mint that aren’t just for fresher breath!

 

  1. Headache. We all know the scent of mint is associated with fresh breath, but what you probably didn’t know is that the scent can also relieve headaches. By rubbing mint oil or mint base under the nose or on the forehead, it can soothe some of the inflammation and fever symptoms that people experience with migraines.
  1. Digestion & Nausea. Feeling sick to your stomach? Well, instead of grabbing any of those common indigestion medicines, consider trying mint tea first. The aroma of the mint can stimulate the release of digestive enzymes from the salivary glands, which contributes to faster digestion. Menthol oil produced from mint can also help motion sickness.
  1. Depression or Exhaustion. Stimulation from mint is an excellent way to recharge your body. Since you can get this feeling from inhalation, one of the best ways to use it is to put a few drops of mint essential oil on your pillow.
  1. Sickness or Allergies. Since it’s flu season, I am sure everyone is already stocked up on over-the-counter medications. However, before taking that cold and flu medicine, try using mint leaves. These leaves can be good to make teas, jams, or desserts. The soothing effect that they have can clear up congestion and relieve coughing. It can also help pesky allergies because the leaves have been shown to have anti-histamine properties to them.
  1. Skin Cleansing. Dry skin bothering you as the weather gets colder? Try using mint juice to soothe your skin and reduce acne. Mint also works to treat infections caused by insect bites, but if you put it on before any bites occur, it also works as a repellant.
  1. Weight Loss. Mint can help you slim down throughout the holiday season! If you keep mint candies on you throughout the day, it can help to cure persistent hunger and help you eat fewer calories throughout the day. As mentioned above, eating these candies can also help stimulate digestion.

 

By Courtney Rosser

Feel Great · Get Well

How to Protect Your Skin this Winter

As the trees become bare and the temperatures turn cold, it is important to make sure that your body and your mind are happy and healthy. With the change in season, it’s easy to neglect simple healthy habits, especially your skincare. Your skin takes one of the hardest hits when the weather becomes chilly and the air becomes cold. As the winter months approach, skin can become dehydrated, irritated, and dry, all of which lead to painful skin and an unhappy you. This winter, keep in mind these simple but crucial skincare tips to make sure your skin is soft, smooth, and glowing all winter long.

 

Moisturize Often

I cannot repeat this skincare step enough. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! While this is a key step in your daily beauty regime no matter what the season, it is critical to keep your skin hydrated and moisturized during the winter months. Dry skin can lead to cracking, peeling, and even bleeding, and nobody wants that! Use a daily moisturizer like Aveeno Daily Moisturizer or Cetaphil—a moisturizer made for acne prone skin—to keep your body silky and smooth all winter long. To get maximized benefits, apply moisturizer after showering or after washing your face before bed.

Cover Up!

It’s important to make sure you properly protect your skin as the temperatures drop, so make sure to wear warm outwear like hats, ear protectors, and gloves to minimize damage as much as possible. While it may mean covering up your winter manicure or your cute pair of earrings, there are so many cute and comfy mitten sets and beanies out there. You’re sure to find warm apparel you won’t mind slipping on for the snowy season.

Watch Water Temps!

As tempting as it is to take a scalding hot shower after a long, hard, COLD day on campus, be careful of how hot you make the water temperature.  Even though it feels heavenly, it dries out your skin quicker and will most likely result in skin peeling and cracking, something you definitely don’t want. If you can’t resist turning the shower nozzle to hot, remember to moisturize when you hop out to keep your skin from getting damaged and dry.

It Takes Two: Vaseline and Socks

When skin becomes severely damaged—and it starts to crack, peel, and bleed—skin can become easily irritated and extremely painful. Have no fear, Vaseline and socks are here, and this winter they are your two best friends. This combination works as a great overnight solution when the skin around your feet becomes painful and cracked. Before bed, apply Vaseline on feet, cover with socks, and in the morning, you’ll wake up with pain free feet!

Soap Substitute

We all know how important it is to keep clean during the winter so that germs and sickness don’t spread easily. One thing many don’t know, however, is that the constant cycle of washing your hands and body often deprives skin of moisture, leaving you feeling dry and sore. Substitute soap with hand sanitizer, which is less damaging but still keeps your hands clean, and don’t be afraid to invest in a hydrating body wash to lock in moisture while showering. Still afraid of carrying germs? If using hand soap, use a hydrating antibacterial gel.  For all areas of skin, follow with a good amount of moisturizing lotion to keep your hands and body from chapping.

 

By Annie O’Sullivan

Get Well

How to Prevent Seasonal Depression

Among other things, such as its wide variety of academic colleges and Division I athletics, Syracuse is known nationally for its infamously frigid and harsh winter season. Syracuse only sees 63 mostly-sunny days annually (1), much less than the whopping 211 sunny days seen annually in Phoenix, Arizona and 188 days in Sacramento, California (2).

This lack of sunshine is capable of causing physiological changes inside the body, sometimes leading to symptoms of depression. In extreme cases, this can progress to something called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which is characterized by “serious mood changes during the winter months,” manifesting as symptoms such as feelings of hopelessness, irritability, fatigue, difficulty sleeping and fluctuations in weight (3). People living in the northern hemisphere, such as New York, are 2 ½ times more likely to experience SAD than those living in southern states (4).

While you can’t change Mother Nature’s forecast, there are strategies you can use to cope with the change in seasons to prevent developing symptoms of seasonal depression.

  • Expose yourself to as much light as possible during the day. Walk to class instead of taking a bus or shuttle, do work outside or sit near a window in the library, or even consider purchasing a light box to place on the desk in your room. Researchers believe that exposure to light increases the amount of serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter in your body which may help to prevent feelings of depression (5).
  • Laugh. Resist the temptation to hole up in your room with a cup of hot chocolate watching holiday movies alone. Make an effort to spend as much time with friends and loved ones as possible—a good conversation and laughter can work wonders to improve mood.
  • Increase consumption of vitamin D rich foods. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, many individuals suffering from SAD have low levels of vitamin D stores. Study subjects who were given supplemental vitamin D reported improvements in a depression scale test, suggesting that this vitamin may play an important role in the prevention of seasonal depression (6). Fill your refrigerator or dining hall plate with salmon, eggs (with the yolk!), and milk for a punch of vitamin D.
  • Choose carbohydrates An increase in cravings for carbohydrates is a common symptom experienced by those suffering from seasonal depression. Stay on track with your healthy diet by choosing whole grains, fruits, and vegetables over simple sugars to fulfill your carbohydrate needs.
  • Keep your exercise routine consistent. Regular exercise not only boosts mood but it also provides another opportunity to get outside and expose yourself to sunlight. Take a 30-minute walk outside or ask a friend to join you for yoga or other group exercise class.

The winters in Syracuse are rough, but with the right strategies it is possible to survive the bitter cold and clouds and make it until spring with a positive outlook! Focus on the things in life that make you happy… especially when you’re trudging through two feet of snow on your way to class wondering why you didn’t go to school in Florida.

 

By Julie Kameisha

 

References

1) “Days of Sunshine Per Year in New York.” Current Results. Current Results Nexus, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

2) Osborn, Liz. “Sunniest US Cities.” Current Results. Current Results Nexus, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

3) “Seasonal Affective Disorder: MedlinePlus.” U.S National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health, 19 Mar. 2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

4) Silver, Rich. “What Is SAD Disorder? How Many People Have It?” Sleep Passport. Sleep Passport, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

5) “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

6) W, Alam, and Hollis B. “Vitamin D vs Broad Spectrum Phototherapy in the Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging 3.1 (1999): n. pag. PubMed. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

Eat Smart · Get Well

10 Easy Ways to Use Coconut Oil

If your jar of coconut oil is isolated only to the kitchen, then it is time to branch out and discover all of the uses of this versatile fat that expand beyond the rim of your sauté pan. Coconut oil is a highly saturated fat extracted from the meat of coconuts that has a tropical odor and is solid at room temperature, making it an excellent choice for high-heat cooking and for use in cosmetic applications. Here are ten uses for this many-purpose oil.

  • Use as a cooking oil. Coconut oil has a high smoke point, which is the temperature at which oil smokes when heated. After an oil has reached its smoke point, it is no longer healthy for consumption due to the breakdown of the fatty acids. Coconut oil, like other saturated fats, can be heated up to relatively high temperatures safely before breaking down into dangerous compounds (Marks Daily Apple). Try this stir fry cooked in coconut oil for a delicious dinner.
  • Slather it on your skin as a natural moisturizer. The nutty, tropical scent of coconut oil makes it a great choice to hydrate dry skin, an issue that plagues Syracuse students as the bitter cold winter rolls around. Also, consider carrying around a small tub of it in your backpack as a lip balm.
  • Use it to remove your makeup. Oils act as natural makeup removers, so ditch the expensive store-bought brands and dip a Q-Tip or cotton round into your jar of coconut oil and swipe over your eyes and face for effortless makeup removal. Stubborn waterproof mascara doesn’t stand a chance.
  • Tame frizzy hair. Wake up with frizzy flyaways? Dip a finger into your jar and rub a very small amount of coconut oil over your hands, and then gently run your hands through your hair to tame stray hairs. The oil also adds a layer of glistening shine to dull locks.
  • Add it to your coffee to create creamier cups. Skip the heavy cream and blend 1 tbsp. of coconut oil, 1 tbsp. grass-fed butter, stevia, and ¼ tsp. vanilla in with your morning brew. The healthy fat will provide satiating power and a boost of quick energy.
  • Add to your blender for a more filling smoothie. Most smoothies are full of simple carbohydrates that leave you hungry only 1-2 hours after you finish your last sip. Try this berry coconut oil smoothie – the healthy fat in the coconut oil will help you absorb key fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Make homemade toothpaste. Run out of toothpaste and need a quick fix? Combine coconut oil, baking soda, and a few drops of essential oil (such as mint or peppermint) into a paste to create a quick and easy DIY toothpaste.
  • Use it as sunscreen. Coconut oil is a natural sunscreen with a SPF between 4-6. Slather it on skin for light protection, but don’t forget to apply SPF 30+ when you’re going to be exposed to high levels of sunlight.
  • Make a body scrub by combining equal parts granulated sugar and coconut oil. For an added luxury, add a few drops of essential oils to the mixture. Suggested oils include lavender, grapefruit, or orange.
  • Clean makeup brushes by following these easy directions. Not only will your brushes smell amazing, but they’ll be clean and ready for use, reducing your risk of developing acne due to dirty brushes—gross!

These uses only scrape the surface of all of the amazing functions coconut oil has to offer. When purchasing, look for extra-virgin, unrefined coconut oil to reap the most benefits. Some recommended brands include Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, which you can buy in bulk online, or grab the organic virgin coconut oil from Trader Joe’s the next time you make a grocery run!

By Julie Kameisha

Get Well

How to Renew Your Body Post-Halloweekend

Whether you partied hard this past Halloweekend, or just hung out at home and watched a scary movie, chances are you’re feeling a little tired, a little drained, and bordering on succumbing to a candy-coma. While the weekend was fun, school stops for no one. It’s time to get back on track to feeling energized, well-rested, and ready to go. Here are some helpful tips to de-bloat, rehydrate, and get yourself feeling better than ever after a fun-filled, sugar-crazed weekend!

Say No to Sweets

After a weekend of celebration and fun, it’s easy to spend the rest of the week mindlessly reaching for the candy bag. After your body consumes large amounts of sugar, your cravings for those Reese’s Cups only grow. Say no to the sugar! Take your mind off your hankering for a Snickers by painting your nails, hanging with friends, or doing some other fun activity. As hard as it may be, fighting the urge to binge on sugary sweets is key to getting back on a healthy track. Make easier it on yourself by getting rid of your stash of candy or by rewarding yourself with it in small quantities.

Take Time Out

While you were out till the wee hours of the morning partying, your body was becoming severely sleep deprived, and sooner or later it will catch up with you. To make sure you don’t crash and burn mid-week, make sure you allow yourself to get 7-8 hours of sleep for the next few nights to keep your brain and your body fresh and upbeat. As hard as it is to go to bed early, your body will thank you later.

Get Movin’

As appealing as it sounds to lounge in your bed post Halloween, binge watching One Tree Hill and eating M&M’s, getting up and getting moving will make you look and feel a lot better. Getting active, whether that means going on a run or taking part in some hard core yoga, will help flush toxins and de-bloat your body.  Research has shown that exercise can soften the harsh effects of a high sugar diet (a.k.a. all those Kit Kats you shoveled in your mouth Saturday night) and help you feel renewed, recharged, and ready to take on the week ahead.

Rehydrate and Refuel

After an exhausting, sometimes stressful but always fun weekend, the only liquid you should be putting in your body is water. Water is crucial for curbing those sugary cravings you have while flushing out the excess sodium and sugar that has built up in your body from three days of excessive booze and Butterfingers. H2O is also great for boosting your energy levels and rejuvenating tired skin, two things you will definitely need after a long weekend that was hopefully well worth it.

Eat Balanced Meals

Regardless of whether you binged on candy, booze, or both, one of the most important things to do to help get your body back on track is to eat well-balanced meals. It is easy to want to skip meals to “balance out” all the calories you ate over the weekend, but skipping meals will only make your craving for candy harder to knock. Instead of restricting your calories, eat small, nutritious meals with protein and veggies. In the end, you’ll be refueled, refreshed, and much more pleasant than you would be if you didn’t eat anything at all.

By Annie O’Sullivan

Get Well

How to Beat Procrastination

We all promised ourselves we wouldn’t procrastinate this semester, but at some point we get distracted and lose all motivation. Here are a few tips to beat that procrastination (because we all want that 4.0)!

According to Psychology Today, “Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day.”  On the bright side, there are numerous ways to overcome this.

Surround yourself with motivated people. If you’re the type who tells yourself to go to the gym but actually doesn’t, then get a gym buddy or group that will work out with you.  You can even find a fun workout Youtube video and play your favorite music (just not during quiet hours) or run up and down the Carrier Dome stairs with a friend.

Keep moving. I know as procrastinators, we avoid doing things we have to get done.  Sometimes the best thing to do is to have a change in scenery or just take a walk to get your blood pumping.

Give yourself a schedule (time blocks). Create a rough schedule where you can literally cross out each task that you’ve done.  Plan your day ahead so you can work with a set time slot to finish your assignment.  If you know you have an entire day to finish a paper, then you’ll end up saying to yourself that you can do it later.  Fill up your day with a club activity, getting lunch with friends, etc.  Instead of spending that time procrastinating, you could put it towards doing other things.

Treat yo’self. Give yourself a little reward each time you finish something. You can set shorter goals or longer goals. For example, treat yourself to a frozen yogurt down on Marshall once you’ve finished your term paper or watch thirty minutes of your favorite movie after reading a chapter for class. Be sure to mix up the rewards too.

DIY agendas/calendars. Decorating your room with cute sticky notes or festive calendar printouts will make you want to look at your reminders even more.

By: Allison Leung

Get Well

10 Small Ways to Improve Your Happiness

Life can get extremely stressful and overwhelming. Staying consistently happy is something we often overlook in the midst of all of our daily distractions. It can be hard to pull yourself out of the dazed feeling that your head could possibly explode at any minute. However, you have the power to make little changes throughout your week to escape this mental instability that we all experience as humans. Take a deep breath and try to remember that life is about being happy, and your mental state should be a priority.

1) Change of scenery. Stuck in your dorm studying all day? Move around! Making a change of scenery every so often helps keep your mind awake and can help prevent that feeling of being trapped in the on-campus prison we call Bird Library. Even if it’s walking across the street to grab yourself a cup of coffee, a little change of location and a quick chat with a friend can help boost your mood.

2) Put something up on your wall that inspires you. It seems stupidly simple, but looking up at my wall filled with pictures of my friends and places I aspire to go genuinely makes me feel happier by bringing my mind elsewhere.

3) Go to a puppy shelter. When we’re at college we forget how nice it is to come home to a pet that is more enthusiastic to see you than anyone else in your household. Playing with animals is definitely a stress reliever and will certainly increase your mood when you’re having a bad day. I mean, who doesn’t love puppies?

4) Go adventuring! Whether you are looking to stay on campus or go for a little excursion, make an effort to accomplish something that has always been on your bucket list. Never been to the top of the water towers? Make it happen. Ever wanted to visit friends at their college? Make a quick plan, and scavenge for a car to take the fun little spontaneous trip you’ve always dreamed of.

5) Spend time around people who are generally motivated and happy. Being constantly surrounded by or living with people who look at the negative side of everything can really affect the way you feel. Try to find people who make you feel excited and passionate about life. When you find those people, never let those friendships go.

6) Have a set time every week for quality “you” time. Love doing yoga? Taking bike rides? Going hiking? Take a look at your schedule at the beginning of the week and see when you will have an hour or two to yourself where you won’t feel stressed about having to be somewhere or getting something done. Make this your time of the week to really focus on yourself, your mental state of being, and reflect on yourself. Use this time to improve your quality of life.

7) Watch something you know makes you laugh. This is such a simple thing that can instantly be a game changer for being stuck in an “I hate my life” mood. Go on YouTube and type in your favorite video of someone hilariously falling off a table or Anderson Cooper giggling like a small child (cracks me up every time).

8) Listen to music that brings you back to a happier time or place. Let’s be honest, sometimes you just need to take a step back and chill out. Close your laptop, turn off your lights and just have a moment or two to listen to some great music and think about your happiest moment or favorite place to be. Whether that’s home, the beach, or somewhere halfway around the world, visualizing yourself back in that moment brings your mind and body to a better place.

9) Get Vitamin D into your diet. In the dead of a Syracuse winter, we tend to get discouraged out of doing things because of the harsh temperatures in the double negatives. With the lack of sun, it’s common for people to be deficient in Vitamin D. Try adding dairy into your diet or talk to your doctor about Vitamin D supplements.

10) Stretch and exercise. You can never go wrong with either of these. Stretching out your body or doing some basic yoga is great for when you don’t have a lot of time in between classes or studying. Five minutes of a few basic stretches or a quick ab workout can make your body feel refreshed and take the stresses away from your thoughts for a bit.

By Sarah Kinzler

Feel Great · Get Well

Why Every College Student Should Do Yoga Before Bed

Relieves stress, tones muscles, improves posture… what can’t yoga do? In addition to all of these great benefits, recent research suggests that a regular yoga practice can actually improve sleep quality—an elusive aspect of life for most college students.

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 410 cancer survivors were randomly assigned into one of two groups: one group had standard care, and the other had standard care plus four weeks of yoga. At the end of the study, participants in the group doing yoga reported greater improvements in sleep quality, daytime function, sleep efficiency, and sleep duration than participants assigned to the control group.

Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing examined the effects of yoga on sleep quality in a group of nurses—half of the nurses did yoga after work twice a week, and the other half did not. After six months, the group of nurses who participated in yoga sessions after work reported better sleep quality and lower levels of work-related stress than nurses in the group who did not participate in yoga.

The takeaway from these two studies? Stressed-out college students who have difficulty sleeping may benefit from the practice of yoga. It doesn’t even have to be a full 90-minute vinyasa class for one to reap the benefits—even just a few minutes of yoga a day can have substantial effects on one’s quality of life.

A great way to start developing a daily practice is to begin with a 5-10 minute series of poses before bedtime. This infographic found on Pinterest provides an easy-to-follow bedtime flow that promotes dreamy, easy sleep. The best part? They can all be done from your bed.

Refer to the infographic for visuals of each pose if you are unfamiliar. The five poses are as follows:

  • Staff Pose
  • Knee-to-Chest Pose
  • Forward-Bent Pose
  • Marichi Pose
  • Child’s Pose

The night before a big exam I tested out this flow to see if it actually helped me sleep. The verdict? I definitely felt much calmer and more relaxed before resting my head onto my pillow to get some sleep. I focused on my breath and letting go of all of the day’s thoughts while I spent time in each pose, which helped me decompress the day. One suggested substitution: instead of traditional staff pose, I subbed legs-up-the-wall pose, which I found to be a more restorative version of staff pose. If you’re looking for a more restful night’s sleep, then look no further than the yoga mat collecting dust in the closet of your dorm room. Roll it out, and relax!

By Julie Kameisha

Get Well

Reboost and Reenergize: How to Stay Healthy During Crunch Time

With another round of exams fast approaching, it’s important to keep your body and your mind healthy. If you’ve been hitting the books hard while trying to have a social life like me, you may be feeling a little sleep deprived, a little stressed, and a little burnt out. You’ve been working hard for the past couple of months, so these feelings are totally normal and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with upcoming assignments. So with that in mind, here are some quick tips to help you recharge, relax, and reboost so you can do your best on your tests!

Say No to All-Nighters 

As much as it seems like a good idea to pull an all-nighter, it is a definite NO. When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain doesn’t function properly, so you won’t perform at the best of your ability. Cramming the night before is never a good idea, and staying up into the wee hours of the morning going over those biology terms time and time again will only hurt your performance more. Prepare for the exam a few days before, set a cut-off time for your studying at night, and try to get at least 7 hours of sleep the night before the big test.

Walk it Off 

Taking a break is just as important as hitting the books. It’s important to give yourself a 5-10 minute break every hour.  Walk around, stretch out your limbs, listen to music, or grab a snack. Giving yourself a break can help recharge your brain so you are more focused when you go back to studying. Just beware of doing things that could be distracting and that might keep you from returning to your studying time.

Smart Snacking 

It’s easy to grab’n’go with food during exam time because you’re rushing off to meet your study groups or trying to get that last minute tutoring session in before your big exam. However, it’s important to focus on what you are putting into your body. Small balanced meals throughout the day are key for keeping your mind sharp and active, and while it’s nice to have the occasional pick me up of chocolate, try to snack on healthier options like apple slices, nuts, cheese sticks, granola bars, or low-fat popcorn. Although it might not taste as good as something sugary like ice cream or candy, your brain and your body will thank you later.

Quit the Caffeine 

Quitting caffeine can be a challenge, and I especially know this as a deeply devoted lover of Dunkin Donuts coffee. However, your body is better off without it, because caffeine is known to increase stress and anxiety, two ever-present factors in the exam circuit. While a small amount of caffeine can improve alertness and reduce stress, excessive amounts can make stress increasingly worse. It does more harm than good. Instead, try drinking decaffeinated coffee or soda if you can’t kick the habit. Caffeine-free tea is also a great option, with varieties like chamomile and lavender intended to soothe stress and relieving your worries.

By Annie O’Sullivan

Get Well

Coloring Books–For Adults?

It’s early December and you’re knee-deep in work, vigorously studying for final exams and working on end-of-semester papers. To relieve stress, many students will seek out comfort foods or crash on the couch for a Netflix marathon… instead, what if you grabbed a coloring book and a pack of crayons and relived this elementary-school pastime? Say what?

Research suggests that art therapy, such as simply coloring in a coloring book, may help to reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety. In a study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, researchers found that cancer patients participating in a one-hour art therapy session during treatment had a decrease in symptoms such as “tiredness,” “anxiety,” and “tension” post-therapy, and rated higher in positive feelings such as  “calm,” “comfort,” and “relaxed” (Nainis). Psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala explains this phenomenon, stating, “the relaxation that [coloring] provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress” (Santos).

Another study looked at students living in the UK who participated in a program titled The Art Room, which allowed students to engage in artistic projects during the school day. After one year, the study reported that students who attended The Art Room demonstrated a drop in symptoms such as depression, as well as a reduction in emotional and conduct problems and hyperactivity (Reuters).

What is the takeaway from these two studies? Using coloring books, or engaging in other crafts or art therapy activities may help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety in college students. Borrow a friend’s book or order one online (such as this one), throw it in your backpack, and when a wave of stress hits you in the library, take a 20 minute break to relax and color away!

Sources:

Reuters. “Art Therapy May Help Kids With Behavior Problems.” Medical Daily. Medical   Daily, 17 Jan. 2015. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.

Nainis, Nancy, Judith A. Paice, Julia Ratner, James H. Wirth, Jerry Lai, and Susan Shott.   “Relieving Symptoms in Cancer: Innovative Use of Art Therapy.” Journal of Pain       and Symptom Management 31.2 (2006): 162-69. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.

Santos, Elana. “Coloring Isn’t Just For Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.

By Julie Kameisha

Get Well

Staying Focused: The 5 Tips Your Grades Can’t Live Without

We’re living in a world where half of our generation seems to have ADHD and the other half is too engrossed in social media to pay attention to anything. As you head out for that pesky 8am class with your eyes barely open and your body craving caffeine, making it through the day seems impossible. But, have no fear friends! Here’s some tips that will make even the most prize-winning procrastinators focus:

  1. Make a list

Go back to the basics. Before having a mental breakdown about that chemistry quiz, take out the notes on your phone or a piece of paper and write down everything you need to accomplish. You can even put different categories on your list to separate personal and academic things. After you get your life down on paper, checking things off that list feels nothing less than liberating!

  1. Set a timer

If you are the type of person that thrives under pressure, set a timer for anywhere from 15-45 minutes. If you put the pressure of time on work you know needs to get finished, you are much more likely to want to compete to beat that timer. Once you start hearing that annoying ring tone you set earlier, pat yourself on the back and go take a five or ten minute break.

  1. Put your phone on airplane mode

It’s much easier to stay focused in class or on work when your phone isn’t lighting up every five seconds for that Instagram photo your friends keep liking. This helps to keep the temptation of checking all your social media, emails, and texts at bay.

  1. Find a good spot

Even though it’s tempting to hide under the plush covers of your bed to do work online, it’s also a good way to take an accidental three-hour nap. If you are a very social person, sometimes it helps to lock yourself in a place where you won’t get distracted easily by peers. Some great spots on campus include the lounge in Hendrick’s near People’s Place, private rooms in Whitman or Newhouse, and Café Kubal on Marshall.

  1. Exercise beforehand

Exercise usually leaves us with an optimistic outlook on life and generally make us feel more motivated for the rest of the day. By shedding your problems at the gym and immersing yourself in a fresh burst of endorphins, you will likely succeed at staying focused later on. Besides, who wants to work out after you’ve been stuck in the library for five hours? Netflix and chill, please.

By Sarah Kinzler

Get Well

Staying Sane Overseas: Mental Health Abroad

It’s easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed while abroad. You’re thousands of miles away from home in a city where you don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language—and you’re expected to do a mountain of schoolwork on top of that. Here are some tips on how to maintain your sanity, stay focused, and protect your mental health while abroad:

Talk to someone

Does your school have someone professional that’s available for you to talk with? Or maybe a teacher? Most teachers abroad are familiar with loneliness and homesickness, and many probably have tricks and tips to keep those feelings at bay. Even getting a “I miss my family” out to someone can feel like a hundred pounds being lifted off your shoulders.

Find something that reminds you of home

Does your host family bake a cake just the way your mom does? If you squint, does the sunrise over Madrid remind you of the sunrises you used to watch back in LA? Does your new Chinese study-buddy remind you exactly of your best friend back home? Find something in your city that you can relate to. The world isn’t as big as it seems, and while there are differences in cultures, it’s up to you to find the parallels.

Set up a routine time to call or Skype with friends and family

Time zones can be a bitch. As you’re waking up, your friends on the other side of the globe are usually falling asleep or are heading out to parties. However, you can always find a time when the both of you are awake, and set up a schedule. For example, you might do it at 10 p.m. every Friday, or just as you’re waking up on a lazy Sunday. Whatever you agree on, make the schedule and stick to it.

Keep a journal

Writing out your heartaches and worries can do wonders for your mood. Plus, you’ll be able to look back on all of your positive experiences that you’ve written about too! Keep a notebook handy and figure out a style that works for you. You don’t have to write a play-by-play of your day; you might want to just bullet, or write three nice things that happened, regardless of how bad your day was.

Volunteer

Volunteering allows you to connect with people while keeping your mind and body occupied. That little Italian soup kitchen might need a hand every weekend, or maybe you want to pass out water bottles for those running in a 5K in France, or maybe you just want to knit blankets and scarves for the elderly while you watch Netflix. Ask your school if they know of any places that are looking for an extra hand, and get to work!

Explore the city

However long you’re studying abroad for is never enough time. Instead of missing friends and family back home, grab a friend and explore the city. Be sure to take lots of pictures so you’ll have stories to tell when you get back home. Also, try to talk to locals as much as you can, even if you don’t speak much of the language. They’ll definitely appreciate the effort and you might learn something about your host country!

Keep in Mind:

  • Never drink too much when you’re sad, especially if you are unfamiliar with the language, area, or the way drinks are prepared in your country.
  • Always keep emergency numbers for your host family, apartment, school, and city with you at all times.
  • Carry emergency medications/epi pens, etc. with you wherever you go.
  • Always go out with friends at night, and don’t leave them alone.
  • Keep a small amount of cash in a safe place separate from where you keep your wallet, in case something happens to it.
  • Charge your cellphone before going out, and always tell your host family where and how they can reach you. Give them an ETA of when you might be back. If your plans change, always let them know.

By Madeleine Fournier

General Health · Get Well · Student Life

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