Optimism and Self Care

As we begin the start of the Fall term I am filled with both a sense of the need for both optimism and self-care. I would say that one's capacity for optimism increases with their time invested in it intentionally, along with the practice of overall self-care.

Over the last year and a half, UCC and the rest of the world have seen our share of difficult times that have made it difficult for many to be optimistic. Amy Cuddy and JillEllyn Riley in The Washington Post coined the term "pandemic flux" for the state of the pandemic we are currently in. After experiencing a heady rush of relief in the summer, when the pandemic seemed to be at an end, the rise of the Delta Variant has caused a rush in anxiety, and in some, a sense of pessimism and fear. The human mind and body has built in ways of dealing with stress and trauma, but when the trauma is ongoing, like the Pandemic, it is completely  normal to feel exhausted and anxious, and find it difficult to maintain optimism. There is something helpful about validating and normalizing that this is a difficult time we are all living through and that if your feeling anxious or down - that is 100% normal.

And while we normalize for ourselves that it may be normal to feel down and to allow ourselves grace, this means it is EXTRA important to be intentional about building in Self Care and intentional practice of optimism. Optimism could mean finding time each day to focus on what is good and what you have to look forward to. It could mean taking a small step towards a goal and celebrating that. It could mean sharing a hopeful quote each morning with yourself and/or a friend. There are all kinds of ways to be build in optimism. See the below graphic for an idea for each day of the month of October.

optimistic october

If you like the above calendars visit Action for Happiness each month to get the newest one here: https://www.actionforhappiness.org/calendars

Part of being optimistic, is also remembering that you may need help or support to maintain your optimism and that is okay! See below resources for mental health support for students and employees.

Staff:

Students:

  • Wellness Counselor (available for zoom and in person with mask appointments): email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 541-440-7896. Visit here for more details: https://www.umpqua.edu/campus-mental-health-services-offered

 

  • Student Assistance Program (offers virtual appointments with licensed counselors): Call 844-492-0546 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and identify yourself as a UCC student seeking virtual counseling appointments. Visit here for more details: https://www.umpqua.edu/counseling-services.
    • Interested in watching a demo of the services? There is a ZOOM demo October 11th and 12th from 11:30 - 12:30. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for the zoom link.

Mental Health Support Resources in the Community open for Staff and Students:

Visit the following link and scroll down to "local mental health resources" for a list of counselors and therapists in the Douglas County area: https://www.umpqua.edu/campus-mental-health-community-resources

Contact

Hanna Culbertson - Contact
MSW CSWA, Wellness Counselor, Student Services
Phone: 541-440-7896

A Map for Managing One's Day

The Trauma Stewardship Institute has published a "map for managing one's day" that gives so much great information about how to manage stress levels amidst all you may be navigating. Trauma is often defined as an event or series of events, that overwhelms our capacity to cope. For many the last year and a half of COVID, wildfires, social and civil unrest have all felt like a constant series of events that have led to overwhelm and have been experienced as a collective trauma.

The below guide discusses how the hormone cortisol, a hormone released when we are stressed, overwhelmed and in trauma, can negatively impact our nervous system.  It also focus on what you can do throughout you day to day life to focus on what is within your power to manage your trauma response AND avoid burnout so that you can continue on towards your goals in work, school and your personal life. While not all of the guide may resonate with you, I hope you find one or two things within it that are rejuvenating.

Some of the suggestions within include protecting your mornings, limiting social media, using rejuvenating quotes and mantras to maintain self compassion and motivation, sleep hygiene, exercise, spending time in nature and with pets, awareness of emotions and creating space between self and feelings, engaging in mindfulness and gratitude. Enjoy this guide and find ways to structure your day to manage stress and build joy and purpose in your life.

managing the day 

Click here for PDF version of the guide!7.84 MB

Contact

Hanna Culbertson - Contact
MSW CSWA, UCC Life Coach, Student Services
Phone: 541-440-7896

Get out in Nature - It's good for your health!

nature backdrop

Summer time is the perfect time of year to enjoy the outdoors. Did you know that research actually shows that spending time in nature, even just spending time putting our hands and feet in the grass or gazing at the trees outside has numerous positive mental health impacts? Some researchers even use the term "earthing" to describe the positive mental health impacts of spending time in nature. To hear Susannah Winters speak at a TED talk about earthing as an integral part of self care click here!

Oregon has so many wonderful places to enjoy the nature around you, even in your own back yard. For some more ideas of waterfalls, camping sites and other natural attractions to visit this summer visit here!

The next time you need a break from the work or school day, don't hesitate to take a break by stepping outside. UCC has a beautiful campus with breathtaking views. The next time you're walking around campus (or your own backyard), try to mindfully notice everything around you, stop to notice everything you can see, hear, smell, feel and taste and take a few moments to breathe in deeply. If anxious thoughts come to you while your walking, try to nonjudgmentally notice them when they occur, set them aside and refocus your energy on the nature around you. Here is an article with several different mindful nature walking practices to engage in next time you are out in the natural world. 

We may have all heard the saying "stop and smell the roses," but there is science to back up just how important it is. I hope you all can spend some time taking in the beauty of the natural world this summer and notice how it impacts your mood and wellbeing. 

For more ideas for how to stay emotionally well this month visit Action for Happiness Jump Back July for a tip for everyday of the month!  

Contact

Hanna Culbertson - Contact
MSW CSWA, UCC Life Coach, Student Services
Phone: 541-440-7896

Challenge Negative Thoughts with Positive/Helpful Thinking

Negative Thoughts

 

Negative Self Talk can have a significant negative impact on our mental health for the worse. Whether its thought like "I am definitely going to fail" or "I am a horrible person," or "I will never be enough," most thoughts like these spring from automatic negative beliefs we may have about ourselves, based on messages we get from our family, our larger society, messages from the media and more. These thoughts may come from early traumas or difficult experiences and they may crop up in multiple situations in our life, at work, school and relationships when we least expect them to. 

We often may not even recognize the impact these thoughts are having on our emotions and our behaviors. If we get a lower grade on a test than we anticipated and we have the thought "I am a failure, I am obviously not smart enough to pass this test," this will likely make us feel sad, anxious or depressed and it might lead us to give up on studying for the next one out of thinking failure is inevitable or conversely to over study to the point of exhaustion and have difficulty retaining any of the information. This might lead to a self fulfilling cycle of not doing well on test. Similarly we might be up for a promotion in our job or someone tells us about an opportunity at our work and the thought "I am not smart enough or capable enough to do that," make us feel too anxious or inept to apply. The cycle of thoughts impacting our emotions and behaviors happens throughout our daily lives in multiple areas.

One strategy to help you start feeling better about yourself, your capabilities and cope with feelings of anxiety or sadness is to start paying attention to your thinking and how it is impacting you. Once you identify your negative thoughts, you can then work to evaluate how true they are and come up with more balanced thoughts that take into account the truth of the situation, and not only your biased negative filter. Some questions to ask your self about negative thoughts are:

  • Is that always true? Are there exceptions to it or evidence against its truth? ( example: for the thought "I am not smart enough," are there times you have done well or learned a difficult subject? When are times in your life you have learned something new or overcame a big obstacle or challenge? Were there times you did well at different aspects of a job or learned something new? Is there any exceptions to the statement 'I am not smart' in your life?) Putting Thoughts on Trial Exercise can be a helpful way of checking the accuracy of your thoughts, and examining evidence against negative thinking.
  • What is another possibility? Is there a different way of thinking about this that is also possible and more helpful? (for example: I didn't do as well on something, but I am capable of learning and growing. I can identify what i need to work on and do the best I can.)
  • Would my friends agree with the negative thought? (example: would people in your life agree that you are not enough, not worth it, not smart etc. If the answer is no, how would they describe you? Is there description consistent with yours?)
  • What advice would you give your friend if they told you they were dealing with the exact same situation and had that same thought? (likely your advice towards your friend would be more kind and balanced than the negative way you are speaking to yourself.)

Asking yourself the above questions can help you challenge your negative thoughts, recognize what outside factors may be triggering them and work to challenge them with more balanced alternative or more positive helpful ways of thinking about things. When we challenge negative thoughts and work to replace them with positive alternatives, we get into the habit of cultivating more helpful thoughts that help us feel better and move towards the things we value and cherish in life, rather than letting them keep us from moving towards our best selves and goals in life. We essentially work to replace those negative thoughts and wounds from earlier negative experiences with a kind and compassionate inner voice that sees ourselves and the world more clearly.

As you start practicing challenging your negative thoughts, you may find that you can find positive or balanced coping statements that you can use to counter or replace your negative thoughts with, when they arise. Some examples of these might be: 

  • This is tough but so am I 
  • I am worthwhile and enough because I am human.
  • I am always important no matter what
  • I am capable of rising to challenges. I've dealt with hard situations and I know it will get better.
  •  I'm having a hard time right now, but I've overcome hard things before.
  • I am strong and powerful and I matter.

The positive mantra that will be helpful for you will be individual, but you should try to find something that speaks to you, and that counters the negative thoughts that tend to come up for you. It is important to remember that thoughts are just thoughts, they are not 100% true or 100% false, often they tend to take a negative slant when we are thinking about ourselves, but we can work to examine the evidence about whether our thoughts are true/ or false, or somewhere in between and work to find more positive/helpful ways of thinking that help us feel better and work towards our goals. 

sunset

 Action for Happiness May Calendar

Contact

Hanna Culbertson - Contact
MSW CSWA, UCC Life Coach, Student Services
Phone: 541-440-7896

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