Advice for a Fun, Safe Spring Break

We know what you’re thinking — only one more day until spring break! Whether you plan to fly to a tropical destination, head to the mountains to hit the slopes or go home for some quality time with friends and family, here are a few tips to ensure you have a fun and safe spring break:

On the Road

  • Driving while tired can have similar effects on your body as drunk driving. Trade drivers often or stop for the night.
  • Check the laws of your destination (e.g., open container, cell phone use).
  • Distracted driving is dangerous. Have passengers navigate, control music and text/call for the driver.

Sun and Slope Safety

  • Sunburns don’t just happen at the beach. Always use sunscreen and lip balm with at least SPF 15 and reapply often.
  • Protect your eyes with lenses that block out UV rays A and B.
  • Drink extra water: Sun exposure and altitude can be dehydrating

Condom Sense

  • Condoms help prevent pregnancy and STDs. Have them handy even if you don’t plan on being sexually active — a friend might need it!
  • Use water- or silicone-based lubricant for increased sensation and decreased chances of condoms breaking.
  • Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault. Being drunk may make your partner unable to consent.

Personal Safety

  • Have a plan before you go out. Will everyone go back to the hotel room together or are some staying with a friend? Make it specific and stick to it.
  • Know a friend or family member’s contact information in case you can’t access your phone.
  • Consider the risks associated with what you share online while you are out of town.
  • Don’t drink anything you didn’t see mixed/poured or that has been left alone.

Safer Drinking

  • If you drink, eat before and while you do it. High protein foods slow the absorption of alcohol.
  • Before going out, make a plan for getting home safely (e.g., sober driver, taxi company or ride share service).
  • If you drink, alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks throughout the night to stay hydrated and pace yourself.

For more wellness tips, follow our blog. We post weekly about topics YOU care about. To request a blog post topic, email uhc@unl.edu.

Top 10 Alcohol and Party Safety Tips

by Alexandra Dahl, University Health Center health promotions analyst

Drinking has long been a popular activity for college students nationwide. While the safest option—and legal restriction for those under 21—is obviously abstinence, this may not be realistic for all.

Whether or not you plan to drink, take time to educate yourself on safe alcohol consumption so that you and your friends have fun and stay safe.

Here are our top 10 alcohol and party safety tips and tricks: 

  1. Make a plan before you go out. Buddy up with a friend and stick with them. If you’re going out with a group, make sure the entire group stays together throughout the night.
  2. Eat a protein-filled snack before drinking. This slows the absorption of alcohol into your body.
  3. Watch your drink be made or make it yourself. This ensures no one is tampering with your drink, and it helps you know how much alcohol you are consuming.
  4. Drink a cup of water in between each alcoholic drink. This helps you pace yourself and stay hydrated.
  5. Keep track of how many drinks you have consumed throughout the night. Alcohol takes a while to process, so this practice will keep you from getting too drunk too quickly.
  6. Never leave your drink unattended. You cannot be sure what will happen to it while you’re away. If you lose sight of your drink, get a new one.
  7. Remember there is no way to “sober up” quickly. The tricks you may have heard about drinking coffee or taking a cold shower don’t work. It just takes time—about one hour per alcoholic drink (standard size) consumed.
  8. Know the signs of alcohol poisoning. If you or a friend begin to look blue or pale, experience nausea or vomiting, pass out or just don’t feel right in general, it’s best to get help. Do not put the person to bed to “sleep it off” or leave the person unattended—this could be dangerous.
  9. Know University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s alcohol policy
  10. No matter what you do, don’t drive. Designate a driver or call an Uber, Lyft or cab. Do this even if you’ve only had a few drinks. Alcohol affects everyone differently, so it’s best to just avoid driving.

On a final note, don’t drink only because you assume everyone’s doing it. The results of the fall 2016 National College Health Assessment II survey revealed UNL students perceived 93.4 percent of their peers drink when, in reality, only 60.5 percent drink. Don’t feel pressured to drink if you don’t want to—it should be your personal choice.

Want to learn more about safe drinking habits? Schedule a University Health Center alcohol safety presentation with our peer educators for your class, registered student organization, residence hall, Greek house, etc. For more information, contact Health Promotion & Outreach by calling 402.472.5000 or visiting http://health.unl.edu/hpo.

Understand the Hidden Signs of an Eating Disorder

By Heather Patterson Meyer, PsyD, MAT, Counseling and Psychological Services licensed psychologist and Eating Disorders Treatment Team coordinator

There are many myths out there about eating disorders, so it’s no wonder that it can be difficult to truly understand the risks and warning signs of an eating disorder.

Unlike what some people assume, eating disorders are not limited to a particular age group, gender, race, sexual orientation or other identifier. They can affect anyone. It’s also important to recognize that eating disorders are not a choice but a mental illness that develops over time. People with eating disorders did not “bring it on themselves.” Eating disorders are not limited to anorexia, but they also can include ARFID, binge eating disorder, bulimia, pica, rumination disorder and other unspecified feeding or eating disorder. Understanding all of this will help you better recognize warning signs of an eating disorder.

While there are many signs, here is a list of more subtle ones that often slip by unnoticed:

  • Excessively looking in the mirror
  • Negatively commenting on your physical appearance
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide your body shape
  • No longer eating with friends or family
  • Consuming caffeine to suppress your appetite
  • Constantly counting calories and/or micronutrients
  • Excessively chewing before swallowing
  • Taking a long time to eat
  • Obsessing over “clean eating
  • Consuming fewer calories in order to drink more alcohol
  • Frequently visiting nutrition websites
  • Spending hours exercising and obsessing over calories burned
  • Becoming upset if an exercise routine is disrupted and eating less to compensate
  • Using diet shakes, pills, teas, etc.
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities.

If you or a loved one is exhibiting these behaviors, it could be a hidden sign of an eating disorder. Help is available. The UHC Eating Disorders Treatment Team specializes in helping individuals struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. They offer individual counseling, support and therapy groups, nutritional counseling, medical evaluations and more. To talk to a member of the team, call 402-472-7450. You can also get help by calling the NEDA Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

For a full list of eating disorder warning signs, visit the Remuda Ranch website.

Also be sure to read Monday’s blog post about ways you can support Eating Disorders Awareness Week and help end the stigma surrounding eating disorders.

End the Stigma: Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2017

It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW), and this year’s theme is “It’s Time to Talk About It.”

We at the University Health Center (UHC) believe it’s time for the world to take eating disorders seriously as public health concerns. It’s time to get the facts and bust the myths. It’s time to celebrate recovery and to give people hope. It’s time to shatter the stigma.

We invite the University of Nebraska-Lincoln community to join the conversation with us, helping shine a light on eating disorders and put life-saving resources into the hands of those who need it.

Here are a few actions you can take to support EDAW and end the stigma: 

  1. Take a moment to learn about eating disorders. Visit the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness or National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) websites for information about the different types of eating disorders, popular eating disorder myths, etc. Also stay tuned for our Thursday blog post about eating disorder warning signs.
  2. Get screened. NEDA recommends everyone get screened for an eating disorder because they can often hide in plain sight. Whether you have serious concerns or are questioning your behavior or that of a loved one, we invite you to take this free, short screening.
  3. Get help. If you’ve discovered you or a loved one have an eating disorder, you are not alone, and help is available. The UHC Eating Disorders Treatment Team specializes in helping individuals struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. They offer individual counseling, support and therapy groups, nutritional support, medical evaluations and more. To talk to a member of the team, call 402-472-7450. You can also seek support by calling the NEDA Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
  4. Get involved. Attend one of the many EDAW events on campus this week, including a luncheon, self-care fair and more (See our poster at the top of this blog post or visit our calendar of events for a full list of activities). Promote #NEDAwareness on your social media accounts. Join an on-campus organization that advocates for eating disorders awareness and mental health support, like the Healthy Outlook Peer Educators or Active Minds.

Don’t Put Off A Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

By Anne Widga, University Health Center dietitian

February is American Heart Month, a national awareness campaign for heart disease. Although heart disease and heart attacks likely aren’t at the forefront of your mind as a college student, it’s important to be aware of the risks now so you can take steps to keep your heart healthy as you age.

Believe it or not, your current health behaviors as a college student can either reduce or increase your heart disease risk. According to this study, more than 50 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have at least one risk factor for coronary heart disease, and about 25 percent have plaque buildup in their arteries, which can cause a heart attack.

The first step to lower your risk is to know your numbers (e.g., cholesterol: total, good, bad and triglycerides), blood pressure and weight. Take this brief heart disease quiz and then talk to you primary care provider about ordering a baseline cholesterol screening. This screening is offered as part of the University Health Center’s wellness panel, which if doctor-ordered, is covered at no extra cost for University of Nebraska-Lincoln students who pay student fees (UPFF).

Knowing your family history is critical. If you can, ask your parents and grandparents if they have heart disease so you can know if you have a genetic risk. Be sure to tell your primary provider what you discover.

No matter your risk level, here are a few ways you can prevent heart disease right now:

Eat a Healthy Diet

Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains to increase your fiber intake as fiber plays an important role in cardiovascular disease prevention. Choose poultry and fish over red meat when possible. Eat healthy fats such as nuts and nut butters, avocados and olives, but adjust your caloric consumption accordingly to avoid weight gain.

Limit your intake of added sugars and sweetened beverages such as soda, juice and Gatorade. Limit your salt intake by eating foods in their natural state as often as possible; process foods have added sodium to preserve their shelf life.

If you need help making healthier choices or staying accountable, make an appointment with the University Health Center dietitian. UNL students who have paid student fees can receive their first nutrition counseling session at no extra charge. Call 402-472-5000 to make an appointment.

Be Physically Active Daily

Cardio activity is important, but so is strength training. Both are beneficial to improving your heart health, especially your “good” cholesterol—the HDL. You need at least 2 ½ hours of physical activity weekly.

Don’t be afraid to get creative about ways you exercise. Walk or bike across campus instead of driving. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Grab a friend and head to the Campus Rec Center for a group exercise class or a quick session in the cardio area or weight room. Join an intramural sports team. The possibilities are endless.

Limit Alcohol Intake

Drinking can raise your blood pressure and cause weight gain. If you drink, limit your consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. For further recommendations, see this American Heart Association webpage.

Reduce Your Stress

The American Heart Association reports that stress in young adults predicts middle-age blood pressure risk. If you’re feeling stressed, read our blog on self-compassion for coping tips. Our Counseling and Psychological Services team is here if you need someone to listen. Call 402-472-7450 to make an appointment. Students who pay student fees get their first four counseling sessions per academic year at no additional charge.

For more information on heart disease and American Heart Month, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

 

 

Celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Week 2017

By Alexandra Dahl, health promotions analyst at the University Health Center

Nearly everyone likes to receive gifts, right? It makes us feel good and is proof that we are cared for, loved and appreciated. But as nice as it is to receive, giving to others can have a positive impact on your life, too.

We’ve all heard the saying “it is better to give than to receive,” but is there actual research to back this claim? Turns out, there is—lots of it.

Research on “Acts of Kindness” (doing something thoughtful for someone else—random or not) denotes that giving may actually provide more benefits for the giver than the receiver. The studies show that performing acts of kindness increases a person’s positivity, morality and overall satisfaction with life over time and decreases stress, negative emotions, anxiety and depression (Pressman, Kraft & Cross, 2015; Buchanan & Bardi, 2010; Kravovsky, 2007).

It’s Random Acts of Kindness Week! Celebrate with the University Health Center by showing kindness to others at least once every day this week. Share your kindness moments with us on Twitter by tagging us (@UNLHealthCenter) and using the hashtag #UNLRAKweek.

Not sure how to get started? Here are a few ideas of ways you can show kindness to others this week:

  1. Give a sincere compliment.
  2. Hold the door for someone else.
  3. Help someone carry groceries.
  4. Write an encouraging note to a friend.
  5. Treat a friend to dinner.
  6. Volunteer for a cause important to you.
  7. Send someone you love a card.
  8. Brush the snow/ice off someone else’s car.
  9. Bring a treat to your friend/partner/roommate/class.
  10. Cook a meal for someone else.
  11. Leave a server a generous tip.
  12. Ask someone if they need help.
  13. Donate gently used belongings.
  14. Make eye contact and smile at a stranger.
  15. Leave flowers for someone to find.
  16. Text someone wishing them a good day.
  17. Pay for coffee for the person behind you in line.
  18. Frame a picture of you and someone you care about and give it to them.
  19. If a friend has a difficult exam coming up, ask them how you can help.
  20. Ask the cashier/receptionist/person helping you how their day is going.

For more information, visit https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/. Remember to share your RAK moments with us on Twitter!

Sources:

Buchanan, K. E., & Bardi, A. (2010). Acts of kindness and acts of novelty affect life satisfaction. The Journal of social psychology150(3), 235-237.

Krakovsky, M. (2007). The science of lasting happiness. Scientific American296(4), 36-38.

Pressman, S. D., Kraft, T. L., & Cross, M. P. (2015). It’s good to do good and receive good: The impact of a ‘pay it forward’style kindness intervention on giver and receiver well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology10(4), 293-302.

Stay Well This Winter

Last week, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, indicating six more weeks of winter. Although Groundhog Day is just folklore and weather predictions call for warmer temperatures over the next few days, this is Nebraska, where the weather could suddenly change at the drop of a hat.

Here are a few steps you can take to set yourself up for a healthy, successful last few weeks of winter:

Dress smart

It’s no secret that wearing layers will keep you warm. When choosing what to wear on bitterly cold days, be sure each layer you add is larger than the one underneath, which will help keep you from overheating. Ensure your coat is warm and comfortable. If you don’t have one, check Goodwill, Nebraska Crossing Outlets, Amazon, etc. Don’t forget your scarf, hat and gloves!

Protect your eyes and skin

Wear sunglasses even in winter months to protect you eyes from sun glare. Cold temperatures and a blustering wind can also dry out your skin, so use lotion to moisturize your face and hands and apply lip balm as needed.

Fight germs

Washing your hands with warm soapy water for 30 seconds is the best way to prevent germs from spreading, but it doesn’t hurt to have a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you on the go. No one likes getting sick, so save yourself the hassle by getting a flu shot (available to UNL students for free at the University Health Center). It’s also a good idea to have disinfecting wipes in your dorm room to wipe your commonly used items such as desks, backpacks, phones, light switches, door knobs and microwave buttons.

Be prepared for inclement weather

If you’re traveling anywhere, even within city limits, keep an emergency kit in your car in case of an accident or sudden bad weather. Your kit should include items such as:

  • A shovel
  • Windshield scarper and small broom
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Warm blanket(s) and extra clothes
  • Salt or cat litter for traction
  • Booster cables
  • Nonperishable food and bottled water
  • First aid kit

Treat your body kindly

Support your immune system by eating a well-balanced diet. Try to eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, dark leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli and peas.

Exercise regularly during the winter months to lower the risk of getting sick. Pick an activity you enjoy and schedule it into your day. Not sure where to start? Check out the Campus Rec Center!

Fight the winter blues

If you’re feeling irritable, are oversleeping or have a lack of energy, you might be struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Read our SAD blog post to learn more about how you can cope. Our Counseling and Psychological Services team can help. Call 402-472-7450 to make an appointment.

For more health and well-being tips, subscribe to our blog!