Wellness Wednesday Guide: Sleep

You’ve heard us say it before – but we’ll say it again… sleep is super important and is a crucial support for a healthy body and mind! Let’s be real here for a second. I totally understand that it’s not always the easiest to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but that’s the number that the experts at the National Sleep Foundation recommend. (Yeah, alright so we know a lot about the topic of sleep and its importance, but there’s no way we could know more than the experts over there, that’s for sure! If you don’t want to take our word for it at least take theirs.) Sleep is often overlooked during times where we have a lot on our plate. Think midterms, finals, big papers, etc. Maybe this is a good opportunity to take a look at some of our previous articles on scheduling, planning, and effective time management so you can knock those assignments out of the park, or check our article on naps. Just an idea! Studies have shown that we need sleep in order to effectively retain all the knowledge we cram in our brains last minute. However, I’m sure you already know this! You’ve heard it time and time again, yet for some reason, we still overlook sleep and disregard it more often than we would like to admit. If you’re reading this at 3 AM and have been staring at a textbook or PDF’s for the last 7 hours take this as a sign to get some much-needed rest. If you’re still not convinced, let me try and throw some compelling points your way. If you join(ed) us for our Wellness Wednesday workshop you might recall: 

  • Proper sleep plays a huge role in supporting physical health (such as supporting the immune system and lowering the risk of certain diseases).
  • Proper sleep helps support positive mental health.
  • Proper sleep helps improve cognitive functioning, like memory retrieval and learning. (There’s that whole memory retrieval thing that I was telling you about!) 

If you’re anything like me then you’ll find yourself saying something along the lines of this. “Yeah yeah. Okay, I get that sleep is important. But so is endless scrolling on TikTok and Instagram in bed.” Or,  “what if I miss an important text?” Alright, maybe TikTok isn’t THAT important but I’ll still keep my phone by my bedside just in case. Big no! The key to proper sleep starts well before we even close our eyes. Since we’re in 2021 and it still needs to be said – it’s best to keep devices off and stored away from our bed. Think of bed as a place where we sleep and not a place where we should be scrolling social media. This might be upsetting for some (like myself, honestly), but I don’t make the rules – I’m just the messenger. Think about it though, if we condition ourselves to think of our bed as a place where we scroll social media or watch YouTube then it would make perfect sense that we might resort to that if we can’t sleep. Something as simple as a phone in bed has the potential to destroy any good sleep habits we’ve made! An effective sleep routine can do wonders and help us get the sound sleep our bodies deserve. Here’s an example of what works for me. 

  • First, I’ll set a reminder for a wind-down time at night and an alarm to wake up in the morning. Remember, I’m aiming for 7-9 hours! Eventually, my body will know this schedule and I won’t need any kind of alarms. 
  • I make sure to avoid all caffeine past 5 PM. I’m a coffee addict but I’ll switch to tea at night. I’ve found this helps tremendously.
  • I’ll try my best to avoid screens ~30 minutes before bedtime. (The blue light stimulates the brain and keeps me wired. No thanks. Though, I must confess… I’m not perfect at this.)
    • Putting down technology gives me a good chance to read that book I’ve started but never finished. The best part? No blue light from books! And a side note: E-Ink has no blue light. E-reader fans rejoice!
  • Lastly, Before I slide under the blanket I’ll put my phone to charge on my desk across the room.
    • 1. No distractions or temptation to indulge in endless scrolling on TikTok or Instagram. 
    • 2. When the alarm goes off in the morning I’ll have to get up and out of bed. Thus, reducing the chance of me slithering back under the covers. 

If for some reason I just can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes I’ll hop out of bed and do a little more reading under a light that’s a warmer color. The more orange the light output the better it will be on your eyes at night. It’s never good to lay in bed awake for more than 20 minutes, according to the experts.

If you’re looking for a little more help in improving your snooze we run a great program called Refresh Sleep. It’s a 7-week online program filled with a whole bunch of tips and tools for better sleep. Best of all, it’s free! 

If you have any other questions about sleep feel free to reach out to us in the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness! We’ll always have an answer to your questions (or point you in the right direction to find an answer). Never hesitate to contact us if you need anything. 

Office of Health Promotion and Wellness

Phone: (773) 325 – 7129

Email: hpw@depaul.edu

Social Media: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: @healthydepaul

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Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Others, Take Care, DePaul!

Coping with COVID Away from Home

When I first left my home country to come to the United States I was not sure what exactly to expect. I was about to start a new chapter in my life. I was both nervous and excited, a feeling that somehow reminded me of Jonas in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, but I wasn’t afraid. Home, the Commonwealth of Dominica, was only a plane ride away, I had nothing to fear and was enjoying the opportunity given to me. I was so happy when I started university at DePaul, I finally had an idea of the direction of my life, what I wanted to do, granted I had to keep editing bits and pieces here and there. I was content. This isn’t to say that it was without ups and downs, even though I was happy in Chicago, I still missed home. 

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Wellness Wednesday – Mental Health

Mental Health. Why is it important? Why are you hearing so much about mental health these days? It’s relevant right now because this month, May, is Mental Health Awareness Month. So let’s talk about it!

What is mental health? Mental health refers to our cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being. It is all about how people think, feel, and behave. People sometimes use the term “mental health” to mean the absence of a mental disorder. Mental health can affect daily living, relationships, and physical health. Mental wellbeing describes your mental state – how you are feeling and how well you can cope with day-to-day life. Our mental wellbeing is dynamic. If you have good mental wellbeing you are able to feel relatively confident in yourself and have positive self-esteem. Additionally, you can feel and express a range of emotions.

It’s also our ability to handle the many things that come our way. Our mental health is something that is not commonly talked about, and therefore seems to have a lot of grey area around the subject. This makes it even more important to be talked about. The stigma surrounding mental health has built a wall around the topic. Conversations on mental health would end before they even began. The code of silence was (and still sometimes is) real. Let’s work here to break down that wall. 

It’s important we start the conversation because maybe someone might never know that their mental health is connected to their physical health. That’s right; the correlation between an upset stomach and racing thoughts is valid! For many, it’s a relief to know that what they’re feeling is normal. For most, the only way to come to this realization is by talking about it and listening to others talk about it. 

Stressors in our lives will have a substantial impact on our mental health. As college students, we’re well accustomed to stress. I, for one, excel in the fine art of procrastination. I call it an art because the amount of finesse it takes to turn-in an assignment thirty seconds before the submission deadline is one that is is gained only through rigorous practice. I can confidently say this negatively affects my mental health. In our presentation, we talked about the stress curve. I’m sure I won’t be the first to admit that I often find myself in the “zone of delusion”. I may think that I’m doing my best work when in reality I’m not. This kind of stress may only be short-term, but that still is impacting my mental health, as mentioned.

We know that both short-term and long term stress will impact our mental health. If you’re familiar with Hope For The Day (a non-profit supporting proactive mental health awareness and suicide prevention), you might know a little about their soda bottle example. If none of this rings a bell for you, allow me to explain. Think of your mind like a bottle of soda. Stressors of the day, or the month, or the year, etc. all build pressure in our “soda bottle” mind. Without any relief, the pressure would build and we would explode. Think of that stage as a crisis stage requiring immediate intervention. We all have different thresholds. To alleviate some of this pressure we need to make use of “valves” – things that help us decompress and as the word suggests, valve! Personally, I find that making art or working out has become valuable ways to let off pressure in my soda bottle mind but it’s important to understand the actual act of self-care versus coping. They are close, though not identical. Coping strategies help us in the short-term. Long-term success is made easier when we develop healthy self-care strategies. Self-care and coping strategies work together to further improve our mental health and wellbeing. 

Self-care can do wonders in the short term but not every human struggle can be relieved with a simple act of self-care. Medically diagnosable disorders are more complex than just the average stressful day at the office. Biology plays a major role in mental health. A simple prescription can help balance the body’s natural chemicals when something may be off. There’s a common idea that taking medicine is weak. I’m here to tell you that’s the furthest thing from the truth. You’re not weak for taking an aspirin when you have a headache and you’re not weak for taking an anti-depressant when there’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. If we saw someone walking around with a broken ankle we wouldn’t tell them to shake it off; we’d get them professional medical care. We should be doing the same for mental health. I’m going to borrow a well-known phrase here, (another HFTD plug, sorry.) “It’s ok not to be ok.”

As always, all of us at Health Promotion & Wellness are here to support you and if you ever need anything, please, reach out. Our contact information is found on our website where you can set up an appointment or just give us a call and say “hey!”. Outside of DePaul Resources, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, but if you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency and in need of immediate help, dial 911. 

By breaking the silence we tear down the stigma surrounding mental health. Be proactive. Be productive. Start the conversation. 

You can view the corresponding Wellness Wednesday workshop video here!

Bringing The Outdoors Indoors

For those of us who call ourselves “adventurers”, “wanderers” or what have you, it’s easy to feel lost during this time; no pun intended. Understandably so, things just aren’t the same. The socially responsible voice playing in our head or on our Instagram feed (@whereslightfoot, anyone?) is telling us to stay home. Granted, I’ve been guilty of sneaking some much needed time on trails and paths but so has everyone else! I’m not using that to justify my time out, rather, the opposite. If we’re all out on the same trails or at the same parks then it’s easy to see how risky it can be. By all means, go for that walk or that bike ride – but do so responsibly! I can promise you that the day the green flag waves will be unimaginably wonderful. Until then, let’s try something new – something different. I bet you didn’t know that Google Earth offers virtual tours of 31 National Park sites. Maybe you didn’t realize the vast amount of nature films and documentaries on the most popular streaming services. You’d be amazed at all the interesting and fun ways to bring the outdoors indoors! Here are just a few. 

I mentioned Google Earth but I didn’t tell you what a vast resource it actually can be. You’re able to take all sorts of adventures from the comfort of your couch or under the covers of your bed. As your local guide today, my first suggestion would be exploring some of our nation’s most treasured places; the National Parks. The best part? No admission fees! Give yourself an hour and you can mosey around Arches National Park in Utah for a few minutes and then find yourself in Maine, at Arcadia National Park, for the rest of the time. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy then shoot on over to the Florida Everglades – all before lunch. I encourage you to check out the “voyager” tab inside Google Earth for a few more surprises too!

If you’re a nonfiction fanatic like me then I’m sure you can appreciate the long list of outdoor adventure films and documentaries that streaming services like Disney Plus, Netflix, and many more, have listed. I’ll follow with some of my favorites here with a link to their homepage if they have one – but be sure to check if they’re still streaming:

Into The Wild (2007) 

Nature (38 Seasons and still going!) – PBS

National Parks Adventure (2016) – Netflix

The Dawn Wall (2017) – Netflix

Mountain (2017) – Netflix 

Night On Earth (2020) – Netflix Original Series

Jumbo Wild (2015) – Amazon Prime Video

Antarctica: A Year On Ice (2017) – Amazon Prime Video

Something a little different: At The Drive-In (2019) – Amazon Prime Video

If all this screen time lately has you overwhelmed then I’d urge you to find something else to break up the monotony that we’re coming to know. If you’re feeling something more stimulating try things like potting plants! These can be for either indoor or outdoor beauty. It’s hard to argue with the benefits of indoor plants. If you find yourself as one of those people who can’t seem to keep a plant alive for more than a few weeks (like me, oops.) there are always alternatives. Pressing flowers can be a great way to preserve some gems that you’d like to hold on to – just remember to respect wildlife and keep in mind the Leave No Trace Principles if you’re looking outside. REI has a great blog that includes a number of outdoorsy activities that are worth checking out while we’re hunkered down at home. 

We’re having to live life a little differently right now, and frankly, that’s the perfect time to experience something new! As I hope you’ve seen, experiencing something new doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the house. Let’s make the most of this time and find adventure in places where we’d least expect it. Go watch a movie or read a blog. Pot a plant or just admire their beauty from afar. I hope you found some solace in this piece and remember to take good care of yourself. Let’s rekindle our love for the great outdoors and find wanderlust in new responsible ways so we’re ready when the green flag waves.