It’s important for each of us to find intentional ways to focus on our well-being daily. Practicing regular self-care can help prevent the negative impacts of stress or burnout. Just as washing our hands, staying home when we have symptoms of illness, or getting regular flu vaccines can help prevent us from getting sick, doing things like engaging in regular physical activity, getting annual wellness check-ups, getting enough sleep, and getting adequate nutrition can help keep us well.
Did you know? University Student Health Services offers students free primary care appointments, free flu and COVID vaccinations, and more. They also offer telemedicine appointments for some services.
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:
- Eating nutritious food and staying hydrated
VCU Ram Pantry helps students access food.
- Physical activity
VCU Recreation and Well-Being (VCU RecWell) has a wide variety of programs and services to help every Ram stay active, relax, and positively combat the effects of stress.
- Adequate and restful sleep
RecWell's Mental Health Resource Guide also includes information to improve sleep quality.
- Time to relax and connect
University Student Commons and Activities plans fun activities for students throughout the year.
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 book virtual appointments through the Money Spot to talk with a peer coach.
Taking care of ourselves means tuning in and listening to what we need in each moment. Use this guide from RecWell to help boost mental health and become more mindful, schedule an appointment in RecWell's Resilience Lab, or sign up for a yoga class 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. You can check in on your mental health by completing an anonymous mental health screening through University Counseling Services. It's important to talk with a friend, loved one, or another supportive person, and to learn what resources are available to help us when things seem to be piling up.
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! Check in with your mental health and learn more about well-being on University Counseling Services’ Well-being Resources page.
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 tackle difficult situations or emotions 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 by prioritizing our needs and well-being so that we have the energy and resources to sustain us.
When our stress levels are high, we often do things that give us 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. If you have concerns about your use of alcohol or other drugs to cope, consider reaching out to VCU Rams in Recovery to talk with someone and find support.
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.
Remember, students can connect with University Counseling Services during the day and 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.
When you enrolled at VCU, you joined our Ramily.
Rams rely on our Ramily and other sources to support our mental and emotional health. This includes friends, roommates, significant others, family, religious leaders and support groups (VCU Healthy Minds, Spring 2018). Taking care of each other is still a must- and an important part of our #HerdMentality.
No matter what you are into, you can connect with others at VCU who share your interests. VCU RamsConnect is your go-to tool to find events, programs, or information on the over 500 student organizations you can join! University Student Commons and Activities has so many different ways for students to engage, have fun, and connect with others.
The Division of Student Affairs offers many opportunities for students to develop their leadership skills and learn from each other.
University Student Health Services is like your campus doctor’s office and pharmacy all in one. A wide variety of services are offered, including acute care, mental health care, sexual health and wellness, and travel health. Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications at Student Health often cost less than at most pharmacies. Annual flu vaccines are free to all students. Check out the Patient Resources section on the website for specific information on a wide variety of health topics. Student Health offers both in-person and telehealth appointment options. Just call (804) 828-8828 to schedule. (Note: Appointments are required for all visits at this time.)
- 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, relationship, and group therapy. UCS also houses confidential advocates who support students who have experienced sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with an advocate. Crises don’t just happen during school hours. That’s why UCS offers crisis support 24/7/365. Students experiencing a mental health emergency can call (804) 828-6200 day or night to speak with a crisis counselor. 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 offers services both in-person and virtually.
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 or stop by the new recovery clubhouse 1103 W. Marshall St. The clubhouse is open 9 a.m.- 9 p.m. during the semester. Check the website for hours when class is not in session.
RecWell 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 feature a variety of equipment, as well as indoor pools and court space for different sports. There are group exercise classes from yoga to High Intensity Interval Training. Join an intramural or sport club team, or check out our latest esports programming. Learn to climb at the Cary Street Gym wall, or hike, kayak or bike for an afternoon or day with the Outdoor Adventure Program. Check out their website to learn more about what programs are being offered this semester.
Want to work out at home? You can view previously recorded exercise classes by visiting the 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 their Mental Health Resource Guide. Here are some other ways you can connect with the team:
- Join RecWell 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 p.m. 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.
Read some answers to some frequently asked questions about well-being at VCU on this Well-being FAQ’s page.
University faculty and staff play a central role in creating a caring, supportive environment for students and the VCU community.
- Access and share on and off-campus resources with students.
- Become a Recovery Ally or learn more about VCU’s College Recovery Program: Rams in Recovery.
- Access and review in-depth information for faculty and staff on recognizing and assisting students in distress.
- Share your concerns! Work with the Dean of Students Office to share a concern about a student. You can also share your concerns by clicking on this icon from any VCU computer:
- If you are seeking immediate support for a student in crisis, call University Counseling Services at 804-828-6200. University Counseling Services can also consult with faculty on how best to support students.
- If a student is acting in a threatening or violent manner or is demonstrating immediate harm to self or others, call VCU Police at (804) 828-1234, or call 911.
By working together, we can create a healthy and collaborative VCU culture that values well-being and preventive care as the foundation for student success. The best time for us to practice self-care and manage stress is when we aren’t in distress.
Here are a few ways to proactively introduce well-being into your classroom to get in front of some common well-being challenges before they arise.
- The Division of Student Affairs offers a Mental Well-being Course for students. Encourage students to access and complete this course to learn more about how to foster well-being and support their fellow students who may be struggling.
- No matter where we are on our journey, well-being is important. Mental Well-being for Faculty and Staff is also available for free to all VCU Faculty and Staff through December 2021. (link?)
- Encourage students to create their own profile on You@VCU to receive customized well-being content and support.
- Consider joining RecWell’s Mindful Ambassador Program and practice ways to introduce mindfulness into the spaces where you live, work, and play. You can take a few minutes at the beginning of class to facilitate a mindfulness activity. Mindful.org has more information and examples of these activities.
- Don’t Cancel Class! All faculty, staff, and students at VCU, especially first-year students, can self-enroll and access RecWell’s Health Foundation Modules through CANVAS. These modules give students basic resources around managing stress, cultivating mindfulness, navigating issues with substance use, and engaging in self-care. Share this resource with students on your syllabus or use in place of instruction for a day you aren’t available! Or, you can Request a Program on well-being to see if a Peer Health Educator or staff from RecWell is available to talk with your class.
- Academic courses often have their own life cycles, with students experiencing increased stress during specific times of the semester (such as before mid-terms or finals). It often helps to reiterate key messages related to self-care and well-being so that everyone, including faculty, can be proactive about addressing concerns and taking good care of themselves. Share additional resources to promote well-being throughout the semester.
- Engaging in health-sustaining practices like receiving an annual flu vaccination can help students be successful and minimize missed class time due to illness (it can also help protect others). Students can get free flu vaccinations during walk-in immunization hours at University Student Health Services. VCU Human Resources offers free vaccination clinics for faculty and staff.
- Finding time to engage in physical activity can also help boost immune function and relieve stress. Encourage students to explore VCU Recreational and Well-Being to learn about all of the programs and activities available to meet their needs. Faculty and staff can also purchase a membership and take advantage of great services such as personal training and instructional programs.
- Seek help for yourself, if needed. Trying to support a student who is struggling can take a toll on you. It is important to recognize that the personal safety and well-being of faculty and staff is just as important as that of the student in distress. Attending to the needs of others while also balancing your own life issues can be challenging. Learn to recognize the signs of burnout and practice proactive ways to manage your own stress levels. VCU Work/Life and the Commonwealth of Virginia Employee Assistance Program offer additional support for faculty and staff.