The mission of Saint Thomas Academy’s Student Services Department is to provide a comprehensive, developmental counseling program to meet the academic, personal/social needs of our students. Members of the Student Services department advocate for students and support them throughout their middle and high school career while preparing them for post-secondary plans. Department members help students maximize their academic achievement while acknowledging every student’s individual uniqueness. Partnering with educators, parents/guardians, and the community, department members strive to ensure all students at STA develop the skills, knowledge, and understanding necessary to be successful in their future endeavors.
The role of the learning specialist:
Saint Thomas Academy's learning specialists play a crucial role at the Academy by providing specialized support and guidance to students with learning differences. Our learning specialists develop and implement learning plans outlining specific approved accommodations tailored to each student's unique learning profile. The learning specialists collaborate with teachers, administrators, and parents to ensure students receive the support they need to reach their greatest potential.
The role of the school counselor:
At the core of the Saint Thomas Academy mission statement is the development of healthy, well-rounded young men who are holistically prepared to be leaders in the world community. The counseling department promotes services which foster emotional health and personal growth, prepares students for post-secondary life, and supports them in coping with difficulties which might adversely impact their academic progress and personal development.
- Digital Citizenship
- Eating Disorders
- Mental Health Apps
- Relaxation Exercises
- Self Esteem
- Stress Management
- Substance Use
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety is often triggered by stress in our lives. Some of us are more vulnerable to anxiety than others, but even those who become anxious easily can learn to manage it well. We can also make ourselves anxious with “negative self-talk” – a habit of always telling ourselves the worst will happen.
How will I Recognize Anxiety?
As well as feeling apprehensive and worried (possibly without knowing why), you may experience some of the following physical symptoms:
- Tense muscles
- Churning stomach
- Heart palpitations
- Numbness or “pins and needles” in arms, hands or legs
** It is easy to mistake symptoms of anxiety for physical illness and become worried that you might be suffering a heart attack or stroke. This of course increases anxiety.
What if I just avoid the things that make me anxious?
Avoiding situations that make you anxious might help you feel better in the short term. The trouble is the anxiety keeps returning, and has a habit of spreading to other situations. This can lead to you avoiding things like shops, crowded places, lectures or tutorials. So although avoidance makes you feel better–
- Relief is only temporary – you may worry about what will happen next time.
- Every time you avoid something it is harder next time you try to face it.
- Gradually you want to avoid more and more things.
Ok, so what else can I do to feel better?
- Learn to manage stress in your life. Keep an eye on pressures and deadlines and make a commitment to taking time out from study or work.
- Learn a variety of relaxation techniques. Physical relaxation methods and meditation techniques really do help - talk to a counselor to learn more.
- Look after your physical self. Eat healthily, get regular exercise and try to keep a regular sleep pattern.
- Practice deep abdominal breathing. This consists of breathing in deeply and slowly through your nose, taking the air right down to you abdomen. Visualize the air traveling right down to your abdomen and say the word “calm” to yourself as you breathe in. Then breathe out slowly and gently through your mouth. As you breathe out visualize the stress and tension leaving your body with your breath and think the word “relax.” Deliberately let your muscles go floppy as you breathe out. Take three deep breaths at a time. If you breathe deeply for too long you may feel dizzy from the extra oxygen. You can repeat the three breaths after a short time of breathing normally.
- Learn to replace “negative self talk” with “coping self talk.” When you catch yourself thinking something negative like “I can’t do this, it’s just too hard,” try to change it to something more positive, like “This is hard but I can get through it.” It can be helpful to think of “changing the tape” that runs through your mind. It is useful to make a list of the negative thoughts you often have and write a list of positive, believable thoughts to replace them.
Anxiety can be exhausting and debilitating. Don’t suffer alone for too long. It often helps to talk to a counselor who can help you find ways to deal with stress in your life and teach you skills to manage anxiety.
Digital Health and Wellness: Maintaining a Healthy Balance with Technology
As parents, we certainly can’t be with our children constantly to monitor the potentially inappropriate material they may encounter. But we can help them learn to make good choices. We can take advantage of teachable moments to compare media content and messages to our family values--perhaps when watching a TV commercial or show, viewing a website, movie, or discussing the lyrics to a song.
Digital Health and Wellness is an important parent-child discussion to revisit frequently with your child, from elementary school through high school. Experts warn that children are most vulnerable to online dangers while in their own home. While many potential dangers are filtered so students can’t access them at schools, parents sometimes forget that children may have direct access to inappropriate sites at home unless they take action.
What you can do to keep your child safe?
All STA school iPads have built-in filtering software blocking access to inappropriate sites regardless of whether the device is at school or off campus. However, children often have complete, unrestricted access to inappropriate sites on other devices such as home computers and personal cell phones. Experts strongly suggest installing software to filter and block inappropriate content on your wireless home network.
Filters can be set to block Internet access completely or block certain sites like pornography, social media, and gaming. Further, filters allow a parent to completely control when access is open/closed to such sites. These same tools allow parents to control any wireless device, whether it is a laptop, a smartphone with a web browser, an iPod touch, and more. Without any filtering software at home, a user can get to any site on any device, including a desktop computer.
Some possible filters to consider include OpenDNS (Here's a short, two minute instructional video for you describing how easy this is to do with free OpenDNS software), or if you have a newer computer with Microsoft Windows or Mac iOS, the software may be part of the operating system- it’s called Parental Controls and there may be no need to buy anything else.
Take the time to set up some content filters for your children today. Kids are naturally curious and won't filter for themselves. Viewing portrayals of risky behavior can make it seem "normal" when it is not the norm. Often, the reality of negative consequences is left out, leaving kids with a skewed impression of normal standards of behavior, as well as unresolved questions and emotions about the implications of explicit content that they don't fully grasp.
One of the quickest, best ways to put a filter on a cell phone is to use Restrictions. On both Apple and Droid devices, Restrictions allow you to create a separate password from your child's screen lock and limit web content, app installs, purchases, ratings for movies/apps/explicit language, and much more. The default setting for websites that are restricted through Apple iOS is pretty strict, but seems to offer the best option at this time. You can add a few sites to a whitelist, but your child may need to go to a desktop computer with a more robust filter or need you to enter in your Restrictions password to temporarily access some sites.
Curbi is a great option for parents to filter and monitor their child's Droid or iPhone/iPad/iPod and provides valuable data to spark conversations around the use of technology. Curbi filters both cellular and WiFi connections. Read more about Curbi here. There may be other products that offer safe browser apps, but be sure to note these may only filter the internet when it is accessed through their app. So if your child accesses a webpage through Instagram or Facebook, it will bypasses that product’s filtered browser app.
Some cell phone providers may offer filtering services parents can choose to activate, but these are limited to cellular connections and don't include WiFi, and may not work on 4G networks. To learn more, simply Google your service provider with the words "parental controls." Carriers may offer services to monitor text messages and other features.
Other filters to consider:
- Turn on the free tools within Google and YouTube to activate stricter filters on web, image, and video searches.
- TV cable companies offer filtering services as well. Again, simply Google your provider along with the words "parental controls" to learn how to access these features.
Other important parenting tips:
- Maintain open communication with your child about technology use, regularly asking your child about his or her computer activities.
- Ask to get a tour of the sites your child visits.
- Proactively set guidelines for computer use at your house, as well as when they are with friends. Print off, discuss, and sign a Common Sense Family Media Agreement.
- Know your child’s passwords. This enables you to gain access to their e-mail, social networking sites, etc. in case of an emergency.
- Google family members to be aware of your cyber footprint online. Set up a Google Alert for each family member for free.
- Anything we do or post online creates a digital record, often called your "Cyber Footprint." Nothing online is totally private, even if you intend it to be. Once digitized, it can be saved, sent and reposted elsewhere.
- A good rule of thumb: If you don’t want a parent, teacher, principal, future employer or college admissions office to know something, don’t post it online. Ask yourself, "Would Grandma approve?"
- "Friends" aren’t always who they say they are; undercover police and pedophiles pretend to be kids online. Encourage your child to only be friends online with individuals they have met in person.
- Be cautious when posting personal information online. This includes: full name, address, phone number, email, cell phone, checking in on social media sites, where you are meeting friends or where you hang out. Discuss how easy it is for someone to find you based on what you post online.
- Regularly check privacy settings on all commonly used sites and networks. Ignoring privacy settings on sites like Instagram and Facebook means your photos, contact information, interests, and possibly even cell phone number and GPS location could be shared with more than a billion people.
- Cyberbullying (threatening or harassing another individual through technology), is a growing concern for today’s youth. It takes many forms, such as forwarding a private email, photo, or text message for others to see, starting a rumor, or sending a threatening or aggressive message, often anonymously. Talk with your child about not partaking in this behavior, and encourage her/him to report it to an adult. Some videos online to help kids understand this include Ad Council Commercials Talent Show (Elementary and Middle School Students) or Kitchen (High School Students), as well as NetSmartz.org’s videos on Broken Friendship(Secondary Students) or You Can’t Take It Back (Secondary Students).
- Common Sense Media has great reviews of movies, music, apps, video games, and more. Sign up for their weekly newsletter to stay in the loop of the latest teen tech trends.
- Raising Good Digital Citizens: Cyber Safety Resources
- Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online This guide published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers parents practical, developmental targeted tips to guide their children in navigating the online world.
- Net Smartz
Despite the stereotype that eating disorders only occur in women, about one in three people struggling with an eating disorder is male, and subclinical eating disordered behaviors (including binge eating, purging, laxative abuse, and fasting for weight loss) are nearly as common among men as they are among women.
In the United States alone, eating disorders will affect 10 million males at some point in their lives. But due in large part to cultural bias, they are much less likely to seek treatment for their eating disorder. The good news is that once a man finds help, they show similar responses to treatment as women. Several factors lead to men and boys being under- and undiagnosed for an eating disorder. Men can face a double stigma, for having a disorder characterized as feminine or gay and for seeking psychological help. Additionally, assessment tests with language geared to women and girls have led to misconceptions about the nature of disordered eating in men.
Treatment is not one-size-fits-all. For any person, biological and cultural factors should be taken into consideration in order to provide an effective treatment environment.
Studies suggest that risk of mortality for males with eating disorders is higher than it is for females - early intervention is critical.
A gender-sensitive approach with recognition of different needs and dynamics for males is critical in effective treatment. Men and boys in treatment can feel out of place when predominantly surrounded by women, and an all-male treatment environment is recommended—when possible.
Men and boys with anorexia nervosa usually exhibit low levels of testosterone and vitamin D, and they have a high risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis. Testosterone supplementation is often recommended.
MEN AND BODY IMAGE:
There are numerous studies on male body image, and results vary widely. Many men have misconceived notions about their weight and physique, particularly the importance of muscularity. Findings include:
Most males would like to be lean and muscular, which typically represents the “ideal” male body type. Exposure to unattainable images in the media leads to male body dissatisfaction.
The sexual objectification of men and internalization of media images predicts drive for muscularity.
The desire for increased musculature is not uncommon, and it crosses age groups. 25% of normal weight males perceive themselves to be underweight and 90% of teenage boys exercised with the goal of bulking up.
Muscle dysmorphia, a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder, is an emerging condition that primarily affects male bodybuilders. Such individuals obsess about being adequately muscular. Compulsions include spending many hours in the gym, squandering excessive amounts of money on supplements, abnormal eating patterns, or use of steroids.
What is an Eating Disorder?
- The idealization of fitness has resulted in distorted body image and unrealistic measures of beauty and success. Cultural and media influences such as TV, magazines, and movies reinforce the belief that people should be more concerned with their appearance than with their own ideas or achievements.
- An eating disorder occurs when the focus of a person’s everyday life revolves obsessively around food and weight. Some people try to starve themselves. Others compulsively overeat, and still others combine binging and purging.
- Eating disorders often develop as a way to deal with the conflicts and struggles of life and may be used as a way to express control when life itself seems out of control.
- Developing and nurturing a positive body image and a healthy mental attitude is crucial to a woman's happiness and wellness.
- If you are struggling with an eating disorder or concerned about someone who is and would like to talk to someone, please contact a school counselor.
How do I Help my Friend?
- Remember that you cannot force someone to seek help, change their habits, or adjust their attitudes. You will make important progress in honestly sharing your concerns, providing support, and knowing where to go for more information! People struggling with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder do need professional help. There is help available and there is hope.
- Being a friend to someone with an eating disorder can sometimes be very challenging. It is normal to feel frustrated, worried and scared for your friend, especially if he or she isn’t able to admit that there is a serious problem. Being secretive about eating and exercising is a common characteristic of an individual with an eating disorder, and you may feel that you have to watch over your friend to make sure he or she is taking care of themselves. The truth is that you have very limited influence on your friend’s eating habits, and it is ultimately their decision about what and how they eat. This is not to say that you should give up on or reject your friend who has an eating disorder. People who have sought treatment for an eating disorder often emphasize how important the ongoing support of their friends and family was to their eventual recovery. They say that having friends who both continued to believe in them, and also to relate to them beyond just their eating disorder was crucial in their taking steps toward health.
Should I say something to my friend?
- Perhaps the first thing you may ask yourself if you know someone who you suspect has an eating disorder is whether or not you should confront the issue. Ask yourself about your relationship with that person. If it is someone you know only casually (e.g. an acquaintance in a class, someone you see only at the gym) you are probably not the right person to confront that individual. If you are concerned about someone who is a friend, however, it is important to speak to him or her.
- Talking to your friend shows that you care enough to say something, even if your friend has difficulty hearing or accepting your concern. Remember that denial of any problem with food is a psychological defense that helps your friend keep his or her real pain tucked away and out of conscious awareness. Eating disorders serve the function of distracting the individual from deeper emotional issues. An eating disorder is a way of coping, and your friend may not be ready to relinquish the sense of control, power or emotional relief that he or she gets from his or her symptoms (e.g. restricting, binging/ purging, exercising).
- It is important not to interpret your friend’s denial as a personal rejection. Though he or she may resist your efforts, it is still essential to confront your friend in a supportive way and offer to assist them in getting help. Ignoring the problem contributes to the secretiveness and denial that is part of the disorder; this may lead to serious health consequences. Many people with eating disorders initially seek treatment not entirely of their own choosing, but because others have raised the issue and urged them to seek help.
How to Speak to Your Friend:
The following are some tips to consider in confronting your friend who has an eating disorder:
- Pick a time to talk to your friend when there will be no distractions or interruptions. Avoid speaking to her or him about the eating disorder at meal time, or during an argument.
- Express your concerns directly and sincerely, but avoid criticism or judgment. Use “I statements” in which you express your concern about how your friend’s health and well-being are being affected (e.g. I’m worried about you, because along with losing weight you also seem sad lately.”)
- Educate yourself about eating disorders. Realizing that you can’t solve your friend’s problem, and understanding that eating disorders are not just about food will help you to better understand your friend’s struggle.
- Have available resources for treatment handy.
- Be prepared for him or her to deny that there is a problem, and/or to become tearful or angry. Know that you are doing the right thing in talking to your friend, and tell him or her that you continue to be concerned. Your words may “plant a seed” which may help your friend to get treatment even if he or she isn’t receptive at the time.
- Offer your continued friendship, support and patience.
- Don’t promise to keep secrets about the eating disorder, or promise not to tell anyone who would assist your friend in getting treatment.
- Talk to a counselor about your own feelings regarding the situation.
Other Eating Disorder Resources:
What is Grief?
Grief occurs in response to the loss of someone or something. The loss may involve a loved one, a job, or possibly a role (student entering the workplace or employee entering retirement). Anyone can experience grief and loss. It can be sudden or expected; however, individuals are unique in how they experience this event. Grief, itself, is a normal and natural response to loss. There are a variety of ways that individuals respond to loss. Some are healthy coping mechanisms and some may hinder the grieving process. It is important to realize that acknowledging the grief promotes the healing process. Time and support facilitate the grieving process, allowing an opportunity to appropriately mourn this loss.
Common Reactions to Loss:
Individuals experiencing grief from a loss may choose a variety of ways of expressing it. No two people will respond to the same loss in the same way. It is important to note that phases of grief exist; however, they do not depict a specific way to respond to loss. Rather, stages of grief reflect a variety of reactions that may surface as an individual makes sense of how this loss affects them. Experiencing and accepting all feelings remains an important part of the healing process.
Denial, numbness, and shock
- This serves to protect the individual from experiencing the intensity of the loss.
- Numbness is a normal reaction to an immediate loss and should not be confused with "lack of caring".
- Denial and disbelief will diminish as the individual slowly acknowledges the impact of this loss and accompanying feelings.
- This reaction usually occurs when an individual feels helpless and powerless.
- Anger may result from feeling abandoned, occurring in cases of loss through death.
- Feelings of resentment may occur toward one’s higher power or toward life in general for the injustice of this loss.
- After an individual acknowledges anger, guilt may surface due to expressing these negative feelings.
- Again, these feelings are natural and should be honored to resolve the grief.
- At times, individuals may ruminate about what could have been done to prevent the loss.
- Individuals can become preoccupied about ways that things could have been better, imagining all the things that will never be.
- This reaction can provide insight into the impact of the loss; however, if not properly resolved, intense feelings of remorse or guilt may hinder the healing process.
- After recognizing the true extent of the loss, some individuals may experience depressive symptoms.
- Sleep and appetite disturbance, lack of energy and concentration, and crying spells are some typical symptoms.
- Feelings of loneliness, emptiness, isolation, and self-pity can also surface during this phase, contributing to this reactive depression.
- For many, this phase must be experienced in order to begin re-organizing one’s life.
- Time allows the individual an opportunity to resolve the range of feelings that surface.
- The grieving process supports the individual. That is, healing occurs when the loss becomes integrated into the individual’s set of life experiences.
- Individuals may return to some of the earlier feelings throughout one’s lifetime.
- There is no time limit to the grieving process. Each individual should define one’s own healing process.
Factors that may hinder the healing process:
- Avoiding your emotions
- Over-activity to the point of exhaustion
- Using alcohol or other drugs to mask the grief
- Unrealistic promises made to the deceased
- Unresolved grief from a previous loss
- Judgmental relationships
- Acting resentful to those who try to help
Guidelines that may help resolve grief
Seldom does a person go into one side of grief and come out the other side the same as before the loss. Think of going through your grief, rather than getting over the loss. By seeing the process through, you can develop personal strengths to cope with other types of loss and difficulties that may come up later in life. Acceptance of the loss means gaining a perspective - a new sense of self and what you can do with you life. You may find the following helpful:
- Give yourself some quiet time alone to think about moving toward a new equilibrium - a transition from who you were before the loss to who you will be after the grieving process.
- Be as open as you can be in expressing your feelings; cry if you need to. Express any anger or sense of unfairness if you feel it.
- Play out in your mind the unfinished business in the relationship and try to come to a resolution; say good-bye.
- Tell someone you trust the story of your loss.
- Try to focus on what you were able to do for the deceased, instead of what you "should have done" or could have done.
- Use a journal to document the healing process.
- Bereavement groups provide an opportunity to share grief with others who have experienced similar loss.
- If the healing process becomes too overwhelming, seek professional help.
Seeking Professional Help
Grieving, as natural and healthy as it is, can also be a painful and frightening thing to go through. If you'd like to talk to someone about anything you've read here, or anything that the reading this might have stirred up for you, please contact your school counselor.
Being Helpful To Others
Social support for the bereaved is most important. Others can provide a patient presence to allow the bereaved an opportunity to tell the story of the loss and to share how he or she is feeling. Remember that it is up to the individual to get through the grieving process; others can only provide support. If you are concerned for someone who appears to be having a difficult time managing alone, you may want to suggest seeking professional assistance.
Credit to Medical News Today
Iphone/Andriod: Free in the App Store
Calm was branded as Apple's "App of the Year" in 2017. The app is designed to reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and help you to feel happier.
Calm focuses on the four key areas of meditation, breathing, sleep, and relaxation, with the aim of bringing joy, clarity, and peace to your daily life.
Iphone/Andriod: Free in the App Store
Headspace uses mindfulness and meditation to help you perform at your best each day. The app's mission is to provide you with the essential tools to achieve a happier, healthier life.
Iphone: $3.99 in the App Store
Moodnotes is a thought journal and mood diary. The app can be used to capture your feelings and improve your thinking habits through the implementation of CBT and positive psychology.
Track your mood and increase self-awareness of what influences it. Learn to recognize "traps" in your thinking and ways to rethink the situation.
Iphone/Andriod: Free in the App Store
Moodpath asks daily questions in order to assess your well-being and screen for symptoms of depression. The screening progress aims to increase your awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and feelings.
After a period of 2 weeks, the app generates an electronic document that you can discuss with a healthcare professional. More than 150 videos and psychological exercises are available to help you understand your mood and strengthen your mental health.
Iphone/Andriod: Free in the App Store
Pacifica is an app with anxiety and stress in mind. It provides a toolbox to deal with daily anxiety and stress, along with a highly supportive community of like-minded individuals.
Pacifica helps you to break cycles of unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through methods such as CBT, mindfulness meditation, mood tracking, and relaxation.
Iphone/Andriod: Free in the App Store
SuperBetter is a game focusing on increasing resilience and the ability to remain strong, optimistic, and motivated when presented with challenging obstacles in life.
Iphone/Andriod: Free in the App Store
If you are feeling lonely, sad, stressed, or worried, 7 Cups could be the perfect app for you. It provides online therapy and emotional support for anxiety and depression.
Anxiety Relief Hypnosis
Iphone/Andriod: Free in the App Store
Anxiety Relief Hypnosis is an app suggested to help improve relaxation and reduce anxiety within just 1–3 weeks of use.
The app's developers say that hypnosis can decrease anxious thoughts and enhance your response to relaxation, which, in turn, resets your behavior and enables an improved response to stress.
Iphone/Andriod: Free in the App Store
Happify is a space to overcome negative thoughts and stress and build resilience. Whether you are feeling stressed, anxious, or sad, Happify helps you to regain control of your thoughts and feelings.
Iphone/Andriod: Free in the App Store
Talkspace is a counseling and therapy app that connects users with a convenient, affordable, and confidential way to deal with anxiety, stress, depression, relationship issues, and chronic illness.
Relaxation is allowing physical and/or mental tension to be released. Tension is the body's natural response to threat, part of the body's alarm or survival mechanism. It can be a very useful response, but a lot of the time, we don't need this tension, so it's okay to learn to let it go, and learn some relaxation skills.
Healthy living is a matter of balance. Relaxation is part of the balancing process alongside other aspects of your lifestyle such as what you eat, your physical activity and how you handle stress. Learning to relax takes practice, as with learning any new skill.
It's a great help to learn a relaxation technique, to help us unwind and bring our tensions and anxiety under control. It's a good idea to practice regularly so we can be more prepared for the more stressful times.
Most people's feelings and thoughts about themselves fluctuate somewhat based on their daily experiences. The grade you get on an exam, how your friends treat you, ups and downs in a romantic relationship-all can have a temporary impact on your well being.
Your self-esteem, however, is something more fundamental than the normal "ups and downs" associated with situational changes. For people with good basic self-esteem, normal "ups and downs" may lead to temporary fluctuations in how they feel about themselves, but only to a limited extent. In contrast, for people with poor basic self-esteem, these "ups and downs" may make all the difference in the world.
Poor Self-Esteem vs. Healthy Self-Esteem
- People with poor self-esteem often rely on how they are doing in the present to determine how they feel about themselves. They need positive external experiences to counteract the negative feelings and thoughts that constantly plague them. Even then, the good feeling (from a good grade, etc.) can be temporary.
- Healthy self-esteem is based on our ability to assess ourselves accurately (know ourselves) and still be able to accept and to value ourselves unconditionally. This means being able to realistically acknowledge our strengths and limitations (which is part of being human) and at the same time accepting ourselves as worthy and worthwhile without conditions.
Steps to Building Self-Esteem
Anything that involves new behavior, new ideas, new beginnings, new projects, a different way of doing things, and expressing the self. This also means suspending judgments about outcomes. It's important to keep an open mind when trying something new. This doesn't mean just about your success, but just the ability to try new things is important in and of itself.
The "I can do this" type of feeling or a new understanding that comes with mastering a new skill or concept.
Giving service to your family, friends, and community is important, positive work. Giving of yourself -- whether it be time, services, or just plain energy -- can be very rewarding.
It is important to take personal time to regularly have fun!
Nothing extraordinary is necessary, a brisk walk will do. Regular exercise fuels creativity and positive moods. And exercise gives a us a sense we've accomplished something.
We all need love and relationships of all types. The hard thing is to make ourselves lovable and attractive to other people. This involves listening to others as well as receiving feedback on our behavior which initially can be painful.
Spiritual Activities and Experiences
These keep us focused on the deeper meaning of life and help us keep problems in perspective.
Most people need to sleep about 8 hours each night.
This is especially true for high school students, since the deep sleep that occurs early in the night and the dream sleep that occurs later in the night are both required to learn. But the necessary amount of sleep varies from individual to individual. This is one case where quality is more important than quantity - if you feel alert and rested during the day, you've probably gotten enough sleep.
On the other hand, pulling all-nighters can interfere with your ability to learn new material. You can memorize facts during an all-night study session and recall the information through short-term memory for a test the next day, but you will most likely have to re-learn the material for a later cumulative exam.
What happens if I don't get enough sleep?
- Sleep debts result from not getting enough sleep for several nights. Building up your sleep debt results in a decrease in daytime function. It can affect your physical health by weakening your immune system. It can affect your mental health by resulting in tension, irritability, depression, confusion, and generally lower life satisfaction. These mood changes may also result from irregular sleeping patterns, including sleeping in on the weekends.
- It's well documented that sleep deprived students perform significantly worse than students who regularly get a good night's sleep. REM sleep is particularly important for consolidating newly learned information, and a large proportion of REM sleep occurs towards the end of the night. So studying most of the night for a test, and then sleeping only a few hours, decreases your ability to remember new information.
- Not getting enough sleep also seriously impairs your ability to drive. Driving while tired is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated - more than 40,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths each year result from traffic accidents involving sleepy drivers.
How can I get a better night's sleep?
Here are a few things you can do to make falling asleep easier and to make sleep more restful:
- Relax! An alert mind may make it difficult to sleep. Try to slow the pace of your activities in the evening. Do some light reading or watch TV until you become drowsy, and then try to fall asleep naturally. If there's a lot on your mind, try writing down a detailed list and then forgetting about it.
- Avoid or limit caffeine and nicotine, which are stimulants, and alcohol, which can cause unrestful sleep and frequent awakenings during the night.
- Exercise and stay active. Twenty to 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity enhances deep sleep, but avoid exercising in the 6 hours before bedtime since it increases alertness.
- Avoid long naps. Naps of less than 30 minutes can actually be quite refreshing during the naturally occurring mid-afternoon slump, but napping for much longer than this can make you drowsy and interfere with a good night's sleep.
- Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. A regular sleep pattern reduces insomnia, and increases your alertness during the day.
What is Stress?
Stress is the wear and tear our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment; it has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings. As a positive influence, stress can help compel us to action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. As a negative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. With the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, a job promotion, or a new relationship, we experience stress as we re-adjust our lives. In so adjusting to different circumstances, stress will help or hinder us depending on how we react to it.
How Can I Eliminate Stress from My Life?
As we have seen, positive stress adds anticipation and excitement to life, and we all thrive under a certain amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, confrontations, and even our frustrations and sorrows add depth and enrichment to our lives. Our goal is not to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it and how to use it to help us. Insufficient stress acts as a depressant and may leave us feeling bored or dejected; on the other hand, excessive stress may leave us feeling tied up in knots. What we need to do is find the optimal level of stress which will individually motivate but not overwhelm each of us.
How Can I Tell What is Optimal Stress for Me?
- There is no single level of stress that is optimal for all people. We are all individual creatures with unique requirements. As such, what is distressing to one may be a joy to another. And even when we agree that a particular event is distressing, we are likely to differ in our physiological and psychological responses to it.
- It has been found that most illness is related to unrelieved stress. If you are experiencing stress symptoms, you have gone beyond your optimal stress level; you need to reduce the stress in your life and/or improve your ability to manage it.
How Can I Manage Stress Better?
Identifying unrelieved stress and being aware of its effect on our lives is not sufficient for reducing its harmful effects. Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many possibilities for its management. However, all require effort toward change: changing the source of stress and/or changing your reaction to it. How do you proceed?
Become aware of your stressors and your emotional and physical reactions
- Notice your distress. Don't ignore it. Don't gloss over your problems.
- Determine what events distress you. What are you telling yourself about meaning of these events?
- Determine how your body responds to the stress. Do you become nervous or physically upset? If so, in what specific ways?
Recognize what you can change
- Can you change your stressors by avoiding or eliminating them completely?
- Can you reduce their intensity (manage them over a period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis)?
- Can you shorten your exposure to stress (take a break, leave the physical premises)?
- Can you devote the time and energy necessary to making a change (goal setting, time management techniques, and delayed gratification strategies may be helpful here)?
Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress
- The stress reaction is triggered by your perception of danger...physical danger and/or emotional danger. Are you viewing your stressors in exaggerated terms and/or taking a difficult situation and making it a disaster?
- Are you expecting to please everyone?
- Are you overreacting and viewing things as absolutely critical and urgent? Do you feel you must always prevail in every situation?
- Work at adopting more moderate views; try to see the stress as something you can cope with rather than something that overpowers you.
- Try to temper your excess emotions. Put the situation in perspective. Do not labor on the negative aspects and the “what if's.”
Learn to moderate your physical reactions to stress
- Slow, deep breathing will bring your heart rate and respiration back to normal.
- Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension. Electronic biofeedback can help you gain voluntary control over such things as muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure.
- Medications, when prescribed by a physician, can help in the short term in moderating your physical reactions. However, they alone are not the answer. Learning to moderate these reactions on your own is a preferable long-term solution.
Build your physical reserves
- Exercise for cardiovascular fitness three to four times a week (moderate, prolonged rhythmic exercise is best, such as walking, swimming, cycling, or jogging).
- Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.
- Maintain your ideal weight.
- Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants.
- Mix fun with work. Take breaks and get away when you can.
- Get enough sleep. Be as consistent with your sleep schedule as possible.
Maintain your emotional reserves
- Develop some mutually supportive friendships/relationships.
- Pursue realistic goals which are meaningful to you, rather than goals others have for you that you do not share.
- Expect some frustrations, failures, and sorrows.
- Always be kind and gentle with yourself--be a friend to yourself.
Frequent use and abuse of substances can have a serious effect on one's academic and personal lives. If you think that you are having difficulty controlling your use of alcohol or would like to talk to someone about your use contact your school counselor.
How to Identify Substance Abuse
- Increased frequency of use
- Loss of control over frequency, duration and/or amount of use
- Drinking or using when you don't intend to
- Substance use interferes with life activities (i.e. school, relationships with family and friends)
- Increased spending money on substance of choice
- Personality changes noted by self and others
- Getting into risky/dangerous behaviors
- Other people express concern about your use/ your behavior
- Grades dropping
- Missing school and appointments
How to Help a Friend
It is an act of great caring to share your concern with someone if you believe they are doing something that is causing them harm. It is not a confrontation, conviction, or personal attack to tell someone you care enough about them to talk about what’s going on and to offer a helping hand.
- Ignoring self-defeating behavior is not helpful to the person about whom you are concerned.
- Helpful intervention is a process—not an event.
- When people are confronted about behavior that is a part of their lifestyle, they may become defensive and angry.
- The more you learn about alcohol and other drugs effects, the more helpful you can be to those who are having problems with them.
Attempt to do the Following
- Let the person know you care about him/her by using “I” messages, e.g., “I’m worried about you”.
- Try to remain calm.
- Refer to specific and observable behaviors, e.g. “I am worried because you have been drinking three nights a week for the past month and your grades are falling”.
- Remain non-judgmental. Emphasize the contrast between the person’s positive sober behavior and the intoxicated behavior or negative life effects which concerns you.
- Use gentle persistence.
- Anticipate possible responses (minimize, change topic, make excuses, promise to change, challenge your use).
- Accept their anger; don’t argue or get angry in return.
- Be ready to provide education (printed information, a list of campus and community resources, pamphlets on abuse).
- Utilize your own support system (talk with a support person before and/or after).
Try to Avoid the Following
- Arguing with the person
- Getting angry and losing control
- Getting hooked by their defensiveness (don’t feel guilty or take it personally).
- Delaying the discussion; it should be done as soon as possible after an incident and after the person is sober
- Diagnosing e.g., “You’re an alcoholic”
- Sparing the person from the consequences of his/her use
If a person/student is willing to accept professional help, give them all the information you can about their various options. The STA Counseling department is a great place to start because they provide students with confidential counseling, and referral services.
If you are in crisis right now, please call 911.
- Crisis Connection - 24 hour Crisis Phone Line: 612-379-6363
- Local Crisis Line: Dial **274747
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Crisis Text Line: text MN to 741741
Any talk of suicide by a friend or loved one should be taken seriously and help should be sought immediately. Depression and thoughts of suicide can impact a person's life in many different ways. Not everyone experiences depression and suicidal tendencies in the same way.
Depression and suicide have many common warning signs including:
- Sadness or anxiety
- Feeling of guilt, helplessness or hopelessness
- Trouble eating or sleeping
- Withdrawing from friends and/or social activities
- Loss of interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Excessive irritability
- Excessive impulsivity
Specific signs of potential suicide include:
- Talking openly about committing suicide
- Talking indirectly about "wanting out" or "ending it all"
- Taking unnecessary or life-threatening risks
- Giving away personal possessions
- Depression alone or in combination with aggressive behavior, substance abuse and/or anxiety is found in over half of all suicides.
Suicide can be also be triggered by a number of things including:
- Stressful events, such as a failed exam or failure to get a job
- Crises in significant social or family relationships
- Interpersonal losses
- Changes in body chemistry
- High levels of anger or anxiety
How to help a friend
If you notice any of the above warning signs in a friend or loved one, you have reason to be concerned. There are ways that you can be helpful to a friend or loved one who is at risk.
- Be honest and express your concerns. For example, "You seemed really down lately. Is something bothering you?"
- Ask directly about thoughts of suicide. For example, "Have you thought of hurting yourself?" If suicidal thoughts are expressed, it is important to contact an adult for assistance or 911.
- 24 hour Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Listen and offer emotional support, understanding and patience.
- Convey the message that depression is real, common, and treatable.
- Offer to accompany your friend to see a counselor.