Having Anxiety About Returning to In-Person Activities is Valid

First, the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness wants every Blue Demon to know that all emotions and perspectives concerning the return to campus are valid. Like many other campus organizations, we have warmly (and safely) welcomed the DePaul community back into our office while still providing a number of trainings and resources in virtual settings. This is just one of the ways we are continuing to support DePaul University holistically. 

As our community begins the transition back to campus it is likely that we all will experience a mix of emotions. For some of us, it feels exciting to connect with our colleagues on campus again or meet our peers in-person for the first time. Kinesthetic and hands-on learners have the opportunity to engage with class content in a way that better suits their needs. And individuals who lived alone during the pandemic get to reintroduce more face-to-face interactions into their daily routine.  

However, for others, returning to campus may be a cause for more stress. Individuals who don’t live close to campus have to once again allocate time for commuting. Those who joined DePaul after March 2020 are learning how to connect with our community in physical spaces. All of us are likely facing anxiety about how to interact with each other in-person while keeping ourselves and our communities safe. It’s even possible to experience feelings at both ends of this spectrum.  

So how do we deal with these complex emotions while maintaining our academic/occupational responsibilities, upholding safety protocols, mitigating social anxiety, and respecting any new boundaries we might have with the return to in-person activities? The first step is giving ourselves time to process what our emotions and needs are. When feeling overwhelmed it is sometimes easy to just focus on how stressed we are or how much we have to do. But it is more important than ever to create space to decompress from our days and practice mindfulness. While meditation is a form of mindfulness that some people do find useful it may not be the best mindfulness tool for everyone. Some other mindfulness techniques can include exercising, journaling, actively listening to music (focusing on the specific words and instruments that evoke strong emotions), cooking a meal, or coloring/crafting. To learn more about how you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine read this article by mindful.org: 5 Simple Mindfulness Practices for Daily Life. 


Another important habit we can all incorporate into our routines to decrease our stress levels at this time is to regularly reflect on how the return to in-person is affecting our wellbeing.  Utilizing reflection to process our experience with returning to in-person can help us understand how our boundaries have changed over the last year and a half. Not only has this time caused us to assess the policies our school and workplaces have concerning sick days/mental health days it has also made many people think about how the organizations we interact with are supporting our needs and engaging in discussions about making their spaces more equitable and accessible. There are internal and external methods of reflection (thinking through the topic, writing pro/con lists, discussing reflections with a loved one, journaling, etc.). Similar to mindfulness, there is no one correct way to engage in reflection. The important part is giving ourselves the time to be honest with how we are being affected so we can be intentional with our boundaries, how we ask for support, and how we interact with our academic, occupational, and personal spaces.  


We all deserve to give ourselves and others more grace as we figure out how to acclimate to a new “normal.”  By spending more time validating our own feelings we can have more space to validate the feelings of those around us. This is another way we can take care of ourselves, take care of each other, and take care of DePaul.





How to Use Early Intervention to Decrease Student Stress

It’s no secret that college students often feel stressed. It’s not easy to balance academic success, self-care, maintaining a social life, and work. While most students are bound to feel some stress, feeling stressed all or most of the time can have long term effects. 

When someone is already feeling stressed, or when being stressed is normalized, it can be difficult to reach out for help. Going to a weekly therapy session just feels like another item on the to-do list, adding more time for self-care seems impossible, and some may find it more stressful to be open about their experiences with another person. In these instances, it is important to view mental/emotional stress like we do physical stress. If someone sprains their ankle, chooses not to rest or go to the doctor, and running and lifting heavy things, and doesn’t tell anyone their ankle hurts then the injury is only going to get worse. That is why early intervention is so important for those experiencing a decrease in their mental and emotional wellbeing- without intervention it will only get worse. 

Mental Health First Aid describes early intervention as “recognizing the warning signs of a mental health or substance use challenge and acting before it gets worse” (Mental Health First Aid, 2021). There are a number of ways students can make their mental wellbeing a priority before the effects of stress cause a deep impact on their lives. 


  • Start counseling early in the quarter: The first couple weeks of classes can feel manageable. There won’t be a lot of assignments, there’s usually plenty of time to spend with loved ones, and the stress of midterms or finals has yet to happen. While some may feel like it is premature to meet with a mental health professional when they don’t feel overwhelmed with their emotions, starting regular sessions at the early signs of stress may decrease the chances of someone becoming overwhelmed in the first place.  
  • Plan for self-care daily: It can be easy to feel like there isn’t enough time for self-care, especially when we are feeling stressed. However, this is the most important time to increase our engagement with self-care practices.  And the activities should relate to the needs that aren’t being met due to the increase of stress. For example, if someone is feeling disconnected from friends because of all the time that needs to be spent on schoolwork, they might schedule 20–30-minute hangouts. This can help maintain social connections and act as healthy break from studying.  
  • Schedule regular check-ins with a peer or professor: Some people may not want to meet with a mental health professional for a number of valid reasons. In this case, having a trusted person in their life who can see them or talk to them regularly, point out when it seems their stress level is increasing, and offer support that is appropriate for both parties might be a better option. If the support is coming from another student, the individuals can even be supports for each other. It is often easier to be open about difficult experiences with someone we feel understands our experiences.  
  • Reassess Time Commitments: When every minute of every day is planned out, individuals can feel too busy to stop and recognize that having too many responsibilities is causing stress, anxiety, or depression. It is important to have a well-rounded schedule that includes time for academic success, social activities, and personal wellness.  We can only give as much to others as we are giving to ourselves, and it is better to step away from a couple of responsibilities than to get burned out and need a long break from most or all of our previously planned commitments.  

Checking in with ourselves and honoring our emotions is not always an easy task. But hopefully by having a support system who is open about their mental health and is understanding when we need to take more time for ourselves, and knowing our own limits, we can be better prepared for when stress does show up in our lives.  



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How to Support LGBTQUIA+ Mental Health

To honor Pride month we wanted to share some tips on how to support these community members. Mental health is an important factor in every person’s life, however experiencing mental health conditions while also being in the LGBTQUIA+ community can be even more stressful and less talked about. In the video provided Tally and Jasmine discuss their experiences of being in the LGBTQUIA+ community and how it intersects with their mental health, as well as coping strategies. 

LGBTQ Mental Health Matters


An important factor in strengthening the mental wellbeing of people in the LGBTQUIA+ community is having social support (https://www.lgbtqiahealtheducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Suicide-Risk-and-Prevention-for-LGBTQ-Patients-Brief.pdf). Support can be shown to members of the LGBTQUIA+ community in a number of ways and doesn’t necessarily have to come from other members in the community to have an impact. One way to show support to members of the LGBTQUIA+ community is by acknowledging their strengths which may include: 

  • Social Intelligence  
  • Empathy for Others 
  • Courage 
  • Creativity 
  • Authenticity  
  • Resilience 

(To have a deeper understanding about mental health experiences in the LGBTQUIA+ community look through the Mental Health Coalition’s Roadmap to LGBTQ+ Mental Health).  

Acknowledging these strengths can also be a way to tell people that their worth is being recognized beyond their identity in the LGBTQUIA+ community. Supporting the mental health of anyone means supporting them holistically, not just specific parts of their identity.  

And while there is a wider acceptance of members in the LGBTQUIA+ community, it is important to provide intentional support to these individuals. As Alok Vaid-Menon says in an interview with StyleLikeU “When we go to the club everyone is going to say ‘Oh my God, I love your outfit’ but no one is going to say ‘How are you getting home?”. Some ways to intentionally show support are to:  

  • Make no assumptions 
  • Use inclusive language  
  • Respond to anti-LGBT behavior 

(Visit GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit to learn more about creating accepting and supportive environments for member of the LGBTQUIA+ community).  

In order to not make assumptions we need to use non-judgmental questions to know what type of support the individual is asking of us. When an individual does disclose that they identify as LGBTQUIA+, its important to understand how they would like to be addressed. Ask if they use a different name or pronouns than ones indicated on official paperwork. If someone does approach you about services related to the LGBTQUIA+ community ask if they are looking for services that are in-person or virtual, anonymous, on or off campus, or about any other service types that are sensitive to the privacy of their identity. Don’t bring up their identity around others unless they do first or have explicitly stated that they are open about their identity. Disclosing one’s identity is a very personal process and everyone does it when they are ready- never pressure anyone to disclose if they are ready but simply provide support.  

It may also be beneficial to direct peers/students to resources that can offer ongoing support. The LGBTQIA Resource center hosts multiple programs throughout the year, has all gender inclusive restrooms, and can support students with name changing name/gender on university documents. They also provide resources for allies including a pronoun practicing website. The greater Chicago area has many outlets that the LGBTQUIA+ community can turn to for mental health support, some include Center on HalsteadIntraSpectrum, and Howard Brown Health Services 














How to Say “I’m Not Okay”

For the last Mental Health Awareness month post, HPW wants to give the DePaul community some support with having deeper conversations about mental health.  

Recognizing symptoms of mental health in ourselves may be an uncomfortable process. It can include changes in daily living, starting and/or reintroducing therapy into weekly schedules, thinking about potentially triggering topics (i.e. anniversaries of traumatic events) and discussing active mental health experiences with the people in our lives. Research from the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that discussing mental wellbeing may be most difficult for adults age 18-34 when compared to other adult age groups.  

 The APA did not indicate any reason why young adults (including many college-aged people) seem to struggle the most with accepting their mental health experiences. But, in the DePaul community we can encourage ourselves and our peers to be more open about our experiences. We can start by educating ourselves about mental health topics, including the concept that mental health is just as important as physical health. General Practitioner Helena Temple is one of many health care practitioners who are engaging in conversations about why “It’s OK not to be OK”.  




As she points out, the sooner we can recognize and verbalize our mental health symptoms the sooner we can be supported in increasing our mental wellbeing. For those who have never been to therapy or haven’t had access to information about mental wellbeing it might be difficult to understand what the signs of mental health distress are. There are some confidential online resources that can assess if an individual should seek support for their mental wellbeing, including a mental health screening on Hope for the Day’s website. 

Knowing how to start the conversation can help ease some of the tension that comes with disclosing mental health experiences. We have provided an outline for how to approach someone about mental health experiences when the time comes. 


Step 1: Reflection 

Maybe an anniversary to a triggering event is approaching, there are more stressful events than usual, or current environments aren’t providing the necessary support. Thinking about why these feelings are coming up may give a better sense of control over the situation. 

Step 2: Write Down or Practice What To Say 

Spend time writing out a script or bullet points that summarize your current condition. To get even more comfortable with saying the feelings out loud, try practicing on a pet, a picture of the individual, or a recording.  

Step 3: Start Small 

Think of the ripple effect. One small pebble can eventually make a ripple through the whole pond, but only after making smaller ripples first. Approaching one or two individuals to start the conversation can create more comfort in talking about the thoughts and feelings surrounding the mental health condition. 

  Step 4: Carve out More Time for Processing 

Focusing more on school, job responsibilities, or relationships instead of internal thoughts seems like a welcome distraction. But not taking steps to process the current feelings will only perpetuate them. Whether it’s starting therapy, finding a peer support group, or dedicating more time to a spiritual practice, there needs to be a shift in the time spent processing the current emotions. 


We understand that this outline might not work for everyone. If having a face-to-face conversation feels too scary it’s okay to send a message, talk on the phone, or write a letter. If there is a history of negative experiences with disclosing mental health symptoms it can be difficult to trust that the person receiving the information will respond in a constructive way. Should this be the case, starting with calling a hotline rather a loved one may be easier. What is most important about the process of disclosing personal mental health experiences is that it is done in a way that feels safest for the individual disclosing. And as always, HPW is here for you. We can be reached at 773-325-7129, through our email hpw@depaul.edu, our virtual office zoom link https://tinyurl.com/hpwvirtualoffice, or visit our website go.depaul.edu/hpw to see the list of resources HPW offers. 



National Alliance on Mental Illness: 800-950-6264 

Illinois Mental Health Collaborative for Access and Choice Warm Line: 866-359-7953 

Trevor Project Lifeline (LGBTQ+ Hotline): 866-488-7386 

Asian LifeNet Hotline: 877-990-8585 

National Alliance for Hispanic Health: 866-783-2645 

Illinois Call4Calm Textline (for emotional support with struggles from COVID-19): Text TALK or HABLAR to 552020 














How to Recognize and Decrease the Effects of Burnout

In the 1970’s Herbert Freudenburger coined the term “burnout” and defined it as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results”. He created the term after recognizing similar experiences from people with careers in “helping” professions. Since then, our understanding of who experiences burnout has evolved. People can feel burnout from many things, such as their job, school, interpersonal relationships environments (such as remote work/class). As we near the end of another quarter at DePaul, students, professors, and staff/faculty may be experiencing the collective burnout that often comes with finals week and still being in a pandemic. The Office of Health Promotion and Wellness wants to encourage all members of the DePaul community to recognize the signs of burnout in themselves and take time to reinforce or introduce boundaries that can decrease the effects of burnout. 

Burnout can be closely related to the amount of stress one is facing. Stress can be a positive tool to stay motivated and a sign of growth. However, it depends on the amount of stress and how the person can handle different stress loads. In an article written for helpguide.org they explain that the brain does not recognize differences between physical and emotional stress. They discuss various kinds of stress including: 

  • Workplace Stress 
  • Job Loss/Unemployment Stress 
  • Financial Stress 
  • Caregiver Stress 
  • Greif and Loss 

While that list does not provide all forms of stress (such as academic) it does highlight the idea that all individuals are experiencing some form of stress at almost any point in their lives. The article also explains that the stress changes from a constructive factor (helping to stay focused or alert, increase energy levels) to a deconstructive factor (frequently feeling overwhelmed or easily anxious) when there is an excessive amount. There is no official answer to how much stress is “too much” but recognizing the signs of burnout can help with figuring out where the excessive stress is coming from. 

Signs of burnout can include: 

  • Chronic exhaustion 
  • Having cynical thoughts about school/work/peers 
  • Feeling like tasks that were once manageable are now impossible  
  • Isolating from peers, co-workers, and family members 
  • Not participating in community events  
  • Experiencing heightened depression or anxiety symptoms  
  • Taking on more responsibility than is realistic. 

Signs of burnout can look different for everyone which is why self-reflection and time for yourself during high stress times is important. And while these side effects may seem obvious, it is possible that the person experiencing burnout is unaware that they are showing these signs. Overloading daily schedules, working more than is expected, and agreeing to take on more tasks when already feeling overwhelmed is often revered. However, these actions are not sustainable and contribute to the large-scale burnout that so many people seem to be experiencing.  

When transitioning from one responsibility to the next (such as from work to class) spend even five minutes doing something that is fun and relaxing and not on your “to-do list.” We fuel our burnout by overextending ourselves rather than providing more space for self-care.  

But this does not have to be an individual process. By reaching out to peers, friends, teachers, co-workers, supervisors, or professionals we can get support and help. DePaul has multiple resources that support students in creating routines to remind us that we have value outside of academic and workplace responsibilities including: Health Promotion and WellnessUniversity Counseling Services, and the Collegiate Recovery Community 








Tips to Support Mental Wellness of Self and Other

This year for Mental Health Awareness month there has been a conversation about shifting the purpose of Mental Health month events from increasing awareness of mental health subjects to increasing awareness of what actions are needed to build a society that prioritizes mental wellness. The DePaul Values of believing in the dignity of every individual and committing to building community serve as excellent guiding principles for increasing mental wellness in the DePaul community. Part of recognizing the dignity of every DePaul community member is knowing the signs of mental health distress, how to approach a community member you believe is struggling, and what healthy coping skill are.  

According to the national Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) some indicators that someone may be experiencing a mental health condition are:  

  • Excessive feelings of worry, fear, or sadness  
  • Noticeable changes in mood, behavior, or concentration (i.e., a friend who normally has more reserved emotions seems easily frustrated over the last few weeks, or the opposite someone who normally shows expressive emotions has been more reserved lately) 
  • Changes in sleep, energy level, eating habits, or substance use  
  • Increase in physical symptoms that seem unexplained (feeling “achey” but not sick, getting headaches while drinking enough water, having stomach pains before or during work/class time) 
  • Increased discussions about their appearance or comparing how they look with how other people look more than usual 
  • Avoiding eye contact in public spaces or avoiding public spaces in general  

10 Common Warning Signs of a Mental Health Condition in Teens and Young Adults 



It’s likely that while reading this list a loved one came to mind. Knowing the signs that someone is struggling with their mental health is not inherently difficult, especially if that someone is a classmate, co-worker, family member, or roommate. However, it is crucial for people who recognize symptoms of mental health conditions in others to address their perspective with the person they believe may be struggling. Building a strong community sometimes requires difficult or uncomfortable conversations. And respecting the dignity of community members requires these difficult conversations to be handled with kindness. NAMI has some tools for how to approach a community member you believe is experiencing a decrease in their mental illness, including:  

  • Finding a space to talk that is comfortable for both of you and private 
  • Use straightforward, relaxed, and respectful communication for the whole conversation  
  • Use active listening skills to help them feel more comfortable about opening up 
  • Come from a place of care and support rather than a place of “knowing what’s best” for the other person 

The main points to remember when talking with someone about an outside perception of their mental health is to be genuine, be understanding, and do not bring assumptions into the conversation. Everyone knows themselves best. Supporting a loved one in their mental health journey means listening to what they want their healing to be. Giving a list of possible outlets for them to try is appropriate as long as they are offered as suggestions and not ultimatums. Including ideas about how the other person can increase their awareness of their mental health shows that the conversation is coming from a place of care rather than a place of control. The list of ideas can be accessible therapy outlets (like the University Counseling Services), healthier coping skills (such as coloring before bed instead of watching TV, calling a friend when you feel sad instead of listening to “sad” music, or writing down the emotions they are feeling instead of holding all their emotions in), and even a weekly check-in with someone they trust and know has the emotional energy to provide that level of support.  

The Office of Health Promotion and Wellness wants every DePaul community member to know that they are not alone in their mental health journey. Recognizing and increasing mental health wellness in ourselves is not meant to be done alone. Talking about mental health, checking in on each other, and offering appropriate support are ways that our community can move from being aware of mental health effects on campus to taking action that increases the wellness of every Blue Demon.  


Visit the pages on nami.org to read more about the signs of mental health stress and how to approach loved ones who may need support with their mental health wellness: 



Health Promotion and Wellness Spotlight: Collegiate Recovery Community

The Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) at DePaul was created to give DePaul students and alumni peer support in their recovery from substance use, mental health conditions, and eating concerns. CRC hosts weekly meetings, connects students in recovery to new resources, and engages in continuing education to ensure a safe environment for all participants in the recovery process.  HPW believes that by engaging in recovery services with peers, individuals can obtain academic, social, and personal success.  

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines recovery as “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.” 

To uphold this definition CRC holds weekly meetings led by HPW staff where members of DePaul’s recovery community can interact with other individuals who are also in the recovery process. Even if you participate in 12-step programs or NAMI meetings, the weekly CRC meetings are a place where people can freely talk about how mental health, substance use, and eating concerns can intersect with staff and peers who also understand that recovery from multiple experiences sometimes happens simultaneously. The meetings alternate every other week from large group discussions (all participants of that week’s meeting stay in the main Zoom room as everyone responds to the question of the week) to small group discussions (participants are split into rooms based on the type of recovery that is most relevant to them and respond to the weekly question in the small group). The CRC holds the recovery meetings every Thursday from 5 PM-6:30 PM. Upcoming meeting topics include: 

  • Healthy Boundaries  
  • Healthy Coping Mechanism: Tools in Your Toolbox 
  • Spirituality in Recovery 


May is Mental Health Awareness month! In honor of this time, the Collegiate Recovery Community is hosting a Crowdfund campaign to extend support of DePaul students and alumni actively in recovery. The tiers of the Crowdfund are: 

  • $10 (this amount will help CRC continue to make and distribute media that educates DePaul about resources available for recovery support). 
  • $50 (this amount will be used for training materials to teach staff and allies about how to be supportive, using motivational interviewing, and how they can aid in destigmatizing recovery) 
  • $250 (this amount will help current students seeking recovery who have unplanned financial needs that result from a mental health condition or substance use).