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SELF-CARE FOR THE LONG HAUL
We want every Ram to find ways to thrive and flourish, even during the tough times. We’re here to help.
Finding our own balance is important.
Getting through the regular stressors of daily life can often be challenging enough. It’s sometimes tough to find the right balance to take care of school, work, other responsibilities, and ourselves! Many of us have gotten used to prioritizing everything else above our own well-being. This may work in the short-term or for time limited situations, but over time it can really take a toll!
When unexpected stressors emerge, when we are faced with uncertainty, and when we experience prolonged stress, it is easy for our usual ways of coping to no longer be enough. We can become overloaded and overwhelmed. Often, we think that if we can just push through or ignore what we are feeling, it will go away. Most of the time, it helps to start by:
- Admitting that things are tough right now. Since our situations are unique to us, it's important to figure out where we are doing ok and where we are struggling. What each person needs right now is going to be different.
- Allowing ourselves some time to grieve our losses, big and small. There is no way to quantify grief. We each need time to feel and process the feelings that come with loss. University Counseling Services has an information page to learn more about grief.
- Reframing what "success" looks like for each of us. Sometimes, simply showing up and being present is a win.
- Changing the way we think about caring for ourselves.
Taking care of ourselves is a priority, not an afterthought.
It’s important for each of us to find intentional ways each day to practice the behaviors that are going to sustain us over time. When our ability to cope with stress is overloaded or taxed too heavily, we often reach for those things that will give us temporary relief or comfort in the moment. These aren’t always the things that keep us well and functioning at our best- especially if using things like food, distractions, or alcohol or other drugs becomes the go-to way that we cope when situations or feelings get too tough.
Quick tip: If you want to start a new self-care routine, consider starting small and tying the new habit into an existing one. Do you brush your teeth? Next time you brush, you could try introducing 3-5 minutes of deep breathing into your routine. When you brush again, it will remind you to also set aside time to breathe and relax.
Here are some basic daily activities that have a huge impact on our ability to be and stay well for the long haul:
- Getting nutritious food and ample hydration
- VCU Ram Pantry helps students access food.
- Adequate and restful sleep
- The Well's Mental Health Resource Guide also includes information to improve sleep quality.
- Physical activity
- VCU Recreational Sports has a wide variety of programs and services to help every Ram stay active, relax, and positively combat the effects of stress.
- Time to relax
Having access to resources to do all of these things isn’t always the reality for everyone. The VCU Dean of Students Office has a comprehensive list of both on and off-campus resources to help provide support meeting basic needs, including resources specifically for VCU Medical Campus (MCV) Students.
Worried about finances? You can still book virtual appointments through the Money Spot to talk with a peer coach.
Tuning into what we need helps us reset.
We should give ourselves a quick check-up each day to get a sense of how we are doing physically, mentally and emotionally. Using this S.T.O.P. practice from Mindful.org can help us learn more about when and how stress most impacts us. Chances are, if we take even a few minutes each day to tune in and listen to what our bodies and brains are telling us, we will get a sense of what is most needed for our well-being.
Being mindful is about being present in each moment without getting carried away by your thoughts. Learning to be more mindful can begin by shifting our focus into the present. Use this guide from The Well to help boost mental health and become more mindful or schedule an appointment in The Well's Resilience Lab or sign up for a yoga class through Rec Sports to practice these important skills.
Being gentle, kind and compassionate with ourselves first is important, too! We take such good care of each other, sometimes it helps to begin with ourselves. If we are having a tough day, it’s ok. Some days, we need that reminder: it’s ok to not be ok.
If we are having more days than not when we are not ok, that’s a good sign that we may need some extra help. It's important to talk with a friend, loved one, or other supportive person, and to learn what resources are available to help us when things seem to be piling up.
Knowing when and how to ask for help is a crucial element of self-care!
Rams rely on our Ramily and other sources to support our mental and emotional health. This includes friends, roommates, significant others, family, and religious leaders, and support groups (VCU Healthy Minds, Spring 2018). While remaining physically distant can be challenging (especially for the extroverts and huggers among us), taking care of each other is still a must- even if doing it virtually is still the best option for now. You can check out some great wisdom offered from VCU Rams in Recovery on Tips for the Pandemic from the Recovery Community.
Sometimes life gets overwhelming or hard to deal with on our own. It’s okay to ask for help! For many of us, that’s the first step in working through difficult experiences toward more positive ones. Make a list of people who support you and who you could ask for help. Not sure? You can check out these VCU Resources to tap into all that we have to offer.
Know the signs!
Remember, students can connect with University Counseling Services during the day or to access after-hours crisis services by calling (804) 828-6200.
If we are worried about our fellow Rams, we can also share concerns by contacting the VCU Dean of Students Office.
If you or a friend are experiencing any of these things, it's time to get some extra help. Learn more about warning signs and how to share your concerns with the VCU Dean of Students Office.
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Not showing up to classes or activities
- Posting cryptic messages on social media
- Losing interest in activities/work/school/socializing
- Feeling numb or hopeless
- Having difficulty with sleep
- Feeling constantly fatigued
- Excessively worrying
- Having recurring nightmares about specific events
- Having muscle soreness
- Crying more often than not
- Feeling stuck
- Being overly self-critical
- Experiencing persistent negative thoughts that won’t go away
- Not able to see a way through it
We are here to help! Check out these DSA resources that can support you in different ways depending on your well-being needs.
University Student Health Services is like your campus doctor’s office and pharmacy all in one. Prescriptions at the Monroe Park Campus office cost less than at most pharmacies. Most visits are now virtual, but some will require you to come to the office. Telehealth appointments are scheduled the same way as office appointments.
*Remember: if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or think you may have been exposed, stay home and call first. Check out their updates page for the latest information.
Life can be stressful! University Counseling Services offers free counseling for students, including individual, couples, and group therapy. UCS also houses confidential advocates who work with students who have experienced sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking. Email email@example.com to connect with an advocate. Crises don’t just happen during work hours. That’s why there’s an after hours support line at (804) 828-6200. Not sure if you’re ready to speak to a counselor? Check out the online self-help pages on topics like anxiety, depression, trauma and relationships. UCS is offering virtual counseling - including a COVID-19 support group!
Rams in Recovery is VCU's Collegiate Recovery Program which works to ensure that students do not have to choose between their recovery and their education. They support students inside and outside the classroom, organize events and trips, offer recovery housing and scholarships, and provide space and support for recovery meetings. Check out their website for more information on how to connect to support or check out their Virtual Clubhouse.
Rec Sports has facilities across both campuses, like the Cary Street Gym, Cary Street Field, and MCV Campus Recreation Center.
There are so many different ways to get moving. The fitness centers host a variety of equipment, as well as indoor pools and basketball courts. There are group exercise classes from yoga to weightlifting. Check out their website to learn more about what programs are being offered this semester.
You can also view previously recorded material by visiting the Rec Sports Virtual Fitness & Wellness playlist on YouTube (click on “Virtual Fitness & Wellness”). There are over 50 videos in our library in a variety of formats, including Core, HIIT, Mat Pilates, Tabata Cardio, Yoga, and Guided Meditation.
Learn proactive ways to be and stay well while at VCU. Read through the Mental Health Resource Guide. Here are some other ways you can connect with the team:
- Join The Well on RamsConnect to receive newsletters starting in the Fall or follow @thewellvcu on social media to stay tuned in to programs and events: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube
- Resilience Lab Appointments - These are free one-on-one, virtual appointments where students meet with a health educator to discuss ways to de-stress using mindfulness.
- Weekly Guided Meditation - Weekly guided meditation from 2:30-3 pm on Wednesdays, suitable for all levels of practice. Open to all VCU affiliated individuals.
- Smoking Cessation - Thinking about quitting or cutting back use of tobacco products or e-cigarettes/vapes? Students can sign up for a Virtual one-on-one smoking cessation appointment.
- Condom Concierge - Access free sexual health products throughout the semester, including information on effective use of barrier methods to prevent STI's.
- Stall Seat Journal - The Stall Seat Journal is VCU’s #1 toilet paper! Follow the site for ongoing content throughout the semester.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect or ask your question to the team of Health Educators.
Read some answers to some frequently asked questions about well-being at VCU on this Well-being FAQ’s page.