Keep it “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

How to Stay Healthy on Winter Break!

by Kirsten Falcone, RN

It’s mid-December, and you are looking forward to your semester break. Congratulations! However, because of the considerable stress most students endure at the end of the semester, they are often more susceptible to illness during the holidays. It is a bummer to be sick during the best time of the year. Here are some tips to help you fight off holiday illness:

  1. Maintain proper hygiene by washing hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and covering your sneezes and coughs.
  2. Drink enough water. 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.
  3. Manage your stress by not over-scheduling, sticking to a budget for gifts and entertainment, and avoiding negativity, e.g., watching too much TV news, letting a negative relative influence you, negative self-talk.
  4. Catch up on your sleep by going to bed at the same time each night. After all, you will not have to study for any tests! Try to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
  5. Stay warm and dry, and dress in layers.
  6. Eat healthfully, and avoid too many sweets. It is okay to take only one cookie or to save room for your favorite dessert, and forego having a slice of each one. Also, when you are consuming a large meal, eat your veggies first.
  7. Exercise wisely. It might be safe to go for a walk each day, but then again, there could be ice or snow in your way. Use proper footwear, or exercise indoors. Even in the winter months, exercise is important to maintain a healthy body and brain, and it keeps your immune system strong.
  8. Do not smoke or vape. Smoking exacerbates respiratory illnesses, and it lowers resistance to illness and disease. Even though vaping does not contain the tar in a traditional cigarette, it is still a danger to your health. If you smoke or vape, it is pertinent to your long-term health to quit now. You will never regret that decision!
  9. Be wise when drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol is generally not healthful. In fact, the only alcohol recognized as beneficial is one glass (five ounces) of red wine per day for women (two for men). If you do happen to drink beyond what is considered healthful, here are some guidelines to follow: One drink per hour is all your liver can metabolize. One drink is defined as five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or one ounce of liquor. In order to maintain fluid levels, drink eight ounces of water per hour also. (In addition, this will help ward off a hangover the next day.) Don’t binge drink, which is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as imbibing five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in a two-hour period.
  10. Down time. Make certain this involves praying, listening to music you enjoy, thinking positive thoughts, a hobby you love, and/or spending time with someone you enjoy.
  11. Be a blessing to others. Remember, holiday time is not all about you. The more you give of yourself, the more blessed and healthy you will be. Therefore, go caroling, visit an old friend or a nursing home, smile at and hug your negative relatives, and go to church. Do something good for someone else. Spiritual health and physical health are not two separate entities; they complement each other.

For more information on managing your health during the holidays, visit these Web sites:

CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):

The Wellness Center wishes you a very healthy and happy Holiday Season and New Year!

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


by Kirsten Falcone, RN

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, “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, 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.

Certainly, some stress can be a good thing. But 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:

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. (Here is the link to last year’s article on what to eat at the campus cafeteria:

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. (For my article on dehydration, visit this link:

Stay away from alcohol and drugs, and stop smoking and/or vaping. These put even more stress on your body by lowering your immune response. (Follow this link for my article on vaping:

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. (For my recent article on exercise, visit this link:

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:


Reading for leisure

Crafting, or following a hobby

Breathing exercises


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


Bathing or swimming




For more information on stress, check out these sources:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):


Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management:

Mayo Clinic, Stress Management In-Depth:


Essential Oils: How “essential” are they?

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
By Kirsten Falcone, RN

You may have heard of the trend toward using alternative medicine, such as essential oils, chlorophyll, wheatgrass, crystals and other “natural remedies.” Is there any solid footing here, or is it just quackery? As a registered nurse, educated with an “evidence-based” mindset, I am skeptical. So I set out to perform a little unscientific research of my own.

If you attended the recent Hilbert College Wellness Fair, you probably met Jill Chiacchia, of the “beHealthy Institute,” in Hamburg, New York. According to Jill, there is much testimonial and anecdotal evidence to the benefits of essential oils, in particular. “Whether essential oils are used for household cleaning, aromatherapy or reviving a stuffy nose,” says Jill, “most would agree that using something derived from nature is preferred over using some of the synthetic, environmentally unfriendly products currently available on the market.” Jill came in to the Hilbert Wellness Center to demonstrate to me some of the essential oils she has in inventory at her store. One of the benefits she mentioned was the effect on the human nervous system. I took a whiff, and my first observation was, yes, some of the smells were calming, some stimulating, and a lot in between. I have a sensitive nose, so my second observation was, a little goes a long way!

Research supporting the idea that essential oils should be part of a medical regimen is sparse. Therefore, I am inclined to rest on the notion that much of the current fervor is based on the placebo effect. The placebo effect is the idea that if you believe it will work, then it is more likely to work for you. And, that is a valid approach with some people. Many outcomes in life are affected that way.

Considering more closely, though, there may be some scientific reasons that some people find relief with essential oils and other natural remedies.

Conquering Dehydration. You can supplement water with certain essential oils, according to Jill. We all know that drinking water is good for you. Water is essential in just about every chemical reaction in the human body. If you are dehydrated, adding flavor to your water may help you drink more water, thereby keeping you hydrated. This is also true for drinking chlorophyll and wheatgrass shots. They are both loaded with water. Maybe that is why they are also touted as a hangover remedy. Good idea!

Smells are very closely associated with memories. You might have noticed this already. Somebody in your past may have worn a perfume that, if you sensed it now, you would remember a great deal about that person. For example, the scent of lilacs always brings me back memories of my grandmother, and the smell of balsam makes me long for family Christmases. The sense of smell is closely linked in the brain with memory and emotions, more so than any other sense. Smelling something that brings back positive memories, for instance, would probably help lift your mood.

Smells can help you remember. This is a good point for students to know. Studying with a particular scent, perhaps on your sleeve, may help improve your recall on tests. Also, test scores have been shown to improve when you study in the same environment as the one in which you will take your test. So, if you want to do well on your test, it might help to pick an essential oil fragrance you like, apply it to your sleeve, and go study in the room in which you will take your test (or one similar to it). Then use that scent on test day, and voile’! Jill recommends using peppermint oil to keep you perky.

Smells can help you relax. Is an upcoming project or test stressing you out? Are you losing sleep because of it? Many smells, including those offered with essential oils, can be soothing. Lavender has traditionally been recommended for this.

Alternative to taking medicine. All medications have side effects. It does not matter which one you are taking. If a natural remedy helps you avoid caffeine (a stimulant), assists you in attaining sleep without sleeping pills, clears your sinuses during a cold, or improves your mood without expensive depression medication, then those are benefits! However, even essential oils can have side effects. Be sure you do your research, and test just a small amount before you plunge in head first.

Even though essential oils and other natural remedies hold a great deal of possibilities, as a registered nurse, I am still inclined to recommend proper nutrition, adequate sleep, enough hydration, exercise and fresh air, socialization, and other lifestyle changes before I recommend using essential oils.

Both Jill and I agree there could be a good deal of untapped potential in the “natural” and “alternative medicine” world. We need more studies done. In the meantime, you can do your own unscientific “study” and try out some products on your own. The beHealthy Institute (located only three miles away from Hilbert College, at 40 Main Street, Hamburg, New York) offers goods and services ranging from fitness and cooking classes, living well seminars and clinics, to essential oils and nutritional supplements. The beHealthy Institute will honor Hilbert College students with a 10 percent discount on any class. Try your first class FREE, up to a $15 value. For questions, please contact Jill Chiacchia at this link:


For additional information on essential oils, visit these Web sites:

beHealthy Institute, Hamburg, New York:

WebMD, Dos and Don’ts of Essential Oils:

Easy Health Options, 8 Essential Oils for Health and Wellness:

National Institutes of Health, “Essential Oils: New Perspectives in Human Health and Wellness”:

Los Angeles Times, What are essential oils good for?

How Stuff Works, Smells and the Brain:

Brainscape, How smells might help recall on tests:

Holiday Food! Making Wise Choices During the Holiday Season

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

How to Avoid the Holiday Bulge:
Making Wise Choices During the Holiday Season

With the Holiday season upon us, many college students are already regretting the “Freshman 15” (as well as the sophomore, junior and senior 15) they already added to their weight this year. But now, here come the Holidays, with their usual amount of irresistible snacks and food, and fewer chances to get outside and burn off the calories. It would be easy to just give up and buy a larger clothing size!

But wait! Before you devour that second piece of pumpkin pie and suck down the eggnog, here are some great tips that may help you to avoid the bulge this year, and not have to make losing weight part of your New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Eat your vegetables first. Your plate should be half-full of vegetables, more than a quarter grains and rice, and less than a quarter protein. If you eat the healthiest part of your meal first—your vegetables and fruit—you will have less room for fatty and calorie-laden foods.
  2. Keep your protein lean. If you are eating turkey, remove the skin. Don’t dump on lot of extra gravy. With fatty meats, cut back on your proportions, skip the breaded selections, and trim off the fat.
  3. Skip the fat. (See above.) If your table is like mine, everything on the table is bound to be loaded with fat. Be aware of choices between buttered broccoli and green bean casserole. While we all love green bean casserole, with its mushroom soup and crunchy deep-fried onions, the broccoli is a much better choice, even with some butter on it. Also, instead of au gratin potatoes, settle for mashed or baked.
  4. Skip the salt. Most likely, the cook already added plenty of salt to your meal. Before you pick up that salt shaker, sample your selection first. Your cook will thank you, and so will your blood pressure!
  5. Skip the sugar. Sugar has long been linked with diabetes, as well as obesity, high blood pressure, cancer and inflammatory diseases. But now there is new evidence pointing out that it is actually worse for your arteries than cholesterol. There is an amazing difference between sweet potatoes with marshmallows and sweet potatoes baked and served whole. Choose the latter. Instead of two slices of pie, have only one, or ask for a “sliver” of pie. Take it easy with the whipped cream!
  6. Go for a walk. After dinner, instead of napping, as many are prone to do (no pun intended), go outside for a walk. It may be a challenge if the weather isn’t cooperating. If so, try and remain active inside. Help clean up, run up and down stairs, play some active games, and don’t be a couch potato. On non-feast days, exercise for a half hour every day or every other day. This will help burn calories, as well as increase your sense of well-being.
  7. Resist the temptation to snack. As difficult as that sounds, with plenty of temptation around, give yourself permission to have one small snack per day. Stick with it.
  8. Eat only half of what you would normally eat. On the days between feasts, this is a great idea! If you are eating at a restaurant, it is OK to eat only half. Restaurant portions are not usually healthful, anyway. (If you are afraid to waste food, ask for a doggy bag.)
  9. Use a smaller plate. It tricks you into thinking your portion is larger than it is. (And don’t go back for seconds!)
  10. Liquid calories count! Be aware that a large percentage of the meal’s calories can be hidden in the beverage, so always opt for healthful choices, such as skim milk, unsweetened tea, or just plain water.
  11. With alcoholic drinks, choose wisely. If you must imbibe in alcohol, be smart. Most college students are not of legal drinking age. That aside, also know that the only healthful alcoholic drink is five ounces per day of red wine for women, and 10 ounces for men. Beyond that, you are taking your chances. If you choose to venture into this territory, be aware that a serving of beer is 12 ounces, and a serving of liquor is one ounce. Your liver cannot process more than one serving per hour. If you damage your liver, contrary to hearsay, it does not always grow back to normal. (Think fatty liver and cirrhosis.) With all this knowledge, however, the liquor stores are still in business. As far as calorie content, generally you should choose wine over regular beer, and Champagne over eggnog. Drinking alcohol can also lower your inhibitions and cause you to succumb to tempting snacks, so drink in moderation.
  12. Skip the caffeine, if possible, or limit it to the equivalent of two cups of coffee per day. Caffeine can be found in chocolate, tea, soft drinks, and other foods. Consuming too much can cause headaches, heart palpitations, shakiness, disturbed sleep patterns, and dehydration.
  13. Take the proper amount of time to eat, since the stomach will not usually register it is full until 20 minutes afterward. Slowing down to savor your favorite Holiday food will also decrease heartburn and gastrointestinal issues.
  14. Keep hydrated. One of the current recommendations for how much water to drink involves doing a little math: Take your weight in pounds, and drink from half that amount to that whole amount in ounces every day. For example, someone who weighs 150 lbs. should drink 75 to 150 ounces per day. This seems like a lot, but all the liquid from your diet adds up. Sometimes when we think we are hungry, we are really just dehydrated. Drinking a glass of water before you eat will cut down on how much you eat.
  15. Be wise. Remember that these are the Holidays. If you follow some healthful guidelines, you will be able to enjoy yourself. As the late Oscar Wilde is often quoted, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

For more information, try these sources:

National Institutes of Health (NIH), Healthy Holiday Foods:

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Choose My Plate:

WebMD Low-Calorie Cocktails:

MedLine Plus on Caffeine:


How to Handle the Dark Days of Late Autumn and Winter

How to Handle the Dark Days of Late Autumn and Winter:
Lifestyle remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

According to experts, even though we gained an hour of sleep, the time change may have had an overall negative effect on many people’s moods. In fact, as the daylight grows shorter, you may be feeling as if the walls are closing in on you. This is not uncommon. Terms frequently used for this feeling are “cabin fever” and “winter blues,” though health professionals have actually recognized it as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Typical symptoms of SAD include feeling depressed, 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.

If you suffer from any of these symptoms even just a little, it is reassuring to know that there is hope, and there are lifestyle changes you can make to get through it. Some helpful ideas to try are:

  • Exercise. Exercise increases the chemicals in your brain called “endorphins.” These endorphins are thought to decrease your perception of pain and increase your happiness, giving you a natural high. So, take a walk to the gym, or do calisthenics in your dorm room. Park on the far side of the lot, and walk the extra distance. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or, when it finally snows, take up a winter sport, like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or sledding. If the snowfall isn’t as deep as you’d like, you can still go for a brisk walk. (I don’t recommend jogging due to the stress it puts on joints.) Or you can extend the warm weather sports you enjoy, only with a couple extra layers of clothes!
  • Fresh air. Yes, you may have to bundle up. But a dose of fresh air can lift your spirits. You may also want to open your dorm room windows for a few minutes to let the fresh air in!
  • 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. If you can’t find any sunny rooms in which to hang out, or if it’s cloudy out, you can supplement with vitamin D. But, since vitamin D is absorbed by fat and is stored in your body, 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. We can’t give our bodies the wrong fuel and expect it to operate correctly! Skip the pop and the junk 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. Even though you are not sweating a lot, as you do during the hot summer weather, drinking enough H2O is actually energizing, plus it helps combat the dry winter air.
  • Sleep. Make sure you are getting the right amount of this. Seven to nine hours of sleep at the same time every night does wonders for the mood.
  • Socialization. Yes, you need this. Go to church. Hang out with your friends. Go on a date. Take an elective class. Just don’t spend too much time alone. Be selective, and choose positive people.
  • 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.
  • Light therapy. Because of the shortened daylight hours in the winter, some people do well with light therapy. If you think you would like to try it, ask your doctor to recommend a treatment.
  • 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.)
  • Antidepressants.  These should be used only as a last resort after you have made lifestyle changes, especially in the areas of exercise and nutrition. There is no “happy” pill. In fact, these drugs take several weeks to kick in. Antidepressant medication has side-effects that are, well, depressing! Their dosage also needs regular fine-tuning.
  • Get some perspective. In many other countries where daylight is short, the frequency of SAD is lesser than in the United States. In Norway, for instance, the people have a different mindset. Instead of rejecting the darkness and cold, they embrace it! Winter is a time to get outside and enjoy themselves, or to snuggle closer to the fire with someone they love. Another way to get perspective is by leaving campus every now and then. Also, try reading a book just for fun. You deserve it!
  • Take up a craft. Some new studies have shown that spending time crafting improves mental health. Some of the crafts on the list are knitting, drawing and painting, cooking, photography, music, cake decorating, and even doing crossword puzzles. Experts believe that doing such activities increases the brain’s level of the natural anti-depressant dopamine.
  • Stimulate your senses. Wear a light scent that reminds you of something positive in your life. Buy a fresh bouquet of flowers for your room. Put on some music with a positive theme, or listen to classical music. Redecorate your room to make it appear more pleasant. Have a piece of dark chocolate to reward yourself for a job well done. Get a massage, or curl up in a soft, comforting blanket. Put on a fuzzy pair of slippers. All these things stimulate your senses, and may lift your mood.
  • Laugh! Have you heard, “Laughter is the best medicine”? Well, sometimes that is all you need. Whether it is joking around with a friend or watching your favorite comedy on television, try to include laughter in your life. Also, try to avoid the opposite of laughter. Turning off the news channel is a sensible idea these days. Learning what your triggers are is a great way to avoid depression and sadness.

The idea to take away is there is always hope. This year the winter solstice (the day with the least daylight) will occur on Thursday, December 21, at 11:28 a.m. After that, the daylight will lengthen again!

For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder, click on these links:


MedLine Plus

Focus on the Family

Mother Nature News

Exercise: The forgotten pharmaceutical

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

The forgotten pharmaceutical
By Kirsten Falcone, RN

We all have heard that exercise is good for us. Imagine a future where, instead of prescribing medications, physicians will consider daily exercise the “drug” of choice. This is what scientists are currently studying to bring about in the near future.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) are currently undergoing a study to determine exactly how particular types of exercise affect the human body, specifically in relation to disease prevention and treatment. The five-year study, begun in 2015, includes a sample diverse in age, gender, race, and fitness level. Parallel studies are using animals for gathering information on vital organs, such as lungs, heart, liver and the brain.

You may have heard, “Sitting is the new smoking.” This clause is attributed to James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, Arizona, whose 30 years of research has concluded that too much sitting is a major cause of obesity, diabetes, breast cancer and dozens of additional chronic diseases and medical conditions. There is now a trend toward solutions such as using standing desks, and encouraging breaks for walking and stretching. Reducing sitting time is crucial to good health, even if you meet the recommended amount of exercise per week.

Exercise is crucial to good health. Performed properly, it lacks the long list of side effects frequently seen with pharmaceuticals. Therefore, a new mindset is emerging in the medical world. This new mindset is one that at the very least includes exercise in its pharmaceutical regimen, and at best replaces pharmaceuticals that have been all too commonly prescribed in its absence.

Imagine a medical system that replaces pharmaceutical prescriptions with exercise prescriptions. It might begin to look something like this:

Exercise instead of…

  • Anxiety and depression drugs: Exercise decreases depression, lifts your mood, dampens stress, and decreases anxiety.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter acne medications: More efficient blood flow will deliver oxygen and nutrients to your face and upper torso, including your back and other problem areas.
  • Botox injections/expensive skin cream: Exercise can help you look younger and live up to five years longer because it helps slow down cell aging.
  • Insulin, pain medications, and heart medications: Exercise helps prevent type 2 diabetes, alleviate osteoarthritis by strengthening bones and joints, and strengthens your heart muscle.
  • Diet pills and weight loss medications: If you are overweight, exercising and portion control are enough to lose weight. Exercise will help build muscle and shrink fat cells.
  • Hearing aids and cochlear implants: According to University of Florida researchers, exercise may help prevent age-related hearing loss. They believe this is because regular exercise reduces inflammation in all parts of the body—even the middle and inner ear.

Amount of exercise recommended: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, most healthy adults need 150 minutes per week of “moderate” aerobic activity (five days of 30 minutes, three days of 50 minutes, two days of 75 minutes). Interspersing “vigorous” aerobic activity will lessen the amount of time required. “What is the difference?” you say. Moderate activity includes brisk walking, lawn mowing and swimming. Vigorous aerobic activity includes jogging, dancing and bicycle riding.

In addition to aerobic exercise, many experts also recommend strength training. This includes weight resistance with each muscle group. You can perform these anywhere, not necessarily in a gym. Hand weights can be stored under the bed. You can use your own body weight for many strength-training exercises. There are also outdoor sports that strengthen muscles, including kayaking, hiking and rock climbing.

Also of importance is stretching. Many stretching exercises are essential for before and after aerobic exercise. Some of the benefits of stretching include improving posture, increasing blood flow to muscles, calming your mind, and reducing injury. Yoga and pilates use stretching and strength training simultaneously.

A relatively new kind of exercise program is called HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Please see the link below for “Everyday Health.” Basically, this involves alternating between moderate and vigorous activity in one exercise session.

If you think you don’t have time to exercise, think again. There are more types of exercise than structured running, treadmill, gym-type activities. Other kinds of exercise include anything that keeps you moving. Raking leaves, vacuuming, walking, dancing, swimming, running up and down stairs, jogging around the mall, hopping from classroom to classroom. All of these are exercise!

In the future, physicians will be writing “exercise” on their prescription pads, based on the results of current studies. You do not have to wait until the results of the studies are in; you can exercise now!


For additional information on the benefits of exercise, visit these Web sites:


CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, How much physical activity do adults need?:

CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Benefits of physical activity:

UF News (University of Florida), Exercise is good for hearing:

National Institutes of Health, Study information:

Mayo Clinic Links (Sitting and health, Dr. James Levine, and How much exercise?:

The Active Times, “Sitting is the New Smoking—7 Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle is Killing You”:, Why Stretching is Just as Important as Exercise:




Protect Your Hearing, While You Still Can

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month.

Can you repeat that?
Protect Your Hearing, While You Still Can!

Hearing loss. You think it happens only to older people, right? Think again. Recent research reveals that more young people are developing permanent hearing loss, and they may not even realize it. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 20 percent of people aged 20-29 already have noise-induced hearing loss. In a recent study of about 3,500 people who reported their hearing as “excellent” or “good,” one in four people were found to have unsuspected hearing loss.

Why is this such a concern? It’s because, unlike many other ailments, hearing loss is permanent. Over time, a loss of hearing in someone young will accumulate and exacerbate that person’s eventual age-related hearing loss. Experts predict hearing-related issues will be even more pronounced for the current younger generation when it reaches retirement age.

What causes hearing loss? Anything over 85 decibels for an extended period of time, or much louder and shorter bursts of noise for a shorter period of time, are both damaging. Everyday noise from mowing the lawn, traffic, the food blender, leaf blowers and more, can all contribute to hearing loss.    Loud, sudden noises, like sirens, fireworks, and gunfire, are able to damage hearing immediately! Concerts and prolonged noise (two hours or more), as well as workplace-related clamor are also to blame.

What types of noises are higher than 85 decibels? According to a Purdue University Website, a garbage disposal, an average factory, a freight train 50 feet away, a diesel truck traveling at 40 mph at 50 feet away, and a food blender are all around 80 to 90 decibels. Exposing yourself to these for extended periods of time has been shown to cause hearing loss.

In the 90 to 110 decibel category are a jet plane taking off (at 1000 feet), a lawn mower, a motorcycle at 25 feet, an outboard motor, a car horn at three feet, a riveting machine, and live rock music. One brand of public bathroom hand dryer is 95 decibels. If you are “lucky” to be underneath a thunderclap, that will set you back 120 decibels! At 150 decibels, such as what occurs at 80 feet away from a jet taking off, your eardrums will rupture.

Wearing ear buds, as many people do with MP3 and blue-tooth devices, iPods, or video games, can intensify noise because they are put directly into the ear canal. This can raise noise levels by nine decibels. At maximum volume, ear buds can reach 105 decibels!

What can you do to prevent hearing loss?

  • When listening to electronic devices, wear “noise-cancelling” head phones that cover the whole ear. Ear buds (which sit in the ear canal) tend to let other sounds in, thus making it necessary to turn up the volume.
  • If you insist on wearing ear buds, invest in custom ear buds that fit your ears. They have a tighter fit, and you won’t have to turn up the volume to hear with them.
  • Limit your ear-bud/ear-phone listening to under 60 minutes per day, and keep the volume under 60 percent.
  • Wear ear plugs at concerts.
  • Plug your ears with your fingers when an ambulance passes, during traditional gun salutes, or when the fire trucks blast their sirens at parades.
  • Don’t sit right under the annual fireworks without ear protection.
  • Wear ear protection when you know you will be exposed to loud noises for long periods of time, such as mowing the lawn.
  • Use paper towels in public bathrooms instead of the hand dryers.
  • In traffic, keep the windows rolled up.
  • Get your ears tested to find your baseline. Start taking precautions from now on.

Here’s your takeaway: There are many areas of health that can be improved by changing your lifestyle or by taking medicine. But hearing isn’t one of them. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

For more information on premature hearing loss, visit these Web sites:

National Institutes of Health

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
(February 7, 2017 Press Briefing):

Center Point Audio: Earbud Safety

Purdue University (List of Decibel Levels):

Medline Plus (Medical Explanation of Hearing Loss):

Restroom Direct

Feeling Disconnected? How to conquer homesickness while away at college


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
  • 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:

Focus on the Family

Allegheny College:


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

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Rite Aid Flu Shot Information–7xocgCFZeaNwod2VIPmQ&gclsrc=ds