PERSONAL SIDE NOTE ON MENTAL HEALTH: We believe that thriving mental health is very key to all your success at Olaf. It is therefore important that you take care of your mental health. Do all the things (or most of) you know you need to do to be in the correct headspace for learning. These may be exercise, meditation, some alone time (Natural Lands are an excellent option), keeping in touch with your family, etc. Recognize and use your support structures.  

St. Olaf is a wonderful place and students are oftentimes very active and busy. This, however, can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Mental Health is very important not only to your success but to your well being. Let’s talk a bit about mental health, types of struggles that might occur, and some important resources on campus that deal with mental health, and that can help you with your struggles.

 

What is Mental Health?

 

Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. As it is commonly related to a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.

 

Mental Health at St. Olaf

 

Mental Health challenges are common among students on the Hill. Mental Health can be affected by many factors, such as challenges in life, with other students, stress related to issues back home, or an upcoming exam. Stress, Anxiety, Depression, and Sleep Deprivation are the most common mental health disorders and the most frequent disorders that college students go through. Depression and Anxiety are very common on our campus, and if you are struggling with mental health on any scale – it’s okay, don’t hesitate to ask for health. 

 

What is Stress?

 

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. In college, some say, that stress is contagious because even the calmest students could get stressed when they see their peers stressed. However, if a person knows him/herself well, then they could simply reverse the causes of the stress by actions called “De-stress”.

 

  1. Get enough sleep. Inadequate or poor-quality sleep can negatively affect your mood, mental alertness, energy level, and physical health.
  2. Learn relaxation techniques. Meditation, Self-reflection, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, deep breathing exercises, and yoga are powerful stress-busters.
  3. Strengthen your social network. Connect with others by taking a class, joining an organization, or participating in a support group. Or simply take me-time.
  4. Hone your time-management skills. The more efficiently you can juggle work and personal needs, the lower your stress level.
  5. Try to resolve stressful situations if you can. Don’t let stressful situations fester. Take a break from everything, and think about how could the problem/issue/stressful situation be solved. If you can’t, have some tea with a friend, counselor, advisor, …etc.
  6. Nurture yourself. Treat yourself with something you enjoy doing. Truly savor an experience: for example, eat slowly and really focus on the taste and sensations of each bite. Take a walk or a nap, or listen to your favorite music using the Library’s headphones. Again, remember – me-time.
  7. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends, advisors, counselors, Wellness Center, and/or Boe House if stress and anxiety persist, talk to your doctor.
  8. Again please reach out for help. There are support structures put in place for you. Your ISCs will always be there for you if you need to talk to someone. Please reach out.

 

Anxiety

 

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Examples that would cause anxiety are, but not limited to, how well did you do on the test, how did my job interview go, this is the first time I am performing in front of people singing in a choir, soccer game tomorrow is vital…, etc.

 

There are several ways that one could tackle anxiety before it happens or during its occurrence:

  1. Exercise. Physical activity helps your body and mind. Go to the gym. Take a jog. Go for a walk. Do yoga. Play Frisbee. Just get moving!
  2. Eat a balanced diet. Don’t skip meals. Try to eat from all of the food groups. Try to minimize soda and coffee because caffeine can trigger anxiety and panic attacks.
  3. Get involved. Being active in the community creates a support network and gives you a break from your everyday stress.
  4. Do your BEST instead of trying to be PERFECT. We all know perfection isn’t possible, so be proud of however close you get.
  5. Take a timeout. Take a deep breath and count to 10. Stepping back from a problem lets you clear your head. Do yoga. Meditate. Get a massage. Learn relaxation techniques. Listen to music. Do some me-time.
  6. Put things in perspective. Think about your situation. Ask yourself whether it’s really as bad as you think it is or if you could be blowing it out of proportion. Sit outside for a couple of minutes, breathe, and think of the situation(s) and how they could be solved.
  7. Talk to someone. Don’t bottle up emotions to the verge of explosion. Reach out to your roommate, significant other, counselor…,etc. if you’re feeling low.
  8. Find out what triggers your anxiety. Take notes or write in a journal when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, and then look for patterns.

 

What is Depression?

 

In the psychiatric sense, depression is a mental condition characterized by feelings of severe despondency (a state of low spirits caused by loss of hope or courage) and dejection (a sad and depressed state; low spirits), typically also with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep. 

 

But what are the symptoms of depression?

 

 

Feelings:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Guilt
  • Moodiness
  • Angry outbursts
  • Loss of interest in friends, family and favorite activities, including sex

Thoughts:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Trouble remembering
  • Thoughts of harming yourself
  • Delusions and/or hallucinations can also occur in cases of severe depression

Behaviors:

  • Withdrawing from people
  • Substance abuse
  • Missing work, school or other commitments
  • Attempts to harm yourself

Physical problems:

  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Unexplained aches and pains 
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in sleep – sleeping too little or too much

 

The treatments of depression are various and they range from chatting with a close friend or a counselor to going to the various resources on campus (Wellness Center, Boe House/Counselling center, College Ministry…, etc, visit St.Olaf Website for resources related to mental health.

 

Sleep Deprivation:

 

 Sleep deprivation is the condition of not having enough sleep; it can be either chronic or acute. A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness and weight loss or weight gain. It adversely affects the brain and cognitive function.

 

At St. Olaf during winter times, the sun will set at around 4:30pm, which means much less daylight than many other places where most students come from. This lack of sunlight makes us more likely to develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD can be extreme: mood swings, anxiety, sleep problems, or even suicidal thoughts. However, with at least 30-minutes of exercise a day and compensation of Vitamin D via sources such as drinkable Fish-Oil, will help you cope with the lack of sunlight during winter times.

 

When to take action:

 

Mental health is often regarded as an approach to treat and solve existing issues.  It is important to remember that mental health and care do not only start when problems occur. You don’t have to wait until you are burnt out to take action. Preventive methods and healthy lifestyles allow for the improvement of the quality of life and experience here on the hill. In addition, a healthy lifestyle can optimize your potential and allow you to reach your goals as you grow and develop at St. Olaf. 

 

A lifestyle that incorporates mental care into its daily routine, helps you avoid developing mental illnesses as well as allows you to enjoy your college experience. Mediation, exercise, and enough sleep, etc.. are known to help prevent individuals from crashing and developing mental illnesses.

 

Resources on campus

 

St. Olaf has several important resources in case you find yourself overwhelmed, stressed, or need someone to talk to. They can be confidential and non-confidential.

Confidential Resources are the ones that are not required to disclose any information of the student unless their life is in danger or there have been cases of abuse. 

Non-Confidential Resources are the ones who can disclose the information if they deem it necessary, for your own well-being and safety.

 

Below, the resources are listed, with a short explanation of what you can get out of it. 

 

Peer Educators at the Wellness Center:

The Wellness Center serves as a resource to promote awareness and education on issues relating to healthy lifestyles. They provide prevention and intervention services for alcohol and other drug use and abuse concerns.

 

Peer Educators (PE) who staff The Wellness Center are available to talk with students one-on-one during office hours. Students are encouraged to come in and talk with a PE on any health-related issue. Peer Educators are current students who provide approximately 10 programs per month on topics such as chemical health, nutrition, relationships, sexual health, and mental health.

 

The Peer Educators are St.Olaf students that the institution has given the training to be qualified to help students with various mental, physical, social concerns that the students have. They also offer chocolates, drinks, munchies during their office hours for students to come and get a snack if they need to. 

 

The Counseling Center (Boe House):

Boe House Counseling Center was established by St. Olaf College to enhance the personal growth and development of its students. It supports students in their academic pursuits and facilitates personal and interpersonal learning and growth. Their programs are preventive as well as remedial.  Boe House Counseling Center offers a variety of services and programs, including individual counseling, group counseling, workshops, testing, consultation, and referrals.  Services are provided without cost to all currently enrolled St. Olaf students, and they follow the ethical and confidentiality guidelines of the Minnesota Board of Psychology.

 

But isn’t Counseling for crazy people? 

 

No. In the United States, it is very common for anyone to go to counseling — whether it is just one time to get advice on a single issue, or if you need regular visits for more long-term care. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. 

The location of the house is at St. Olaf Avenue – 2 minutes walk from Buntrock Commons (Campus Center) – which allows us to provide some personal space for the students to feel comfortable and understand that confidentiality is of importance to the counseling process. 

 

The Deans:

Dean is defined as a senior member of a college, with disciplinary and advisory functions. At St.Olaf the deans have interesting backgrounds and they love talking to students and hearing about their good times and how they can make sure that their experience at St.Olaf can be maximized and enjoyed to the fullest extent. They are also open for conversation since they see every student as an individual with an interesting background and story.

 

The office role of the dean is to serve as consultants to individual students and student groups about student issues and concerns, including personal and academic matters. Questions or concerns about policies, procedures, or problems are encouraged. If you need assistance in resolving a college issue or are unsure about where you can go to get assistance, the Dean of Students’ Office is a good starting place.

 

 

Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion:

In this space, students from various backgrounds, be it based on race, nationality, sexual orientation, background, culture, …etc. sit together and enjoy conversations because the space offered is welcoming to initiate friendships based on various ideologies. In addition, this Center is where all the administrative information given to the International Student Counselors is located, which means that counselors might spend some time there, but not necessarily always. Furthermore, the Center aims to provide resources and support for the community to engage, educate, and enrich campus life for all students.

 

Mobile Crisis Team:

Sometimes an individual could have an extreme breakdown situation where one cannot find an immediate solution. The Mobile Crisis Team is a service provided in Northfield to intervene in the situation immediately by calling 1-877-399-3040. It consists of two staff members who are available from 12 midnight to 8 a.m. (0:00 to 08:00) to respond to mental health crises in the community. They are short-term face-to-face mental health services to help individuals to cope with stress, use resources, avoid hospitalization, and develop action plans.

 

You are not alone

It’s easy to get carried away with the busy lifestyle of an Ole, but if you ever feel overwhelmed, stressed, or need help with anything, don’t hesitate to ask for help! It can be hard to ask, but know that we are here for you and are more than willing to help, as we were helped when we needed it! If you have any more questions, feel free to contact me or any of the Student Counselors.

 

 

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