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

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.

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

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