Feeling Disconnected? How to conquer homesickness while away at college

FROM THE HILBERT COLLEGE WELLNESS CENTER

Feeling Disconnected?
How to conquer homesickness while away at college
By Kirsten Falcone, RN

Are you, or someone you know, feeling a little blue lately? It isn’t difficult to imagine that this is a common problem across college campuses right now. The excitement of being away from home and the novelty of new classes have worn off, and reality has set in. This is hard work! Plus, you miss your family, friends, and even your pets! Everything is a little overwhelming, to say the least. Sometimes it is easy to fall into a brief pit of depression.

It is, therefore, helpful to know the difference between depression and homesickness. Depression has these signs and symptoms: feeling down, hopeless, worthless, helpless, irritable, restless, disinterested in activities you formerly enjoyed, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, disturbed sleep patterns, weight gain or loss, and sometimes thoughts of death or suicide. Homesickness usually exhibits milder symptoms and is accompanied by longing thoughts of people and places left behind, and a feeling of loss, especially loss of real connection.

If these feelings are new to you, perhaps you indeed do have a bit of homesickness. You are not alone! Homesickness is normal! Even seasoned college students have this feeling from time to time. The good news is homesickness can be only temporary, if you make some adjustments. Here are some ideas:

  • Sleep. Make sure you are getting the right amount. Seven to nine hours of sleep at the same time every night does wonders for the mood. It is also crucial for good health.
  • Exercise. Just a brisk half-hour walk three times per week is enough to change your outlook, especially if you take a friend. On Hilbert’s campus, Don Vincent leads a group on runs or walks on Wednesdays at 3:15 p.m., meeting out back by the service road in between the soccer fields.
  • Fresh air. A dose of fresh air can lift your spirits. Go outside!
  • Sunshine. Besides improving our moods, sunshine actually has a reaction with your skin that produces vitamin D. Studies show that vitamin D could lessen the symptoms of depression.
  • Vitamin D Supplements. You can also supplement with vitamin D. However, since your body uses fat to absorb vitamin D, you may want to consult your doctor before taking large doses. The best bet is to add food rich in vitamin D to your diet. Some foods that have vitamin D are salmon, swordfish, mackerel, tuna, sardines, egg yolk, beef liver, and fortified cereal and milk.
  • Proper nutrition. Skip the sugary pop, junk food and fried food, and opt for some fresh veggies and a lean piece of meat. Add vitamin D fortified milk (see above) and some whole grains, and you will feel human again.
  • Hydration. Drinking enough H2O is actually energizing. It increases a sense of well-being by helping to maintain almost every chemical reaction in your body. In fact, depression is one of the symptoms of dehydration.
  • Socialization. This is what you especially need right now. One idea is to attend religious services. Mass on Hilbert campus is Sundays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 8:00 a.m. in St. Clare Chapel. There are also numerous churches in the area who will welcome students warmly. Other ideas are joining a club, attending social events on campus, and becoming a volunteer. Hang out with new friends. Be patient if you don’t connect with everyone you meet on the first try. Just don’t spend too much time alone. Be selective, and choose positive people.
  • Talk therapy. Go talk to someone who is trained to help walk you through. Sometimes having an expert there to hold your hand is just what you need. At Hilbert College, that expert is Psychologist Phyllis Dewey, who is located in St. Joseph Hall. Phyllis is eager to help all students with this and any other issues that crop up. Phyllis’s phone number is 926-8930, and her email address is pdewey@hilbert.edu.
  • Avoiding alcohol. Alcohol is a known depressant. Overdrinking on a regular basis can cause brain damage and change your brain chemistry. Currently, the only alcohol considered healthful is five ounces of red wine per day for women and 10 ounces per day for men.
  • Antidepressants. Use these only as a last resort after you have made lifestyle changes, and only if you experience long-term depression. There is no “happy” pill. In fact, these drugs take several weeks to take effect. Antidepressant medication has side effects that are…well…depressing! Their dosage also needs regular fine-tuning. However, some people do show improvement on these drugs, and physicians prescribe them quite regularly.
  • Perspective. Get off-campus once in a while. Plan to go home for the weekend occasionally, if possible. (But, ideally, not every weekend!) Try something new, or go see a movie. Drive to Lake Erie to watch the sunset. Visit downtown Buffalo’s waterfront. Take a trip to a museum, or visit a local park. Do something to take your mind off your homesickness.
  • Keeping organized. Write down all your assigned work, classes, and events in an agenda. The Student Life office, in Franciscan Hall, has free Student Handbooks with an academic calendar contained inside. Writing everything down will increase your sense of control, thus reducing your homesickness.
  • Journaling your feelings. Vent your concerns safely in a journal or diary. This will help you become more aware of your feelings, so that you can move forward.
  • Play music. Listen to upbeat music. Make certain its message is positive. You might even want to sing along, which can help move oxygen throughout your body and brain. If you can play an instrument, go ahead and serenade your roommate!
  • Calling home. Give yourself permission to call home as much as you need to, right now. A phone call is better than a text or an email (or even snail mail!) because your voice inflections can be heard, and you can hear theirs. One useful suggestion is keeping a picture of your loved ones handy to remind you how much you are loved.
  • Focusing on the positive. “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”—Woody Allen. So, just show up. Don’t miss class, even if you don’t feel motivated. Get involved in campus activities, even if you doubt yourself. Invite a new friend to go to lunch with you, even if it feels awkward. Remember, everyone else feels that way, too, even if it doesn’t appear that way. Ask your R.A. for advice. But most of all, give it time. Give yourself a break. Take a deep breath. Things will get better!

For additional information, visit these Web sites:

WebMD general information:
http://www.webmd.com/depression/tc/topic-overview-depression

Focus on the Family
http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/emotional-health/depression/depression

Allegheny College:
http://sites.allegheny.edu/deanofstudents/wellness-education/todays-topic/suggestions-for-coping-with-homesickness/

 

Flu Shots are on the Way!

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

Roll up your Sleeve:
Flu Shots are on the Way!
By Kirsten Falcone, RN

If you have not received your flu shot yet, here is good news! There are two dates approaching on which you may be able to attain your flu vaccine on campus in the West Herr Atrium. Mark your calendar for:

Wednesday, October 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., or

Wednesday, November 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Here is what you need to know about the flu vaccine:

What is the flu? Influenza (flu) is a contagious infection that spreads most easily each year from October to May (flu season). A virus causes the flu, and coughing, sneezing and personal contact are the ways it spreads. Everyone is susceptible to the flu virus, but symptoms can vary by age and immunity status. Typical symptoms are fever with chills, sore throat, achy muscles, unexplained fatigue, coughing, headache and a runny or stuffy nose.

The flu causes thousands of deaths in the United States every year. Many more are hospitalized. Most of these people are immunity challenged, such as infants and young people, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and others with compromised immune systems.

How can I prevent contracting the flu? Even if you are not immunity challenged, one of the best ways to stop the virus from spreading is by attaining a flu vaccine. A flu vaccine can also keep you from contracting the flu, or it may help make your symptoms less severe. Because there is no “live virus” in the vaccine, a flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. (As always, remember hand washing is the ultimate way for you to prevent the spread of viruses.)

Can I still get the flu if I get a flu vaccine? Yes. A flu vaccine contains only those strains of the virus thought to be most prevalent for the year in question. The flu vaccine offered on campus will be “trivalent,” meaning it will protect against three common flu strains. (There is also a “quadrivalent” flu vaccine available many places, upon request.) It is possible to contract a rarer strain of the virus. Further, because the vaccine takes approximately two weeks to become effective, you may still become ill within that two-week window of time. However, once immunity is established, it will protect you for the entire flu season.

There are illnesses that look like flu, but are actually other illnesses. This may explain why some people have claimed that the flu vaccine caused them to contract the flu. This is really not the case.

Should some people forgo the flu vaccine? Yes. People who have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or someone not feeling well, should not get the vaccine. In the past, people with egg allergies could not receive a flu vaccine. However, now only a very small percentage of those people ever have any kind of reaction. If you have a history of a severe egg allergy, you should still get your flu shot in a medical setting, and be monitored for 30 minutes.

For otherwise healthy people, side effects of the flu vaccine can be rare or mild. But, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), they may include skin soreness around the area of the vaccination; hoarseness; itchy, sore, red eyes; cough; muscle aches; fever; itching; fatigue; and headaches. These mild effects usually last one or two days, but they are a much better alternative than contracting full-blown influenza. Most health professionals agree that the flu vaccine is a worthy effort in keeping healthy through the winter months. So go ahead and roll up your sleeve!

 

For more information, visit these Web sites:

Medline Plus
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/flu.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2017-2018.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/egg-allergies.htm

Rite Aid Flu Shot Information
https://shop.riteaid.com/info/pharmacy/services/vaccine-central/immunization-information/flu?gclid=CPmw–7xocgCFZeaNwod2VIPmQ&gclsrc=ds

 

 

Understanding the Importance of Sleep

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Getting Your Zzzs:
Understanding the Importance of Sleep

Sleep deprivation is in the news again this week, for good reason. A well-known sleep scientist has proposed that robbing yourself of sleep will shorten your life. (See link below.) The impact of consistently obtaining a good night’s sleep can never be overemphasized, especially on a college campus. On the other hand, chronic sleep deprivation seems to be at an all-time high. The following is a review of the importance of sleep, and how to acquire it.

A recent statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that 1 in 3 adults doesn’t get enough sleep. According to the CDC, sleeping at least 7 hours each night is required “to promote optimal health and well-being.” Most health professionals recommend 7 to 9 hours.

Conversely, sleeping less than 7 hours per night puts you at risk of:

  • Developing a chronic condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, frequent mental difficulties,
  • Developing a disease, such as cancer or Alzheimer’s,
  • Lowering your immunity to common germs, such as cold and flu,
  • Elevated stress hormones,
  • Mood swings,
  • Slower response time,
  • Confusion, and lack of focus,
  • Poor decision-making, and
  • Unnecessary risk-taking.

In our everyday lives, these could translate to poor job performance, grades, relationships, and also driving or operating machinery.

The number of sleep-deprived adults can be considerably higher in college communities. As the nurse in the Hilbert College Wellness Center, most of my sick patients are sleep-deprived, acquiring fewer than six hours per night. There are many excuses for this, such as living with a loud roommate, studying for a test, going out late at night, working at a night job, or just not being that motivated or self-controlled. Many students are unaware of how important sleep really is.

Sleep is probably THE most important health practice! Here are some reasons. While you sleep, your brain is forming pathways for learning and storing memories. Your body is building up its immune system and healing damage caused throughout the day. Hormones called cytokines, which are produced during the night, are crucial for your immune system to fight infection and inflammation. During the day, a compound called adenosine is built up, and it is only broken down again by getting enough sleep. If you miss a few nights of sound sleep, the adenosine will build up and cause sleepiness during the day. Another substance, a hormone called melatonin, makes you naturally feel sleepy at night, but that can be reversed to daytime sleepiness, if you don’t fulfill your nighttime sleep requirements.

Going to bed at the same time every night, say 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., allows your body to cycle through sleep stages, each with a specific purpose. The four stages must be experienced in chronological order for sleep to do its job. In addition, the beginning of the night presents longer stages than the end of the night. For example, non-REM deep sleep, considered the “restorative” stage of sleep occurs mostly in the first half of the night. Knowing this makes it clear that going to bed at the same time every night is crucial to maintaining good health.

If you know you have gotten off-track, here are some ways to improve your sleep habits:

  1. Get enough exercise and fresh air during the day, so you are sleepy at the right time. Make sure this is not within two hours of your newly established bedtime, though.
    (https://hilbertcommunity.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-dont-be-a-couch-potato/)
  2. Eat healthfully. When you fuel your body properly, it just runs better overall. Also, don’t eat any large meals just before bed. Indigestion may wake you up!
  3. Use caffeine only in the morning. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it will disrupt your sleep.
  4. Avoid alcohol and nicotine. Alcohol may help put you to “sleep” at the beginning of the night, but it has been shown to cause lighter, less fitful sleep, and it actually interrupts sleep halfway through the night, as well as causing dehydration. Nicotine (in cigarettes) is a stimulant that leads to lighter than normal sleep.
  5. Establish a “bedtime” again, and stick to it. Your parents were right to enforce this, and now you know why.
  6. Don’t take a nap longer than 20 minutes, or past 3:00 p.m. This may make it more difficult to wake up fully, and then to go to sleep at your predetermined time.
  7. Wind down at night by dimming lights, turning off the TV and electronics (including your cell phone!), and taking a hot shower or bath before bed. Have a comfortable bed and pillow, and keep the room temperature cool.
  8. Put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on your door, if you live in a community that stays up late.
  9. Wear ear plugs, if necessary.
  10. For chronic insomnia, see a doctor who can help you determine the cause of your sleeplessness.
  11. Avoid sleeping pills. These are habit-forming, and should be used only as a last resort and only occasionally.
  12. Don’t rely on sleeping in on the weekends. This may erase some of your sleep debt, but not all of it. It will also make it much more difficult to get to sleep at the proper time on Sunday night.
  13. Learn how to manage time. Ultimately, going to bed at the right time, rather than studying for that test until the wee hours, will help you do better on your test the next day. It would be even better to schedule study time during the daytime.

Remember the words of Ben Franklin, “Early to bed and early to rise make a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Sweet dreams!

For more information, visit these Web sites:

The Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/24/why-lack-of-sleep-health-worst-enemy-matthew-walker-why-we-sleep

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
https://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/index.html
http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Guide to Healthy Sleep:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf

WebMD: “Sleep Deprivation, a Serious Threat: Expert”:
http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170926/sleep-deprivation-a-serious-threat-expert

 

 

It’s Cold & Flu Season – Wash Your Hands!

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
By Kirsten Falcone, RN

Cold and flu season has begun.
Remember to wash your hands!

There is always something “going around” as soon as people get back to school. Hilbert campus is no exception. To avoid becoming sick, please review the following procedure for washing your hands.

Did you know washing your hands is the best proven way to reduce the spread of illness? Wash your hands before and after touching food, after using the bathroom, after contact with another person (such as shaking hands), and after they are soiled. You can also wash your hands as soon as you walk in the door of your dorm room or home, to keep your roommate or family from catching anything you drag in with you. Hands can become “soiled” even if they do not appear that way. Some ways this can happen are by touching your face, touching common surfaces that may contain microorganisms, or from poor hygiene.

Not everyone knows the proper technique for washing hands. Here it is:

  1. Ready a paper towel before you turn on the water.
  2. Using tepid or warm (not hot) water, wet your hands and then lather up with soap, while the water runs. (Antimicrobial soap is not necessary; any hand soap will do.)
  3. Lather and rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds (long enough to sing the Happy Birthday song twice).
  4. Make certain to wash under your nails, between your fingers, the backs of your hands, and even your wrists. Rinse these areas well.
  5. Dry your hands on the paper towel.
    (If you must use a cloth towel, have a separate cloth towel for each roommate or family member, and replace often.)
  6. Finally, turn the water faucet off with a dry paper towel or clean cloth towel. Exit the bathroom by turning the doorknob with a paper towel, also.
  7. Dispose of the paper towel in a proper receptacle.

If you are not able to wash your hands, using a gel hand sanitizer is an acceptable alternative. Use enough to wet the entire area, and rub it in until the gel is dry. (Two exceptions are when hands are visibly soiled, and when you have already used hand sanitizer several times.)

 

For more information, please visit these Web sites:

 

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html

 

WebMD:
http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/tc/hand-washing-topic-overview

Allergy Season Making You Itch?

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

Allergy Season Making You Itch?
Apply a little common knowledge.

By Kirsten Falcone, RN

It’s fall allergy season again, and time to brush up on our knowledge of how to spot allergies and how to combat them.

The definition of an allergy is a physical condition that occurs after exposure to pollen, bee venom, animal dander, a food, a specific drug, mold, dust, smoke, etc. that causes the body’s immune system to overreact. Symptoms of an allergy may include sneezing, watery eyes, rash, itching and difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Allergies and colds often have similar symptoms. Mild allergies can look just like a cold, with coughing, sneezing and watery eyes. The key difference, then, is the duration. A cold will last only about ten to 14 days, while an allergy tends to be chronic or seasonal. In other words, mild allergy symptoms will last until the allergen is removed.

Avoidance sometimes is possible, such as in the cases of a food or bee allergy. Pollen and dust are more difficult to control. For a mild allergic reaction, the main treatment is antihistamines. But for a severe reaction involving anaphylaxis, the common treatment is an epinephrine injection. (The most common form of this is an EpiPen.) For pollen allergy sufferers, the first frost (which kills the pollen producing plants) is often a time to celebrate!

This time of the year, there are also abundant yellow jackets and other kinds of bees. Yellow jackets often live in the ground, so watch your step in grassy areas. If a honey bee stings you, try and scrape off the stinger with a plastic card, and avoid pinching the stinger, as it still contains venom. When you assess the sting, watch for swelling and redness. Severe swelling is a warning sign to get help right away. You may not have much time! Most bee stings are not life threatening, however. In those cases, the best course of action is applying a cold compress. Of course, if this is your first bee sting, keep in mind you may develop an allergic reaction the next time you are stung.

So you don’t have allergies? Not yet, anyway. The longer you live, the higher the probability is that you will develop one. The reason for this is that allergies always begin with exposure to a substance first, without a reaction. The reaction (or overreaction) occurs on the second and subsequent exposures. Therefore, the older you get, the more likely it is that you will be allergic to something. But the acquisition of an allergy is not a given. Take proper care of yourself—with diet, exercise, proper sleep, hygiene, social time, and a generally healthy lifestyle—and you may be able to lessen some of the symptoms.

For more information, visit these Web sites:

Medline Plus (Hayfever):
https://medlineplus.gov/hayfever.html

WebMD (Allergy overview):
http://www.webmd.com/allergies/default.htm

The Free Medical Dictionary (Bee stings):
http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/bee+sting

Accuweather.com Current Allergy Levels:
https://www.accuweather.com/en/us/buffalo-ny/14202/allergies-weather/349726

 

Be a Good Roomie!

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Be a Good Roomie!
Hygiene when Living with a Roommate

It’s a new school year at Hilbert College, and many students on campus have never had a roommate before. Though exposure to some germs can be beneficial, there is no need to overdo that idea. Many germs encountered in the beginning of any school year will tend to proliferate on campus. What better place to start than your shared bathroom, doorknobs, desktops and countertops!

The following is advice for maintaining a clean environment to reduce the spread of illness in your own dorm room.

For a clean environment, follow these tips:

  • Hang up or fold your clothes and put them away. Organize your books, writing utensils, toiletries and electronics. Find an organizing system, so that it will be easy to clear your horizontal surfaces, including the floor.
  • Often vacuum cleaners stir up dust, which then lands on horizontal surfaces, so vacuum before cleaning.
  • Clean. First wash surfaces with an appropriate cleaner and warm water, to remove dirt and grime. Use paper towels or washable rags. Always disinfect rags or sponges before reusing them, or toss them out. Dust, open windows to ventilate, and open the window coverings to let the sunshine in.
  • Disinfect. After cleaning, use a germ-killing solution, such as a bleach or vinegar solution, to sanitize surfaces, such as door knobs and handles, countertops where food is prepared, faucets, and anything that gets handled frequently.
  • Wash out your reusable water bottles every day, and let them air dry. (See the link below for water bottle hygiene.) Bacteria thrive around the caps of water bottles, especially those that still have a moist environment inside.
  • Don’t share personal care tools (e.g. toothbrush, nail clipper, comb, towels, glasses, cups, utensils).
  • Refrigerator: Keep your refrigerator clean, to kill mold and mildew (fungi).
  • Food: Wash fruits and vegetables before eating, checking expiration dates on canned and bagged items. Don’t eat cooked food, such as a casserole, that has been sitting out at room temperature for more than two hours. Even reheating won’t kill the germs that will make you sick.
  • Laundry: Wash sheets, towels, workout clothes and underwear in hot water and use a hot clothes dryer. Don’t throw dirty clothes on the floor. Use a laundry basket instead. In addition, wet items (such as towels and workout clothes) should be hung to dry instead of thrown into a pile of soiled clothes where mildew could grow.
  • Trash: To reduce odors and discourage the spread of germs, take out the trash daily. It can also be helpful to line garbage cans with disposable bags, such as kitchen bags or even plastic shopping bags.

For everyday personal hygiene, follow these tips:

  • Wash your hands often. It is the best way to avoid getting sick!
    (https://hilberttoday.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/remember-to-wash-your-hands/)
  • Don’t touch your face, nose, ears, eyes, or mouth, with soiled hands. Conversely, don’t touch your face with clean hands and forget to wash your hands afterward.
  • Brush your teeth and tongue two to three times per day. Floss once per day.
  • Bathe regularly, and keep your nails clean and short.
  • Foot hygiene: Athlete’s foot and plantar warts can be avoided by wearing sandals in public bathrooms or shower areas.
  • Clothing hygiene: Wear clean clothes, change underwear and socks daily, don’t wear someone else’s shoes or soiled clothing, and wear clothing that is appropriate for the season and the circumstances.

If you follow these guidelines, you and your roommate will most likely be healthier, get along better, feel ill infrequently, and appear a great deal healthier, too.

For more information on everyday hygiene, visit these Web sites:

Household cleaning tips
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/cleaning-sanitizing/household-cleaning-sanitizing.html

Personal hygiene
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/body/

Water bottle hygiene
SFGate:
http://homeguides.sfgate.com/bacteria-grow-keep-reusing-water-bottles-79320.html

Article “How Clean Should We Be?”
WebMD:
http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/how-clean-hygiene-germs#1

Personal appearance and hygiene
TheSimpleDollar.com:
https://www.thesimpledollar.com/investing-in-yourself-personal-appearance-and-hygiene/

 

Welcome from the Hilbert College Wellness Center

The FREE Hilbert College Wellness Center is located in St. Joseph Hall!

By Kirsten Falcone, RN

Happy fall semester, and here’s a warm welcome to all the new Hilbert students, and welcome back to returning students! You don’t have to be sick to come in and see me! These are the free services you may receive if you stop in to see me.

  • Health assessments, if you are feeling ill
  • Confidential health advice
  • Wound assessments and bandages
  • Referrals and information regarding immediate care centers
  • Weight and body mass index (BMI) checks
  • Help with beginning a weight loss program
  • Blood pressure screenings
  • Nutrition recommendations
  • Access to doctor appointments (at Orchard Park Family Practice)
  • Information about your prescriptions
  • Free feminine hygiene products
  • And much more!

Don’t hide in your dorm room when you have a health issue! The Wellness Center, located in St. Joseph Hall, is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during four-day weeks). This is a service absolutely FREE to Hilbert students.

Since you do not have to be sick in order to see me, I look forward to seeing you!

Have a healthy and happy new school year!

 

Some Tips for a Safe and Healthful Summer Outdoors

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Be Safe Out There!
Some Tips for a Safe and Healthful Summer Outdoors

Summer break is almost here, and many will be spending more time in the sun and outside. It’s time to brush up on your summer weather etiquette. Here are a few items to remember before you head out the door.

Hydration. Remember to keep water available at all times. Without proper hydration, you will be more prone to heat exhaustion, or even heatstroke (a life-threatening condition). There is also a milder version called heat cramps. You want to avoid all of these by keeping hydrated so your body can sweat and cool itself. Also avoid alcohol, wear lightweight clothing, and stay in the shade. People who are more at risk are the young and the old (younger than 4 and older than 65), people on certain medications (such as diuretics, beta blockers, antihistamines, and more), obese people (those whose BMI is greater than 30), and people who spend most of their time in the air conditioning.

A good rule of thumb for how much water to drink is always drink 64 to 96 ounces (or more) per day. Another calculation is one based on your weight: Take your weight number in pounds and drink 50 to 100 percent of that number in ounces. For example, someone who weighs 160 lbs. should drink 80 to 160 ounces of water every day. However, if you are in the heat, you will need to drink more!

Some signs of dehydration you might notice right away are headaches, muscle cramps, dry mouth, bad breath, fever, drowsiness, low blood pressure, high pulse, listlessness, sore throat and dark urine. Remember, if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated!

Sunscreen. There has been some controversy regarding sunscreen lately. Does it cause cancer? Does it block vitamin D production? Is it better to go without? The current consensus among healthcare professionals and the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) is that using sunscreen is better than not using it. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Website, using sunscreen has more benefits than detriments, since vitamin D can be obtained from food, and using sunscreen lowers the risk of cancerous and precancerous lesions. The FDA states on its Website, “…the risk of not using sunscreen is much greater than any potential risk posed by sunscreen ingredients.”

What are some tips for using sunscreen, then? Some sunscreen blocks out only UVB rays (which cause cancer), but not UVA rays (which age your skin), so make certain you pick a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that is at least SPF 15. (SPF 30 or higher is better.) It’s best to follow the instructions on the label, as far as application and amount. Some suggestions are to use at least a “shot glass” (1.5 fluid ounces) of lotion at a time, not rubbing it in completely, and applying it 15 minutes before sun time. Reapply it every two hours, or sooner if it has washed or rubbed off, due to swimming or sweating. Other suggestions are to apply sunscreen after you have been in the sun for a few minutes, thereby allowing your body its daily vitamin D allotment.

Another kind of “sunscreen” is clothing. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, along with long sleeves, will help reduce your exposure.

Keep in mind this thought: Tanned skin = damaged skin. It’s that simple. UV damaged skin cannot be completely reversed, no matter what the beauty industry tells you.

Eye protection. As important as sunscreen and hydration, is protecting your eyes. Make certain you wear sunglasses, even if it is cloudy out. When shopping for sunglasses, look for 99 to 100 percent UVA/UVB protection, large lenses, and wraparound protection. The wide-brimmed hat is also recommended. Protecting your eyes from the sun will help you avoid macular degeneration, cataracts, eyelid cancer, and other eye problems, as you age.

Sun time. The best time to stay out of the sun is during its most intense time, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., but you can get burned at other times, too, depending upon the length of time exposed and if there is something reflective nearby, like a large body of water.

Drug interactions. Some drugs can increase “photosensitivity,” otherwise known as sensitivity to the sun. Some common drugs that do this include benzoyl peroxide, Benadryl, birth control pills, diuretics, naproxen (Aleve), tricyclic antidepressants, many antibiotics, St. John’s wort, and more. Some other substances that increase photosensitivity can be found in perfumes, skin-care products, and even some foods (such as citrus and artificial sweeteners. Products that remove the top layer of dead skin cells, such as chemical peels and exfoliating scrubs are also a no-no for pre-sun exposure. A list of common culprits can be found at http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/beware-of-sunburn-boosters#1.

Insects. Ticks and mosquitoes are considered “vectors” for some diseases, because you can contract Lyme disease from blacklegged or deer ticks, and the Zika virus is now in at least two states, including Florida and Texas. If you are traveling this summer, do your research to avoid exposure to Zika.

As far as avoiding tick bites, just remember to wear long pants when you are in the woods, and try to tuck your pant legs into your socks. Have someone check you for ticks at the end of the day, just to be safe. If you find a bull’s eye rash anywhere, go see your doctor to evaluate for Lyme disease.

Bee stings are also a threat, especially to someone who is allergic. It’s a good idea not to go barefoot where clover is growing. Make certain to check underneath picnic benches before you sit down. Any place you visit can be a potential place for a bee nest, so look before you leap. Don’t forget to take along allergy medication, if indicated. Concerning the declining population of honey bees, remember that most bees are beneficial. So, don’t get out that can of Raid unless the bees are a threat to human safety.

Lastly, it is a good idea to wear bug spray when in the woods or where mosquitoes can be found. According to Consumer Reports’ Website, the most effective repellents were Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, and Off! Deepwoods VIII. Make certain to read all labels before use, to verify you are applying the repellent properly. Always wash it off at the end of the day with soap and water.

Another option that many may want to try is a “bug jacket.” These are simply mesh jackets with veils, which keep the bugs away, but offer ventilation for the heat. Many such jackets can be ordered online from Amazon (see link below) or many other retailers.

Summer Sports. Many summer sports require special gear. If you are out on the water, remember to wear your life vest. Did you know a concussion is a brain injury? Bicycling, dirt biking, motorcycling, horseback riding, skateboarding, and many other sports require helmets. Don’t take a chance with yours or someone else’s safety. Make certain you wear all the recommended protective gear for your sport. If you are heading out on a hike, don’t go alone. Always have a first aid kit in your backpack, along with other supplies, should you somehow end up stranded. Also, be aware of the forecast, and don’t plan to be outside during dangerous weather conditions, like lightning storms. Some days are just better for staying home.

Be prepared for the worst, and you may end up with the best! With these reminders in hand, have a safe and enjoyable summer!

 

For further information on outdoor summer safety, try these Internet resources:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Sun safety tips for men:
https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/tips-for-men.htm

WebMD.com, Sun myths and facts quiz:
http://www.webmd.com/beauty/rm-quiz-sun-myths-facts

WebMD.com, How to protect your eyes from the sun, video:
http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/video/protect-eyes-sun-damage

MayoClinic.org, Heat exhaustion
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-exhaustion/basics/definition/con-20033366

Skin Cancer Foundation, Does sunscreen cause cancer?
http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/ask-the-experts/does-sunscreen-cause-cancer

WebMD.com, What’s the best sunscreen?:
http://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/whats-best-sunscreen#1

EWG.org, Skin Cancer on the Rise:
http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/skin-cancer-on-the-rise/

FDA, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, OTC sunscreen requirements:
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/buyingusingmedicinesafely/understandingover-the-countermedicines/ucm258468.htm#Q4_Does_FDA_believe

ConsumerReports.org, Zika mosquito repellent recommendations:
http://www.consumerreports.org/insect-repellents/mosquito-repellents-that-best-protect-against-zika/

Amazon.com, Bug Jacket:
https://www.amazon.com/Coghlans-0057-Bug-Jacket-Medium/dp/B000NDWOH6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493998685&sr=8-1&keywords=mosquito+jacket

 

 

Healthy Habits: Establish these habits for a successful life

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Healthy Habits:
Establish these habits for a successful life

Daily, we are bombarded with information regarding obtaining a healthy lifestyle: Eat “this” to lose weight, take “this” to feel better, visit “this” place to get away. None of us wants to be unsuccessful. But success in life doesn’t just happen all at once or with only one step. It involves a lot of little steps that turn into habits. Wise choices in each moment lead to great habits. Good health is more than just physical; it is mental, emotional and spiritual, as well. There are hundreds of tips available. (I have listed some good Website resources in this article.) But, as a nurse, mother and small group leader, here are a “few” of my favorite habits.

Sleep. Nobody can function on too little sleep for very long. Sleep is one of the most important ways to take care of yourself. Everyone should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night (depending upon your individual needs). This is when your body repairs itself, when your immune system is strengthened, and your mind is restored. Here is a link to my article on sleep: https://hilbertcommunity.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-the-importance-of-sleep/.

Exercise. Aerobic, strength and stretching are the three types. But aerobic is probably the most important for your cardiovascular health and circulation to all your bodily systems. Try and get at least 20 to 30 minutes of rigorous aerobic activity at least three times per week. Regular exercise can actually improve your immune system, lift your mood, keep all your systems in order, decrease the incidence of disease, and increase your life expectancy. People who are physically fit have the potential to do better in many areas, than their out-of-shape counterparts. They don’t need as many prescription or over the counter drugs, and they have far fewer doctor visits.

Nutrition. This includes eating the right things, and also controlling portion size. Good nutrition involves eating fruit and vegetables first, then meat, bread and cereal, dairy, and only a little fat. We all know what junk food is. Try and avoid it, and, while pizza and wings are convenient and popular, try not to eat them regularly. If you want to know more about nutrition, take a course, or read a nutrition textbook. The one I use is called Nutrition for Life, and can be ordered at this link: https://www.amazon.com/Nutrition-Life-2nd-Janice-Thompson/dp/0321570847/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1493227995&sr=8-3&keywords=nutrition+for+life

Hydration. Since water is responsible for so many functions in our body, and our bodies are at least 60 to 70 percent water, it is crucial to keep hydrated. Try to drink at least 64 to 96 ounces (or more) per day or the equivalent of four to six 16-ounce bottles of water, or eight to 12 8-ounce glasses of water. Another way to measure is to drink 50 to 100 percent of your weight number in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., drink 75 to 150 ounces of water every day. Keeping a bottle of water with you throughout the day is a great habit to adopt! Refill it, as needed.

Drugs, alcohol and smoking. Here is something simple to remember: Just don’t smoke. It’s that simple. And definitely don’t do illicit drugs. Alcohol is okay, in moderation (if you are 21 or older). One to two glasses of red wine daily has been shown to be healthful. But be aware of your family history of alcoholism. If there is any doubt, find alternatives to drinking.

Changing addictive behaviors. If you are already addicted to alcohol, smoking or drugs, get help. Now. You won’t ever regret it. Of less importance, maybe, but still important, is to cut down on the amount of caffeine you ingest.  Workaholism is also running rampant in our society. Don’t use work as an escape, and don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.

Learning something new. A life spent learning something new on a regular basis is a life not wasted. Studies show that people live longer when they are constantly learning and trying new things. Step outside your comfort zone, and take a course on public speaking, self-defense, or even knitting! It might open up new doors and give you fresh insight.

Money management. Take a course on money management. Stay away from habitually relying on credit. Highly recommended is anything by Dave Ramsey. https://www.daveramsey.com/specials/welcome?ectid=30.31.9014

Hygiene. Take your shoes off, and wash your hands as soon as you arrive home. Floss your teeth every day, and brush your teeth and tongue after meals and before bed. Here is a link to my hygiene article: https://hilbertcommunity.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-winning-health-battles-with-proper-hygiene/

Sexual health. Let me put it this way. Sex, it has been said, is a great blessing in marriage, but a great curse outside of it. This is countercultural thinking, but it is good advice. Remember the question your mom asked you: “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?” That is what many are doing when they choose to have sex too soon. Besides the all-too-real threat of contracting an STI (sexually transmitted infection), there is the spiritual aspect, as well. A broken heart affects every aspect of your health, not just mental and emotional.

Socialization, Family and Friends. It’s likely that busy college students have enough social interaction most of the time. But there are those times when some real connection with people is missing and important. Some things to try: church communities, small interest groups (such as can be found at https://www.meetup.com/), book clubs, study groups, a class not related to your major, a community education class, and more. If you have family nearby, it is important to keep in contact with them. If your family is far away, make sure you call home regularly, so you will still feel as if you are a member. If you live with your family, it is important to note that study after study confirms that eating regularly together is one of the best things you can do. Also, it is important to identify if somebody in your life is more toxic than healthful. If so, it might be a good time to look for better company.

Faith, prayer and meditation. Prayer is considered communication with God, and meditation is closely related. Your spiritual health is just as, or more important than, your physical health. Practicing faith and regular connection with your Maker will bring peace, focus and meaning to your life.

Time management. Newsflash! Your time is your life. Spend your time wisely. Make sure you make space on your calendar for the important items first. That way it is more likely to happen! Don’t overschedule your life; know your limits, and know when to say no. Make certain you always show up for work, class and other obligations, and always on time. Finally, don’t forget to schedule time for yourself. You are important!

Moderation. Everything in moderation, including moderation. Purge perfectionism. If you make a mistake, admit it, and make a change for the better.

Practicing morality. We wouldn’t get very far without morals. Basically, they are the Ten Commandments, which can be summed up by stating, “Love God and love people.” Also included in this category are integrity (doing the right thing when nobody is looking), sexual morality and the following:

  • The “Golden Rule.” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This works. Even if you don’t think somebody deserves it, do it anyway. It’s the right thing to do.
  • Refraining from gossip. You wouldn’t want someone to gossip about you (Golden Rule, see above), so don’t do it to somebody else. If there is any question what gossip is, ask yourself, “If the person I am talking about were standing right here, would I still be saying these things?” If you wouldn’t, then you are probably gossiping.
  • When we are generous, we don’t put ourselves first. We are not the center of the universe. It is a credit to us when we are generous to somebody else.
  • We don’t know what others’ lives are like. It is easy to criticize, give an opinion or offer unsolicited advice. But be kind. Listen, and don’t judge. You are not in that person’s shoes.

Forgiveness. Forgiveness is easier to do when you know that it is more for you than for the other person. When you forgive somebody, it is like a weight has been released from your own shoulders. Sometimes forgiveness is a long journey, but taking that first step is worthwhile. Remember, you are not perfect either, so why should you expect the other person to be? Conversely, it is important to forgive yourself. If you have trouble in this area, it is a good idea to enlist the help of a counselor.

Music, art and hobbies. Having an outlet for stress, like playing a musical instrument, following an artistic path, or diving into a hobby, has been shown to increase longevity and decrease depression.

Gratitude. Yes, there are many things about which to complain. But finding gratitude instead of complaining will make positive people want to be around you. Nobody likes a critic, but everyone is partial to being thanked and appreciated. In the morning, when your alarm goes off, choosing to be thankful you have another day, instead of grouchy because you couldn’t sleep in, will propel you to a better day. Make note of all the positive things in your life, and concentrate on them. Choose to see the glass as half full, and it may transform to overflowing.

Smiling and laughing. Laughter is said to be the best medicine, and it is also contagious. Smiling at someone when he or she enters the room improves your relationship with that person. Becoming less critical is a skill worthy of acquiring. If you are short on joyfulness these days, buy a joke book, go to a comedy show, or ask your friends to tell you something funny. Finding the humor in most situations can turn a gray day sunny again.

 

 

For more information on healthy life habits, check out these sources:

MSN.com, Ten habits you’ll pay for in ten years:
http://www.msn.com/en-us/health/wellness/10-habits-youll-pay-for-in-10-years/ss-BBzOIgA?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=U218DHP#image=1

WebMD.com, Healthy Living: 8 steps to take today:
http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/healthy-living-8-steps-to-take-today#1

WebMD, How to keep healthy habits in mind:
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/remember-healthy-habits#1

Mayo Clinic, The 12 habits of highly healthy people:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-blog/physical-activity-habits/bgp-20085745

Health.com, Healthy eating habits:
http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20934662,00.html

Feelhappiness.com, 107 healthy habits and behaviors for a healthier lifestyle:
http://feelhappiness.com/107-healthy-habits-for-a-healthier-lifestyle/

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), List of unhealthy behaviors:
https://www.cdc.gov/500cities/definitions/unhealthy-behaviors.htm

PsychologyToday.com, Toxic relationships:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-time-cure/201308/toxic-relationships

 

Don’t Let Deadlines Make You Sick: How to Manage Stress

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Don’t Let Deadlines Make You Sick!:
How to Manage Stress

It’s that time of the year again. School projects are in full swing, and finals are on the horizon. Many students are stressed, and most are losing sleep. Some have caught a “bug” and are now feeling behind. Stress is, according to Dictionary.com, “a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.” But, according to WebMD.com, it is more simply “what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to [handling].” Does that sound familiar? If so, read on.

While some stress can be a good thing, did you know stress also plays a role in most illness? That is because when we are constantly stressed, an overabundance of epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) and cortisol (stress hormones) prevent many bodily systems, including the immune system, from functioning at full capacity. Even busy college students can take the time to benefit from some key lifestyle changes in order to ward off the effects of stress. Some of the ways you can lower stress are:

Get enough sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night, and sleep at least seven to nine hours.
(For more information on sleep, read a recent Wellness Center article here: https://hilberttoday.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-the-importance-of-sleep/.)

Make a list each day, and put the most important items at the top. Check them off as you go.

Don’t procrastinate. Get your homework or important task done right away, so you don’t prolong the worrying and the nagging in the back of your mind. Even just getting started on a long project will lessen the impact of the work that lies ahead.

Don’t skip meals, and keep healthy snacks, like fresh fruits and vegetables and low-sugar granola bars in your backpack. Conversely, don’t overeat or load up on junk food. Give your body the fuel it needs.

Drink enough water. This can range from eight 8-ounce glasses per day to an ounce for every pound you weigh. Drinking enough water will also help drive off the munchies, and it will increase your energy level almost immediately.

Stay away from alcohol and drugs, and stop smoking. These put even more stress on your body by lowering your immune response.

Exercise. Take a brisk walk around campus twice, or work out in the campus recreation center. Do this at least three times per week. Look for any special programs that may be open to all students.

Humor yourself. Find the humor in situations. Subscribe to a joke page on social media. Ask your friends if they know any jokes. There is scientific evidence that making yourself smile actually increases your happiness. It is true that laughter is often the best medicine.

Talk to a good friend or counselor. Bottled-up emotions come out in other ways. Venting with a friend also helps your friend connect with you.

Some other ways to manage stress are, in no particular order:


Journaling

Reading for leisure

Crafting, or following a hobby

Breathing exercises

Aromatherapy

Guided imagery

Progressive muscle relaxation

Positive thinking

Singing or playing uplifting music

Volunteering in the community

Caring for a pet

Relaxation time

Taking a nap

Worship/Reading the Bible

Massage

Bathing or swimming

 

For more information, check out these sources:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
http://www.cdc.gov/bam/life/butterflies.html#short

WebMD:
http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/default.htm

Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-basics/hlv-20049495?p=1

Mayo Clinic, Stress Management In-Depth:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037