Tag Archives: counseling center

Me, Myself and I! Why Self-Care is Essential, and How to Practice It

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See if this situation sounds familiar: On my day off last week, I knew that I should read for class, start writing a paper, do some work for a club I belong to, finish a task for work, and then get to bed early. I was already tired and frazzled from the week so far, but I had a busy weekend ahead, so I wanted to get a lot of work done that day.

Typical college day, right? We’re pulled in many different directions; classes, work, clubs and activities can feel overwhelming very quickly. But there is a mindset that can help us feel more balanced and relaxed: self-care.

self-care-calvin-n-hobbesHere’s what I actually decided to do on my day off: I slept late, made some tea, read a magazine, started reading for class, got tired of the reading and took a nap, cooked an actual dinner, and then finished the reading. The next day, I felt more prepared to tackle the work that was left, and I felt more “at peace” about what I could and couldn’t get done.

Did I do all the things that I thought I “should” do? Nope. But did relaxing still benefit me? Absolutely!

What is self-care?

Self-care is just what it sounds like: taking care of yourself. It sounds simple, so why is it so hard to practice? It’s because self-care requires us to do three things, which don’t always come naturally:

  1. Be aware of what we need in order to feel better.
  2. Understand that it’s okay for us to take care of ourselves.
  3. Commit to doing the things that make us feel better, on a daily basis.

Let’s break these things down:

  1. Being aware of what you need can be a very enlightening experience! Sometimes your body tells you very clearly what you need (like sleep if you’re tired, food if you’re hungry), but sometimes you have to look a little closer. A few examples:
    • Does eating a certain type of food energize you, or make you feel sluggish?
    • Does being physically active amp you up, or calm you down?
    • Do you need some time alone to recharge, or do you feel best when you’re with a group of people?
    • How much sleep do you usually need to feel OK the next day?

Self-awareness requires us to pay attention to how we feel, which can feel strange if you haven’t done it before. But once you start paying attention, it’s amazing how much you can learn about yourself!

  1. Once you know a few things that help you feel better, what’s next? The second step requires self-value. Self-value or self-worth is the idea that you feel as if your presence plays a valuable role in the world around you. It is very easy to let other people’s needs and expectations of us (professors, supervisors, co-workers, classmates, family, and even friends) seem like they shouldWhile being responsible, generous, and team-oriented are still important, it’s just as important to help yourself feel your best. It’s like the safety notice on an airplane, telling you to put on your oxygen mask before helping someone else; to be able to do anything else, you have to keep yourself safe!

Take my example. If I stayed tired and frazzled, I probably wasn’t going to do my work nearly as well as if I was relaxed or refreshed. So I might as well attend to my needs, knowing that in the end I’ll be better prepared for whatever else I have to do.

  1. The last piece of self-care is making a commitment to practicing it. The good news is, you’re going to feel better when you practice it! The not-so-good news is, it’s hard to do, even when you really want to do it. To use the airplane example, it’s very easy to help someone else put on their mask first, especially if you’re used to doing things that way. Sometimes, it can also feel like something you do for self-care is just one more thing on your way-too-long to-do list.

It takes a commitment, one day at a time, to remember to put yourself first. It takes a commitment to change your perspective. Self-care doesn’t have to be a task to get done. Self-care is a tool to help you feel better about yourself, and to help you perform that much better at all the other things you do in life.

There’s one big thing to make clear: self-care should not be confused with procrastination. They may seem similar, but self-care is a proactive effort to nurture yourself; procrastination is an avoidance tactic.

So the next time you’re in the middle of a jam-packed week, take a few moments to think about what you need in order to feel better. Then think about whether you’re worth it (here’s agy59mufeoslekbtiq1iv hint: you are). Then be brave and take care of yourself! Maybe not everything you wanted to get done will get done. But how important were all of those things? I’ll bet they weren’t as important as feeling better! So take that nap, or drink that tea, or catch up on your favorite TV show, and be proud that you’ve chosen to take care of yourself!

Lauren Drinkwater
Graduate Assistant
The Counseling Center

How to Help a Friend

“He’s stopping coming to class…I’m worried about him.”

“I’m afraid that my roommate has an eating disorder.”

“Every time I see her, she’s drunk. She’s not doing well. ”

“I think he could hurt himself…what do I do?” hero-friends

These are just a few statements we’ve heard from students at the TU Counseling Center. These friends look similar to our ongoing clients. They’re worried, stressed, and concerned about a fellow student.

It won’t likely surprise you to hear that many TU students are struggling. The statistics are concerning. The 2013 National College Health Assessment study found that about one-third of U.S. college students struggled to function in the last year because of symptoms of depression. The Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State found that around 30% of clients at University Counseling Centers across the country have seriously considered suicide.

You’ve likely had a friend who you were concerned about but felt uncertain how you could be helpful. Perhaps you’ve worried that bringing up problems could make the friend feel uncomfortable, or worse, angry at you. Maybe you’ve tried to help already and felt some pushback. We’d urge you to not give up. As a friend, you’re positioned to possibly have an influence. The goal shouldn’t be to fix the problem (whatever it is that your friend is struggling with), but to show support and assist the friend in getting help from professionals.

When considering approaching someone who is struggling, it’s common to feel some discomfort. Keep in mind the goal of the intervention: to assist your friend with obtaining access to help. Here’s some steps for reaching out to your friend:

  1. The conversation should take place in a private setting, away from distractions. Avoid planning a large intervention as one on one will likely work best. Everyone involved should be clear headed so avoid talking after getting back from a party.
  1. Begin by expressing concern for your friend’s well-being, or safety if relevant. Share examples, things that your friend has done or said. Something like “I’ve noticed X, Y and Z. I’m worried about you.”
  2. Allow space for your friend to respond to your concerns. Listen carefully, demonstrating empathy and a non-judgmental attitude.
  1. Share information about campus resources, encouraging your friend to make appointments as soon as able. Be willing to help your friend make these appointments, maybe dialing the phone number or walking the friend to the building. If your friend doesn’t want to seek services on campus, help them find options off campus. The Counseling Center’s Community Providers Database might be helpful.
  2. Don’t let this be the last conversation about your concerns. Check in periodically to offer additional encouragement and support. If your friend isn’t open to making appointments when you first try, don’t give up. You might say “I still want you to think about getting some help. What do you think?”
  1. Supporting someone who is struggling can be draining particularly if you’re not careful with your own needs. Seek out your own support by talking with family, and friends. Consider seeking out your own counseling.Health0027

You can help your friend by initiating a caring conversation. Know that the Counseling Center is here to help. A consultation with us might provide more individualized suggestions and an opportunity to practice the intervention.

Jaime Fenton, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Director of Clinical Services
TU Counseling Center

Feeling Lost @TU? Get Involved @TU!!

Maybe the Fall 2013 semester is your first at Towson, or maybe you’re a seasoned Tiger. Whether you are just settling into your new residence hall, live off-campus (or at home), it is never too late to get involved on campus! While a tremendous amount of learning occurs in the classroom during your years at TU, getting involved with groups/organizations on campus can create opportunities to improve your self-care while building new relationships. 

Getting involved has so many benefits, not just for the improvement of the campus community at large, but for individual well-being and satisfaction as well. First, and this is especially important for freshmen and transfer studInvolvement_Fair0002ents, joining an organization or club gives you a solid foundation to build positive friendships. Often, students find that joining a club or organization that you are passionate about makes it easy to meet people with similar interests.  This can be a great way to begin building relationships on campus.

Although it might be a little intimidating to go to club or organizational meeting for the first time, we’ve come up with some steps that might make the process a little easier:

  1. Grab a Friend.  Having another person that is interested in getting involved on campus makes it easier to approach student and organization leaders. So grab a friend, and get going!
  2. Find your Passion. You are here to follow your passion, but we’re college students and might not always know what our passion in life is yet.  Trying out different clubs and groups on campus is a wonderful opportunity to explore your interests further, learn more about yourself, and see what truly lights you up. Think of the process as an experiment.
    To find out about some options, visit: https://involved.towson.edu/.  The Counseling Center also offers peer education programs related to body image, drug and alcohol use, sexual assault, and wellness and self-care. This is a great way to support your fellow students, learn useful skills, and help develop the TU community (http://www.towson.edu/counseling/peered/).
  3. Be Honest.  You might not like every club you try out, and that’s okay. Give it a shot and if it’s not for you, be honest with yourself and with the leader of the club.  Communicate the reasons you won’t be continuing to participate. It’s polite and better than never coming back.
  4. Be Brave.  One of our favorite phrases is “put yourself out there.”  Although this comes easier to some than others, taking risks and learning how to thrive in new situations are important pieces of the personal growth puzzle. Use your resources on the Towson website, your RA’s, older classmates, and professors to find out more of what Towson has to offer. It is even possible to start your own organization, if you so desire! (http://www.towson.edu/studentactivities/studentorganizations/HowtoStart.asp)

Look for opportunities to make positive connections with other people in your communities, starting now. You might make some new friends or discover a new passion.  Regardless, challenging yourself to grow is an important part of your individual development.  One of the best ways to do that is to put yourself out there and get involved!

Melissa Weinberg & Mary Rosekrans
Graduate Assistants
The Counseling Center

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