Photo of the flatirons at sunset with a foggy overcast.

The Health and Wellness Summit officially kicked off yesterday! If you missed yesterday’s presentations, slides will be available on the Summit Schedule page

Here are a few highlights from some of yesterday’s sessions:

Financial Resilience: Bouncing Back from Financial Hardships

Presenter: Carissa Krug, Medical Services

Whether you’ve had a recent financial setback or want to proactively plan for the future, this session provided a number of great tips to help recover from financial hardships and plan for unexpected future expenses. Here are a few exercises you can work through with a pen and paper.

  • Quantify your obligations. Consider your current financial obligations. Write down your debts and upcoming expenses. This could include student loans, a car payment, a trip you want to take or other expenses. Quantify each of your items with dollar amounts so you know how much you owe or are planning to spend. This can help you determine a strategy for saving or making payments.
  • Imagine your ideal future self. Imagine yourself in the future. Where do you work? How do you spend your free time? With who? What do you wear? How do you get around? Who do you help? How? What does the richest version of your life look like? Jot down answers to these types of questions and select 2 or 3 that are most important. Use your ideal future to help guide your financial decisions today.
  • Know where your money is going. Take a look at your financial statements and categorize your expenses into spending categories. Where is your money going? Are you spending more than you’d like? Identify ways you can shift your habits to work towards your ideal self.
  • Think big. Instead of focusing on small purchases, like a weekly latte, see if you can identify spending categories that will have a larger impact. Finding ways to cut down on larger purchases or recurring bills can be more helpful than cutting out small, joyful expenses.
  • Use your resources. Everyone has access to different resources depending on their situation. Identify what resources are available to you and use them. This may include LinkedIn Learning courses, budgeting apps, financial planning services or personal finance books. Here are few CU resources that can help:

Impact of COVID on Student Mental Health: What We Know and How We Can Help

Presenter: Tina Pittman Wagers, Psych/Neuroscience

COVID-19 has had major implications on our individual and collective mental health. College students have been impacted especially hard by the unprecedented changes taking place around the world. The good news is that there are tools we can use to improve our mental health. Here are a few worth noting:

Take a breather

When we are facing increasing levels of uncertainty, stress, anxiety or depression, it can be helpful to take a step back. Slow down and focus on the most basic forms of self-care, like eating balanced meals, sleeping for 7-9 hours each night, staying active and finding ways to create consistency in our lives. It can also be helpful to organize our spaces, take breaks from work, school or the news and set boundaries for ourselves around work, school and socializing both in terms of space and time. 

Recognize signs of distress

It’s important to recognize signs of distress in ourselves and others. Here are a few common signs that someone is experiencing distress:

  • Agitation
  • Withdrawn
  • Poor self-care (not showering, eating, sleeping)
  • Changes in mood
  • Unable to get out of bed
  • Decline in overall functioning

Remember that everyone responds to distress differently and this list may not include all possible signs or symptoms.

Start the conversation

If you notice someone may be in distress, don’t be afraid to start the conversation. Here are 3 things you can do to help someone who may be struggling:

  • Invite: Open the conversation nonjudgmentally by expressing your concerns or things you’ve noticed. (“You don’t seem like yourself lately - is there something going on?”)
  • Validate: Acknowledge how the person is feeling and validate their lived experience. (“That sounds difficult.” “It makes sense why you are feeling stressed.”)
  • Ask permission: Ask if you can connect them with resources that can help. (“I know about some resources on campus that may be able to help. Can I share them with you?”

Remember that you are part of their support system, but you do not need to be their personal therapist. If you feel overwhelmed, you can reach out to resources on campus to support yourself as well. 

Know when to seek help

It can be hard to tell the difference between a temporary slump and something more serious. It may be time to ask for help when:

  • Your symptoms start interfering with the things you are trying to accomplish
  • You can’t “bounce back” like you used to
  • Your symptoms overwhelm your internal resources
  • New or concerning symptoms arise
  • Your current skills or coping strategies are no longer working

If you or someone you know is in distress, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers brief individual counseling, consultations, workshops, groups and crisis support for students. Call 303-492-2277 to learn more.  Faculty and staff can reach out to the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) for support, including brief counseling, workshops, groups and more.

Mindfulness on Campus: Creating a Culture of Compassion & Wellness

Presenters: Kat Dailey, Health Promotion and Paulette Erickson England, LCSW, Faculty and Staff Assistance Program

CU Boulder is currently working to create integrated mindfulness programs across campus to help students, staff and faculty participate in mindful and contemplative practices. 

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that allows you to focus on what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment without interpretation or judgement. Mindfulness can involve breathing techniques, guided imagery, meditation and other practices to help relax the body and mind and reduce stress. 

During this session participants were guided through several mindfulness exercises, including a loving kindness meditation, a 3-minute breathing meditation and a body scan. Here is an example of a loving kindness meditation that you can practice at home.

Loving Kindness Meditation:

Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. With your hands over your heart, speak the following words to yourself:

“May you know love, may you know peace, may you be well, may you be safe.”

Now think about someone you love dearly. It could be a pet, friend, family member or coworker. Repeat the same phrase while thinking about that person.

Next, think about someone you’re in conflict with or someone who could use loving kindness and support in this moment. Sending love and kindness to someone who is difficult to love can help us exercise our compassion muscle. Repeat the same phrase as you think of this person.

Finally, think about all of the people and living things on the planet. Extend them compassion by repeating the same phrase one last time.

“May you know love, may you know peace, may you be well, may you be safe.” 

This is just one example of a mindfulness practice that is simple and easy to integrate into our day-to-day activities. Additional mindfulness resources and activities are available across campus, including:

  • Feel Good Fridays: Join a guided meditation provided by Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) in partnership with the CU Boulder Art Museum. Open to students, staff, faculty and community members.
  • Rec Center Meditations: Follow along as your favorite Rec Center instructors walk you through a guided video meditation that you can practice at any time. Open to students, staff, faculty and community members. 
  • Mindful Mondays: Join Health Promotion for weekly mindfulness programs where students can engage in active mindfulness lessons and learn about existing resources on campus. Open to undergrad and graduate students.
  • Contemplative Resource Center: Join the new Contemplative Resource Center on campus to learn how to integrate mindfulness into your daily life, including pedagogy, mindfulness and yoga workshops. Open to students, staff and faculty. 

Rethinking Productivity, Noticing and Reflecting: Strategies and Tools for Responding to the Changing Landscape of Work

Presenter: Stephen (Steve) Voida, Information Science

As we continue to deal with work and school challenges associated with COVID-19, we must ask ourselves what it means to be productive working and studying from home. This presentation provided a number of tips and tricks to help you use your time intentionally, redefine productivity and work happier. Here are a few to try:

  • Mono-tasking: If possible, try to stick to doing one task at a time. One way to do this is to set a timer for 25 minutes. Turn off your notifications and focus on the task at hand until the timer ends. When the timer goes off, take an intentional break. Get up from your workstation, grab a drink or do a quick stretch before returning to your work.
  • Do not disturb. If you feel inundated with emails, IMs, texts or social notifications, take a break from the noise. If possible, be clear with others about when you will be available to respond. This can be as simple as including a line in your email signature or letting friends know that you’ll be unavailable during class time. Dedicate time to turn off notifications and spend time doing the things you need or want to do distraction-free.
  • Time diary: Keep track of your time and evaluate how you spend your time throughout the day or week. You can use a pen and paper, Excel or a time management app to track your time. Once you have a record of your time, dig deeper. Where are you spending your time? Why are you spending more time on some areas than others? Are you spending time on things because you enjoy them or because they’re difficult? Explore where your time goes and why to help ensure you’re focusing on the right tasks.
  • Accountability groups: Creating accountability groups with your friends, classmates or coworkers is a great way to stay connected and reflect on where your time is going. Talk through what worked, what didn’t and what you learned from how you spend your time.  This is a great exercise to use when you’ve had a particularly hectic day.

Upcoming presentations

There are two days left in the Health and Wellness Summit! You can still register online to access the presentations. Here are a few to check out:

Wednesday, Oct. 7

  • Rethinking Resilience for People of Color: The Strength of Survival | 10-10:50 a.m.
  • I've Got Friends in Role Places: Community Building Through Storytelling and Math | 11-11:50 a.m.
  • Cultivating Compassion and Connection | 12-12:50 p.m.
  • Vocal Empowerment for Wellness | 2-2:50 p.m.
  • Health and Wellness Expo | 3-5 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 8

  • Keynote: Tools for Resiliency and De-stressing in the Moment with HeartMath | 9-9:50 a.m.
  • The Science of Wellness and Stress Resiliency | 10-10:50 a.m.
  • Tips for Online & Remote Learning | 11-11:50 a.m.
  • Mindfulness and Art: Embodied Awareness Through Art Making | 12-12:50 p.m.
  • De-Escalating Conflict in 2020 | 2-2:50 p.m.
  • Health and Wellness Expo | 3-5 p.m.

View the full schedule