Health and Wellness Tips for College Students

college sick

Follow these tips to stay healthy while away at college (photo credit:BigStockPhoto.com)c 

For many college students, the move to college signifies the first time in their lives that they and they alone are responsible for paying attention to and taking care of their own health and wellness. Unfortunately, the hectic schedule and the stresses of being away from home and keeping up with coursework can make it difficult to devote time to staying healthy. Too often this means coming down with a terrible cold or a serious case of strep throat at the worst possible time.

The good news is there are many resources available on college campuses to help you stay as healthy as possible. Use the resources on your campus and these tips to safeguard your health and wellness.

  1. Watch What You Eat

The seemingly endless availability of ‘free’ food makes it easy to over indulge which is why so many college students gain weight in the first year of school. Make sure you are getting the food you need without eating things you don’t need by eating breakfast every day, trying to fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal, and avoid eating late at night.

  1. Drink Wisely

This applies to all beverages including those containing alcohol. Make sure you are drinking lots of water every day as it helps keep you from overeating and staying hydrated is important for good health. Limit sugary and highly caffeinated drinks. Both kinds of beverages can hurt your health if you over do it. Don’t binge drink alcohol and when you decide to drink, focus on drinking responsibly.

  1. Keep Moving

One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to get enough exercise. It can be difficult to prioritize exercise when there are so many demands on your time but being active affects almost every area of your life. Walk or bike whenever you are on campus. Sign-up to play on an intramural sports team. Join a hiking club or some other club that will let you be social and be active at the same time.

  1. Don’t Skimp on Sleep

All-nighters and skipping sleep are generally considered part of the college experience. However, research has shown just how critical sleep is to good health and this means getting the sleep you need is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy. Sleep deprivation also affects your ability to learn, to concentrate, and to remember which means skipping sleep to study may actually cause you to do worse in your classes than getting a good night sleep.

  1. Avoid Other People’s Germs

The communal environment of a college campus means germs and viruses are everywhere just waiting for you to invite them in. You can keep illness away by practicing good hygiene. Wash your hands, especially after you have been in high traffic areas like classrooms, coffee shops, bathrooms, and the library. Don’t share drinks with other people. If you feel sick go to the health center, don’t wait until you are too sick to get out of bed. Getting treated early can decrease how long you are sick.

 

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Are Cleanses the New Eating Disorder?

juice cleanse

Are juice cleanses the new eating disorder? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Cleanses are healthy, right?  They are touted on major talk shows, endorsed by celebrities, and billed as a healthy way to lose weight and rid the body of toxins.  But are they actually good for your body?  And is the “cleanse culture” ushering in a new kind of eating disorder? To answer these questions, let’s start by looking at some of the most popular cleanses and the benefits they promise to bring.

  • The Master Cleanse – 10 day liquid diet consisting primarily of lemon juice, water, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup.  Promises rapid weight loss and toxin removal.
  • LemonAid 48 Hour Detox Diet – 2 day liquid diet consisting of a specific lemonade formula.  Promises a lighter, leaner you.
  • iZO JuiceFeast Cleanse – Liquid diet consisting of organic juice that people can do for any length of time.  Promises everything from quick weight loss to spiritual renewal.
  • 21 Day Clean Detox Program – 21 day program that includes specific shakes, supplements, and one small daily meal consisting of food from an approved list.   Promises to remove common food allergens, rebuild the body, and gain a better understanding of how your body reacts to certain foods.
  • Blueprint Cleanse – 3 day cleanse that features juice all day, two snacks, and a vegetarian meal at dinner.  Promises to relieve stress on the digestive system and alleviate toxins.
  • The Quantum Wellness Cleanse – 21 day program that eliminates alcohol, gluten, added sugar, caffeine, and animal products from the diet.  Promises to kick-start physical and mental wellbeing.

While many experts agree that short cleanses like the LemonAid 48 hour detox or the Blueprint cleanse may not necessarily deliver significant benefit, they also agree that extreme calorie reduction for a few days isn’t going to do any harm either.  But when this kind of extreme calorie restriction goes on for a week or more, concerns are being raised about how that is impacting the body.  But even doing something like the Master Cleanse for 10 days isn’t the real issue nutritionists and experts in this area are worried about.

The concern over the popularity of these cleanses is that when people, especially women, go through one of these programs and experience rapid weight loss from extreme calorie restriction or other temporary benefits, they can become obsessed with cleansing.  This can lead to going through a new cleanse every week or two.  Since most cleanses involve extreme calorie reduction and intake of a very limited group of nutrients, this healthy fad, when taken to extremes, can have serious health consequences.    Some have even raised concerns that this type of behavior may be developing into a new kind of eating disorder.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) defines an eating disorder as a serious emotional and physical problem that involves extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors around weight and food.  Given that definition, it is easy to understand why there are growing concerns about the cleansing craze.  NEDA has recently added a category of eating disorder to their website called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder that encompasses behavioral patterns where a person fails to take in enough food and experiences serious nutritional deficiencies but without the psychological factors seen with Anorexia Nervosa.  While not specifically related to cleanse craziness, this new disorder seems to encompass the problem that would result from extreme cleansing.

Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias, Oh My!

teen phobias

Make sure you know the difference between a simple fear and when your teen’s phobia needs treatment (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Everyone gets scared or anxious sometimes; it is an important part of being human.  Fear and anxiety are useful emotional responses because they can cause us to change our behavior in ways that protect us from danger.  The teen years are full of situations that create fear and cause anxiety and learning to navigate through those situations is a normal part of moving through the teen years.  However, sometimes those fears and anxieties can become overwhelming and all-encompassing, limiting the potential and progress of our teens.  In order for parents to know when their teen’s fear or anxiety has crossed the threshold from healthy to hindering, they need a solid understanding of the biology of fear, anxiety, and phobias and how to tell when their teen is in trouble and needs help.

Fear

Fear is an emotional response to a specific situation.  The emotion causes several immediate changes in our bodies that are aimed at preparing us to handle the danger at hand.  These changes are also called the fight or flight response because our body is getting ready for us to either run for our life or flight for it.  To do that, our heart rate increases as does our breathing.  This helps get more oxygenated blood to the parts of the body that will need it most for fighting or fleeing, the arms and legs.  This can cause a queasy stomach, paleness, and perspiration.  All of this is our natural, healthy response to a specific threatening situation.

Anxiety

Fear is to anxiety as a tree is to a forest.  Where fear is a direct response to a specific, immediate situation as in “something is happening”, anxiety is a generalized feeling of unease as in “something might happen”.   Anxiety also serves us well from a survival standpoint as it can alert us to the potential for danger before we find ourselves in the position of having to flee or fight.  It can make us more cautious and can help us avoid danger or discomfort.  Anxiety, to a certain degree, is also a healthy, normal response to perceived or potential dangers.

Phobias

While fear and anxiety can be healthy responses, they can also expand beyond healthy to become unhealthy, hindering, and even harmful.  When fear takes on a life of its own and expands to encompass things that are not actually a direct and immediate threat, that fear becomes a phobia.   Phobias are fueled by fearful emotions that are severe, extreme, and persistent and can trip the fight or flight response even when there is no direct and immediate threat of harm.   Anxiety can also expand beyond what is normal and helpful to become a phobia, an anxiety disorder, or and anxiety disorder tied to a phobia.

When it comes to fear and anxiety, the primary differences between a normal, healthy response and a harmful, hindering response are the direct nature of the threat, the magnitude of the response, how appropriate the response is to the situation, and the persistence of the emotional response even after any actual threat has passed.

Teens experiencing normal fear and anxiety may need their parents’ guidance and support to get through the trials and tribulations of the teen years.  But for those teens whose fear and anxiety have crossed the threshold into phobia and disordered response professional help from a mental health provider may be needed to help them learn to how to manage their fear and anxiety so they can have a normal life.

5 Tips for Dealing with Teen Drama

teen drama

Use these tips to navigate the years of teen drama (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

It is almost time for the Academy Awards to be handed out and you might be thinking that the award for the most dramatic performance should go to…..your teenager.  There is no question that were teenagers go, drama will follow but many parents don’t feel equipped to step into the supporting actor roles our teens need us to play during these difficult times.  But in truth, our teens need us to not only to fill that supporting role but also to act as producer, director, and possibly personal assistant as they make their way from childhood to adulthood.  If you often feel like you are ready to storm off the set, here are some tips to help you keep your cool and deal with your teen’s drama.

1.     Don’t Dive Into the Drama

As any moviegoer knows, the job of the supporting actor is to stay above the fray so that they can be available to help the hero or heroine at the most critical point in the storyline.  Keeping yourself out of the emotions will ensure you have a clear head and can offer your teen the right kind of guidance and advice.

2.     Don’t Dish It Out, They Can’t Take It

Inevitably, almost every teenager at one point in their life will utter the most devastating words a parent can hear.  “I hate you!”  And because we are all human, our immediate response when stung is often to sting back.  In these situations, your role shifts from supporting role to public relations rep and your goal is to mitigate the damage these words can do specifically by preventing the worst possible outcome from happening, and stopping yourself from lashing out too.

3.     Remember That Even Big Budget Films Still Have a Budget

No matter what is causing your teen’s current drama, there isn’t an amount of money in the world that will make it go away.  These are the times when you have to become the producer who understands that not all problems can be solved simply by throwing money at them.  The lessons about money that you teach your teens during these times will be more important than almost anything else you tell them on the topic.

4.     Great Actors Have to Be Great Listeners

One of the biggest challenges to the parent-teen relationship through these trying times is communication.  It can seem like you are speaking different languages or as if you are operating from different pages in the same script.  But as any actor knows, the key to a great performance is being good at listening to what others are saying to you.  To ensure you stay on the same page, make time to listen to what your teen has to say.

5.     Leave the Judging to the Academy

There are so many points in your teen’s life where they already feel like they are being judged that one of the most positive things you can do for them is to not be one of the judges.

 

4 Mistakes Parents Make with Their Teens

Parenting Mistakes

As a parent of teens, try to avoid these common parenting mistakes (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Parenting teenagers is no picnic and even the best parents make a mis-step from time to time.   From managing constantly changing moods to teaching them to tame their tempestuous emotions, parenting teens can feel like a minefield.  Take heart, every one of us accidentally sets off a mine or two as we navigate through these challenging years.  To help you and your child get through the teen years as unscathed as possible, here are some of the most common mistakes we see parents of teenagers make so you can do your best to avoid them.

1.     Failing to Trust Ourselves

When it comes to parenting, most of us use our parent’s example to guide what we do, or not do, with our own kids.  But more so than in most other generations, today’s teens live in a completely different world than the one their parents grew up in.  With no model to follow and no map of our own journey to use, we don’t trust our own instincts.

2.     Focusing on Failure

There is no question that teenagers were put on this planet to test the resilience, patience, and sometimes sanity of their parents.  But these years can be a wonderful growing experience for everyone in the family, if we let them be.  However, too often we focus only on the failure, talk only about the things that are not working, and see only the things that our teens are screwing up.  When this happens, our teens get the message that everything they do is wrong which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Even on the worst day, there is always something good to see but if you don’t look for it, you are likely to miss it entirely.

3.     Uttering the Words “Because I Said So”

Granted, there are times when there just isn’t any other explanation or when you are simply too tired of arguing to produce one.  But more often than not, when we parents find ourselves saying these words it is because we are doing something or saying something without really thinking it through.  These are the small moments that can undo our best intentions because they are the times that we do things without thinking, repeat unhealthy patterns, or measure against expectations that aren’t real.  If you don’t have a reason you should focus on figuring out why rather than saying this so that you can win.

4.     Being a Control Freak

It can seem like the best way to keep your teen safe from all the dangers of the world is to keep them close and completely under your control.  Unfortunately, even if they agree to this or don’t actively fight against it, you are not doing them any favors.  These are the years when your teenager needs to learn how to do the things they will need to do to be successful as an adult.  This includes things like making good decisions, avoiding temptation, and being responsible.  If you deprive them of the opportunities they need to develop these skills, they may make it to adulthood without drinking, having sex, smoking, doing drugs, or getting in trouble, but they won’t have the skills they need to do that once they leave your nest.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Eating Disorders

Do you know the warning signs that a loved one may have an eating disorder? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

When most people think of eating disorders, it is very likely that the image that pops into their mind features a young, emaciated girl.  But this is only part of the real story of eating disorders and something that the National Eating Disorders Association is working to change with its annual awareness campaign.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week runs from February 23rd to March 1st this year which provides the perfect opportunity for everyone to increase their understanding of these debilitating and even deadly disorders.  There are millions of people in this country suffering from eating disorders but many go undiagnosed and untreated.  In part, this happens because of the shame and guilt many people struggling with these conditions feel because of their disorder.  It also happens because not everyone with an eating disorder looks like that girl many of you pictured.  People with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes which is why it is so important to spread awareness to everyone, not just amongst those who have been diagnosed.

Here are some of the things you can do to help spread awareness about eating disorders this month.

1.     Educate Yourself or Someone Else

Many people have a very limited understanding of the two most well-known eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and little to no knowledge about the other common eating disorders.  This means that we may not see the signs of struggle in someone we love or even in ourselves.  Understanding the basics of the four primary eating disorders is a great start.

  • Anorexia Nervosa – When a person participates in self-starvation, depriving the body of calories in order to become thinner.
  • Bulimia Nervosa – When a person goes through cycles of binge eating followed by activities like purging or excessive exercising to “make up for” for the binge.
  • Binge Eating Disorder – When a person participates in regular episodes of binge eating that is not accompanied by other behaviors intended to compensate for or get rid of the extra calories.
  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) – Some people who struggle with disordered eating exhibit a range of symptoms that prevent them with being diagnosed with each of the three primary disorders above.

2.     Host an Event

The National Eating Disorder Awareness website has a ton of information you can use to host a fun, informative, or educational activity or event as part of the awareness week event.   One great way to get the message out is to host a screening of “Someday Melissa”, a documentary about eating disorders.   For assistance in planning your event, download NEDA’s Event Planning Guide.

3.     Share Your Story

Whether you post some thoughts on your favorite social media site or stand up in front of a crowded room, sharing your own eating disorder story is one of the most powerful things you can do to raise awareness and make a difference in other people’s lives.

4.     Post About the Problem

Take to social media to help spread the word about eating disorders.

5 Tips for Helping Teens Develop Healthy Relationships

teen dating relationship

Help your teen know how to be in a healthy relationship (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month which offers parents the perfect opportunity to talk about the realities of dating violence with their teens.  Helping your teenager understand the signs of an unhealthy relationship and making sure they know the difference between love and abuse are important steps parents can take to help prevent this problem.  And while it is important for teens to know the signs and dangers of teen dating violence, this month also offers the perfect opportunity to talk about the other side of that coin, healthy teen relationships.

In our role as parents, it is often as important to provide a good example to emulate as it is to provide cautionary tales.  While we can’t always model the perfect relationship for our children, we can understand how our relationships impact their attitudes about and understanding of romantic attachments and the rules of those relationships.  Here are some of the things parents can do to help teens learn the right rules of the road when it comes to romantic relationships.

1.     Be A Good Role Model

Your relationship with your spouse or significant other is one of the most important factors in how your teen will behave in a relationship.  This means that if you are modeling healthy behaviors, that it what they will expect and provide in their relationships.

2.     Don’t Confuse Picture Perfect with Healthy

Healthy doesn’t mean perfect and it doesn’t mean everyone is happy all the time.  It is as important for your teens to see how you treat each other when things are not going well as it is for them to see you during happy times.  This doesn’t mean air your dirty laundry in the living room, but rather that witnessing healthy conflict resolution, good communication, and supportive partnerships will model important parts of romantic relationships.

3.     Arm Them With Information

While it may be uncomfortable for both you and your teens, you need to talk to them about sex and intimacy.  Providing factual information and answering their questions can empower your teen to make the best decision possible if they find themselves in an unhealthy situation or environment.

4.     Give Them the Lead

Sometimes, in our effort to shield and protect our teens from the worst of the world, we do them a great disservice.  In order to have the confidence to say “No” to the cute boy at school or to break up with the hottest girl in class because she is manipulative and mean, our teens need to know that we have faith in their ability to make good decisions and that they have our support if they stray off course.

5.     Help Them Define Their Own Boundaries

One of the most important factors in any healthy relationship is boundaries that both people respect.  This is one of the things that can be most challenging to teens.  The excitement of new love can turn a grown woman into a giddy school girl, which is why we need to talk to teens about healthy boundaries.

Do You Know the Drugs of This Generation? Part 2

drug abuse teens

Make sure you know this information if you are a parent of a teen (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

When it comes to helping teens avoid illicit drugs, while knowledge is power for parents, not knowing can be dangerous for your teen.  As part of National Drug Facts Week, parents can test their drug IQ by taking the 2014 National Drug IQ Challenge and then read on to learn more about the drugs that belong to their teenager’s generation.  You can read part one of this series here.

Salvia

Salvia, an herb native to Central and South America, is a drug you aren’t likely to have heard of, yet.  It can be ingested a variety of ways including chewing the leaves, smoking the dried leaves, or inhaling the vapors.  It is also called Sally-D and Maria Pastora and although it is not currently prohibited by federal law, it is considered to be a drug of concern by the DEA and may soon be classified as a schedule I drug like marijuana.

Meth

Odds are, no matter where you live, you know what Meth is, even if you only know about it because of the TV show “Breaking Bad”.   Meth is short for Methamphetamine and is a stimulant drug that can cause increased energy and alertness while also providing positive effects on mood.  Unfortunately, it also causes elevated heart rate, raised blood pressure, and other negative side effects.   Meth is also known as speed, tina, ice, crank, and glass.  It is a white powder that can be made into pills, dissolved in water, or smoked.   It is often made using very toxic ingredients including battery acid and antifreeze.

Using meth can cause mood swings, violent or aggressive behavior and even psychosis, paranoia, and delusions.  At first, using meth can increase sexual impulses and puts users at a higher risk for things like sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.  Over time, meth can have the opposite effect on sex drive in addition to causing skin sores, severe weight loss, cognitive deficits, accelerated aging, and meth mouth where the person’s teeth become broken, rotten, stained, and/or fall out.

Spice

Spice is an herbal concoction that produces results similar to marijuana when smoked.  Often seen as a “natural” or “legal” alternative to marijuana, Spice can also contain mind-altering chemicals that produce unanticipated results.  Many teens believe the myth that Spice is natural and therefore is somehow safer to use than other drugs.  However, Spice users have experienced symptoms like rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, and hallucinations.  The truth is that because Spice can be made in different ways and using different chemicals it is difficult to identify the possible adverse reactions and long term affects of its use.  Spice was easy to buy in gas stations and head shops but now that it has been designated as an illegal substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency, it is harder for teens to obtain.  Spice is also called K2, skunk, and moon rocks and those who use it can become addicted.  Spice is second only to marijuana in use amongst high school students.

 

Benefits of Family Counseling

Family Counseling

Read more to learn the benefits of family counseling (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

When one person in a family unit is struggling, the entire family suffers, and it can be difficult to make real changes unless the family is working together.  This is the foundation on which family counseling is built.  Families can seek this kind of counseling for a variety of reasons and it can be very beneficial in families with a teenager in trouble.

The end goal of family counseling should always be to build a strong, healthy, happy family.  Depending on the issues at hand, the family counseling sessions may include two, three, or any other number of family members.  Counseling sessions can include some family members on certain days and others on different days.  Who attends is as personal to each family as what brought them there in the first place.

If you are considering family counseling, here are some of the benefits you and your family can get from participating:

1.     Improved Communication

Family counseling is an excellent way to overcome communication challenges and for everyone in the family to learn how to communicate more effectively.  For many families, communication is a key starting point because until the lines of communication are open and operating, it can be very difficult to tackle other issues successfully.

2.     Support for Substance Abuse Treatment

For families dealing with the aftermath of a substance abuse problem, family counseling can provide a safe place to learn how to support the family member with the problem.  It can also help to heal the wounds to other family members caused by the addiction.

3.     Building Stronger Bonds

One of the most rewarding and little recognized benefits of family counseling is building stronger family bonds.  With the guidance of their chosen provider, families can learn to listen more effectively, empathize more completely, and understand the wants and needs of the others in their family.  The skills learned in family counseling help build these bonds and strengthen the overall family structure.

4.     Dealing with Grief and Loss

One of the most difficult things for families to survive is the loss of a family member.  Regardless of whether the person lost was a parent, child, or sibling, learning to accept the loss and move through the grieving process together can not only build those strong bonds but ensure that everyone makes it through that process healthy and whole.

5.     Managing Mental Health Conditions

Families who are dealing with an ongoing or chronic mental health condition can also benefit from family counseling.  These kinds of conditions can include depression, anxiety disorders like OCD, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and self harm.

6.     Dealing with Dysfunction

The bottom line is that family counseling can help family units learn to understand and overcome whatever dysfunction is currently plaguing them.  By providing family members with a safe space to share feelings and teaching them how to communicate and be supportive of each other, family counseling helps build the kind of bonds that keep families together, even during the toughest times.

5 Tips for Being a Healthy Role Model

teen role model

Follow these tips to help ensure you’re being a good role model for your teen (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

When it comes to parenting, especially parenting teenagers, it is important to practice what you preach.  Our children learn how to act, how to react, how to treat others, and how to treat themselves by watching us.  If we, as parents, don’t show our children how to act as often as we tell them, we aren’t likely to see the kind of behavior we desire.  So, if you are struggling with your teen’s behavior and you feel like all the shouting in the world isn’t getting you anywhere, it may be time to take a step back and make sure you are providing a healthy model for them to follow.

1.     Live the Golden Rule

You may not have thought much about the golden rule since you left the playground but it is one of the best ways to teach your teen how to treat others.  If you are disrespectful to authority figures, other family members, or your teenager, you are showing them that it is ok for them to treat others that way too, including you.  Treat them the way you want them to treat you so that they have a healthy model to follow.

2.     Be Polite

There isn’t any reason you can’t say “please” and “thank you” to your teenagers just like you would to any stranger on the street.  If you want a child who is polite to others, show them how to do it in your interactions with others.

3.     Fight Fair

There will always be times when parents and teenagers will clash and when that happens the thing that will matters most is how you fight with them.  Name calling, cursing, and shaming are all things adults do when they fight with others but these tactics are never the right way to resolve conflict.  Show your teenager how to deal with differences of opinion and disagreements by using healthy conflict resolution strategies rather than going toe to toe and matching blow with blow.  If you don’t know how to do this, get help from a conflict resolution expert or mental health provider.

4.     Say You Are Sorry

No matter how hard we try, we parents are still fallible humans and there will be times we mess up, make the wrong decision, or say something we don’t mean.  The most important thing you can do during these times is to acknowledge your mistake, say you are sorry if it is appropriate, and allow your teenager to see that screwing up is ok.  You are letting them know that you don’t expect perfection while also showing them the importance of being responsible for your actions.

5.     Consistency is Key

While no one is perfect all the time, it is important to strive toward a level of consistency that provides your child with a good map of expected behavior.  If today you are polite and apologetic and tomorrow you are screaming and calling names, the good behavior can get muddled up with the bad leaving your teen to determine the right way.

 

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