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Health, Wellness, & Nutrition

March 2021

Sometimes grad school can feel all-consuming, and our physical health may take the backseat. It may feel like putting all of our time and energy into work is the best way to be productive, but neglecting our basic needs may actually lead to burnout and poor physical and mental health. Being mindful of our eating and nutrition, sleep habits, stress level, and time spent moving is critical for our health, happiness, and well-being.

In this month’s module, we will be exploring ways to promote health and wellness through nutrition, sleep, stress management, and movement.

 

We hope that you continue engaging with this content beyond the end of the module.

Happy Couple

Happy Couple

Image by Sincerely Media

Image by Sincerely Media

Healthy Food

Healthy Food

Senior Couple Doing Yoga

Senior Couple Doing Yoga

Image by Jeremy Thomas

Image by Jeremy Thomas

Walk on the Beach

Walk on the Beach

Herbs

MODULE 1

Nutrition

March 7 – 13, 2021

Diet culture is all around us, and they can lead to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors surrounding food. As graduate students, it is important to remember food is just that - food. While intuitive eating is a paradigm used in eating disorder recovery, it can be beneficial for anyone. It is not a diet, instead, it is a mindset around food. While this is something that may not work for everyone, understanding these principles can lead to a more balanced relationship around food.

Reject diet mentality

Honor your hunger

Make peace with food

Challenge the food police

Feel your fullness

Herbs

MODULE 1

Nutrition

March 7 – 13, 2021

Diet culture is all around us, and they can lead to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors surrounding food. As graduate students, it is important to remember food is just that - food. While intuitive eating is a paradigm used in eating disorder recovery, it can be beneficial for anyone. It is not a diet, instead, it is a mindset around food. While this is something that may not work for everyone, understanding these principles can lead to a more balanced relationship around food.

Reject diet mentality

Honor your hunger

Make peace with food

Challenge the food police

Feel your fullness

Discover satistfaction

Honor your feelings

Respect

your body

Rewarding movement

Honor your health

Check out the Health at Every Size movement for more information on respect of body diversity, awareness of body knowledge and lived experiences, and compassionate self-care around movement and eating. 

Image by Benjamin Voros

MODULE 2

Sleep

March 14 – 20, 2021

Although it may seem like sleep is hard to come by in grad school, it’s essential for our mental health, physical health, and productivity. Sleep may be affected by many environmental, lifestyle, and health-related factors, including mental health difficulties. Check out the tips below for some ideas on how to improve your sleep quality.

Sleep is essential for many aspects of our physical, cognitive, and mental health. The recommended 7-9 nightly hours of sleep allows our bodies to restore homeostasis, maintain immune function, regulate metabolism, remove toxins and waste, and modulate neurotransmitter levels, among other vital functions. Unfortunately, there are many ways in which sleep can be disrupted: difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings throughout the night, early awakening, nightmares, or various sleep-wake disorders. Sleep may be disrupted by a host of factors including stress, age, chronic pain, substances (e.g., caffeine, alcohol), medications, environment (e.g., familiarity, comfort level), and many more. 

Importantly, mental health has a bidirectional relationship with sleep. Many mental health conditions involve some type of sleep disturbance, including mood disorders (too much or too little sleep), generalized anxiety disorder (difficulty falling or staying asleep), post-traumatic stress disorder (difficulty falling or staying asleep, nightmares), nocturnal panic attacks, and psychosis (difficulty falling or staying asleep), among others. Notably, improving sleep can also help to reduce mental health symptoms.

We can improve the quality of our sleep by maintaining good sleep hygiene. Here are some tips to promote healthy sleep: 

Avoid using electronic devices close to bed time

Be mindful of nutrition, water intake, and physical activity throughout the day.

Sleep in a quiet, comfortable, and dark environment

Stay on a consistent sleep-wake schedule throughout the week and weekend

Engage in relaxing activities prior to going to sleep

Avoid eating or working in your bed to strengthen the association of between bed and sleep

Many resources exist to help with overall sleep quality. Mindfulness (e.g., Headspace, Calm), breathing (e.g., Breathe+, The Breathing App), and soundscape (ShutEye, Sleep Sounds) apps can help with falling asleep. Devices such as an Apple Watch, Fitbit, or apps such as Sleep Cycle can track your sleep so that you can monitor your sleep schedule and assess for frequent nighttime awakenings. Calming activities to wind down before bed may include reading, coloring, knitting, journaling, or anything that is not mentally stimulating to you.

Image by Brooke Cagle

MODULE 3

Stress Management

March 21 – 27, 2021

Stress is a silent killer and can serve as major risk factor for many adverse health outcomes including substance use and other neuropsychiatric disorders. However, a healthy dose of stress can also be beneficial. This is known as eustress!. So what are some beneficial ways to relieve stresses of life?  Try the 4 A’s!

Sometimes, it’s easier said than done but you can avoid situations that cause you stress. This can be achieved by being proactive with your life, taking charge of your surroundings, avoiding individuals that cause you unnecessary stress. Incorporate these simple mindfulness tricks into your daily life.

Avoid

If you find yourself in a stressful situation that couldn’t be avoided, a helpful way to navigate the situation is to attempt to alter the situation. How does this look like in a work environment? Communicate your limits in advance by learning to effectively say no without feeling guilty. Kindly ask individuals to change their behaviors, and practice time management skills.

Alter

Even when you’ve done everything you could to avoid stress, sometimes it just happens. If this happens, know that IT’S O.K. Learn from previous errors on how to better avoid stressors but don’t be too hard on yourself. Talk it out with someone because sometimes a sweet phone call with a trusted friend or acquaintance can melt away worries and practice positive self talk  because no one needs more nurturing talk than your stressed out self. 

Accept

Changing your standards or expectations can help you navigate stressful situations by reimagining how better substitute. Reframe the situation or reframe your thoughts on a specific situation. 

Adapt

Work Out Clothes

MODULE 4

Movement

March 28 – April 2, 2021

Although many resources and funding opportunities exist for Black and underrepresented students, these can often be hard to find information about. Below we have compiled a list of these opportunities accompanied by relevant information for each.

Think you need to lift weights or go on a run to officially “work out”? Think again! While those types of movement are suitable forms of exercise for some, they don’t nourish everyone’s mind and body. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week - that breaks down to just 30 minutes, 5 days a week, but you can separate it however you’d like. 

When selecting your activity(s), think outside traditional strength training and running if those don’t get you excited to move your body! Do you enjoy hanging out with friends or meeting new people? Try a group sport, like soccer or dodgeball. If you enjoy the community aspect but don’t like traditional sports, consider taking up yoga or Zumba. If you live near the mountains, hiking can be a wonderful option to get some fresh air, but even a 15-minute walk around the block while you’re listening to your favorite podcast can support your well-being. Be sure to switch up your routine every now and then to get a variety of mind-body benefits.

Exercise has been reported to support not just physical health but mental health, as well. Researchers have found that regular movement helps to reduce anxiety, depression, and negative mood, as well as improves self-esteem and cognitive functioning. However, remember that exercise can physically stress the body (that’s how we get stronger and build endurance), but too much physical stress can exacerbate mental stress. If you’re not excited to move your body, physically drained, trying to compensate for what you ate, or find yourself using movement to suppress underlying mental health distress, be gentle with yourself and take a step back from your routine.

Not all exercises are created equally, just as no two people are the same. How do you decide what types of movement are best for your mind and body? Focus on aspects not related to the scale or the way your body looks. Instead, choose exercises that make you feel energized, empowered or less-stressed. Engage in movement that brings a nice stretch to your muscles and/or makes you feel strong, but know that you don’t need to break a sweat or feel sore to have gotten in a good workout. Also remember that exercise shouldn’t become a rule - give yourself unconditional permission to take multiple days, weeks or months off if that feels right in your body. 

Join PhD Stronger Together on Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 8 am PST (11 am EST, 4 pm BST) for a live yoga class led by our very own Dr. Brittany Uhlorn!

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