Resiliency Expert’s Tip of the Month – January

Making a Healthy Start for the New Year and New Semester

Kudos to Maria Pascucci for developing CampusCalm.com as a resource for students! The first time I read through this site, I remember wishing that something like this had existed when I was in college. Although I was a very strong student, I had learned far too late in the game that the pressure I put on myself was getting in the way of my health and happiness. It wasn’t until graduate school that I finally started to find a healthy balance.

Now, as a faculty at San José State University, I enjoy teaching future teachers about human development, the psychology of learning and motivation, and the effects of stress on our bodies and minds. At SJSU, I have been conducting workshops for faculty and students highlighting some of the research and science from the Institute of HeartMath (www.heartmath.org) that has explored the physiological connection between emotions, learning, and performance. Their research measures “physiological coherence” and has demonstrated the benefits of positive emotional states on enhancing thinking and performance (as well as the detrimental effects of stress on the body and mind).

In future posts, I will describe some of the basics of the science of the heart and why it is so important for your health to learn how to “shift” your physiology to positive emotional states when faced with stressful situations.

My first post for the New Year is inspired by one of my favorite quotes, appropriate for the New Year: “Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Begin and maintain healthy habits
You probably know from experience what research also confirms… that as humans, we are creatures of habit and tend to repeat behaviors over and over again (whether we want to or not!) With every new semester, you have the opportunity to start a brand new routine, a new schedule of courses, and with these new beginnings, it is easiest to incorporate healthy habits right at the start … an exercise class at the gym, a half-hour carved out for relaxation in the afternoon, or packing a healthy lunch… all of these small actions can make a positive impact on your day. Find your healthiest habits, keep them running, and you can boost your resilience throughout the semester.

Do something you enjoy every day
We often get so busy with life that we pack too much work in and not enough simple pleasures. Be sure to do at least one thing you enjoy every day. When you increase your joy, you add to your resilience for unexpected events that might arise.

Connect, connect, connect!
Sometimes we stay to ourselves just because it’s easier. But research on social dynamics suggests that social supports play a huge role in boosting our resilience. Does this scenario sound familiar? (I have done this myself and seen hundreds of students do the same :) Walking in to class the first day, you might sit down by yourself… part of you wants to say hello to the person next to you, another part wants to keep to yourself instead. Well, chances are that the other person would also like it if you said hello. So put yourself out there, introduce yourself, make a new friend, connect. Connect with the student groups in your school. Get involved in a cause you believe in.

Connect with your professors!
Go visit your professors/instructors during their office hours… they are there to support YOU and your learning… and most often, they go through the first few weeks of a semester without any visitors for their office hours. Over the past few years, I remember vividly those students who did visit… they made such a positive impression on me just by introducing themselves and opening up a little about who they are and what they are interested in. Many who had visited my office hours stayed in contact with me throughout the semester and after the course had finished. (And for those students, I had far more to write about in letters of recommendation than for those who did not visit!) Make the most of the rich resources available to you and connect, connect, connect on your campus.

“We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.” – H. G. Wells

Finally, learn about the effects of stress and how to counter them – There are hundreds of new research studies that document the harmful effects of stress on our bodies and minds. Learn about your own physiology and how your emotions relate to health. Stay tuned for the next post, where I will describe some of the science and research behind the latest research studies. In the meantime, here are some articles that might be of interest. http://www.heartmathreport.com/

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and enjoyable 2009!

~ Dr. Roxana Marachi, Resiliency Expert, Campus Calm

http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/marachi

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