ifIknew

ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Tag: college

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

The economy is in a rut and the student loan collectors are beginning to call. So where do you go next? The answer for many of us is moving back in with our “ ‘rents.” Moving home after being independent for an extended period of time can feel like a major downer.  It’s easy to feel demotivated and depressed as you confront this major lifestyle change.  However, it really doesn’t have to be that bad! Here are some tips to help make living with the “ ’rents” a more positive experience:

1)      Remember first and foremost that your parents are doing you a favor by providing you free or discounted shelter.  Remember to say thank you – your parents will appreciate your gratitude.

2)      Set a time frame for how long you plan to live at home. If you are job-hunting, don’t allow yourself to get too distracted.  Make yourself a schedule and stick to it.

3)      Set ground rules with your parents.  If you are living with any new roommates, it’s important to assert your needs and set boundaries.  Your dad might not want you coming home after the sun has already risen…however, you also have the right to tell him not to snoop through your stuff.   Mutual respect will go a long way.

4)      Remind yourself that your time with your parents is still an opportunity to move forward and build your life.  You can continue seeing friends, dating, and more.

5)      Establish local support networks.  Give your friend from high school a call, hang out in local coffee shops, and reintegrate yourself in your community.  Seek new friends.

6)      Stay the responsible adult you are or are becoming. Contribute. Regressing to being taken care of by our folks is so tempting but so stunting. You don’t want to be living on their couch in your 30’s.

 

Freedom...with a warning label.

It’s the time of year when there is an uptick in the number of alcohol overdoses occurring on campuses across the country. Newfound freedom for freshmen often seems to take the form of the freedom to drink with abandon. But the body has its natural limits. Binge drinking can lead to an overdose or what is otherwise called alcohol poisoning.  This happens when someone drinks more rapidly than his or her body can metabolize. Alcohol’s intoxicating property, ETOH, goes straight to the brain, hence the buzz. The alcohol builds up in the bloodstream and depresses the part of the brain that controls involuntary actions like breathing and physical coordination.  It can cause the drinker to lose consciousness.  At this point  the drinker is at high risk to choke on his or her own vomit, stop breathing, have irregular, slow, or fast heartbeats, brain damage, hypothermia or hypoglycemia (which can lead to a seizure), or death.  Someone who survives an overdose can still suffer irreversible brain damage.

The difficulty in defending oneself against unwanted sexual advances when intoxicated accounts for a high percentage of  rapes, that are reported or go unreported on campuses each year.

College is so much more than drinking.   Find the student activities director on campus and ask for a list of non-drinking fun alternatives around town. Join clubs that may interest you or will advance your social life or future career. Join an intramural sports team.   Constructive activities abound – and it’s much more fun to wake up with a great memory than to have no memory, regrets, or find yourself in the hospital.

Financials Freaking You Out?

Student loans... Almost as common as the latest fashion trends, except no one really wants them. As an undergraduate student in psychology and women’s studies, this is something that’s been creeping up on me for a while. As my father likes to say, “Psychology is code for ‘graduate school.’”  He’s right.  I will have to go to graduate school, and someone’s going to have to pay for it. And guess what? It ain’t cheap! Unless I win the mega-million lottery in the next year and a half, student loans seem like the best way to go. So what happens when I get my master’s degree?  Can you see it now?  I look at the statement to see how much I owe and I nearly drop dead.

But that’s where you’re wrong! I’m a sensible, emotionally stable woman, and I’ve got myself together. My advice?  If you’re a student with loans, remember this: you took out student loans for a reason! Student loans are an investment for the future. You took these blasted loans to pay for something worthwhile. You made an investment in yourself that’s sure to benefit its stakeholders in the future. And if it doesn’t... well, that’s another blog.

Some other things to remember: Banks aren’t totally evil. They know that students need time to pay off their tuition, so student loans have comparatively low interest rates. Loans can also boost your good credit score, as long as you pay them off. And lastly, there are several loan forgiveness programs offered specifically to students who are unable to pay on time.

So, what can you do now? Make yourself a financial plan. Don’t let yourself be surprised by the amount of money you owe when you graduate.  Making a budget will help you keep track of your expenses and will ensure that you’re living within your means during your college years. There’s even online software that can help you track your spending.

Take advantage of your school’s resources.  Most universities offer some kind of counseling, whether it’s for career and financial needs or emotional ones. Even better—these services are included in tuition! This way, you can manage your financial business as well as your stress. Ahh, I feel better already.

So don’t freak out about your student loans! Take a deep breath and consider what is stressing you and what good things can come out of this situation.  Do some research and use the resources available to you.   You’ll come to see that you don’t have to handle this all by yourself. It’s going to be all right.

For more ideas and resources on this: Go Ask Alice http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/looming-student-loans-emotional-distress

Study, Don't Cram!

If you’re one of the millions of students who has trouble studying come finals season, don’t fret.  Every year during finals and midterm season Twitter and Facebook are bombarded with comments like “Drinking coffee to help me stay up and study all night for my 8 a.m. Midterm...I’m screwed.”  It doesn’t have to be like that.  Other students have turned to dangerous prescription drugs such as Adderal and Vyvanse which are used to deal with symptoms of ADD.  It doesn’t have to be like this either. While schools pile the students with mounds and mounds of information, most students are never taught one of the most essential skills of learning: how to study. Help is here so you can pass this finals season without the use of drugs, sleepless nights and excessive coffee. Here is a list of effective and healthy ways to study. 1.            Study in Chunks: Don’t try to study everything at once. Break up the test into sections and chapters and study 30-50 minutes at a time. For best results try to break up the whole test into a week’s worth of studying.

2.            Switch study locations: A change in study locations has been proven to improve retention of information. If you cannot switch locations at least move around the room.

3.            Form study groups:  Study groups are extremely helpful. When you may not be in the mood to study, one of your peers will be there to motivate you. Additionally, when studying in groups, each member usually has his/her own devices to help memorize material, and sharing those can be extremely helpful. Warning: groups are for studying; do not allow the groups to distract you.

4.            Exercise:  Exercise and cardio exercises in particular have been proven to help memory. In addition a little exercise will help take your mind off your work for a little while and help with attention deficit disorders.

5.            Make your study information interesting: One way to help retain knowledge is to create mnemonic devices that relate to something you are interested in, whether it be sports, music or movies. Give the characters names or create a song out of your study information.

6.            Make a schedule: Make a schedule beforehand for all your studying. It is important to adhere to your schedule.  This will allow you to study a few chapters each day of each topic and will help you avoid cramming.

Using any combination of these methods can be very helpful. There are plenty of other methods that may work as well, but cramming the night before should never be one of them. Study hard, stay focused and Good Luck on your finals!

Check out our blog piece, "Not Your Study Buddy."

Information drawn from a Huffington Post study.

5 Tricks to Healthy During College

Ah, the life of a college student. Between working hard and partying even harder, we don’t generally have time or money to make it out to the grocery store and to cook. Instead, we tend to rely on cafeteria pizza and pre-packaged meals. And during the stress of finals, gorging on these treats seems even more appealing. But most of these foods are loaded with carbs and saturated fats and don’t exactly have the nutrients we need to help improve mental alertness, concentration, and memory. How is it possible for those of us who care about improving our health to stay healthy during our stay in the ivory tower? Here are some suggestions: 1. Drink lots of water! Dehydration contributes to a slew of physical ailments including tiredness, migraines, and irregular blood pressure. Thirst is also commonly confused with hunger. Invest in a water bottle to save the cost of buying bottles from the cafeteria.

2.  Carry an insulated tote bag with lunch. Who cares if you look dorky? You are in college, so grow up! Pack a healthy sandwich and take it with you. You will be less tempted by fast food and you’ll save money in the cafe. Put a cold pack in your container to keep your food cool.

3. If you know that you are going to purchase food, bring an empty Tupperware container with you! If you have a way to save some of your meal for later, you will be less inclined to gorge at lunch. If it is hot outside, figure how long your cold pack will keep your food cool and be wary of ordering dairy or meat products.

4. Eat from the salad bar. The cafeteria salad bar usually has tons of delicious, healthy veggies such as lettuce, broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Don’t use too much cheese, more than a scoop of croutons, or multiple tablespoons of dressing!

5. Snack on fruit, not cookies! Snacks can serve as a lifeline for students who must wait a few hours before they can sit down to eat a meal. Bring an apple or a banana with you – they are usually less expensive than baked goods, and will keep you full longer.

The Pocket Guide to Spring Break

That’s right, boys and girls; it’s that time of year again. It’s the week you waited for all semester. You have pulled many all nighters and crammed for exams. You have submitted your 7 page papers three minutes before the midnight deadline and passed (hopefully) your midterms. Now it’s time for some relaxation, that’s right, everybody; SPRING BREAK IS HERE! Spring break to most of us is a time for relaxation, time to go home see your family, time for a little traveling, and of course time for a little partying. With most parties, there are the majority who just want to relax, drink and have a good time. However, every party has its pooper, and there are those that take it to another level and end up sick, hospitalized, drugged and/or injured. From my experience the last few years - here’s your pocket list of DO’s And Don’ts for spring break.

  • As always, if you drink (obviously if you are over 21), DO NOT DRIVE!  Funerals we’ve been to are real downers.
  • Do not take drinks from someone else! If you’re at spring break and drinking, you probably are not new to this and you know the realities of someone slipping something  into your drink.
  • If you are having any sexual contact, USE A CONDOM! Remember STD’s can be transferred through oral sex as well.
  • Many of the spring break spots are located on beaches.  Do not drink and swim.  IF you are drinking on the beach, make sure you are also drinking water, since both alcohol and the sun dehydrate you.
  • Be alert. While you may be responsible, that does not mean that others are acting responsibly. Look out for drunk drivers and potentially belligerent and violent drunks.
  • Have a buddy with you at all times.
  • Stay off balconies. Falling from balconies is known to be one of the leading causes of injuries and deaths at spring breaks.

Have fun. Be “Spring Break” Happy.

Not your study buddy

College was challenging, to say the least. My friends and I struggled to juggle our classes alongside work and extracurricular activities responsibilities. We became desperate to make the best use out of every second in the day. While I resorted to sipping coffee to get through my evenings, some of my friends were drawn to the underground illicit trade of prescription pills.  To be frank, this wasn’t exactly an underground phenomenon at my college. Adderall and Ritalin were purchased in the hallways of our dorms!

At first, non-prescription drug usage was so common that few entertained the notion that it could be potentially dangerous. In my psychopharmacology classes, though, I learned about some of the many ways in which stimulants affect the body. Adderall and Ritalin, when used incorrectly and by those who don’t medically need them, have been shown in some cases to cause increased blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, seizures, hair loss, and even sudden death!

After a few months of taking these pills, addiction is almost inevitable: the brain re-structures itself and becomes increasingly tolerant to that drug’s effects. As a result, that person has to consume a higher dosage to feel similar effects and then crashes when he doesn’t get it, leaving the person dragged out for days on end.

Addiction to amphetamines completely changed my friends who got into using them. They were miserable most of the time and very irritable. They would do pretty much anything to get these pills. Some attempted to fake symptoms of ADHD so that doctors would write them their own prescriptions. Others began selling them and other drugs so that they could afford their own habits.

The irony was that addiction made these friends struggle even more in school. They were no longer able to sleep at night and, as a result, could not concentrate on their assignments. Their health began to deteriorate and they began missing classes.  Some even had to take leaves of absence or drop their classes so that they could enter recovery programs to address their addictions.

Watching friends struggle with addictions has reinforced our belief that illicit drug use is not the way to go. Our advice to college freshmen; avoid these illicit stimulants. It’s better to fight your way through exhaustion than wind up with a serious health problem! - R.L.

Read more about prescription drugs or stimulants. To find help for yourself or a friend, check out these resources.

Beware the All-Nighter!

It’s almost winter break which means only one thing – finals! This is the time of the year when many of us stay up in a desperate attempt to finish our twenty page papers while simultaneously cramming in last minute studying. Staying up until four a.m. or pulling an all-nighter often seems like the obvious thing to do when you need to get your work done. But scientific research shows that sleep deprivation is, in fact, counterproductive if you are looking to ace your assignments. Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on cognitive performance. In one 2003 study, a University of Pennsylvania researcher assigned dozens of people in a major sleep study to three different groups. One group would sleep four hours a night, others six, and others eight. Every two hours during the day, the researchers would test the subjects’ level of alertness through a psychomotor vigilance task in which they would sit in front of a computer and press the space bar if they saw a flash of numbers. Delayed responses would suggest a lapse into sleepiness.

Both the four and the six hour subjects’ performances quickly declined over the two weeks. In fact, by the end of two weeks, the subjects who slept six hours per night were just as impaired as subjects who had been sleep deprived for 24 hours straight. This is the cognitive equivalent of being legally drunk!

In addition to impaired cognitive performance, sleep deprivation has been linked to a slew of other health problems including health attacks, diabetes, increased blood pressure, depression, and obesity. And, according to three large population-based studies in the journals Sleep and the Archives of General Psychiatry, people who get five or less hours of sleep per night have a 15 percent greater risk of dying [prematurely]! Clearly, getting eight hours of sleep per night is your best bet both for succeeding in school and for living a healthy life!

The Haze Craze

Many organizations implement hazing practices before accepting new members, but what exactly does that mean? I was hoping you’d ask…

Hazing is any ritual or behavior that is forced upon new members in order for them to be fully accepted or initiated into a group. Hazing includes any kind of humiliating, dangerous, or strenuously physical tasks that often entail harassment and abuse of individuals.  It also includes depriving new members of certain things or requiring them to do certain things that others are allowed or excused from. Hazing can be as seemingly harmless as having initiates wear strange clothing, or as hazardous as coerced sexual behavior or consumption of copious amounts of alcohol or drugs, and anything in between.

Sororities and fraternities are most notorious for hazing their pledges, but several other groups are known for similar initiation rituals: sports teams, various clubs, workplaces, and even the military and police forces.  Hazing is by no means limited to college culture. It happens in high schools and even in the professional world.

An important fact that is often ignored (overlooked) is that hazing is illegal in over 40 states, and specific laws vary upon location. So if you’re ever unsure about the legality of an instance of hazing, look it up (For more information: http://www.stophazing.org/laws.html).  Ideally, hazing conduct of any kind should be reported, but even if you don’t, remember that no group can force you to do something that you don’t want to do- especially if it poses a threat to your health or well-being.

Now, I hope I didn’t totally scare you away from student involvement in activities because that’s a beautiful thing. But if you encounter a hazing situation, just ask yourself: Is being able to call yourself a member of this group worth risking your safety, dignity and in extreme cases, your life? It’s up to you.

Heading Off to College?

Change can be stressful at any age.  It’s especially hard when moving from high school to college.  When we feel like we knew where we fit in, and suddenly we go from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond, the transition can be jarring.  Similarly, moving from a strict household to much more freedom can be awesome, but also a lot to handle as well. Some common stressors for college students:

  1. Time management/getting good grades
  2. The future (50% of students drop out and 50% change majors at least once,  if not several times.)
  3. Dating and roommates
  4. Financing school and having money
  5. Responsibility: getting homework done, paying bills, shopping - not yet being equipped for the real world.

GOOD NEWS: How we handle transitions in life is up to us.  Many of these stressors are made manageable when seen as choices we can make for ourselves based on the goals we are perusing.     According to author Sean Covey, the six most important decisions we make during our teen and young adult years are how we handle our friends, relationships, parents, school, addictions, and self-worth.

One way to look at these decisions is by keeping your goals in mind. Do I want to graduate from college? What do I want to be when I grow up?

Then move backwards through the choices.

  • Am I going to surround myself with people who support my goals (including boyfriends or girlfriends)?
  • Am I going to ask my parents for their experience?
  • Am I going to do my best in school and ask for help when I need it?
  • How can addictions de-rail my dreams?
  • While we are all worthy simply because we were born, sometimes in life a feeling of unworthiness creeps in.  Will I talk to someone if it does?

The freedom that college offers can be a shock at first.  There are positive and negative consequences to every action.  Choosing to stay out all night and not write the psych paper due the next day can cause a negative consequence.  Is all the partying worth being academically dismissed or losing your scholarship?

Going into a transition knowing what we want and that we are willing to work for it helps strengthen our resolve when these decisions come up again and again.  When at times things aren’t so clear, remember, we don’t have to handle challenges alone.  A supportive ear from trustworthy family members, friends or advisors makes things so much easier.

And for more advice from a recent college grad, click here.

I Hope You Have the Time of Your Life!

This past spring I was standing in line at the campus bookstore waiting to buy my cap and gown with my best friend and roommate for 3 years. Right as I was being rung up, Green Day’s Time of Your Life came on the overhead radio speakers and I started to cry. Until then, I had tried to stay strong, mainly by way of denial, but the looming fact of graduating and leaving this amazing world became all too real, and it finally hit me that College was about to be over. Everyone hopes their college experience will be full of the kinds of friendships, memories, and life experiences that mine was. College is what you make of it. You are going to be faced with a lot of decisions and new situations while you’re off on your own and you need to be prepared for that. Hindsight is truly 20/20 so here is a compilation of some lessons I learned along the way.

Stick it out. It truly takes a full year for most people to adjust comfortably into the college lifestyle. If you are not having the time of your life and are begging to come home or transfer closer to home or your high school best friend, don’t give up that easily. Don’t rush out of the situation or go running home because your first 3 months didn’t exceed your expectations. Stick it out. It’s amazing how much difference one semester can make in your overall perspective and experience at college. Stick it out for the second semester. Remember that classes change each semester, so you might find a new group of friends in the spring, who will make you feel comfortable and give you a better home-base feeling. Also, sorority and fraternity rush, which takes place at most schools in the spring, can be a great way for you to make those friendships and feel a part of a group and more comfortable in the larger campus community. And those bonds can last a lifetime. However, if, after your first year, you are still not happy, you can always consider transferring and beginning elsewhere in the fall.

Call your parents. Keep the communication lines open with your parents. They are going to be worried about you, but also curious to hear about all the new friends you are making, fun things you are doing, and interesting information you are learning. Share your stories with them. Whether it’s a short call or text in between classes or as you are getting ready to go out, they’ll be so happy to hear from you and see that you are doing well. They’ll also be less likely to hound you with missed calls and voicemails if you reach out to them, rather than leaving them in the dark. Plus, your parents, as much as you might not like to admit, can really offer some great advice and comfort in times of high stress or confusion.

Facebook. Everyone has one. Sure, you’re going to want to show off all the fun you’re having to your ex, your home friends, and your random Facebook friends or stalkers, but use some discretion with the statuses you post, and the pictures you leave tagged. Even employers these days check applicants’ Facebook pages and if you are looking a mess in all of your pictures, you won’t be getting that great summer internship you were hoping for!

Start Exercising Your Independence Now. Learn how to do laundry. Have your parents show you how to separate and do different loads of laundry at home before you are off on your own. Call and set up your own doctor’s appointments; learn how to deposit and write checks and how to check your account online. If you start learning to manage your own life and absorb some of the responsibilities that you have previously relied on your parents for, you will better adjust to the independence and self-reliance that comes with the beginning of college life.

Be safe, have fun, make friends, have fun, study, have fun. These words of advice are a combination of what my parents told me as they got into the elevator after helping me move into my freshman dorm four years ago. My Mom reminded me that I was here ultimately to learn, study, and graduate with a degree. My Dad continued to interject, “Yes, but have fun.” College is a time like no other. You will meet your best friends for life, you’ll just barely pass a class at least once, and you’ll discover what truly excites and interests you, both in coursework and lecture halls, and out of them. And, yes, while it is important to study hard and be safe throughout the next four years, it’s also important for you to enjoy the ride and make everlasting memories. But while you are out having fun and making these memories, there are some important points to keep in mind so that you wake up every morning safe and without stomach wrenching regrets.

  • Don’t leave your drink unattended. I’m sure you’ve heard this one over and over again, ever since you started going out in high school. However, this is college and you are going to be surrounded by lots more people, some of whom you won’t even know. You can’t trust everyone. There are people out there looking for an easy mark and things like roofies really do exist.
  • Party smart. Just because others are experimenting with drugs and alcohol, doesn’t mean it’s right and that you should, too. Stick to your beliefs and personal rules. Don’t compromise who you are to fit in with new friends. There are temptations everywhere and it can be really easy to get carried away and lose sight of your limit. But in the long run, if you let yourself get wasted, you’ll just end up feeling embarrassed…or worse.
  • “Hooking up.” College is a time to meet new people and form new relationships. But you need to be careful. If you have sex, always use protection, and remember that actions come with consequences. Alcohol can complicate hook ups and other situations, so be cautious with whom and how many people you get involved with, especially while intoxicated. Hangovers eventually go away, but a moral hangover can last much longer and an STD lasts a lifetime.

Smile. The thing that I loved so much about my freshman year was all the people I was constantly meeting! Some of them became my best friends, and some were acquaintances I’d see at parties, in the dining hall, or in classes. Especially during freshman year, everyone is new to the environment and looking to make those unrivaled bonds of friendship that you’ve heard older siblings, parents, and friends talk about. The diversity in a college community helps expose you to all kinds of people from different areas and backgrounds. You can learn so much about yourself just by keeping an open mind and a positive attitude, and getting to know people you had never imagined being close with. This for me is when peer influences took on a positive connotation. I learned and gained so much from my friendships with others, and this helped shape me into the person I am today.

Now it’s your turn. I hope that when you are sitting in your cap and gown, waiting to be called up to receive your diploma, you can look back at your own college experience with pride, smile, and say that you, too, had the time of your life.