Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Singin' the Winter Blues

It was the week of finals, and I could find no place to study. The library was packed solid; the coffee shops were noisy and distracting. My room was no longer an option – I just could not focus on studying when my desk was a mess, but I had no time to clean because I had finals to cram for. In the scheme of life’s problems, this was not life or death.
But, in that moment, it was enough to unhinge me a bit.  Or at least put me on edge.  Fortunately, I was able to find a quiet and dimly lit place to study (I have weird study preferences) and thankfully managed to keep my anxiety and restlessness under control.
This month is Health and Wellness Month, which makes it a fitting time to talk about challenges young people face when at college. At this point you may want to ask, “But Nina, what do health and wellness even mean?” Good Question! According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, health is defined as “ the condition of being sound in body, mind, or soul; freedom from physical disease or pain.” Wellness is defined as “the quality or state of being in good health.” Our bodies, our thoughts and our emotions all influence each other greatly. There is never one without the other. Even in their definitions, they relate.
The logical question to follow, then, is what are the biggest hazards to health and wellness in college.
Healthline News addressed this issue with an article titled “5 Biggest Dangers Facing College Freshmen” which you can access here. According to this article the most significant obstacles to wellbeing among college students: stress, prescription drug use, STDs, Alcohol-Related Injuries, and Poor Nutrition and Lack of Exercise. Who knew we had so many issues! I feel like the stress and poor nutrition/exercise thing is something that I can definitely see.
According to “5 Biggest Dangers Facing College Freshmen,” 80% of college freshmen do not exercise regularly. Of course, there is the “freshman 15” phenomena. There have even been a few cases of scurvy, the disease caused by a vitamin C deficient diet that used to afflict sailors and pirates. It is of utmost importance for people to develop good eating and lifestyle habits in college – not only to maintain good sleep habits and grades, but for our physical and emotional well-being here and now.
In many ways, I have felt the stresses of college life first hand. Before freshmen year, I moved from sunny and arid Arizona to Seattle. You can probably image how much of an adjustment that has been for me! A new climate, a new political atmosphere, and many, many people I had never met before. And I absolutely love it! However, with the academic rigor of pursuing a nursing degree, and my personal tendency to take on more than I can handle- I can definitely empathize with the stress that plagues so many college students.
            As easy as it is to get in a rut and feel overwhelmed, I have found in my life that it sometimes the smallest steps taken that help to pull me out. Lately, that has looked like me going into one on of my friend’s dorm rooms and lying on the comfy rug she has on the ground. Not saying anything. Not doing anything. But the thing is, it actually helps! For you, it probably looks different: music, enjoying the great outdoors, even filing papers at work – it can all make a difference.

There are times when these little tricks to deal with stress don’t work, when life builds up and collides and it seems too much. It is OKAY to ask for help. It does not have to be anything large or life changing. I have gone through this many times, and have had good people come alongside me and help support me. You can as well. These small steps may not save lives, not immediately. However, they help us live each minute, each day.
If you feel like you might need someone to talk to about the little or the big things, Teen Link is a convenient and ready resource for you. Teen Link’s number is 1866-833-6546. The cool thing about Teen Link is that it is answered by high schoolers and college students so you get to talk to someone who knows what it is like to go through all of this stuff.


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